Today is another train day and we are going to take things a little easier. Well, that’s the plan. We shall start off as yesterday by stopping for breakfast at Caféxpress and taking the 9:25 Holyhead train. Instead of carrying on to Blaenau, however, we shall get out at "Betsy", aka Betws y Coed (pronounced bettus-a-coid).
As we crossed the bridge over the canal on the way to the station, we were excited to see a heron swoop down onto the tow path and start fishing! He seemed quite unconcerned by the people passing by on their way to work.
While we were waiting for the train, I noticed a rather active sparrow. It kept flying into the narrow space between a metal girder and the wood frame. I suddenly realized it was feeding a chick.
It was hard to get a photo because it was dark in that corner and it was above our heads. The parent flew away to get more food and the chick, quite cramped in the narrow sparrow looked at me, not afraid but interested. Perhaps you can see its eye shining and the base of its yellow beak.
There was quite a crowd waiting for the train and a bit of an unseemly scramble for seats but in the end we were all accommodated. I was worried that because the train was already running 14 minutes late we would miss our connection but in fact, on arrival at Llandudno Junction, we had a train to our destination within 2 minutes.
Betws y Coed station impresses with its size and with its beautiful old stone and yellow brick buildings. Once a rather busier station than today, it is now reduced to single-track operation but the space once used by other tracks and station buildings has been put to good use. There is a shop and a museum (we visited the former, not the latter) and although there is a cafe on the main platform, there is another cafe restaurant housed in old railway carriages in a siding.
We had coffee in the railway carriages and watched the miniature railway train (suitable for children of all ages) run past the window. The surroundings being comfortable and interesting, we decided, after refreshments, to stay on for lunch. From the carriage window, the view of the station buildings with the wooded slopes of the hill rising behind it added to the pleasure.
Out in the street, on the other side of the station building, it was a different story. The place was crowded and lined with eateries and shops, not useful shops but the usual gift shops selling rubbishy "souvenirs". Here too, the coaches stop to disgorge their loads of tourists so the scene is pretty animated.
Walk on from there, however, towards the Waterloo Bridge, and the scene changes again. Here too the buildings are of stone and reveal that Betws became famous in an earlier age and a stopping place for a more genteel type of visitor.
There is the broad rocky river, the Conwy, crossed by the Waterloo Bridge, still bearing the proud inscription of its builder, Thomas Telford. There are fields with grazing sheep and tree clad slopes. Only the road, which divides at the bridge, is a disturbing factor with its near-continuous streams of traffic.
After this walk we returned to the station and, even though it was a train day, took the bus to Llandudno. The journey took nearly an hour and I have to admit that I was feeling sleepy by the end. From the bus we went the the Coffee Centre, a sweetly old fashioned cafe with table service.
The difference between Betsy and Llandudno is immediately obvious. Whereas the former is small and quiet (apart from the visitors), Llandudno is a big town of shops, stores and shopping arcades.
Llandudno is a seaside resort through and through. Is it the Brighton of North Wales? Not quite, but there are similarities. There is still something of the bygone age in the air that Brighton has brashly abandoned. While the young and the trendy would be drawn to "London by the sea", the staid and the elderly will be comfortable here. Perhaps we might liken it to an up-market Eastbourne.
It was therefore a disappointment to struggle up the hill in the heat to the Great Orme Tramway station, only to find that the lower section was closed for maintenance and we would have had to take a coach up to the next level.
We returned to the centre and took a coffee break while planning what to do. We checked bus and train times to make sure we did not leave ourselves stranded. Then we decided to have supper here, even though it was still early.
Tigger was sure she had seen an Indian restaurant somewhere in town so we set out to look for it. I am not sure we found the one she had originally seen but we discovered the Bengal Dynasty. (You may spot it in one of the photos above.)
We had quite a good meal and then set out to find a bus to take us to Llandudno Junction, where we could get a train back to Chester. Finding the right bus stop was not easy and the information posted is not very user friendly. In the end, we asked a native who confirmed that the bus we needed left from the stop where we were standing.
Although this was supposed to be a more relaxed day, we still managed to cover a fair amount of ground. Betws y Coed and Llandudno are almost at opposite ends of the spectrum of towns. Betws is both a jumping off point for Snowdonia and a genteel holiday location with an old-world feel while Llandudno is a busy and energetic modern seaside town but also has a certain air of gentility about it that tempers its atmosphere.