My recent trip to North Wales

Just after Easter I organised a small family get together with the grown-up children and their partners to celebrate Mr Husband’s sixtieth birthday. Yes the big 6O and he is still able to dig holes! (something yet to come on the blog, so stay tuned). I picked Conwy in North Wales, UK as I’d been to Conwy before so knew there would be more than enough to keep everyone occupied for a weekend regardless of the quality of the weather over-which I have no control. If you’ve never been to North Wales then I recommend you give it an explore as the combined scenery of the coastline against backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia National Park is stunning.

So what did we do to keep us occupied? That’s apart from eating and drinking, which I won’t go into.

Bodnant Gardens

On the way to Conwy we took a short detour and called into Bodnant Garden, managed by the National Trust. It was a damp and foggy day, so the pictures aren’t great, but the gardens at Bodnant still looked spectacular with its impressive collection of trees lining the valley with the water running through from the lake down to the old mill. The daffodils where just finishing but there were plenty of other plants budding and sprouting.

In addition to the garden there is an excellent adjoining craft and garden centre so you can have a bit of retail therapy. Both the plants selection and local Welsh crafts are very extremely tempting, jewellery, pottery, paintings, textiles… I could go on. Did I buy anything, well yes I did.

Conwy Harbour

Conwy harbour is small and gently paced estuary harbour where you can just sit and watch the world go by, which is exactly what I did. Conwy River estuary tidal so when the tide is out the river bed is exposed, making the view ever changing throughout the day. There’s a tour boat running trips up and down the Conwy estuary and a few fishing boats bring their catch to the harbour-side fish stall.

conwy harbour 2

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Conwy Castle

Now as I’d mentioned I had been to Conwy before, in fact for a whole week. But I’ve never been to the Castle, so decided it was time to pay it a visit. The Castle wall surrounds the town and you can walk, for no cost at all, almost all the way around the town giving you a birds-eye I view of Conwy. But it’s also worth while handing over your money to go in the Conwy Castle ruin itself and climbing up even more towers to get that extra view. Conwy Castle is managed by Cadw and we got the joint ticket which for a little extra gave entrance to the Elizabethan Plas Mawr.

conwy harbour

Plas Mawr

For me this was the surprise of the trip as I on my previous visit must have walked past Plas Mawr many a time as it stands proudly next the butchers on the high street, however I’d never noticed it. Too busy gazing into the butcher’s shop I think. Plas Mawr is a little gem and with the audio tour to our ears we were able to wander freely around the many rooms and into the tranquil court yard.

I hope that gives you a snap-shot of what you might see in Conwy and I haven’t mentioned the other building you can visit in the small town including Aberconwy House the medieval merchant’s house and the Thomas Telford suspension and bridge and toll house. Oh and there’s the walking opportunities around the surrounding area. Why not give it a try. I certainly intend to explore North Wales a little more over the summer.

Coming up next (I think) my garden makeover – the digging has begun!

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Why you should explore Cadiz

It’s been a little while since I went on my summer hols, time has just whizzed and I’ve only now got around to writing about the final leg of my holiday adventure. It was to the beautiful and bustling Andalusian city of Cadiz, Spain.  If you’ve read my previous blogs you will know why I planned the trip and how much I’d already enjoyed visiting Faro and Seville along the way to Cadiz.

I arrived in Cadiz by train and my hotel was situated in the Old Town within walking distance of the station so I was keeping to my public transport philosophy of the trip.  Throughout the holiday I’d chosen to stay in small independent hotels and this one was a little gem, Hotel Las Cortes.  It couldn’t have been more central and the rooms were airy, traditional but simple. My room was 110 appropriately named La Caleta, a reference to one of the beaches in Cadiz. There was a central staircase leading up to the roof terrace, which was definitely the WOW factor and laid in front of me the atmosphere of Cadiz in one panoramic view.

The view from the roof

View from my hotel terrace in Cadiz

 

View from my hotel terrace in Cadiz

This part of the holiday was supposed to be the time to relax on the beach and I was not disappointed. The beaches, of which there were a few were fabulous and I was in the sea every day.

