This summer has been one made mostly of long, lazy days. Perhaps it hasn’t felt much like summer with the weather we have had and the days where staying in was definitely preferable to going out. Due to limitations I have not seen some of the people I wanted to or done some of the things I thought would be good to do this summer. Despite that fact though summer has been good.
I have had the chance to spend time with people, sometimes people I have had little time for this past year. In the middle of carrying out my role as Children’s Ministry Parish Assistant and living away from home I forgot to make time for my family, for sitting in the living room with my parents and siblings and sharing time together. Okay, a lot of the time we don’t really ‘do’ anything but of all the simple things in life I enjoy I think just being with my loved ones is my favourite.
This year summer has meant something extra to me, not just the usual week away working with the children at the New Wine conference I attend every year. This year I had time to spend with my fiancé making memories. He was not at New Wine this year and although I missed him while I was away there was no time in the busyness of working with the children and spending time reconnecting with good friends for me to dwell on how much I wished he were there too. When I arrived back and he drove me home from the train station I realised that my week without him had been missing something and that something was him.
Nine days after I returned from New Wine Fiancé and I set off for Shell Island in Wales. It was about a 4 hour drive from where we live in York so we stopped for a little while in Chester. The drive was okay so far as drives go and when we got to Chester we parked the car and went for a walk. We peeped through the peepholes in the big iron sheet that is acting as the cathedral door while the real doors are away being restored and then we walked the full circuit of the Roman walls there, which were adapted into a promenade around the city by the Victorians. We sat and ate pasties on a bench in the town centre besieged by greedy pigeons. When we continued our journey it did not take long for the road signs to start appearing in Welsh and English and we followed long winding roads under mountains and across to the north-west of Wales. Shell Island is a pretty camping area, it’s big enough to accommodate many families and their tents or motor homes (caravans are not allowed on Shell Island). There is a harbour to the north end and a wide clean beach beyond the sand dunes to the south. We could choose any spot for our tent so long as we were at least 20 metres from neighbouring campers and not on a ‘No Camping’ area such as the top of the cliff. Our first attempt at choosing was not very successful we realised, as the wind tried to rip the tent from our hands. We moved and found a spot that was more sheltered from that particular wind. After we got the tent up and had sausage and beans for dinner we went for a walk.
We went down to the sand dunes and walked through them to a point near the car park where we could sit and look out over the sea. The sky was just starting to turn orange as the sun thought about setting and the breeze though cool was refreshing. We sat cuddled up to each other talking about how it was our first ‘real’ holiday and wondering if when in years to come we take our children to Shell Island we will remember the first time we were there as a couple. We watched the people who were just packing up or walking dogs on the beach and enjoyed just being there together. As I was looking out at the sea thinking how beautiful the location was and how wonderful it was to have Fiancé there to share it with I saw a flash of the sun off a dark fin and wondered whether it could be… and there it was again and I was sure as its friend came to the surface beside it and disappeared too. There were dolphins swimming in the bay below us. I had only ever seen dolphins on the TV or in the movies before although I once thought I caught a glimpse of a minky whale that caused great excitement on a ferry crossing to the Hebrides. I watched the dolphins playing for few moments and then Fiancé looked over to the left of us and saw that the setting sun had painted the hint of a rainbow on the clouds. It felt truly magical to be there in that moment with Fiancé, like God had placed his seal of approval on us being there by blessing us with the dolphin sighting and the rainbow.
The next day we drove through some of Snowdonia National Park and eventually found ourselves at the base on Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. Although we had arrived too late in the day to climb the mountain and the train rides up were both fully booked and too expensive standing at the bottom and looking up to the peak that was shrouded in cloud made me think of how small we really are and how big God must be to have created the earth and everything in it, to have placed everything in just the right way that these natural structures tower over the engineering feats man has achieved. Although we did not climb Snowdon we did walk a little way up its foothills to discover a pretty waterfall. I found it tiring walking up and would have turned back and missed the beauty of the fall if Fiancé had not been there, striding ahead on his long legs. When we reached the viewing point and crossed the mountain rail track we could see and hear the beauty and the power of this Welsh waterfall.
When we walked back from the waterfall and realised we would not be able to get the train up Snowdon I suggested we might like to try the train I remembered from my previous holiday in Wales, one that took you down one side of the lake at Llanberis and back again. We went across and got our tickets and I bought a Slushie while Fiancé had a Cornetto. We boarded the train when it arrived and rode around the lake. On the trip back we got off a stop before we had got on as we had seen that the National Slate Museum was at that stop. Although the museum was closing an hour and a half after we arrived we were still able to see the film on slate mining and to look around the houses that were set up as they would have been when the slate mine there was thriving. We went and saw the water wheel that powered the machinery in the workshops, harnessing the power of the water from a stream like the one that made the waterfall. I bought a few thing from the gift shop and we walked back around to where we had parked the car.
That night the wind was terrible and kept us awake, Fiancé especially. In the morning the tent was battered and nearly collapsed on me while I slept so we cut our time at Shell Island short. We packed up as quickly as we could and headed away from Shell Island. We remembered that a friend had mentioned a place that did cakes and ice-cream in a little town called Harlech that we would drive through so we stopped off and bought flapjack for our breakfast. From there we were unsure whether to straight home or try to find somewhere to stay. As Fiancé was quite tired finding somewhere to stay seemed to make most sense. As we drove in Caernarfon in the rain we noticed there were two reasonably priced places to stay, a Premier Inn and a Travelodge, right next to each other. We were relieved to have found somewhere and Fiancé went to get us a room while I sheltered in the car. We got our room and headed straight for the bed to catch up on some lost sleep. After some sleep we felt more human and went for a wander in Caernarfon. We had some dinner and went to the castle gift shop to finish off my gift buying. After a night in Caernarfon we drove home by the scenic route as Fiancé’s sat-nav was not working properly. It was an interesting journey but we made it home in one piece.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget certain parts of our holiday, but most of all I won’t forget spending those days just with Fiancé away from all the concerns of home life. And although, yes, every day spent with Fiancé at the moment is pretty good as we learn more about each other and share in the adventure that is preparing for marriage, those days in Wales will be favourites for a few months yet.