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Great Britain: A Special Trip to Wales

Text: Stephan Fennel • Photography: Stephan Fennel

First I lived here and then I even spent my honeymoon here and now, a dozen years later, my wife and I return to enjoy once more the wonders of Wales on motorcycle!

Some things never change! Like the constant drizzle of rain when leaving the ferry that just took us from continental Europe to the UK. Or that first roundabout in Dover that always leaves you wondering if you took the right turn - and staying off the right side of the road for that matter. Still, riding a motorcycle in Britain is easy. The roundabouts usually lead you in the right direction, traffic is moderate, especially on country roads, and you always fall into a certain rhythm of riding. Winding roads, paved onto the landscape and not carved into it, are a delightful menu for a motorcycle rider's taste, and Britain has some of the most mouthwatering examples to offer.

Especially Wales. Part of Britain - but different. I was lucky enough to live here for a year when I was a university student. My "hometown" was Abergavenny, only about an hour's drive from the Severn Bridge, that famous landmark taking you from England into Wales. And, indeed, it is a totally different world beyond the Severn River.

First, the language: English, yes, of course. Being in the United Kingdom makes that the official language. But then there's Welsh, too. It's official as well. And it is confusing, hard to pronounce (not to mention understand) but as alive as a language can be. Old and young speak it, all signs and official writing are both in English and Welsh, and if you ever were to overhear a conversation in Welsh you'd think you were on another planet!

But the Welsh make up for that with friendliness, food and drink. Their hospitality is legendary, the food has taken a dramatic change for the better in the past fifteen years, and the beverage of choice is beer, good old refreshing hop juice served from the pull, no gas, lukewarm - very un-American, but very good!

Goin' home
Four hours after disembarking from the ferry in Dover, we arrive at the Severn Bridge. Crossing the mighty river always makes me shiver - it is like going home! This time we take the old bridge, the one I used to take when I lived here. The new one, opened only a few years ago, is further south, and it's a sight not to be missed, but our destination is the Wye Valley and Tintern and they can be reached far more easily by taking the M48 and exiting at Chepstow.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the Summer 2002 back issue.