Day One of my Gwent debut was nearly at an end. I'd walked over 50,000 steps, my right knee and right hip hurt like buggery (not that I'll keep mentioning it!) The Skirrid Inn had scarred & scared me further, but safely back in Abergavenny having just ticked off the happily uneventful Grofield, the finish line was finally in sight.
But there was no way that this craziest of BRAPA days was about to go out with a whimper .....
I lugged my giant bag of Tesco shopping into the darkened but very much open Y Cantreff Inn, Abergavenny (2420 / 3984) and although my experiences of Wales are few and far between, I'd say this was the most Welshest pub I'd ever been to. My arrival causes much consternation, 'a face we don't recognise!' but they soon recover themselves. I'm welcomed warmly by the pink landlady, and a pint of Grey Trees is a welcome change from Wye Valley, which was more ubiquitous than the most ubiquitous thing you can think of. It probably helps that I sit on 'phone charger station' table, so people are constantly nipping across for a bit of bonus juice and the odd jokey quip. A small TV is showing rugby, Merthyr v Newport I think, I'm told we are cheering for the black shirts! The stand out character is Tommo. He's lovely, but a walking calamity. Think Nanny from Count Duckula. He tries to turn the volume up on the rugby. But he ends up switching channel, and can't get it back. He is roundly castigated. Then, when a giant spider crawls across the mantelpiece to much excitement, he decides to be the knight in shining armour. "Fear not ladies, I've got this" he announces, leaps out of his seat at our eight legged friend, but misses, knocks a few things off, and the spid scuttles off behind the skirting board. Classic scenes. When the rugby finishes, I become the centre of attention. The younger lady must tell me to go to Hay on Wye, what .... about eight times?! One for each spider leg. I spin around to see Tommo behind the bar pulling a pint! 'Are... are you allowed to do that? ' I ask. 'I work here!' he replies. 'Oh I thought you were just a drunk local' I say. Pub is in hysterics, but I couldn't believe it. And he can't believe I've done the walk I say I've done despite my robust protestations. Thinks it physically impossible. 'Did you have that bag of Tesco shopping with you all day?' asks the landlady. Errrrm, no. I leave with some vague promises that I'll 'try' and make this my regular final stop off point for the week, but one I doubt I'll stick to. A whirlwind way to end day one.
As my Cantreff friends had predicted, my GBG local, the Bridge Inn at Llanfoist closed at 10pm (even on a Saturday) but to be fair, I just want my bed so happily hobble the 25 minutes back to my Premier Inn.
When I wake on the Sunday morning, it feels like my legs have been replaced by two lumps of lead. I'm moving like a robot, and there are only three things on my shopping list. A knee support, plasters and a bottle of water. Boots has the answers.
Although today wasn't an official train strike day, there are no services running out of 'gavenny and being a Sunday, bus services are incredibly limited. I want an easy day, so I decide to cut my losses and take myself up to Brecon, even though it comes under 'Mid Wales' rather than Gwent. Three ticks there, let's have a steady day.
A sleepy Sunday lunchtime lull pervades every sinew of this solid Wetherspoons, George Hotel, Brecon (2421 / 3985). Is this a library? An ESB from Suffolk with a heron on the pump clip is a welcome sight, and I chug it down with a couple of Nurofen and try not to think about potential side effects and just focus on numbing my lower half. I count twelve lads in their twenties sat around waiting for burgers to arrive. Not one of them says a word, just 'tap tap tap' on their phones. The atmosphere would be quite eerie, but for 'lady in a booth' who hasn't got the memo, and is loudly commenting on every item on the menu, much to the embarrassment of her male companion. He's even forced to try her drink. "The rhubarb is quite pleasant", so he's getting tasting notes as well. I think I need a wee, I can't really tell because I can't feel much below the naval, so I sup up my ESB and head for the loo to be on the safe side.
Brecon seems a quaint sort of town. Some pretty buildings like you get in north Essex or Ledbury or something, but with a slight annoying tourist knowingness about it. I'm not in the mood for twee and pretty, so it is a case of head down, and onto something very different from a 'Spoons for a very different type of experience.