A Travellerspoint blog

Stripping and scrubbing

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Rosie responded to our arrival with mild surprise and gorgeous smiles – she seemed to be taking it all in her stride the way these two Australians kept popping in and out of her home. What a trooper.
After breakfast, we made our way to Annie and Andy’s new house and joined in all the fun of renovations. Rosie and I were deemed to be least likely to be helpful on the building site, so we went for a walk to the playground and down to the shops for food supplies. While the playground was great fun, I’m afraid Rosie fell asleep on the job when we headed off to buy lunch. We spent the afternoon extolling the virtues of the steamer as an assistant to the wallpaper removal process and had a very successful stripping experience.
Rosie had the day at nursery on Friday, and the rest of us set to scrubbing and fireplace remodelling. We embraced the sugar soap phenomenon and I’m proud to report that I was responsible for the ‘above the line’ scrubbing. We celebrated a hard day’s work with curry and beer and Blackadder, a fitting reward for the renovating team.
The first task for Saturday morning was the swapping of the hire car – apparently Warwick had to go back to the manufacturer (due for a service?) and a new vehicle was delivered to us instead. Farewell Warwick, hello Smarty Pants the Smart Car. Then the renovations continued, with more sanding, bricking, scrubbing, concreting, paint removing, vacuuming and other assorted tasks. Another equally important part of the renovating-and-moving-house process is emptying the fridge and the freezer in the old house, so Annie and I set about preparing a meal of deliciousness using only what could already be found in the kitchen. And using mince, aubergine, onion, tomatoes, smoky bbq fajita mix, cheese and flavoured microwave rice, we created what just may have been The Greatest Burritos of All Time. Ah-maze-balls. We did cheat slightly in that we had been to Sainsbury’s for a couple of essentials – nappies and shiraz. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds though, as Annie was denied the right to buy wine by a power-tripping Sainsbury’s worker on account of the fact that she looked under 25 and had no ID to prove otherwise, and I was waiting outside with Rosie. So I went back in and reclaimed the discarded shiraz, ID at the ready. However, when the approval process commenced, my ID was not required by the very same staff member. We left Sainsbury’s with mixed feelings – I was happy that I had wine, but offended that I looked old; Annie was chuffed that she looked young, but frustrated by her inability to obtain wine. I guess the boys were the real winners in the whole experience, because they got to have the goodness of the shiraz without the angst of their age being called into question. The ordeal was forgotten once Strictly Come Dancing was on, and the focus was solely on guessing what feedback would be given by the judges – we are all obviously experts on appraising footwork in a foxtrot and the timing of a tango.
Sunday came along, and Rosie’s room returned to a state of having a complete floor, thanks to Ian. The Buccheri Suite received the sugar soap treatment, and we put in our request for a nautical/whaleboat themed interior design. By Sunday night, James and Annice had inspected the building site, the fireplaces had all been removed and rebricked (Andy’s new skill), upstairs had all been sanded and sugarsoaped and rinsed and there was no horrendous carpet left in the house. And, most importantly, the enormous collection of trains and train tracks that had been left behind had been cleaned and sorted. Who needs a kitchen when you have a Thomas train set?

Posted by Buccas 10:28 Archived in England Comments (0)

