Our first big trip as a family foursome (i.e., visiting more than just England) we spent a whopping three days in Paris. It was stiflingly hot that summer and we slouched in the shade of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris, obviously, 2004
A year later I shepherded two 15-year-old lads around England and although staying mostly to unbeaten tracks we did have to pay homage to a tourist sight or two.
British Museum, 2005
London Eye, 2005
And then a year after that my wife and I got to enjoy a brief Italian sojourn without kids at all. What a concept! It was blisteringly hot then too. Italy won the World Cup and all hell broke briefly loose.
All night below Grey Rock House the breakers
bared and cloaked and bared and cloaked St Catherine's
Island. Yesterday's obscurantist rain departed,
sunup floods Tenby's lattice of lanes,
makes shadow. Summer's boats fled from the quay;
steadfast trawlers mudtilt at low tide
on stubnose keels. Round the gulled headland
cannons and bronze Prince Albert stand their watch
over carless cobbled alleys pitched between
pastel Victorian hotels and apartments, and
shearing like pot-crazing toward the High Street.
End of the season, we are all that’s left,
ranging the dawndamp beach and emptied avenues.
The nutshell arcade's shut up, attractions open late
if at all. We've come from Laugharne where Dylan's
season ended decades back, though an elixir
of tourists keeps him alive in his museum house
through looped film and audio, postcards, teatowels.
Again, the rain was the brashest element.
It thrashed his Boat House on its gardened hillside,
sliced wide brief runes across the muddy Taf,
whacked conkers from the chestnut’s moss-slick branches.
How many of these squalls he must have sat through,
toastwarm in some coalsmoky pub or parlor.
And to us our elderly proprietress serves
breakfast buttertoast. Leftovers she casts
to gulls chronic at her cliffside patio high
above the beach. In summer the shore is packed
with lotioned bathers but now it’s a blank canvas.
One man walks up the beach, not looking back.
His dog crouches, expectant, learning to stay.
Here we are, but not quite long enough
to properly partake of it—of Tenby,
much less the whole of Wales. We've seen almost
the gamut—menhirs on their reclusive hills,
battered abbeys, castles shot through with crows
and doves. The elementary towns of farmers, fishermen.
Tourist traps and transport cafs, the shops,
simple, the trusty inns. Oh yes, and sheep.
Tintern’s ivyless walls surround a hopscotch
of foundations, its piles of pavings, blocks of stone,
tombstones tilted against lichened walls
in a green vale. Everywhere we’ve gone, graves—
from the tribe’s huge tomb at Pentre Ifan
and abandoned cemetery at tiny Capel Cilgwyn,
to St. David's well-trimmed and populated slope
with fin-de-siecle ironwork, Laugharne’s weed-dowdy
yard of slates so humble we didn't look
for Dylan's grave. Even he not long enough
here. But we, we’re watchful, eager, sure
of a reward. Perhaps it will always recede from us,
tracking up the beach, not looking back,
always test our faith in it: our future.