Camping in the sunshine!

I can understand why some people think camping is their worst nightmare. It can be a hit – or – miss situation, but this time it was easy, and everything went very smoothly (once we waited nearly an hour for our pasta to boil, and my dad tipped the whole thing in the grass. The fact that he said “Pasta salad anyone?” did not make it any better)! We stayed in Rhandirmyn, in Wales. It’s a lovely campsite, with river walks very close by. We didn’t actually use the car at all after arriving, we just walked everywhere. We have two very small backpacking tents, so it doesn’t take long to pitch up (I think my record is about 10 minutes, not that I’m really competitive about this or anything).

One of the main highlights of the holiday was the village festival. We had a local day, looking at the flower displays in the church, and later we went to the open day at Coleg Elidyr, quite a well-known specialist college. Having been to Rhandirmyn a few times, we’ve always driven past these places but never really known anything about them!

Dinas nature reserve is one of our favourites. We’ve made it a kind of tradition to go there every time, because it’s especially beautiful in the evenings. The joke is , however, that we’ve never really seen any wildlife there! My dad and I also went up to the cave of Twn Sion Cati (or Thomas Jones) which you can walk to as part of the reserve. As far as I know, he was the Welsh version of Robin Hood. The cave isn’t spectacular or anything, it’s more of a giant cleft in the rock.

On our last day, we went to Caerphilly castle. It’s the second largest castle in Britain, after Windsor, and the first to be built in the “concentric circle” formation. It’s very spectacular, especially the tower leaning due to subsidence, which apparently beats Pisa’s Leaning Tower! The castle has been the backdrop for loads of films and TV shows, and you can definitely see why. It’s particularly atmospheric, and was actually too big for us to see everything in a day!

I don’t know if it really counts as a holiday, but we went to visit my grandmother afterwards. She lives in Somerset, so it wasn’t too far to travel, and basically on our way back home. Not much to write about, apart from my first ever experience of a circus! I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but ended up really enjoying it. I’m going to admit that I still find clowns a bit weird, and was pretty freaked out by the contortionist, but the aerial acts and acrobatics were very impressive. I have to go and pack for my next holiday now! Heading off to Switzerland on Monday!

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A fresh take on heritage

I’m currently on my second frappuchino, desperately using cafe wifi to within an inch of it’s life (we’re staying with my gran and she doesn’t believe in the Internet)!

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been camping. We managed 6 nights under canvas before admitting defeat when the forecast suggested heavy storms!

We started off in Worcester, and went to a couple of National Trust sites. Biddulph Grange is a massive restored Victorian garden which features separate gardens with plants from all over the world, but you never know what’s coming next. One minute you’re surrounded by beautiful Acer trees and Chinese zodiac symbols, and the next, you’re face to face with an Egyptian Sphinx! It was just a great place to wander round, somewhere really fun to explore.
We also visited “Capability” Brown’s first landscaped garden. Not that the garden isn’t interesting (its lovely to walk around and we enjoyed the strategically placed deckchairs) but I’d rather talk about the house. It’s in a state of complete disrepair, probably couldn’t look much worse, and they’re slowly recovering layers of history. The Trust is trying to decide what to do with the house, which parts of it’s vibrant history to uncover. It had been a country home, followed by a boarding school, a wartime hospital, was taken over by the Hari Krishna in the 1970’s, and fell into disrepair 10 years later. I just found it particularly interesting, because a lot of these places are very similar restored stately homes, and you don’t really see the parts of history which they don’t want you to see!

The outside of the building was covered in scaffolding, but hey had specially built a platform to give visitors an unusual view.
Seems a shame to end it here, but I think I’ve outstayed my welcome in this cafe! More on the way when I get home to normal internet!

London Part 2 

Sorry about the wait – I’ve been camping, so Internet and phone signal have been hard to find. I’ve still got so much to say about my trip to London, though.

The day after the open air cinema, we went to the Tate Modern. Mairi was not remotely impressed! Modern art is evidently not her thing – it’s usually mine, but even I had to admit it was a stretch that day. Grey squares, followed by green squares, and the occasional empty box made the whole thing a little weird.

We wandered down South Bank, towards Tower Bridge. Certainly my favourite part of London, it’s so quirky and there’s always so much going on. We saw the set for “This Morning,” the TV show, being prepared, but although we hung around for ages we didn’t see anyone interesting.

We watched the skaters underneath the Southbank Centre, and went on the “beach”! After a lot of walking, we drank huge ice coffees, and got the tube to the British Museum.

Mairi really wanted to see the Lewis Chessmen – she stood in front of the cabinet saying they should be displayed in Scotland, even though they’re technically Scandinavian! They were impressive, but hard to find, and we were exhausted very quickly. The Roman and Greek sections were amazing, but I found myself really lagging, desperate never to see another clay pot again!

We wandered back to Russel Park afterwards, and sat out in the sunshine. It was great to just people-watch. Given how far we walked that day, it was great to stop!

The day after that was our last day in London. Too tired to do anything else, we went to Covent Garden Market, and then on to the National Portrait Gallery. We’re both Jane Austen fans, so we went to see THE portrait of the author herself. A bit of an anticlimax – it’s smaller than a postcard and not even half finished! The BP Portrait artist of the year exhibition was lovely to see, but I had to rush because we were getting the train back that afternoon.

There were a lot of places on our list that we didn’t see, but I think we did pretty well considering we only had a few days! We both had such a lovely time, and I feel like I have a little more trust in my navigation skills!