Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Weekend in Wales - Last stop, the Lake District!

Getting up early and beating the rush hour traffic, Alan and I headed up to the Lake District for one more treat and walk down memory lane!  Years ago, we spent quite a bit of time in this beautiful part of England and we were really looking forward to seeing it again!

Found the perfect hat in Grassmere!
(Alan's photo)
With time not being on our side, we chose not to stop at Windermere. Of our 3 favourite villages in the Lake District, Windermere is number 3 and we had to make a choice.....

Alan's photo, I couldn't get a good angle!
Alan's again!

So our first stop was at Ambleside.  This is the village with the darling little house that is situated over a running stream!  When we first visited this, we were told that a family with 8 children lived in the little house of two rooms - one upstairs and one downstairs.

Can you call this the ground floor when it sits above a running

I can't begin to describe how little this house is and hope the photos I am sharing can give you an idea.  I had to stand outside the door to get these!  However, on this visit, and in the link I have included, we learned that this structure was built to store apples. The cool running water underneath would keep them fresh. Makes more sense, but I think,  possibly, both stories are true.  Maybe it was originally an apple storehouse, but then became a teeny, tiny family home!

This little house is owned by the National Trust but you don't have to be a member to get to go inside.  That is really nice!

After our (short) visit to this house, Alan spotted a lovely tea shop called "The Apple Pie" so he must have known we needed to go in there before leaving Ambleside!

We both got apple pie and ice cream, strangely enough, although the whole menu sounded wonderful, even their Mexican breakfast was tempting!  The ice cream on its own was amazing, but together with warm apple pie - fabulous!

To find a table, you have to walk through their bakery and that is temptation itself!  Loads and loads of wonderful items just needing to be purchased and taken home!

This is going to be one of those must do stops every time we visit Ambleside from now on!

Next stop was Grasmere.  This is one of the very few villages in the Lake District we have had the pleasure of spending a few days in!  Home of William Wordsworth and just one of those beautiful and restful places that come along very rarely.

Unfortunately, and this is not a new development, there are masses of tourists here all the time.  Not only does this area attract hillwalkers, nature lovers and photographers, it also attracts more literary and historic interests with its ties to poets like William Wordsworth or writers like Beatrix Potter.  All of the Lake District is crowded, but not so much that it makes me never want to go back!

I wish I had taken this when our car took up the whole lane!
I am saying all this because we could not park near Dove Cottage, so I was not able to re-visit this lovely building, which was home to The Wordsworth for  a few years.  In fact, we almost got stuck in the narrowest of streets!  Things change in years between visits, so the car park we were looking for seemed to not exist, maybe we didn't remember it correctly. But we meekly followed a sign that indicated going up what looked like a driveway, and in between two cottages that appear to be holiday cottages owned by Dove Cottage. The drive actually goes between those cottages and into the Dove Cottage coffee shop. But on this day, the people who apparently were staying in those 2 cottages decided to use the drive as their parking places so we were stopped behind them in a very awkward position!  Once again, I must compliment my husband's driving. The twists and turns between two stone walls was really demanding when he was going forward, but then he had to reverse to get out of this drive!  I remain impressed!

Grasmere is where I found the hat in the photo at the beginning of this blog!  I have searched for years for a cute, collapsible hat and it was right there in a hillwalking shop - just waiting for me!  It seems like the perfect hat and I can't wait for the right weather to truly enjoy it!  (Alan hates it, but he hates all my hats...)

The major portion of our time spent in Grasmere was just walking around and enjoying being there. But this village has a unique gingerbread shop and it would not be proper to visit and not purchase some to take home.  Grasmere Gingerbread is unique to Grasmere and the most unusual form of gingerbread I could ever imagine.  It isn't like gingerbread cake or gingerbread cookies.  I believe it has to be tasted to be appreciated!  When Alan first bought it for me in 1986, I didn't really enjoy it because I didn't understand it!  But after a few years' exposure, it is really, really nice! And very special since you cannot get it anywhere else than Grasmere.  OK, with modern technology, you CAN order it, but it is only produced in Grasmere!
It isn't all gingerbread in the shop, you can gain weight just walking in and enjoying the wonderful aroma! 

