Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Sounds And Places [The Wales Experience]

In Places on 18 November 2010 at 22:42

There comes a time in life when running away seems like a good plan. Usually circumstances make it impossible to just get on a plane and leave everything behind. Being able to abandon the city life, even if only for a short while, and simply enjoy discovering new places is a temptation hard to resist.  That is why one cold October morning I found myself at the airport, checking in for a flight to Liverpool. This was not my final destination though. After arriving at John Lennon’s, I took a train heading to Bangor, one of the smallest cities in Britain. Situated on the cost, with thousands of students each year attending local University, it could potentially be the cultural capital of North Wales. Unfortunately, it is not. The reason might be most of the college departments include classes of business, law and science and this is not a very fertile ground for art to feed on. Though Bangor might seem quite miserable and disappointing, not everything is lost there. Two places worth visiting while you are in the neighbourhood: adorable Blue Sky Café and Cob Records Store, both located on High Street. First one is a venue with gig nights [jazz and acoustic mostly] and a variety of delicious food including something that looks like a destroyed apple pie. Cob Records is a shop where your money can be well spent, no matter what music genre you are into. The stuff is both new and used, prices reasonable and you can listen to the CD before purchasing [the last one saved me from buying very mediocre Hazy Malaze’s latest]. After wandering around for few hours I took a bus towards Llanberis, a village known for its endless possibilities of outdoor activities, including climbing, walking, scuba diving and a great place for lunch breaks called Pete’s Eats. To those who are less attracted to sports and sweating Llanberis offers sightseeing tours in Slate Mine Museum where you can explore the history of industry while admiring landscapes of the rocky mountains and peaceful beauty of Lake Padarn.

North Wales is very unique. And Welsh language sounds like some kind of weird Celtic dialect mixed with Swedish. The signposts here are bilingual, people open and friendly. It is the true countryside, with cottages and sheep, mountains and fields, fresh air and incredibly narrow roads. One tiny village ends, another one begins. I consider Wales one of those places you fall in love with instantly and any amount of time spent there feels not enough. All the little features combine into a perfect whole. If you are a person who needs a plan, then I guess you might get bored at some point. But for those who seek inspiration and a chance to recover from whatever they have suffered from, this is a perfect escape.

Among all the places I have been to while visiting Wales, one stands out very clearly. Fricsan is a small pub in Cwm-y-glo, located about two miles from Llanberis. It offers not only a pint of beer and a bed to sleep in, but also quite amazing range of different sounds. Just one look at the ceiling, covered with signatures of artists that once conquered Fricsan stage is enough proof this place really matters as a venue. To name only few of the musicians, like folk based Gwilym Morus, Bonnie Pilgrim or T.G.Ellias; strong acoustic personalities including Dion Jones, Kev Fox, Karima Francis and Timothy Parkes; and last but not least – We Are Animal: indie rock with a punk twist. Over last couple of years Fricsan gained respect from artists and audience and kept on promoting live music. You will not find a karaoke evening here, that is for sure. Instead, an Open Mic Night happens from time to time, where anybody can come and take on the stage. The place is ran by Ted Silvester, a man with great heart for people and music. It is magical, though it might look like any other village pub you have been to. In the end, it is not about the looks, it is about the substance. Here is a little taste of the acoustic sound of Fricsan: the very young and very talented Dion Jones:

When you think about running away, it is usually not so important where you want to go. Anywhere is good, as long as it provides a bed to sleep and some time to clear your head. If your anywhere means Wales then mate, you got really lucky. Therefore I would like to thank all the people who made my Wales Experience much more than just possible. I will be back again someday, hopefully soon.