Sunday, August 31, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014, Bath, England

This huge, rather ugly building is the Millennium Center.  It is located about two blocks from Jolyons in Cardiff.  Our car in parked BEHIND this building at a cost of £10/ more reason we are checking out of here early.  I was fortunate to find a place for tonight....easier than I thought it would be.  This is the Monday of the Bank Holiday so perhaps there are vacancies everywhere....and lots of traffic today, too.

As you can tell, the rain continues.

The weather is dreadful.....and the chance of rain today is 100 percent, not the usual 50 or 60.  And that forecast if for the entire southern UK. Keep calm and carry on!

Every mile or so, there were these red and yellow signals, with big exclamation points, reminding us that it is "poor driving conditions".  Between the rain and our speed, we couldn't get a clear picture.

This is perhaps the 9th "Ravenel" bridge we have seen or crossed on this journey.  The design is a very popular one, not quite as popular as small showers though!

We are out of Wales and back in England!

We want to see Bath.  We drove around in circles for perhaps 45 minutes, raining, couldn't find a place to park....Please note that everything looks the same.  This is part of the charm of the city.  However, when it is pouring rain and you are looking for something, it is not charming.

We gave up and drove through the rain to Chippenham in The Cotswolds..

couldn't find anything there.  So we moved on to Melksham. 

Note:  We are trying to write this blog in a McDonalds in Belfast.  We are having a tough time finding quality internet connection.  This looked pretty good but we just lost about 2 hours of work and are starting over again.  Sorta like the day we are writing about.

No luck there either.

We finally give up and decide to head to our B&B in Bradford-on-Avon.  We put the place name, Apseley House, into Google Maps on the mini iPad.  Google tries to tell us that Apseley House is located in Bath -- damned machine.  After several minutes of arguing with Google, we concede that it might be right.  We could possibly be wrong.  After another additional hour of driving, we finally end up at Apseley House...... right back where we were this morning -  in Bath!!!  This is pitifully, hysterically funny!!!  Round and round we go; where we get off, nobody knows!  Thank goodness, it is a nice place.

This doubles as a dressing area/child's room, complete with toys in the closet.

We are in a basement apartment with private stairs leading to

a nice garden.

Olaf, the manager, assures us that there are two fine restaurants at the foot of the hill.  They are only .8 mile from our bed n breakfast.  We want to walk it, but Kathy's knee is bothering her.  She assures me that we don't need the GPS mini just to go one mile down the road.  So we decide to drive down the problem!

Big problem!!!!  Unbelievably, we took a wrong turn at the fork....hopelessly lost for yet ANOTHER hour!!!!.  We go past the same scenes again and again.  One is the Royal Crescent and the other is the Circus.  We feel like we are in a circus!!  This is CRAZY!!!!  We have a map, but can't find the Victoria Park where these restaurants are....we are near the Park, we have been by the Park, but no restaurants.  Finally, the female member of this driving duo suggests ASKING someone!!!  Reluctantly, the male member agrees.  The very polite English gentleman gave us precise directions and we were parked and seated within 10 minutes!

We have pictures of this meal, not because it was any good, but because it was memorable in so many unpleasant ways!!!  Breaded fried cheese

a grotesque looking piece of fish

and globby mac n cheese.

Upon our return, Olaf talked with us several minutes about several subjects including raising the elevation of parts of Bath to avoid floods, the Roman Baths, theories about how the Stonehenge stones were "walked" into place, his upcoming trip to his home in Poland, and much more.  He is well read and very internet literate.  We are, however, quite tired and ready for bed.  It's been a loooong day!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014, Cardiff, Wales

We are leaving Aberystwyth for Cardiff, Wales.  The weather is cooperating, so far, and the scenery is very reminiscent of, green and more green.

Our last glimpses of the Irish Sea...until our return cruise, that is.  We keep forgetting that we will have one more stop at some of these places on our way home.

For several miles we have seen posters for a Bank Holiday rugby tournament.  It's a tourney of 7 players to a team rather than the traditional 15.  Our host back in Stirling had played rugby 7 for his college team and was trying to tell us the difference in the rules.  What he did not understand is that we didn't know the rules for the rugby 15.  We end up in the town of Aberaeron, Wales.....stamped, paid and ready to watch....It is 11:00 a.m., a bit chilly and windy.  Big Black is parked down there somewhere.  Notice how low the goal pole is.

Warm ups

This red team was sitting near us.  Frankly, they looked like a bunch of slugs, drinking beer, smoking, not a bit of interest in warming up or stretching.....looked like a bunch of punks to me, Kathy.

But when they got on the field, the blew away the "candy stripers", as I called the opposing team cuz they had on red and white striped socks!

They play 5 minute halves with a short break in between.  They are pretty much continuously running for the 5 minutes.  They will play several games this day.

The blue team beat the blacks....soundly.

Many of these guys look like our football players, but they don't wear any helmets or pads.

This huddle, called a "scrum", occurs, we think, after a penalty.  The non-penalized team gets to throw the ball under the "scrum".....

and then they push, shove, do whatever to get that ball!  There were 4 really good teams who beat up on the four losers.  It was double elimination.  We watched the first four, but, regretfully, couldn't stay to see if our bunch of punks won the whole thing!

Back on the road again....never did rain, but it is only 60 degrees, with no sun and bit of wind.

