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Archive for September 3rd, 2007

Tintern Abbey, Chepstow, Wales

On our last day in Wales, Jon and I debated whether to stay in Cardiff and check out the Cardiff Castle or drive about 20 miles east to see Tintern Abbey.

Jon settled the matter when he said: “If it’s good enough for Wordsworth, it’s good enough for us.” For those of you wondering what Jon meant, you’ve clearly forgotten all the useful knowledge gleaned in high school English class!

In the late 1700s, William Wordsworth wrote “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” because he was inspired by the beauty of the Abbey ruins. So off we went to be similarly inspired.

Our first impression was not promising. Less than 50 feet away from the Abbey ruins are a parking lot, souvenir vendors, and a forgettable pub. The aggravation of trying to snag one of the parking spots was something like circling the mall garage on Black Friday.

Finally, we broke down and parked in the pub’s parking lot, agreeing to buy a few watery pints to make it convincing that we were pub patrons entitled to use the parking lot. I was tempted to just turn around and go home, but it seemed a waste of a 30-minute drive to do that, so we paid our £3.50 admission fee and our £1 for audioguide and hoped for the best.

In hindsight, it makes sense that if the Abbey ruins were a major tourist attraction in Wordsworth’s day, it’d be seriously tourist-fied in the 21st century.

Once you enter the Abbey grounds, it’s surprisingly easy to forget all the souvenir-and-tarmac tackiness. The audioguide was the best £1 we’ve ever spent, and we learned a lot about the original use of the Abbey by the Cistercian monks in the 1100s. Apparently these guys sought to be very practical and useful, so manual labor in the fields was a major activity at the Abbey. None of that sissy illuminated manuscript business for them!

We spent a relaxing and fascinating hour there, and we snapped a lot of photos. I’ll leave you with one of my faves, taken of what used to be the Abbey church’s east nave:

East Nave of Tintern Abbey, Wales

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