I have scaled these city walls
We left London on a train out of Paddington Station on a beautiful morning, and the scenery through the train windows was spectacular. These were the final fleeting hours of spring, with flowers blooming, grasses thick in the fields and the lambs playing nose to nose with the rabbits. It was like something out of a James Harriot story.
We wound our way out into the Welsh countryside, changing trains in Cardiff, and pulling into Caerphilly in the early afternoon. We started with lunch in a pub near the train station, Jacket Potatoes and a Ploughman’s Lunch all around.
We decided to walk up to the castle, as it was just a few blocks away. Really just a gentle stroll up ancient avenues and past shops and offices that had seen decades winding into centuries.
The castle was amazing. After climbing up stairs, and down stairs, and through little doorways, and down narrow hallways, we came out onto the top of the old city wall. A perfect view all across the city and out over the harbor, with the smell of the sea washing into the scents of the fields and flowers that ran right up to the cities edge. All around below us was life as it has always been here; people cooking, and hanging out laundry, and talking on street corners, and walking their dogs down by the waterfront.
We left the main castle area and started walking back down towards the train station, we cut down a narrow ally and almost immediately happened upon an old bookstore. Being the bibliophiles that we were, we ducked straight in to see what we could find. What we found was a bookstore built into the undercroft of the old keep, only accessible through a narrow green door hiding alone on a quiet side street. Tall stone archways filled with bookshelves, stacked top to bottom with books of varying ages and organized with an almost completely inscrutable methodology. This wasn’t a place where one goes to look for something, this was a place where one simply wanders and discovers what fate wants one to read.
I’m not ashamed to admit I spent several hundred pounds there, which is close to what it felt like I tried to carry away. When we left, we were loaded down like pack animals on their way to market, and every book I bought that afternoon is still a treasured part of my library to this day.
As we were settling our bill, the proprietor invited us to stay that night at his bed-and-breakfast just up the road. Since it was close, and we were overburdened and without an alternate reservation, we took him up on it. Thankfully, it turned out that it was simply a few hundred feet down the lane. As we walked up we saw this wonderful English garden fronting a sprawling town-home built into the old city wall. It was like coming home to daydream.
That evening, after one of the finest meals I’ve ever eaten, I opened the windows facing out onto the harbor and watched the sun set into the west on a warm night. I fell asleep listening to gulls out over the water and the BBC forecasting another round of perfect weather in the morning.
If I was trapped in the same day over and over, I would pray for that one.
[Word Count: 575]