Beached Wales

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We departed Barry on Monday morning, and tootled off through Swansea and on to Rhossili. Wow. Wales does beaches very, very, very well. We walked to Worm’s Head and laughed at the group of school kids jumping into the water and heckling each other in Welsh, before enjoying a lovely long walk along the beach. Such a peaceful and relaxing way to spend one’s day. It wasn’t much farther on to Haverfordwest (which the locals seem to pronounce with only two syllables), and we finally met some Welsh people. Our Airbnb host was Welsh (and a teacher – I guessed correctly), and the people running the pub down the road were Welsh too. Huzzah!
On Tuesday we set off to St David’s, the smallest city in the UK, to check out the cathedral with a purplish hue. The city and its cathedral were not as inundated with tourists as I had expected, and it was a peaceful spot to explore. Next on the agenda was the harbour town of Tenby, full of quaint pubs and ocean views. From there we ended up at Barafundle, which is pretty much the Welsh equivalent of Childers Cove. Ah the serenity… After that, we were pretty much all coasted out and we headed back to Haverfordwest for a scrummy (if slightly hipster) dinner.
Warwick had to earn his keep on Wednesday, as we set off on another epic (by British standards) roadtrip. We made our way north through that beautiful Welsh countryside, and then entered England, before going back to Wales, and then back to England. Gotta love those borders. We passed through Pant, and I was pleased to find that the “Pant Playing Area” still existed and still made me chuckle some four years after I had first seen it. Eventually we arrived in Crewe, and stopped in for a cuppa with Richard and Christine, some of Simon’s family friends.
From Crewe we planned to continue on to Otley, but a quick check of the traffic made us reconsider. We happened upon a little Italian restaurant in Sandbach, and enjoyed a brilliant meal for not very much money. By the time we had finished dinner, the M6 was looking much clearer and we had a smooth run up to Otley, only marred slightly by the inappropriate use of pronouns in pop music these days. Grammar matters, okay?

Posted by Buccas 12:56 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

An immense weekend in Barry

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So it was farewell to Cornwall and hello to Wales – after enduring peak hour traffic and paying six pounds and sixty pence for the sheer pleasure of driving across a big fancy bridge and entering another country. We turned up at our Airbnb in Barry, home of Gavin and Stacey. Our host, Marion, won us over instantly when she offered us a cup of tea and then gave us a dinner recommendation that turned out to be absolutely wonderful, darling. We went to Izmir, a Turkish/Greek restaurant and enjoyed dinner with Ali, who had previously worked on the QEII and had all the flamboyance you would expect of a cruise ship worker.