Ashness Bridge
Once we made this purchase, we headed off to Keswick, not to see Keswick but to visit Ashness Bridge one of the most, if not the most, photographed packhorse bridges!  We have made this trip many times, but the views never disappoint.  Maybe the amount of people can disappoint, like today when a group was eating their lunch right in centre of the view of this bridge.  But, hey ho, they were enjoying themselves and life is too short to sweat the small stuff. It was just nice being there.


Above Derwentwater just outside of Keswick

After a wonderful 4 days in England and Wales, we headed back to Scotland.  This had been the right direction to take since Scotland had gale force winds and heavy rain over the time period we had amazing weather!

"Come sit at my table and share with me,
Warm gingerbread cookies and cinnamon tea."    

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wales in a Weekend - a slight detour on the way home, the Cotswolds!

Ice cream at Bourton-on-the-Water
For some reason, I thought it would make sense to go to the Cotswolds on the way back to Scotland!  This was quite a journey for us, but Alan never corrected me since we have not been to the Cotswolds for almost 27 years.  We think the last time we came through this beautiful part of the UK was when my Dad and stepmother were over when our daughter was 3 months old......!


And the old adage you can never go back also rang true.  Yes, this area is gorgeous and well worth a visit, but it certainly was not as nice as when we were last here.  Not only have the trees grown and spoiled some views, but there were also a massive amount of more tourists now.  Since we are all struggling financially and having austerity politics and all that, where do all these folks get the time and money to travel?  (oh, that includes me!)

moral of the story of this journey:
Never say no to ice cream again!


Lower Slaughter
Following decades old footsteps, our next stop was Upper and Lower Slaughter.   I did wonder why they were called Slaughter when they are associated with mills.  In the attached article it explains that in old English, a word similar to slaughter meant muddy place. And these two villages are mentioned in the Domesday Book!

We could only remember visiting Lower Slaughter clearly although I believe we probably did visit both.  Unfortunately we did not have real memories of these villages and really enjoyed visiting Lower Slaughter. But we seemed to have missed the main part of Upper Slaughter this time, which is claimed to be the more picturesque of the two villages.

Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter, cottage with lavender on its porch
between mill and larger cottage!

We had a lovely walk along the stream that flows through Lower Slaughter and I purchased a little handmade bag of lavender that was in a basket at the cottage just across from the mill.  Who could resist that?

One of our last stops was supposed to be Broadway, but we were feeling the push of time so we more or less drove through.  But right before we arrived we past the cutest little gate house and across the street was a darling church.  So it wasn't a wasted journey!

Anyway we have always wanted to return to the Cotswolds and now we have. So we can take that off the bucket list and head off to places like
Cambridge or Kent next!

Alan made the fantastic decision to get past Birmingham so that we did not have to deal with that ridiculous amount of traffic on the way home. Wonderful idea, terrible hotel though. We booked the Ramada Inn in Cannock. Well, the hotel was fine but the food was the absolute worst meal either of us have ever experienced!  Alan even had to get ketchup to mask the taste of his charcoal flavoured rump steak.  Both of ours were supposed to be medium, but they were charcoal on the outside and raw on the inside.  Yes, we should have sent them back, but there was no way to salvage this meal and the waitress never returned to our table after we had already told her the potato wedges were not cooked completely.  (The frozen fries they replaced them with were not as good as the uncooked wedges!)  So we struggled through, taking off the layers of charcoal and eating what we could.  Readers should be familiar with the fact we travel fast and don't eat much, so this was a huge set back for us!  Eventually, the waitress became aware of our dilemma and did not charge us for the meal, but it was quite a traumatic experience!   When my nice, quiet, British husband wants to pursue and have a conversation with the manager about his disappointment in the meal, you know that it is a very valid complaint!

I like food. I like eating. And I don't want to deprive myself of good food.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wales in a Weekend - Tenby

After such a long day of travel, which was unexpected, it was wonderful to arrive at Tenby at the perfect time!  We did not go directly into the town, but found a place to see the beauty of the last light of sun shining down on all the colours of the buildings!

