What a difference a few miles can make. London's density thins, parks become fields, apartment blocks barns, and clogged traffic arteries anemic, winding country lanes. Green replaces gray, rounded hills form, and ideally rustic stone walls crisscross towards the horizon.
I took in as much of this bucolic bounty as I could from behind the wheel of my first left-hand drive (with a left-hand stick, to boot). Whipping the tiny sedan around blind curves, wincing at each narrow miss of an oncoming vehicle, holding my breath at each roundabout.
Wales. The roads grew even narrower, and the scenery even more breathtaking. Bypassing Cardiff, my route took me through the heart of the Brecon Beacons, its broad, towering hills perfectly backdropping the stone huts and mossy, forgotten castle ruins. But by the time I crossed the high pass into North Wales, the sun had set. I navigated the comically thin and twisty "highways" in darkness. Each tiny village along the way was but a candle flame in the vast night.
Perhaps this was the perfect entrance to Snowdonia. Because when I walked out of the shabby bunkhouse early the next morning, the sheer fantasy of the place hit me all at once. Massively rugged, brilliantly green peaks surrounded the valley. Sheep clustered in the early morning chill, and mist hung over the lake.
And it only got better during the hike up to the highest point in England and Wales, Mt. Snowdon. The peak itself was blanketed in damp clouds and buffeted by a bitter wind, but the rest of the trail was held in a quiet stillness.
A million miles from London.