The next day we set about seeing as many of the Gavin and Stacey landmarks as we could walk to in Barry and its surrounds. We headed down Trinity Street (so steep that Warwick hadn’t made it up the night before) and stopped at number 47 – Stacey’s house. We were just taking a polite and respectful photo (as instructed by the signs on the window), when the door opened and a woman in a bright pink dressing gown emerged. We were half expecting to be told to shoo and sod off, but instead the greeting was “well are ye camin’ in or no?” We decided that we were, in fact, camin’ in, and so ended up in the lounge room, surrounded by Gavin and Stacey paraphernalia. Simon even got to hold the frying pan used by Gwen for making omelettes! We were given some inside goss on the cast (Ruth Jones – Nessa – is from Cardiff and is a bit posh, Mathew Horne – Gavin – is not particularly friendly, but James Corden – Smithy – has time for everyone) and we were even offered the use of the toilet facilities and to visit Stacey’s bedroom but we politely declined.
After that excitement, we headed across to Barry Island, where there were new houses being built all over the place. Once we were through the new housing estate, all the fun of the fair was there. I must admit, I still haven’t quite come to terms with the British tendency to put a carnival by the seaside. The whole point of the beach is surely to be at the beach – to have sand end up in crevices you didn’t know you had, to frolic in the waves, and to be either completely windswept or burnt to a crisp. And the Barry beach seemed to offer excellent facilities in this respect (more opportunities for windburn than sunburn at this time of year), but apparently it also needed slot machines, a ferris wheel, some sort of water spraying game, and lots of flashing lights and cheerful tunes. We enjoyed a sandwich from Marco’s (Stacey wasn’t working there that day unfortunately), and then walked from Friar’s Point to Nell’s Point, around Jackson Bay and then back in to town. We detoured via the Town Hall and then got ourselves home again, feeling rather worn out. Dinner was at Cwm Talwg (pronunciation!?) which met the criteria of being walking distance away and serving food. Victory.
Sunday was a cracker of a day, with glorious sunshine and just a light breeze. Perfect for exploring Cardiff. We wandered through Sophia Gardens towards Cardiff Bay, and sampled some Welsh cakes along the way. We were lured in by the smell and sight of them being freshly cooked – just imagine if a scone and some shortbread loved each other very much and had a baby, and now you’re imagining a Welsh cake. Lush. We checked out the Pierhouse, Roald Dahl Plass, and the Norwegian church where Roald Dahl was baptised (because obviously we hadn’t seen enough Norwegian churches in Norway…). We stopped in for lunch at the Japanese place by the bay, and ended up chatting to the Kiwi waiter there – he had been living in London for the past eight years, but nobody says “sweet as” and gets away with it when we’re on the job.
We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling about the gardens and buildings of St Fagan’s National History Museum. A large version of Sovereign Hill, with more impressive gardens. And a castle. The autumn leaves were starting to change colour and it all made for very pleasant strolling indeed.
When we returned home, Marion’s daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were all there too, so there were cups of tea all round and young Lucy promptly set about telling us all what to do, even renaming me “Megan” for her convenience.
Simon made his ol’ faithful sweet potato soup for dinner, and we heard stories of Marion’s life in Zimbabwe and somehow it came up that she had grown up with Mem Fox and was still friends with her. What a legend. Airbnb has triumphed again.

