Learning the Landscape

Lush Welsh Valley

Q:  In what way is the landscape of the UK different from the one in which we live?  What does it tell you about the people who live here?

I was lucky enough to have gone with GFA to the United Kingdom back in 2008 after my freshman year. Yet, this year’s trip differs greatly in a number of ways. This year we have spent more time in Wales than the trip three years ago spent. Throughout our time in Wales, the beauty of the Welsh landscape has amazed me. Yesterday we visited the grave of a famous Welsh dog where we “frolicked” through buttercup-filled fields surrounded by large mountains. The spot was truly spectacular not only for its appearance but also because it was so different and removed from what we all know. It was both beautiful and powerful and almost everyone in the group was reluctant to leave (we were all busy running through the fields and taking in the landscape). I also have been incredibly impressed with the Welsh buildings that we have seen. Today we visited a Welsh castle called Caernarfon Castle and a few days ago we saw Tintern Abbey. We visited Tintern Abbey in 2008 and I was so excited to visit again. I was not disappointed. In my eyes, Tintern Abbey, Caernarfon Castle, and the dog’s grave have a similar effect where the history of the location and the location itself move you so much that you never want to leave the spot. I am so glad we have spent the time we have in Wales and am excited to see what comes next.

-Alex Dudley

Longest named Welsh village

The buildings we pass, both planned and those we manage to catch a glimpse of out a bus window have a lasting impact. The trip we took to the ruins of great places such as Tintern Abbey and Caernafon Castle truly gave us insight to what life in Wales and England had been like. The beauty present in just the remnants of stone and wood had a personality of its own. Tintern Abbey was merely a skeleton of its former glory, yet still provided us with a view of the past. Though slightly eerie and ghostlike, the building contrasted what we have come to know back home. Instead of being torn down or destroyed completely, the fragments that remain are preserved and almost idolized. After previously scouting out the landscape with a small group and Mr. Stout on a short hike the night before, I was incredibly amazing to see the castle and bustling city that surrounded it literally in a new light. The hill we climbed gave us an amazing view of the setting sun, the water, and all the life around us while the other half of us took a walk among the life around us as they explored the city. Caernafon Castle was similar in the sense that its simple stone walls and staircases that were built merely for functionality now carry stories and a type of beauty. The castle grounds were amazing and well kept while the views from the towers absolutely took my breath away (and that wasn’t just because of all the steps we climbed to reach that height). From there, you could see what a guard or even a princess would have seen from their ancient home. Being near the water today was also a nice contrast to the harsh stone walls. Surrounded by an ocean that is constantly changing as tides come in and out, we took a picture and got to experience the juxtaposition of new and old. After much pretending to be a princess (yes, that I how I spent my time in the towers), we left the castle for the road. Throughout all the driving done on this trip, there is never a boring sight. On either side of the bus, we can see grassy pastures, majestic mountains and plenty of fluffy sheep. We were even told by our driver guide Fergie, that if you see seven white horses, the next person you meet would be the love of your life. The amazing thing about this trip and the land we are going through is how impressive and active it is. Even up on the highest and most remote mountain peak, one can see a small white dot that can only be recognized as a lone sheep exploring the top of its world. The landscape around Wales and England has shaped the development of these places as well as the people. Each sight we see is a “blast to the past” as we temporarily become those of ancient times. It is a beautiful sight to see and be a part of, and I am glad I am here to experience it.

~Caroline Kruk

The Ramblings of a crazy heckler (unedited and uncensured addition)

‘Ello everyone!
I would like to tell ya all Of a wives tale of the GFA clan, and don’t worry, there is no profanity in this, Ms. Cleary always like titles that catch the attention of the reader. My other title choices were “go America”, “FREEDOM! The musical ( Braveheart reference hint hint), or just “Oh my god, England is like totally awesome? Valley Girl addition”, but none of those were catchy enough. Now being serious, In all honesty,  Wales seems to be one of a kind. Truly the landscape is almost indescribable in how pretty it is (however I will try to give some detail), but Wales does share common and different features of Connecticut. For example, they both have a wonderful view of the coastline, have a similar cravings in Subways and KFCs (yes the restaurants have the same design and all that, if you were wondering *cough* mom *cough*, however I am struggling to figure out how do they have $5 foot longs if they use the metric system?), and a lot of hills where you can look out in the distances and see miles away of trees and grass. However,  Wales has a wee bit of more room than CT has, meaning that there are countless farms, Mountains… And sheep, and I mean A LOT of sheep!  (funny story actually on the side on this blog, yesterday we saw a sheep fall down the mountain when it woke up from it’s nap, even though the sheep survived the gruesome 3 foot roll down the hill, I fear it’s ego was torn to shreds by the laughter of American tourists I mean, that’s shear terror!) the climate is nice… Mostly starts with a sunny morning rain then sun… Then rain again, then sun then night… And you guessed it… Rain again. Now what was I going to say next, oh, everyone is having a great time and all is well. Now some of the readers might be confused as to why I didn’t write in great hexameters about our “epic-ness” while singing and dancing and and playing a lute of our deeds and accomplishments like a bard, or just that I didn’t really include too many details on what we did or where we went. The reason is that I had a great trip without a doubt in my mind, but everyone experienced this trip differently so to truly know what happens here is to hear the tale of what happened is to hear your son or daughter (along with other children) Tell you what they think happened on the trip. Hope everything is fine over there and we’ll be back in the US to tell you all about the trip before you know it.
This was a trip I will never forget and I will miss GFA,

Stefan Dudley

P.S. Not bad for typing on a iPad on a bus eh?

Sunset in Caernarfon