Dear Mom…

Dear Mom, 

I finally made it to Wales and the Morgan family home like we talked about when I first started getting into the family tree. 

We always said we’d come someday, well I guess someday is now. I never expected to get here alone, but things don’t always work out the way you think they will, I guess. 

Tredegar House is amazing. You would have loved to go through it and hear all the stories about the family. 

Let me tell you a little about it…

Right now the house is being restored, so it’s covered in plastic and scaffolding. Apparently 300 year old roofs tend to be leaky. I bought some postcards that show what it looks like without its raincoat. 

But the part that’s open for visitors is really cool. I told the volunteers that you were a Morgan and they helped me find our ancestor on the family tree. He’s the brother of the one who remodeled the house into what it is today. 

The planks on the floor of this room are all 40 feet long and are assumed to have come from the same tree. The each span the entire length of the room.

The downstairs “dining room” is covered with carvings in oak, which was unusual at the time, suggesting that a shipbuilder was the artist since they would be used to working in oak.

The guides said that according to local legend, the Morgans were likely the chieftains of a Celtic clan that built a nearby hill fort before the Romans and then the English took over. They believe the name Tredegar means “place near the hill fort” in Welsh. 

Mom, they said the Morgans were good people, beloved by their servants and tenants, that they believed they were “of the people and of the land.” They weren’t landed gentry to begin with, they were commoners and self made. They didn’t get a title until after our branch split off, but they were incredibly wealthy until the last two heirs sort of spent it all on… well on things like bathtubs full of champagne… and betting on horses. 

A recreation of Evan Morgan’s bathroom from the 1920s.

Some of them were a little quirky. But at least they were interesting. And at one time they owned 90,000 acres. The entire county almost. 

The house was great to see, but I think my favorite thing was the grounds. Tredegar Park is spectacular, with a small lake and a walking trail and ginormous trees and convenient benches. 

And dogs. So many dogs. It seemed like everyone was out walking their dogs in the park today. I felt slightly out of place without one… 

Also on the grounds is a cafe and a gift shop and… a second hand bookstore. Yes, I bought a book, among other things. 

I didn’t think I was going to be able to see it because this morning it was raining so hard I couldn’t see the hotel parking lot, much less walk a mile to get there. But by the time I finished breakfast at the cafe next door it was clear. 

You would have appreciated the stables, you come by your love of horses honestly – the stables were nearly as nice as the house. 

The stables.

I spent all day there trying to soak it in. You would have enjoyed all of it. The guides said the Morgan women were strong ladies. Clearly you came by that as well. 

It was an awesome day. The only thing that would have made it better is if you were here to see it with me. 




Notes From the Train

I didn’t manage an entry last night, because to be perfectly honest, I got to the hotel, ate dinner and immediately passed out. 

Yesterday I left Dublin on the ferry, which although I was nervous about it, was a remarkably easy process, then I caught a train from Holyhead (pronounced Holly-head), Wales to Chester, England where my hotel was for the night, I could have gotten an earlier train and gone straight through to my destination – Newport, Wales, but I really wasn’t sure about timing and didn’t want to find myself rushing in a panic trying to collect my luggage and find a train. Plus, I was tired and needed a short day. 

My view on the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead.

I also could have flown and not wasted the better part of two days on the ferry and the train… but I wanted to see some of the country and not just skip over it and only see my departure point and final stop. Sometimes it really is just as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

I shouldn’t have worried. When the ferry arrived in Holyhead, I disembarked via a shuttle bus to the terminal, picked up my luggage immediately off the conveyor belt and walked to the other side of the small building, which was the train station. So I had a little extra time to wait, but there were seats and wifi and plenty of people watching. 

Traveling by ferry and train has actually been a great experience – I’d done the ferry before as part of a tour group, but never by myself and I’d never traveled much by train. But the U.K. has a fantastic train network and it is SO EASY. Especially if you have a smartphone. I downloaded an app (Trainline) and I’m able to look up where I need to go and purchase tickets right from my phone. I can track the train and see if it’s delayed and what time it will arrive and what platform to go to – which is helpful if the departure board is all in Welsh… it just makes the whole experience less stressful for a newbie and I imagine far more convenient for people who use it all the time. 

Trainline app

View from the train from Holyhead to Chester.

When you show up to the station, there’s plenty of people to ask where you’re going and what to do, and everyone has been very nice. You can buy a general ticket – any open seat or purchase a reserved seat. I opted for a general seat because I wasn’t traveling at a busy time and also I’m cheap. I was a little worried about my luggage – wondering how that would work, but each car has a little luggage rack and you just stick your bags on and take a seat. 

Holyhead train station

I imagine each station is different, but the small ones I went through were easy to navigate.

When I got to Chester, my hotel was about 10 minutes away, so I took a cab from the station – I could have taken the bus, but I didn’t feel like trying it with a suitcase and all. The hotel was a little Holiday Inn with a restaurant- it was in a business park, a bit far from everything, so I decided to just eat there and have an early night. My original plan was to take the bus or a taxi back into town and explore a little, but I decided an early night was not a bad thing and had a very good pizza and cider in the hotel restaurant. 

This morning I got a cab from the hotel back to the station – really only a few pounds more than the bus and much quicker, had a coffee and a muffin and got on the train, easy as that. My next stop is Newport, Wales and the ancient home of the Morgan family – Mom’s maiden name was Morgan, and I traced the family tree all the way back there. It sounds like they were quite the bunch and I’m excited to see Tredegar House, which is now owned and operated by the National Trust. 

Morgan family ancestor

Off to Europe…

So… I’ve never blogged before… I’ve never traveled to Europe by myself before either. So now I’m doing both at once with little to no plan… really, I’m winging it. It feels like a good idea. Maybe. 

Anyway, this morning, I did something else I’ve never done, which is use Lyft to get to the airport. I had a fantastic ride with a retired physicist named Randy. I had to laugh a little, because I’m sure everyone has seen this Geico commercial

It was a good way to start what will hopefully be a great trip. I’m on my way to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I will join a Contiki tour which will conclude in Ireland 12 days later, then I hope to spend some time checking out the homeland of my mother’s family in Wales and finally, I’ll meet my cousin in England for a few days. 

I’m excited to share my trip with you, and I’ll try to keep it short and entertaining.