Ever since Sandie learnt the word 'staycation' from B, she had been using it to describe all her day trips out of London. Our trip to Wales was just a little different in that we actually spent a night in Brecon.
Once again, we took advantage of the Oystercard summer tickets offer, getting ourselves £20 per person return tickets to Cardiff. This time we were a little more prepared, so we knew (actually, J knew) exactly where to get the X43 bus, operated by Sixty-Sixty, to Storey Arms where we would walk to the summit of Pen y Fan.
I had wanted to do a different walk, but during the train ride we decided that it would be too much of a trouble getting to the start point given that we would not be driving.
J to driver: How much is a ticket to Storey Arms?
Driver: Single or return?
J: What about return?
We did the math and got the single.
B to driver: Would you tell us when we arrive at Storey Arms?
The driver said, "No," and then broke into a smile, adding that he would try but it's a long journey and he might forget.
Highest peak in South Wales
At Merthyr Tydfil - which because we weren't sure of the pronunciation Sandie had shortened to MT - the driver clarified that we were headed to Storey Arms and not Merthyr.
When we alighted at Storey Arms, drops of rain had just begun to fall. I donned my waterproofs, which were "very pro" in Sandie's words. She got into her translucent green poncho. Here we began our climb to the summit of Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales.
It was cloudy with bouts of sunshine and towards the top it got a little misty but in a good way. Before coming to Pen y Fan we passed Corn Du, the second highest peak. On the summit of Corn Du we sat down for a snack. Some sheep started to come very close to us. They looked aggressive. We didn't know whether they were trying to get us off their patch or if they just wanted some food. Either way, they managed to freak out the girls enough. We hurried onwards to the top of Pen y Fan.
Having decided against staying over in MT despite it being nearer to the Brecon Mountain Railway (which we planned to visit the next day), we got the bus up to Brecon for £2 each. This was the right choice, as we were to discover later: Brecon was a much more pleasant town than Merthyr.
We walked around looking for rooms and found Beacons Guest House. The proprietor was a stocky, jovial guy. He had rooms extending in two rows from the back of the main property. Two of these were vacant. We took the cheaper one.
At all the doorways in the main house - the reception, administrative area and kitchen - hung signs with the warning to 'Duck or Grouse'. I must have been tired or stupid as I didn't get it straight away. I kept thinking you had to choose one or the other for dinner. Perhaps I was just hungry.
We asked for dinner recommendations.
Landlord: The Castle, The George, Roberto's...
J and me: which is your favourite?
Landlord: Roberto's. Lovely Italian.
J and me: Where can we get good local food?
Landlord: By local you mean lamb.
We settled on the restaurant at The George Hotel, where the food was good but the service just a little slow.
All things Welsh
Back in our room, we had time for a few rounds of Settlers of Catan, the board game we've been obsessed with since S and J introduced it to us. While making some coffee, I saw bags of 'Special Welsh tea'. B decided to try some. It tasted just like normal tea.
On the breakfast menu in the room, there was also a Welsh breakfast, which had a description identical to English breakfast. We would have to confirm that in the morning.
Brecon Mountain Railway
When the landlady came to our table to take our breakfast order, Sandie said, "Can I have the English, I mean Welsh, breakfast? "
The landlady laughed, replying, "When I'm here it's English breakfast, if my husband is here, it's a Welsh breakfast." Either she found this very funny, or it was a standard joke because she went on to repeat it at another table later.
We took the Beacons Bus to Brecon Mountain Railway. On the bus Len gave an overview of the Brecon Beacons National Park and the various points of interest in the park.
The adult fare for the Brecon Mountain Railway is £10 but you get a 20 per cent discount if you show your Beacons Bus ticket. We paid up and went to the platform, only to discover that the steam engine was not working and we had to travel with a diesel engine instead! The ride was pleasant enough, although I was expecting better views.
The man at the station told us that it was a 20-minute walk to Merthyr Tydfil centre, where we were headed, for the train back to Cardiff. It took us 50 minutes.
S: It's a hike, not a walk. Anything more than 20 minutes is a hike.
As we walked through Merthyr Tydfil town centre to the train station, we counted at least six Chinese restaurants on one side, and as many Indian and kebab stalls on the other. This made me glad we didn't stay here.