Friday, June 10, 2011

Britannia 2011 - Parte The Seconde


Chester is an old Roman city near the border with Wales, and one of the best preserved walled cities anywhere in Britain. It is well defended to this day - the comic and I drove past our hotel and all the way back around the ring road no less than four times because all roads either lead away from it, are one way streets in the wrong direction, or are under construction with traffic diverted in the opposite direction from where we needed to go. Eventually we admitted defeat and parked in the car park meant for the nearby shopping center. These frustrations were immediately forgotten upon looking out our bedroom window and seeing this directly across the street:

Roman amphitheater, which thankfully was not showing "The Hangover 2".
This was obviously a cause for celebration and we immediately went out and found an Italian restaurant where we ate and drank like motherfuckers, then drunk dialed H-town in Baltimore, yelled something at her about art lovers and equilibrium and stumbled back to the hotel to sleep it off.

The next day we walked around the city, and by walked around the city I actually mean "around" - with almost all of the walls still intact, you can basically walk all the way around on the top of them. There are also spectacular little plaques along the way, inscribed with facts about the their construction, the history of the area, and random factoids (also a recipe), the best of which was this one:

This is awesome and henceforth is the standard by which I will judge the information on all other plaques.

We left Chester with considerably more ease than we'd had getting there and drove to Wales. Wales is a country of immense beauty, but also a completely insane, largely unpronounceable and completely unspellable language. They have a thing for doubling letters unnecessarily causing their words to be ridiculously long and while the Welsh language does have vowels, they are loathe to use them unless they've completely run out of doubled consonants.

A river running through Llangollen, where we stayed, which in English is the River Dee, but in Welsh is probably spelled more like Gogllywnnscestt or Wydnollffydd or something like that.
Here's the thing about Wales, ok? Because I'm from Chicago by way of Cleveland, right? So I know what cold feels like. When you walk out your door here and it's 2 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill making it feel more like 12 below, that is a cold that will slap you right in the face, rip off your nipples, then shrivel your lungs into raisins. Whoever came up with the adage "Don't make a fact like that, it might freeze that way forever" was almost certainly standing outside in Chicago in January when he said it. What I'm trying to say is, I've been cold before.

But not like this.

The cold in Wales is a cold like no other cold I've ever experienced. It's a damp, heavy cold that gets in you and stays there, obliterating all hope that you might ever feel warm again. In Chicago, when it's cold, you just go inside, wait two minutes and then Presto! - you are warm. I spent less than 24 hours in Wales, but even after I went inside, even after I'd left, I stayed cold for six days. It was like someone had filled my soul with equal parts sorrow, hopelessness and dead puppies. I'm still recovering.

Other than that, though, Wales is beautiful, the audience at the comic's gig was brilliantly weird and whatever I had for dinner was delicious (I don't remember what it was because alcohol happened. Oh wait! Prawns? I think it had something to do with prawns). And then I went to bed to get some rest for the next day's planned activities, which didn't happened due to there being a drunk comedian in the room who was snoring like it's his job. It didn't matter - we ended up doing none of the things we'd originally planned to do anyway, but with good reason: the comic realized suddenly that Penrith is sort of on the way to Newcastle.

For an account of my time in Chester and Wales in which I do not actually appear other than a veiled reference to the terrible weather being my fault, check out the comic's blog.

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