You could go to the harbour beach, Playa La Caleta

Playa La Caleta Cadiz

Or an even longer sandy beach, Playa Santa Maria del Mar

Playa Santa Maria del Mar

We spent many an early evening meandering through the squares of Cadiz or having a chilled afternoon Manzanilla in a shaded side passage.

Cadiz Cathedral

I wondered what was going on beyond the many elegant doorways.

Now we (Mr Husband was still with me) are fairly sleepy travellers, by that I mean we amble, sit and watch as everyone goes about their daily business, we tend not to go to the tourist attractions, get into shopping (except food) or party into the night. So we weren’t up too late and didn’t get to any flamenco shows, but if this is what you like then you will find it in Cadiz.  Many of our evenings were spent on the hotel roof terrace with a large glass of white watching the sun go down and taking in the views.  For me Cadiz was the highlight on my hols.

Sunset in Cadiz

I hope I get the chance to go back, you should visit if you can. Cadiz has a long and fascinating history that you should try and dig into before you visit, it’s much more than a beach resort.

 

Why you should explore Seville

My recent holiday seems such a long time ago, so thought I’d refresh my memory by getting on with writing about my few days in Seville, Spain.  If you’ve already read my previous blog about the holiday planning and my few days in Faro you will know that Seville was a stop-off on the way to Cadiz, connecting my bus and train travel.  My route may all seem to be a bit convoluted but it was well worth it.

I wouldn’t class myself as someone who loves being in a busy city for more than a few hours so I was a bit apprehensive, thinking after being in Seville for a day (we had planned 2 days) I would keen to move on.   However……. I loved Seville.  Oozing in history, the pavements were not crowded, the traffic was restricted to the perimeter and the criss-cross of narrow streets balanced the expansive plazas giving the whole place an intimate feel.  It was one of those cities where every time you turned a corner you wanted to take a picture.  I have far too many to share and they really don’t reflect how impressive the city was.

The weather was fabulous, if like me you enjoy hot sun and blue sky.  But don’t be put off by the heat as all the elegant buildings provide much opportunity to walk on the shady side of the street.

It was our first adventure into the world of tapas, with delicious dishes being served whether in a prime-spot restaurant of a small snack bar down a narrow side street.  I must admit I struggled with eating so late as is traditional in Spain.  I’m early to bed but just had to stay up late (after 10 pm!) to see how the place came alive with families socialising, after 9pm was definitely the start of tapas time. I was also very presently surprised how reasonably priced the food and entrance fees to some of the major sites were… my comparison being the UK.

tapas seville

 

My highlight was a visit to the Real Alcazar, which apparently was used to film part of Games of Thrones. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones but this backdrop could have only have improved it.  It was much much larger than it appeared from the outside and far more impressive than I was expecting.  If you get a chance, you should go and stroll amongst luscious gardens and Moorish architecture, what more could you want.

Tiles and mosaics

We didn’t look around Seville Cathedral  just appreciated its enormity from the steps opposite.  It was undergoing a bit of clean but the scaffolding didn’t spoil the view.

The other tourist site we took a look at was the Metropol Parasol.  We couldn’t miss it as it was right outside the door of the hotel where we were staying.  It’s a massive wooden structure built to revitalise part of the City. We waited until the evening and then scooted to the top in the elevator where we strolled around the meandering walkway soaking in the panoramic views.  Underneath the structure is a large daily food market and many cafes and bars surround it. It has a friendly vibrancy in the evenings.

 

All in all 2 nights in Seville far exceeded my expectations (I love it when that happens) and definitely warrants another visit.  It was city in which to relax and absorb the atmosphere. I left feeling inspired rather than frazzled.  I hope I’ve given you a flavour of the city, but pictures can’t replace a real-life visit if you can.

Onwards now by train to Cadiz, backpacks attached, the beach was beckoning.

Accommodation details

We stayed room only for 2 nights at the Hotel Palace Sevilla, located in the Old Town so was an ideal base for 2 nights.  Rooms we elegantly furnished, quiet, air conditioned with a lovely soft bed and a roof terrace with splendid views across the Metropol Parasol.

Hotel palace sevilla roof terrace view