Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Watching From The Windows in Wales
Our first weekend in the UK had us staying in North Wales. We arrived the Friday and left the following Tuesday. In between arriving and departing, Joe and I had maybe the best time we've ever had while traveling. This was due, primarily, to where we stayed. The Carrog Mill Cottages are located in a remote and rural part of North Wales. We drove in at night and our hosts had given us directions telling us to stop and ask at the local pub if we couldn't find them. In fact, in the dark, we were a little lost so we stopped and asked a woman out walking. As it happened, we were stopped right at the end of the long driveway up to the Cottages. As typical in small towns of course, we met and chatted with that woman, the next day in daylight.
We were greeted with warmth and welcome, typical of the people of that area, and then were left to explore 'The Dairy' which is the accessible cottage. It had three bedrooms, one of which had a lovely large king bed and an en suite accessible bathroom. There was a lovely large kitchen, with a fridge, a stove, a microwave, a dishwasher and, perfect for us, laundry facilities. We had stopped to pick up some food on our way there and we cooked it up in the kitchen. We hadn't known that it would be actually a full kitchen so we were circumspect when we shopped. But we had picked up eggs, veggie sausage, potatoes and beans, with the intention of making a 'full English' breakfast for ourselves.
I was in heaven. Everything was perfectly accessible to me. I took over the making of breakfast, something I have always enjoyed doing. The 'timing' of breakfast is the most arduous of any meal. Getting toast, eggs, and all the rest ready at exactly the same time is an art. At home, our kitchen is only partially accessible. I can do chopping and other stuff but I can't get at the stove. Here, I was back in form, Joe was loving me making breakfast, a job that he normally has to perform. Smells filled the air but it was the aroma of freedom and independence that really caught my senses.
The setting of the cottages is simply stunning. From every room is a view so lovely that it's hard to record here. I am not a poet. I do not have the gift of describing, well, the beauty I see around me. All I can say, is that to look out the window was to comfort your soul. So I sat, as I described in an earlier blog post, and listened to the eggs form a choir and sing sizzle and the toast fill the air with the smell of morning, and looked out at the world. A part of me, made inaccessible by the inaccessibility of life, opened up again. Barriers removed from the real world, removed barriers self created for self protection - and it was a moment where it was possible to simply feel the the joy of living freely.
We spent the first day, the Saturday, out and about. We went into Conwy and saw the castle there, then discovered the Great Orme and the Llandudno Pier both of which we visited. The Pier was in near shut down but the roll out into the ocean was lovely. The drive around the Great Orme and up to the top will forever be a wondrous memory. There's even a point where the sandstone cliff seems to be sticking it's tongue out at the sea - an image I loved. Then on our way back home we discussed Sunday. There were lots of places I wanted to go, but I wanted something more. I asked Joe if he would mind if we just stayed in, lived in the cottage for an entire day. Cook, and chat, read and watch television, just the stuff of everyday life. To do this there, where I could participate in my life and my passions easily was a vacation itself.
Joe, luckily, wanted the same thing. We shopped and picked up everything we needed to make a wonderful holiday kind of dinner. A 'veggie turkey' roast and all the trimmings. It felt like a time of celebration. And then we moved around the cottage as if it were our home. As if we were taken back into a time where we had to decide who did what based, on wishes, not access. We hadn't had a day like that since before I was in the wheelchair. It proved to me, again, as has been proven to me again and again, that disability is more often experienced because of barriers in the real world. Yes there are things that are harder for me to do, but remove a piece of furniture, widen a door, lower a sink, and 'Bob's Your Uncle'.
I spoke a bit with the folks who run the cottages and they told me that all they need from someone is a call and they can determine if the access that they've got will meet the needs of the traveller. That's what they did with me. Further, they can even, given a bit of notice, provide some staffing support if someone wants to both be with their family, or friends, but also have a bit of help on the side. They are open to making this a terrific experience. They did it for me. They made me feel welcome in their cottage. But then, that shouldn't be remarkable in the hospitality industry, should it? What was more important was that they made me feel welcome in my world again. My everyday typical world.
We left refreshed.
We left determined to come back.
I was not asked to write this blog by the staff at the cottage, though many of them read my blog. They would never have thought to turn my vacation into promotion. But I wanted to write this. I wanted to have time to think about it and write it as well as I could.
Here's how much I loved that place. Our cottage had poor Internet, we couldn't connect at all. Their office, just across the way, is also accessible and they made it possible for me to go over there and set my laptop up there. And I didn't. I didn't want to. I didn't need to. I was connected in a real way with the real world - suddenly that's all that mattered.
I close my eyes, here at my computer, and I can see, in my mind, the view from the kitchen window. And that simple act, will be done again and again and again until we are back to see it once more.