The flight across the pond has been uneventful and soon we are on the runway taxiing to the gate. I take a minute to think about how different first class has been with its service and amenities offered. I am not sure it would warrant the price for me but this flight it was a free upgrade so I am happy with it. I exit the plane and head to find where my bus departs from (no need to stop at baggage claim as all my luggage is with me). It is 6:30 A.M. and my reservation to Cardiff is not until 10:30. I plan to find where it leaves from and check into an earlier bus. It doesn’t take long to find the departure point although I must say I am underwhelmed by the airport. It is old and dated and dingy, not what I expected or remember from my last visit. The bus stop is conveniently located right outside the terminal and it is only five Euros to get an earlier bus. I ponder it a while but the largest issue with an earlier bus is that my friends plan to meet me in Cardiff and I have no way of getting in touch with them. It is way too early to call. When I left the first class cabin, the stewardess handed me a voucher for some hotel like sleeping space located in the airport. Another bonus of first class. I guess it is kind of a hotel of sorts and a shower sure sounds good. After looking around a while I stumble upon the small space tucked in the corner of the airport. The voucher is a complimentary stay for up to 3 hours. Just enough time to relax, nap, brush my teeth and shower. The room is so small there is hardly enough room to turn around but I am just wanting to close my eyes for a minute so that really doesn’t matter.
Of course as soon as my head hits the pillow it is time to get up, get read and I am off to catch the bus- I must say this was a wonderful unexpected perk of first class. The bus is not very full and soon we are on our way. The ride through London and adjacent countryside is pleasant but uneventful and to be quite honest I struggle to stay awake. I arrive in Cardiff to see the smiling face of my friend Pip there to greet me. There is a short layover in Cardiff before we head to Merthyr Tydfil my first stop on this long journey so we grab a cup of coffee. After a short bus ride we arrive at terminal in the small city of 30,000 inhabitants. OK, like other posts I need to learn a little about the city I am visiting so lets consult wikipedia and see what we can find out.
Merthyr Tydfil was once the largest town in Wales but today it holds the honor of being the 14th largest urban area in Wales as it sits in the lower eastern section of the country. According to legend, the town is named after Saint Tydfil, a daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog. It is said the princess was slain at Merthyr by pagans around 480 and thus the location was named Merthyr Tydfil in her honour. The village was small with the adjacent land being filled with shepherds and small farms. In the 1700′s during the industrial revolution, the town grew quickly as its proximity to iron ore, coal, and limestone made it ideal for ironworks. Soon railways connected the growing city with every major city and sea port in the area. In 1861 the city was over 50,000 residence and growing but over the next several decades that growth stopped and the city began to decline as its inland location became cumbersome for the production of iron compared to new iron producing areas in the Ukraine and United States. The city rose to a population of over 80,000 people until post World War I found many unemployed there and a mass migration of thousands away from the city. World War II stabilized this out-migration but the iron works industry in Merthyr Tydfil has never recovered. The last of these iron based companies shut its doors in 1987 ending the 228 years of iron production. Today with several industries leading the employment numbers .
I am excited to get off the bus and see what this city is all about. Of course it is afternoon and it is kind of a gloomy day with gray skies and the threat of rain. We walk up a small hill through the business district of the community. My first impressions are that it is smaller the I expected with a Chinese restaurant on every other corner. I was not expecting that, thought it would be a pub. We pass by a few abandoned buildings which I am sure I will hear the story of at some point during my stay. Soon we arrive at Pip’s grandfathers place where I will be stay. (He is actually the father of my cousin’s husband which is my connection to them). A quaint neighborhood with row houses in grays, whites, and browns. By the time we arrive it is getting later so we have dinner and soon it is time to get some sleep. I am happy to be able to get on line using a neighbors wi-fi, but I am tired and as the jet lag begins to set in it is off to bed.. tomorrow we are planning to hike but I will leave more about that for the next post.