After feasting our eyes with this view, we went into the town, but were tired and hungry so set off for Saundersfoot.  We went there based on a recommendation from one of the runner's assistants who was also desperate for coffee at one of the stops we made while being engulfed by the second big race we encountered on our journey yesterday.  However, it was now just gone 9pm and all the food establishments were closed!  Just closed, only 5 minutes earlier would have been fine....Lucky for us, there was a Tesco Express so we got the £3 meal deal and ate in our car at a beautiful viewpoint!  At least mine was a prawn (shrimp) salad!

This town looked really cute, but my camera decided to go onto manual focusing and I didn't notice, so not sure if I well get ahold of any of Alan's photos before publishing, but I will try.

Manian Lodge

After this very long day, we went to our hotel, the Manian Lodge.  It seems we were very lucky to get anything at such short notice. My theory is the sun was shining and it was a weekend. Folks were getting OUT and enjoying the first taste of Summer!   This was a lovely place though, close enough to Tenby but away from the frantic tourist town. Even this early in the season, it was quite busy in Tenby!

This little hotel felt very comfortable and allowed us to relax and have a beer with good wifi. What else do you need after a very long day of driving and not eating?

Pembrokeshire Castle
As we were checking out, Alan noticed a postcard showing The Green Bridge of Wales, which apparently is a very famous bit of Welsh landscape. Alan didn't realise we were that close and wanted to go find it.  I did try to tell him this rock arch could be anywhere on the Pembrokeshire coast, but he thought it would be easy to find and was only 11 miles away......after an hour of single track roads and dead ends, we gave up and headed to Tenby!  But this will also be on the list to find the next time we are in this area!

The beauty of Tenby is not as noticeable close up.  It is a bit crowded and you have to walk out on the harbour to see the colourful buildings. But it is well worth the walk!  It was voted Europe's  most beautiful beach last summer.

With the sun being behind the buildings in the morning, what we saw last night was more impressive, but these views are spectacular too!

With my luck, I would leave my phone in the flat
and not realise until I was down at the beach! 

Just a few more shots of this gorgeous town before we leave and head out to the Cotswolds. Why the Cotswolds?  Because I thought it was closer to Wales and on the way home.  I was wrong on both parts, but glad Alan did not correct me and just drove there!

Before we left though, I made sure we had lunch!  We stopped at the Picnic Basket on the way out of Tenby and purchased baguettes, mine was crab!  YUM!  Also in this purchase, a few Welsh cakes.  And on the way past a fruit and vegetable shop we grabbed some Pembrokeshire potatoes as a thank you gift for the in-laws for babysitting our lovely dog.

'Dw I'n caru Cymru'

(I love Wales)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wales in a weekend - leaving Llundudno

Alan and I had high hopes to really spend some quality time in a variety of places in Wales today, and we did manage this, even though we hit obstacles at almost every corner!

Our plans when leaving Llundudno were to drive the road up the Great Orme but it was closed due to a  road rally!   This was the Three Castles Road Rally!  Our car was parked in the area that was now cordoned off so we had front row seats as they came down the Great Orme and back into Llundudno. Not quite the same as if we had been able to drive this route ourselves.  But we are certain to return and will have this drive to look forward to!

Before setting off, Alan checked the map and we decided to head to Penryn Castle since it was in the general direction of Tenby, which was the last stop of the day.

We were looking forward to seeing loads of interesting places this day and started out early to accomplish all that we hoped.

As anyone from Alloway knows, the best laid plans of mice and men gang oft awry.

Penryhn Castle from a distance looked imposing and amazing but as we arrived, we noticed it would not open until 11 am!  Since we arrived along with the Park Run runners, it was well before 9:30am and we certainly could not wait that long for the castle to open.  I did hope that there would be a coffee shop somewhere since that is the norm for our local Park Run folks.....after the run, they meet at Rozelle coffee shop.  But we had no idea how this was set up or where to go, so we headed back down the road.

Next stop was Caernarfon Castle, which according to the link provided, is possibly Wales' most famous castle!  By the time we arrived here though, the sun was so strong, I struggled to get any decent photos of this huge building!  The town itself is surrounded by a city wall, and it looks like it had to be cut close to the castle to allow a road to go around.

This castle is built right on the water and there was so much going on - Such a busy and vibrant city!

As with what seems to be all Welsh cities, colour is everywhere!

