Posts filed under ‘Chepstow’

Lines Composed Eleven Months after Visiting Tintern Abbey

I’ll be honest: I’m not big on poetry, despite having a B.A. in English. I’ve always preferred thick, wordy volumes of prose. I’m still not entirely sure what a chapbook is, or at least what makes a chapbook a chapbook. I like the way poetry sounds, sometimes, when read aloud, but I still don’t really connect with the meaning. When I was younger, I tried to get into poetry. I carried around a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets for a while. I have a book of Tsvetaeva, with the original Russian poems across from English translations, but I was more interested in the translation aspect than the poems themselves.

But in a Brit Lit course at Olivet College, I read “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” by William Worsdworth. And I really loved it.

Last year, while planning this trip, I was in another Brit Lit course, one that focused on Romanticism, and we studied Wordsworth again. Although the anthology was different, the painting of Tintern Abbey was the same, and I remember staring at the page, wondering if it was really as magical of a place as it looked. I realized that if Wordsworth wrote this poem after a geeky touristy sightseeing trip, then maybe I could still take a geeky sightseeing trip to Tintern Abbey. And it turns out that you still can!

From the research I did online, it seemed like a trip to Tintern required a car. I didn’t have a car rental in my budget, so I looked into joining a day tour, but those were pricey as well. I eventually decided to just show up in Cardiff and ask for information at the tourist office. I figured that I couldn’t be the only tourist on a budget who wanted to see Tintern Abbey.

The folks in the Cardiff tourist office were prepared, and a sweet old man produced a printout showing the train and bus schedule, and how they linked up. I needed to take the train from Cardiff to Chepstow, and then in Chepstow, I’d catch a bus to Tintern. The schedules weren’t perfectly aligned, and I’d end up having time to kill in Chepstow, but what photographer doesn’t love having time to kill in a small town?

So on a warm Monday morning, I packed up my bags and left them at my hotel when I checked out, then walked down to Cardiff Central Station. The ride to Chepstow was only 45 minutes, but then I had over an hour before the bus left for Tintern. The Chepstow train station is not in the central part of town and the bus station is, but it only took me 15 or 20 minutes to walk to the bus station. It was easy enough to find after I asked directions.

Chepstow is a cute town. I wanted to find the bus “station” first (they pull up in front of the supermarket), but then I decided to sit and have a coffee in a pub called the Red Lantern. When I ordered a coffee, the woman working warned me that they only had “red milk” and not “blue milk” (or vice versa), which took some explaining. It turned out that they only had skim (the colours refer to the caps, I think), which is what I like anyway, but I was a little disappointed that they didn’t dye their milks crazy colours in Wales. I ended up sitting on a ledge near the buses for a while, where I entertained myself by listening to some small-town gossip while the gossipers looked at me suspiciously. One of the gossipers turned out to be my bus driver, who was nice when I asked a stupid question like “How many stops until Tintern Abbey?” and he reassured me that I wouldn’t miss it.

Tintern Abbey
Nope, not likely that I would miss this!

I had been so cautiously hopeful that Tintern Abbey would blow me away, and it did. For as much as I didn’t enjoy Cardiff, this side trip absolutely made my trip to Cardiff worth it!

Tintern Abbey
The abbey was founded in 1131 and fell into ruin after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in England and Wales. Tintern Abbey was surrendered in 1536. Much of its valuables were turned over to royalty, and in the centuries that followed, pieces of the building, including materials from the roof, were sold.

Tintern Abbey
During the 18th century, it became popular for people to tour the countryside, including the Wye Valley in Wales, where Tintern is located. The site gained a new wave of fame, and Wordsworth wrote his poem in 1798. It is still a tourist attraction, but it is fairly quiet. Even in the summer, I only had to share the ruins with a handful of other people.

Tintern Abbey
Most of what remains is the outline of the main church, which dates from the end of the 13th century.

Me at Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey
I followed the brochure and gave myself a tour, trying to imagine all of the different rooms. I was glad that I had seen the abbey at Mont St. Michel, because I could picture what a lot of the rooms would have looked like.

A bus back to Chepstow was going to be arriving shortly, but I was having such a nice time that I decided to wait for the next bus so that I could enjoy the town of Tintern. I had picked up some information, and I decided to walk through the village to the old train station, which is now a café.

The town was a little touristy—it looks like it’s a hub for antique lovers, in addition to having the abbey as a draw, but it was pleasant, and I enjoyed my walk along the Wye river.

This is just what I imagined Wales to look like, and not at all what Cardiff looked like.

Wye River

Looking at these photos again makes me want to go back and spend a week there!

Afternoon Tea!
Upon arriving at The Old Station, I realized that my trip was rapidly drawing to a close, and I still hadn’t had a proper English tea. An adorable station-turned-café seemed like just the place for a girl’s first afternoon tea. I’ll still take a latte over a cup of tea, 99 times out of 100, but the whole experience was better than I thought it would be. Those strawberries were delicious with the clotted cream!

It was quite a long walk from Tintern Abbey to The Old Station, but I realized that I’d passed a stop for the bus that I wanted to take back, so I headed back to the stop (only about a 5-minute walk) and hoped that all of the buses made all stops. I still had a bit of time, and the stop was directly in front of an old church, so I took some photos in the churchyard.
Old Church in Tintern

Fortunately, the bus picked me up, and I was back in Chepstow quickly. I didn’t have much time to kill, but I had enough time for a little detour to take some photos of St. Mary’s Priory in Chepstow.
St. Mary's Priory

Soon enough, I was back in Cardiff. I walked back to my hotel to pick up my bags, then walked back to the train station again to catch a train to London. I had no trouble catching a nap on the way back before arriving at the familiar Paddington Station. I’d booked a bed at a nearby hostel for my last two nights in London, but I hadn’t remembered to look up directions to the hotel while I actually had internet access. The Starbucks in the station was packed, so I had to linger outside with my laptop, close enough to pick up their wireless signal, so I could locate the hostel. The way that London numbers their streets is completely maddening, and I still had a hard time finding it. I was about to dig out my phone and make an international call when I turned a corner, onto a different street than what the address actually was, and found the hostel. A nice Australian boy carried my suitcase up the stairs for me, and I slept better than I ever have before on a plastic mattress.


June 24, 2012 at 1:06 am Leave a comment


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