Have no idea where this came from, but keep in mind, this is a FAIRLY main highway

Kathy somehow screwed up our reservations.....there are two Jolyon's, one on the Bay and one known as #10.  We went to #10, after being lost for some time....wrong place....they sent us to Jolyon's on the Bay.  Lost again.  Bears mentioning that the city streets in Wales are more than confusing.  They make Charleston look simple, dare I say, even NYC.  Lots of one-way, nothing at right angles, narrow and difficult to pass....our mini GPS can't keep up with the rerouting.  By the time we found the b n b, we were chewing nails.  THEN we find out that the price does not include parking....and the parking was two blocks away, £10/ is raining by now......I immediately cancelled the second night, room sight unseen.  Don't care if we have no home....we'll find one.  There is a carnival in front of the place....

And in the back, there is a "pop-up" bar on the deck outside our room

And a hen/bridal party just across the street!

After a ho-hum dinner at a ho-hum touristy Italian joint but with a nice water view......and a not great intro to Cardiff, we walked the worn-out, thinly carpeted, dreary stairs to our equally dreary room which did not even have a chair.  "Boutique" many years ago, but definitely has seen its summit!

Saturday, August 23, 2014, Aberystwyth, Wales

After another full breakfast, this time Welsh, we left Seacroft on Holyhead for Aberystwyth, Wales.  Just down the road we found a beautiful beach that we had missed on the way in.

It's a Saturday and the sailing races are on.

Not too far along the road the rain starts.

And the traffic is very heavy.  Turns out that this is the summer bank holiday weekend.  Bank holidays are declared by each UK country individually and there are two holidays weekends per country.  By the way, the schools in the UK only have 6 weeks of summer vacation.  They have summer holiday from the end of July til the first week of September, two weeks at Christmas and two weeks at Easter.  That's it.  Seems like our primary and secondary students have nearly double the time off.....counting two weeks at Christmas, one week at Easter, 12 weeks summer, almost a week at Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King, Presidents Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day....

So far, Wales looks like where we have been for the past two months....beautiful.

We are surprised at the condition of the infrastructure in Wales.  The roads are smooth and relatively wide.  They are pleasant to drive....a whole new experience from the past two months.

Lots of trees and pasture.

After driving for a while, we are ready for a toilet and coffee break.  We come across the Welsh village of Dolgellau (means meadows of groves).

The coffee and snack part of the stop were fine.

The trip to the toilet was a little more of an adventure.

The main door from the coffee shop.

The alleyway to the facility.

Getting closer.

Not exactly indoor plumbing.

But functional.

Later down the street, we spotted this nun tending her flower garden. Kathy really wanted to ask her if she lived this a convent....what is going on, but she left her alone with her flowers.

Lots of nice flowers in Dolgellau.

A stream flowing through town.

Now this town feels like Scotland and England with the grey stone everywhere....

Free range bulk eggs fresh from the chicken.  Repeat, the eggs here are not refrigerated.

Nor are these local cheeses.

Witty here, too.

Back on the road and into the rain and fog.

Stopped by roadside to take this lovely view....discovered that it was private property and you are not allowed to park or take the picture without checking with the owner....didn't stop to take a picture of the sign...nor to check with the owner!

Nearly all towns, villages and cities have a clock tower

Now THIS is a serious retaining wall.  We guessed it to be 15-20 feet high and went for two miles or more.  As just mentioned, the infrastructure in Wales is exceptional.

McKenzie, this made us think of you and your rope chair!

Random, along the side of the road, on a curve

Our fist sight of the sea since we left Holyhead

Our destination for, sadly, only one night...pronounced ""

Pleased to see the RNLI again...this time as lifeguards rather than a lifeboat off shore.

Color, color everywhere....light, bright, sunny, airy and packed with people  Aberystwyth is a captivating town.  It is a big one, but small enough to have charm and so very inviting.

Checking out the motorcycle gathering, wondering if they will rumble later.

Below is the Welsh symbol....and won't bore you or me with the reason why.  It is two pages long and still didn't quite understand it.  Something about the one time that the red dragon beat this English white one...

Here's to you, Marian, and the TC gang from home!!!

We stopped in here for refreshment

We met Catherine, who just finished her PhD in Geography at USC in Columbia.  She has been living with her boyfriend in Inman for past two years.  They became engaged 6 days ago, the night before she left for Aberystwyth.  She will be here 2 years while he is studying at Harvard.  The conversation started when Kathy commented on her Florida State jacket.

We all HEARD the stag party.  According to Catherine, the custom is for the groom to be dressed in the most crazy fashion.  One of the guys is appointed the designated driver and he collects all the passports, drivers licenses, etc....According to her, that is a very honored position, not one to be granted lightly since one's life is at stake!

A few more scenes around this part of town.

Our home for one night....

Back out on the street

Catherine had suggested this place for dinner.  We already have reservations at our place, but decided to check this one out anyway.

Back at Gwesty Cymru, our place (don't know how to pronounce this one, but DO know that Gwesty means hotel), looking down the stairwell from our room....

Advertising the restaurant's honors is a very big thing in the UK

Beetroot salad with pine nuts and goat cheese balls.

More lamb, good, but not the best.

Impressed with the floor lighting in our bathroom.  Quite certain that is to prevent someone falling off that ledge in the night and suing them!

Watched the time come in and the kids jumping off the platform in front of our place!  Made us shiver.....

Good night, Aberystwyth.  We like you!