M5 is alive

June 28, 2011 Comments Off

We caught our last breakfast at the Blathwayt, packed our things and headed out at the crack of 10:15.

We wanted to be out and on the road so we could get up and into Wales before it was too late in the day. The last thing we wanted was to get stuck in traffic up the M5 part way there. I was warned in advance that traffic can get pretty bad, and that we might have better luck going straight up through the center of Wales instead. We checked both on the GPS while still int the parking lot of the Blathwayt, and the central route looked shorter and a bit faster overall.

We headed out and saw on the highway display signs that there was a slowdown on the M5, just a few miles past the turnout. This cemented our decision, and we went instead on the inside route, heading back across the bridge to South Wales.

About an hour later we finally made it through the massive queue across the bridge, that started just about 200 feet after the M5 turnoff. Apparently it was cleaning day on the bridge, and they closed all but one lane.

Bugger.

Finally across, (and paying our toll) we headed off the main highway and onto the central roads through Wales. Initially, these were pretty good, with views of the castles and small towns along the route. But as we got into the heart of Wales, the road got smaller and smaller. And with that it got slower and slower. Our arrival time on the GPS kept moving back, and we saw 3pm turn to 4, then 5.

Did I mention the sheep? Holy crap. “The sheep were agitated” is the phrase that pays.

The place was packed with sheep, cows, farms, and hedgerows as far as we could see. There really wasn’t much space left for roads apparently, because we were driving across paths that made the Burke-Gilman look roomy.

Eventually, we made it down to Borth-y-Gest, the port village here our B&B was located. This village was at the bottom of a hill, with a U-shaped bay circled with quaint little houses and a seawall holding it together. It was literally a scenic postcard come alive, but not quite as large as a postcard. Our place, the Ardwyn, was easy to find, and the owner was sitting out on the porch with his wife, waiting for us to arrive. He greeted us in Welsh, or had a coughing fit, I couldn’t tell which, and showed us up to the room.

It was a good size, with a separate side room for Sasha, and the smallest bathroom physically possible. But for the cheap price it was amazing. We got our bags up, then headed back to the main town of Porthmadog to look for some dinner. It was late by this point which meant that we were looking for a Pub that had a late menu, and we found one down by the marina. The moment we walked in, we found the whole staff speaking Welsh, and only breaking into english for the tourists.

We tried to get a nice table with a view upstairs, but only the lower dining room was open, and we got a table next to another, slightly more inebriated customer, who was also not local. Once we started talking, we found out that he was, in fact, Scottish, and down locally for some pipeline repair. When he heard that we were going to be headed to Glasgow in a few days he lit up (though he was already lit) and gave us a big rundown of what to do when we arrived, almost all of which was totally unintelligible, but all very enthusiastic and good hearted.

He continued to talk to us until he finished polishing off his large bottle of cider, then bid us a good vacation and staggered off. He managed to escape the pub without knocking anyone else down, and we had some excellent Welsh Lamb, Bangers and Mash, and Fish and Chips. We strolled back to the car, looking for an open store t pick up a few snacks for the room and a bottle of wine, and found our Scottish friend passed out at the bus stop.

There was nothing surprising about this.

A bit later we came across a couple with a wiener dog, and stopped to talk as Sasha was missing Oscar terribly. Their dog was younger than Oscar, and they were pleased to find out that as he grew older, their dog would not get easier to housetrain, and would also bark more and dig like a madman.

The left us slightly sad, and we headed back to the B&B. We were finally tired, and mostly over our Jet lag, so it would be good to be able to sleep in.

Waiting for us, the owner told us that Breakfast would be at 8:15 sharp.

Bugger.

Can I buy a Vowel?

June 28, 2011 Comments Off

We had plans for the evening to do the Bizarre Bath tour, but we thought a drive into Cardiff would be good for the start of the day. It was about an hour to get there, which wasn’t too bad considering we could get in a tour of the waterfront, the main castle, which had high recommendations, and perhaps stop somewhere interesting on the way back if we had time. It also gave Sasha and I a chance to see the Doctor Who exhibit, since we are both terrible geeks.