Posted by Buccas 13:47 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Coastal adventures in Cornwall

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On Sunday morning, we departed Torquay and soon wished we hadn't. We had planned to stop in Plymouth for some lunch, but a large roundabout and too much traffic forced us into making alternate plans very quickly. The back up plan became Plympton (practically the same thing, yeah?) and the target destination changed to the castle - or what remained of it. Unfortunately the streets surrounding the castle were exceptionally narrow (even by English standards) and Warwick Capperccino was renamed Warwick Scrapperccino after getting a little too close to one of the walls. Oh well - that's what travel insurance is for, right? We admired the views from the former castle, and then wandered the streets of Plympton aimlessly, ending up at a pub that just turned out to do the best Sunday roast we've had on our travels so far. With excellent Yorkshire puddings, too - even though I thought we were a bit too far south for that sort of thing...
With full tummies we continued our quest to Penzance, and soon found our apartment. No pirates to be seen, unfortunately, but apart from that it was quite satisfactory. The absolute highlight of the day was the discovery of Netflix in our flat, and the discovery of an as yet unwatched season of Gavin & Stacey. Lush.
We continued our Cliched Foods of the South tour on Monday, and enjoyed a Cornish pasty in, well, Cornwall. We walked from Penzance along the South West Coast Path to Mousehole and back again, enjoying the sunshine and the wind, the sea views and the squirrels, and all the happy little dogs taking their owners for a walk. Mousehole reminded us a little of Stromness, with its sea breeze and narrow streets that seemed highly unsuitable for vehicles. It was a little bit different though, in that there were trees and the houses weren't all grey. We returned home and finished off Gavin & Stacey and counted that as another successful day.
The success continued on Tuesday - the rain that had been forecast miraculously turned into wind instead, which made us MUCH more inclined to stop watching episodes of Making a Murderer and get out into the Cornish countryside. First stop - Minack Theatre. Or the carpark thereof. We didn't actually check out the theatre, but we did ooh and aah appreciatively at the beach right beside it - because no self respecting nink pays £4.50 to go to a theatre when there's no show on. Plus we were more entertained by the tourists in thongs and Simpsons pyjamas who followed us down the steps to the beach.
We then toured via Land's End very briefly - long enough to pose with the sign, but not long enough to pay six pounds for the privilege of parking at an amusement centre. From there we carried on to St Ives, where we were gifted some free parking by a departing parker, which gave us enough time to enjoy a coffee and a salted caramel milkshake which then also meant we had enough change to pay for parking for the rest of the afternoon.
We spent the time admiring the beach, watching the surf school participants and trying desperately not to be blown off the hill while seal-spotting with a man who seemed to think that Finding Nemo was filmed in Hollywood and not computer generated at all. We wandered the streets a little, declared that St Ives was a Cornish Port Fairy and then set off home again.
The next day we took ourselves (and our discount coupons) off to the Eden Project, a place where the carparks are named after fruits, much to our amusement. It proved to be an excellent place to spend the day, wandering around the gardens, the biodomes and the exhibits. We had a tour of the rainforest dome (undoubtedly the warmest and most humid place in all of Cornwall), listened to stories of Dionysus (and learned to put our grapes in the freezer), had free samples of tea, activated a ginormous nut-cracker and watched an apple pressing demonstration (apparently it's harder NOT to make cider than it is to make cider). All in all - a rather informative day out! We capped the evening off with a trip to the laundromat and baked sweet potatoes for dinner. Smashing.
On Thursday we got another section of the South West Coast Path under our belts, this time walking from Penzance to Marazion and then across to St Michael's Mount. The wind was fairly fierce, and Simon was glad that he had heeded my advice to wear his long pants instead of his shorts. I probably should have capitalised more on the whole 'being right' phenomenon, but I was busy trying not to be blown off course myself.
When we reached Marazion, we had to wait about fifteen minutes for the path across to The Mount to appear. Obviously the ocean didn't check the website that had said the causeway would be accessible from 12.45pm, and we opted to wait and keep our feet dry rather than splash our way through. Once on the island, we managed to find a sheltered picnic spot for our cheese sandwiches - such luxury! We enjoyed a tour around the village from one of the locals, and had a cream tea to round out the experience. I think you need a certain personality and a certain sense of humour to want to live on a place that is cut off from the mainland for eight out of every twelve hours. We didn't bother with the castle - we'd seen so many for free that we couldn't justify £9 each for this one. Instead, we treated ourselves to dinner out at the meadery. Which sounded like a simple proposition - go to the meadery, have dinner, right? Wrong. It went more like this: follow the sign to the meadery, find a restaurant sign that led to the top floor of a building, go to top floor to find restaurant closed, curse Vodafone for not having internet reception when we need it, pace up and down along the harbour trying to get TripAdvisor to load, call the meadery and get directions, walk back the way we came, sit down, eat. Phew. Thankfully the meadery served fruit wine (the peach stuff was scrummy) and chicken and chips. Which was exactly what I wanted after a big walk and a dash of confusion. Absolutely hit the spot.
On Friday morning we farewelled Penzance, and made our final stop in Cornwall - Padstow. Padstow tricked me initially by promising a food festival that was, in fact, several weeks ago, but all was forgiven when we saw the beautiful coastline. Such 'Escape to the Country' type views. Every man and his dog was there, either walking along the beach or strolling through town and eating a pasty from one of the sixtythree bakeries selling the 'best' pasties. Another Port Fairy-esque town, full of tourists and seachangers and Rick Stein devotees. Our parking money used up, it was time to move on from Padstow and farewell Cornwall - just as the rain started. Definitely our cue to leave.

