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We had to get from Cardiff to Manchester today, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned here it’s that google/yahoo maps are very optimistic about how long it takes Americans to drive on British roads. They are generally narrower, windier, and more infested with people parking willy-nilly such that they choke the traffic down to a single lane in every town you pass through.

So we planned to take all day to go the distance that should have taken about 3 ½ hours. Our first stop was Hay-on-Wye, which is known for having a vast number of new and secondhand book stores and a literary and music festival every May. We were a week early for the festival, for which I am grateful as large crowds of people generally do bad things to attempts to get anywhere.

The first bookstore, which started the fashion for them in Hay-on-Wye, was Richard Booth, the King of Hay’s, bookstore. We visited many of the bookstores in town but this one was definitely my favorite. There are comfy chairs scattered around the shop so that you can sit down and read the first chapter and decide whether you want to buy the book or not. At least, that’s what I did. It also had the best selection of new books in addition to used ones, and a really comfy space.
RichardBoothsBookstore

Also e-books are not in favor in this town.

KindlesBanned

We wound up our trip with some sheep’s-milk ice cream at Shepherd’s. It didn’t taste of sheepiness at all, it just made really light, pleasant ice cream. Ice cream makes Cathyn’s happy.

CathynIceCream

As we were enjoying our ice cream an ancient, tiny little Welsh man came up behind Cathyn, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Do you have a Harley Davidson?” When he answered in the affirmative they were off, comparing their bikes, talking about motorcycling, and generally being happy to have a talk about bike riding weather, the models and years of their bikes, etc. It was adorable.

After a couple of hours in Hay-on-Wye we got on the road and managed to pick a road out of town with a rickety little one-lane wooden toll-bridge, so we paid our 80p and made our way across the river Wye sloooowly.

Our route back to Manchester took us north through England, and as we passed through Hereford, Leominster, Whitchurch, then Shrewsbury we realized that Shrewsbury sounded really familiar then Cathyn started singing the first verse of “Hotspur” and we remembered it was the site of the battle that ended Hotspur, so we pulled off and walked the battlefield. In 1406 a chapel was erected to honor the dead, so we checked it out.

The battlefield is mostly a farm now.
ShrewsburyIsAFarmFieldNow

ShrewsburyBattlefieldChurch

In the chapel there was a diorama of the battle formation, the yellow dots indicate the location of the chapel we were standing in. There was a mass grave located nearby (exact location unknown) for 5000 of the battle casualties. The inside of the church was beautiful, and here is the only picture I’ll have taken inside a church on this trip.

ShrewsburyDiorama2

ShrewsburyBattlefieldChurchInside


And now I'm through security at Manchester Airport and I AM VERY SUSPICIOUS. I get the enhanced pat-down no matter where I go. In other news, [livejournal.com profile] cathyn was a driving champ and we managed to turn the rental car in with no damage despite it being his first time driving on the left side and despite Welsh roads being really narrow and windy. He wins!

See you all at home!
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