When I told Oliver we were going to Wales, he immediately thought I meant Whales, and hurried off to pack his scuba diving outfit. After a slight kerfuffle involving a bear, a foot stuck in a flipper and a snorkel with a squashed top, I eased him from the suit, and he sat eyeing me crossly from behind an enormous pile of chocolate spread sandwiches – his comfort food. Although Oliver’s visions of conquering the high seas to seek out Moby Dick had been cruelly dashed, he perked up considerably when I explained that Wales was a land of castles, trains and waterfalls, and was soon waiting by the back gate, his suitcase at the ready. As usual, he kept a diary of his holiday, and, also as usual, I have edited his bear-type spelling which consists of sentences such as ‘in wayles thare is lotz of watter and su tolld me that sumtyms thare ar seels swimin in the eschuery’. I have put my comments in brackets.
Me and Sue and the others (notice how dismissive Oliver is of my husband and my daughter) went to Wales today. It was a long journey, but it was very exciting when we saw the mountains in the distance. We are staying at Porthmadog in a lovely flat, right by the river and near the Ffestiniog station where the steam trains are. I spent a long while looking out of the patio doors at the water; there were some children opposite fishing for crabs. When they caught one, they threw it straight back again. It seemed soppy to me, I can never understand how humans think. I’m glad I’m a bear.
I was excited when Sue said that, today, we could ride on a steam train on the Ffestiniog railway. She explained that the train would take us right up to a slate mine in the mountains, and I had a seat next to the window so I could see the sheep and the beautiful scenery. Our train was called the Merddin Emrys and was ‘a double header’ which meant you got two engines for the price of one. I had my photo taken with the train. Later on we went for a drive in the car and ended up at the Llechwedd slate mine – and I found a new friend there. His name is Taffy, he is a Welsh bear and to prove it he wears a green jumper with a Welsh dragon on the front. He came back to the flat with me. (I had no choice in this matter. Taffy attached himself to Oliver in the shop, and I wasn’t sure whether bears could be accused of shoplifting, so thought I had better pay up.)
It rained. And then it rained. And then it rained some more. Later, we heard that there had been so much rain, it broke the June records in Britain. We decided to go to Betws-y-Coed and look round the shops, but I got wet ‘cos I can’t run very fast as I only have little legs and I had forgotten my brolly. Also, I fell into a puddle. I didn’t like that, but Sue took me to a café for some hot soup to warm me up. Then we went for a drive through the mountains – it was very exciting as water was pouring down across the road, and we had to drive through very deep puddles which sent spray all over the car. We saw rivers swirling through the fields, and when we went past a reservoir, we saw that a house had water halfway up the wall. (And a certain bear had to be restrained when he decided he wanted to visit that house, with the water halfway up the wall.)
In the evening we went to Criccieth and sat by the sea. There was a castle on the cliff, and we saw a rainbow right over the water. The ends of it were in the sea, so if you tried to dig for the pot of gold, you would get very wet. (Once again, a certain bear had to be held back – he didn’t realise the sea was deep.)
Sue told me we were going to visit a very pretty village today; she said it was one of her favourite places. Now it is one of my favourites, too. The village was called Portmeirion, and was built over seventy years ago by a man called Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, in an Italian style, with pink and blue and yellow cottages, and lots of pillars, balconies and statues. There were beautiful gardens, and you could walk down to the estuary and see the long stretches of pale gold sand. We had yummy ice-creams there, and a delicious meal. Sue took me into the china shop which sells special Portmeirion plates and cups and vases; I knew about Portmeirion china because we use it at home – well, Sue and the others do. I have to use my plastic plate and mug, as Sue thinks I’m clumsy. I’m not really clumsy, but bear’s paws can’t always hold things properly. Sue bought a lovely big bowl decorated with fish, in the shop. (Yes, and I made sure it was packaged up in bubble wrap, and placed well out of reach of little paws.)
In Wales there is lots of water and Sue told me that sometimes there are seals swimming in the estuary. Suddenly, I saw one! I was just looking out of the patio window when I noticed a seal in the water, eating a huge fish. I watched him for a long while as he dived below the water, then popped up again with his fish. We went to a Slate Museum today, at Llanberis, which is right at the bottom of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. There was a little train which went round the lake, and there were shops selling wooden toys and pottery. The museum was really interesting, and you could see all the wagons they used in the mines.
Later, we went to a village called Beddgelert. Really, it should be called Beargelert, because many years ago, a very brave teddy bear was guarding a baby when a wolf rushed in. The teddy fought the wolf and killed him, but when the baby’s father returned, he saw the upturned cot and the baby on the floor, and thought the teddy had gone mad and tried to kill the baby – so he chopped the bear into bits. Then he found the dead wolf, but the poor teddy couldn’t be mended, so he was buried at Beargelert, and now thousands of people visit the village to see where the brave bear is lying. (Very touching, Oliver – but it was, actually, a brave dog, not a bear….)
Today we visited Llandudno, and went right up to the top of a huge hill called the Great Orme. It was very, very windy – I nearly got blown over the edge, but Sue held on to me really tightly. (Perhaps I should have let go.) There was a lovely view over the sea, and there was also a café serving delicious dinners. (What is it about bears and their tummies?) Later, we went to the Alice In Wonderland exhibition which is in the town. When Alice was a little girl, she often visited Llandudno. Lewis Carroll wrote a story about her. A long while after, a statue of the white rabbit was put on the cliff. I think there should be a statue of me there, because I’m a famous bear and I visited the town too. (I think you are a big-headed bear, and if anyone deserves a statue it is me, for putting up with you.)
Today we visited Caernarvon, which is a very important place in Wales, and it’s where Prince Charles was invested forty years ago. I have a new vest, too, but I didn’t get mine in a castle, I got it in a shop which sells teddy clothes. (You didn’t actually need to discuss your vest with the bemused man in the ticket booth - it was quite embarrassing.) The castle is by the river, and there were lots of boats. It was still very windy though. On the way back, we stopped at place set up by the RSPB where you could see big birds, called ospreys, nesting in a tree. I looked through the telescope and saw one fluttering his wings. I would like to be an osprey and catch fish with my toes, too.
We came home today. I really liked Wales, I think I would enjoy living in a Welsh castle; one with a waterfall near by and a steam train running round the outside. And I would like a pet Welsh dragon. (You’re welcome to go, Oliver….) I am sad, though, that Kate and Wills didn't invite me to tea. I s'pect they didn't know I was coming to Wales. (Oliver, I bet they did know, and so they decided to go out.)