Posted by Buccas 10:03 Archived in England Comments (0)

C is for Cream Tea

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Thursday morning we got up as loudly as possible in the hope of repaying the people upstairs for their late night foot stomping, furniture moving tendencies. We showered loudly, we breakfasted loudly and we did the dishes loudly. Yeah. Showed them.
We trundled down to the subway and got ourselves to the airport for the bargain price of €1.40 (€2.80 for Steph because the machine ate her money - still infinitely cheaper than getting to Tullamarine) and went to our respective terminals.
We made it through check in, security (yes I got checked for explosives again) and passport control without too much hassle - two hours later we were at the gate and being bussed towards our plane. We sat patiently for awhile, before the pilot announced that as we were still waiting for another busload of passengers, they would open up the cockpit and let anyone who wanted to come and have a look and a chat. It was like being back in the 90s again - and a truly excellent strategy for keeping passengers happy. Monarch lost points for having the smallest amount of legroom of any plane so far, but regained those points for having the chattiest and friendliest pilot of all time.
We arrived in Birmingham and were confronted with a formidable looking woman at immigration who turned out to be incredibly efficient and did no interrogation whatsoever. Win. Next hurdle was the car hire. The car we had booked was not available, and we were made to feel like a huge inconvenience because we didn't want to pay more to get a bigger car. In the end, we only had to wait about 20 minutes before Warwick Capperccino (the light brown Fiat 500) was available for us to load up with our luggage and then we were off on a roadtrip once more. It actually felt slightly disconcerting to sit on the left hand side as a passenger, as I'd finally gotten my head around the fact that the driver sat on the left in Europe. We were headed to Torquay, and it took about an hour longer than it should've. Because roadworks, because traffic. But we enjoyed hearing all the "new" songs that were exactly the same as the "new" songs that were being played when we were in the UK nearly two months ago.
We made it to Torquay and met our most incredibly lovely Airbnb hosts before walking to the nearest pub for a big hit of vegetables. The next morning our tradies curse continued, with plumbers hard at work before 9am. It couldn't quite take away from the pleasure derived from eating breakfast while looking out over the bay, but did affect the serenity quite significantly and we were keen to leave the house ASAP.
We set off for a stroll along part of the South West Coast Path - we met some Lancastrians on our way to Anstey's Cove and it was there that we found the serenity we had been looking for. No plumbers drilling, no whipper snippers snipping, just waves gently lapping and a light breeze circling around. We soaked up the views with a baked spud, and then set off around Hope's Nose despite some fairly average signposting and a slightly ambiguous map. The coastline was rugged, windy but lacking a bit in the sea-bird department. We made it back to our apartment to find the plumbers had departed - thank goodness! Dinner was back at the pub (it's always nice to have a 'local' when you're travelling) and that was another day done and dusted.
On Saturday we embarked on a very important quest - to have a Devonshire tea in Devon. Equipped with a recommendation of the best cafe, we walked the slippery public footpaths into Babbacombe and found ourselves at Angel's Tea Rooms. Small but very popular, we expected to be turned away or at least be told we would have to book for later in the day but no - the tea gods were smiling upon us and we had no trouble getting a table outside, where we could appreciate the sea views. You would think that a place famed for cream teas would have a simple menu, and I was expecting the biggest decision to be picking how much cream I wanted on my scone. But no. My memory of the menu is a little hazy, but there were at least twenty sandwich filling options, all available on four types of bread (which could be toasted or untoasted) and you could have any of about eight different types of scone and which tea would you like to go with it? Overwhelming. We ended up choosing a full tea which was a sandwich each, two slices of the most scrumdiddlyumptious cinnamon toast each, a scone with jam and cream each, and half of a giant slice of carrot cake each. Plus a pot of tea, of course. We tucked into our spread of deliciousness and kept eyeing off the clouds, willing them to pass without raining on us. We were lucky with the first lot of clouds, but then the second lot sought revenge. I barely had time to say "I think it's going to rain" before it bucketed down on us. We acted quickly and managed to get our tea and treats under shelter without too much damage, and then resumed our cream tea enjoyment sitting under the roof, as if nothing had happened. And the clouds passed on by, acting as if nothing had happened. Cheeky.
For the record - the food was amazing, but so filling. Our friendly waiter must have recognised the look on our faces because he offered to wrap up the cake for us to take away before we had even asked. And so, feeling proper English, we strolled the streets of Babbacombe, admiring the beach, the charity shops, and the Oscar Wilde house (apparently spending one winter there is enough for a place to make a claim on you). Just when we were really enjoying ourselves, Simon discovered that he was hatless again. Uh oh. Losing one hat was unlucky, but two? Thankfully we were about to find the hat this time through some strategic retracing of steps. And then I threatened to superglue the hat to his head, because the ninking budget did not allow for the purchase of a multitude of hats.
We made it back home without getting rained on (victory) and Simon made soup for dinner so he was forgiven for his hat-losing tendencies. When partnered with the night view over the harbour and our new favourite television show ("8 out of 10 cats does countdown" - think Letters & Numbers mixed with Good News Week), that soup was pretty much the ideal way to spend a Saturday night. Especially since we had carrot cake for dessert! Living the dream.

Posted by Buccas 01:55 Archived in England Comments (0)

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