It was a very quick drive over, with only a slowdown at the toll gate for the bridge. The GPS was invaluable for driving here, since the signs were largely in Welsh for place names. I could see why the Welsh have been angry at the English for so lone since apparently the English have stolen almost the entire country’s supply of vowels. They did leave a large collection of “L”s apparently since they use about ten in each word.

Yulia was ecstatic at seeing another language here, and attempted pronouncing all the place names that she could find. I eventually had to stop her after running out of tissues to wipe up all the spit that that left on the dash and windshield.

We got to Cardiff, and found that the Doctor Who exhibit moved to London a month back. We were joined by a few frustrated English tourists as well, but since we will be in London in a week or so we can catch it then.

We walked down to Roald Dhal Plas, and along the waterfront for a bit. We saw some wild Swans with newborn swans swimming along the waterfront. The view was beautiful across the harbor. We caught a quick lunch at a place called “Salt”, which was basically a very upscale pub, but cheaper than the ones in Bath, and then headed back to tour Cardiff Castle.

The GPS twisted us around town for a bit, then right into a massive traffic jam. This was Saturday, and we couldn’t figure out what would cause so much traffic all at once. We crawled around corners and forced our way into merging traffic, and then I heard them. The sound was unmistakeable.

Vuvuzulas.

Turning the corner we could see the streets packed with screaming drunken sports fans. Scarves for several countries were being waved, horns were blaring, and the stadium was right across from the castle.

This was going to be fun.

After a few minutes it was obvious that we were going to have to pay for parking at one of the sporting car parks, everything was full elsewhere. We found a lot near the castle for £10, and the girl there told us that is was not just rugby, but a motocross, and some third thing in yet another stadium, all witting blocks of each other. Joy.

We got the last spot in her lot, and walked through the park to the castle. The castle itself was magnificent. It was in beautiful shape, with mixes of Roman, 15th century, 17th century, and 20th century changes. Amazing architecture all around. We went through the wall tunnels, which had an audio track of their use as bomb shelters from WWII, walked the parapets and towers, and climbed to the top of the Keep, which was in surprisingly good shape.

The main manor house, which is still used today, is gorgeous. The last family to live there made a series on unique architectural changes including a guilded library, grand dining, small dining that contains special tables to hold live grape vines for dining, and art, armor, and the like.

We took a long time at the castle and once we were done decided to head straight back to Bath so as not to miss the evening tour. We got to our B&B, cleaned up, and took a short rest before heading into town. On the way back to park in town, I took what I thought would be a shorter route to the parking spots, which means that it of course took longer and led me to the wrong spot. Yulia and Sasha head to the Pub to meet the tour, and I ran the car over to the correct location then Ran down to meet the girls at the pub.

I actually ran fast enough that I beat them there, and posed nonchalantly against a railing as they turned the corner. We were just in time for the tour. This was a comedy walk, with no history involved. Basically the guide made fun of Bath, told jokes, and did street magic tricks the whole time. I can’t recommend it enough. It ran pretty long though, and by the end, around 10:30, we were starving. This led us to our next problem to solve, there isn’t much to eat that allows kids past 9:00 or so.

We walked about for a bit, and saw a mediocre pizza place, lots of bars, and finally saw lights on in an Italian place. It turned out to be Jamie Oliver’s restaurant. I loved his show, and was pleased that at least the food would be healthy. Yulia and Sasha waited in line while I ran off to move the car closer to the restaurant. We got our table by the time I got back, and were pleased that the price was pretty reasonable for a celebrity place.

We will be on our way to North Wales in the morning. It shouldn’t be too long a drive.

Or so we thought.

Keep Walking…

June 21, 2011 Comments Off

I’m not much for a blended scotch drinker typically, but I’m beginning to take a shine to the Johnnie Walker Gold. Not too shabby.

We take off tomorrow for the UK. We are all excited, though we just finished working on our house and it would be nice to get more time in it in a finished state before taking of, but that’s just not going to happen. We set our schedule six months ago and we wouldn’t want to give this up. we have a whole three wweeks ahead of us taking a driving tour of the U.K., and it looks to be a blast. we will hit England, Wales, and Scotland.

I’m looking forward to digging into some Haggis.

Now that’s a sentence you don’t hear very much.

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