Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Week one – roundabouts

Week one of our holiday has been dominated by the word Roundabouts. There are about 25,000 roundabouts in the UK. I estimate around 24,000 of them are in Wales. Okay, so maybe an exaggeration. But perception is reality and, when I talk about roundabouts, I don’t mean innocent traffic islands around which a single lane of traffic flows in an orderly fashion. I mean three lane, seven exit, monstrosities designed to direct, baffle and potentially maim poor tourists.

Prior to picking up our hire car in Swansea, I made Andrew a magnanimous offer.

‘I will do all the driving in Wales,’ I said, ‘so that you can enjoy the sights.’

Andrew accepted without demure (he didn’t know about the roundabouts). But driving around Wales, he came to regret this decision. As I listened to the computer generated iPhone map and tried to remember that the windscreen wiper was not the indicator he moaned, clutched the dashboard and closed his eyes, the flash-by scenes of his life competing with the breathtaking scenery of Wales.

Despite, the ever present roundabout-terror, we have enjoyed the first week of our holiday. Below are the highlights of our first week.

A four night stay with my cousin, Joyce, in Rhos, Pontardawe.

While staying in South Wales, we got lost on the way to Castell Coch (ending up on a remote stretch of the Brecon Beacons). Tried to visit Cardiff but, due to the above mentioned roundabout problems, didn’t manage to find a parking spot. We had an interesting ‘flat white’ coffee in Llandyffryn (have ordered cappuccinos since), visited the Mumbles, had faggots and mushy peas in a road-side cafe, heard interesting local family history/gossip from my cousin Gwyn in Cwmafan, and met Sam, my Canada cousin’s young adult daughter, for the first time.

A drive through mid-Wales and a visit to Stiwdio Maelor

On leaving Rhos, we drove over the Brecon Beacons, lunched in Llanbedr Pont Steffan, took in a stunning, historic quilt exhibition, had afternoon tea at the Treehouse in Aberystwyth and spent the night with our friend’s Veronica and Mary in Dolgellau. After a late breakfast in Machynlleth, we visited Corris, where Veronica has set up Stwdio Maelor, a North Wales retreat for writers and artists. While there, she mentioned that she is looking for residents. Hmm… I may take her up on that offer at some point.

A three night stay with Aussie friends in the mill town of Trefriw, North Wales

When planning our UK holiday we were thrilled to learn that our travel plans coincided with those of our Aussie friends Mike and Sue. As not-so-recent British migrants, they were taking a week out of their family visits to spend a week in Trefriw, North Wales. When they asked us to join them, the word ‘no’ didn’t enter into the equation. We spent a glorious couple of days hiking, castle viewing and tea drinking. With Mike in the driver’s seat, Andrew was at last able to open his eyes and enjoy the scenery. You will be relieved to know he pronounced Wales beautiful. This means our marriage has a future and our anniversary holiday will not be terminated. He may even contemplate a return visit at some point.

I have hired a car on all three of my previous UK visits. Each time, I forgot about the roundabouts. Each time, I said never again. This time the ban will be enforced, if my most recent passenger has any say in the matter. We are in London now and have returned the hire car. Fortunately, we took out fully-comprehensive car insurance that first day in Swansea because I may just have clipped the side mirror and most certainly scraped the passenger door. You will be pleased to know we are using bikes and public transport for the remainder of our UK holiday.


Notes on flying


Railways and taxis – our second week in The UK


  1. Great post, Liz. I felt right there with you. Glad you’re having a wonderful time and Andrew is loving the country you love.

  2. It was great having you here and catching up. I didn’t drive in the UK for the first two years I was here – but then did the residency at the International Print Centre and after catching the bus at 6.30am (to arrive around 8.30am) decided that driving was the only way to travel. Eight years on and I still struggle with the roads – not so much the roundabouts – though they are freaky – but the narrowness of the roads and the enthusiasm other drivers show for passing with no regards for oncoming cars! I’m always saying to them as they rush by and I slam on my brakes – ‘yes today is the day I want to die or be involved in a serious accident’. They never seem to hear me though!
    And I would love for you to come stay at Stiwdio Maelor – and if anyone else is interesting in doing a residency look at stiwdiomaelor.wordpress.com or email stiwdiomaelor@gmail.com – there are lots of vacancies at the moment. Hwyl Fawr from North Wales.

  3. Great to read that you’re both having a fabulous time. Stories must be whirling in your head from encounters with those roundabouts and the characters round about them!

  4. Sue jenkins

    Haha, very funny post Liz.
    We’re keeping the home fires burning back here, three new people in class last week!
    Jason did really well and we made good use of your laminated cards…..
    Are you enjoying speaking Cymraig? Your photos are lovely, seeing the hedgerows made
    me want to dive in head first with nostalgia…
    Awaiting your next instalment for more armchair travelling ( minus the hassle bits like roundabouts!)

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