Watching the mainly dads and daughters do this, made me feel
a bit homesick for Destin!  Been a long time since I had this

Was it market day? Only 2 stalls but they looked great!

Captain Woof

A busy harbour too

Just a beautiful place

After spending about an hour here, Alan suggested getting an ice cream, but I had my heart set on sitting down somewhere with a nice coffee and a Welsh cake or something else local and yummy. So we decided to wait until our next stop.......we ended up travelling and focusing on just getting to Tenby so didn't stop at all until 4:30!

Alan and I decided to take the route through Snowdonia National Park.  It goes along the route of the Welsh Highland Railway there and we were very lucky to hear the oncoming whistle as we stopped to take photos of a little church!  Timing is everything!

View of the church from the bridge over the train tracks

After this idyllic start to the day, it took us awhile to realise we were on some sort of never ending treadmill of driving through the miles and miles of marathon runners and closed roads being repaired.  We kept getting our directions changed due to bridges being closed, and in such a rural and mountainous country, one closed bridge can mean endless detours and diversions!

Although I have never run a marathon, I have run some big races in the US and to do this so close to moving traffic would be unthinkable!  We stumbled upon 2 big races as we crawled along to our next destination!

There are benefits of being directed to points you never knew about.  I loved the name of this village.  We had intended to visit the town with the longest name of all - "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch" - but I misread the article about how this town name is often shortened to Llanfair and failed to see it is often shortened to Llanfair P G.  We were close to it too, but I settled for this sign:

As we were heading to Tenby, we saw an amazing looking castle up on hilltop and took the next turn to have a closer look. Another mistake - this road is one of two used to access Harlech, and is known as the Toot Road.  I called it a few other choice things as our car struggled to get around the steepest and sharpest angles possible.  I know if I had been driving, we would never have gotten to the top and  the car would never have been the same. Thank goodness Alan is a fantastic driver!  Not knowing there is a more sane way to enter and exit this town, I worried about getting back on the main road a bit while we were there.  If any readers have visited San Francisco and seen Lombard Street, imagine that - only straight up. That might give you an idea of what this road is like!

Parking is also very limited in Harlech, but they appear to be building a massive car park close to the castle.  We did find a place to park that was limited to one hour. Just enough time to see the castle and have that coffee I had been waiting for!  Harlech looked darling too.  However, my official driver had other ideas and we barely skimmed the surface of this village before heading off.  To be honest, I was really surprised because this place was so cute and I was getting a bit desperate for my morning coffee and cake!  (In Alan's defence, we still had hours to go before arriving in Tenby so he was right. But I should have at least gotten a coffee to go at this point!)

Harlech Castle is owned by the Cadw, The Welsh government's historic environmental service.  This is associated with the Scottish Heritage, which we just joined this year! As first year members, we would have been able to visit this castle for half price, but we didn't.....

While I was finding out about this, Alan was taking photos, so I didn't really see much since I thought we would be spending more time.  Oh well,  I honestly believe we will be returning to this area and this is a must see.

After leaving Harlech, we went on to Tenby, via Aberystwyth, stopping to admire this breathtaking landscape of sea with Snowdonia National Park in the background.

I must admit, Aberystwyth was a disappointment after seeing Llundudno.  The buildings are colourful but the whole place is really congested and the pier just doesn't compare at all. We were not even tempted to walk along the pier since it is all covered and appears to be only an amusement arcade.  Alan and I parked the car and spent only about 15 - 20 minutes looking at it and taking a few photos.
Aberystwyth Pier

A different view of the pier

With all the delays and stops we made, this caused us to arrive in Tenby just about sunset, after booking our hotel on the run, in the car!  We were unable to stay in Tenby itself.  I believe the sunshine and the fact it was Saturday meant Tenby and surrounding area was pretty full!  We found a place about 5 miles away and it was great.

After waiting all day for something lovely to eat, once we got to this area, all the restaurants were closed!  We ended up with the £3 meal deal from Tesco!  However, we ate this in a lovely beach resort called Saundersfoot.  One thing you need when travelling with Alan and me is a good sense of humour.

Tenby is another spectacular town but I will add our experiences there in the next blog since I believe our travels for this day are enough to take in at one time!

“Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."
"You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."
"Nobody asked your opinion," said Alice.”