Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Three days in Wales

To follow Emma's leaving home, we have decided to have a few days in Wales, visiting, for the first time in 7 or 8 years, the Hotel Maes-y-Nauedd near Harlech in the North-West. This time last year, we had our week in France, with much gourmet food consumed. This aspect of the trip will be the same this year, with the hotel offering 8 or 9 course meals (though 4 of these are the mini desserts they serve)

We are away at the civilised hour of 10:00 as the Grand Prix is delayed and neither of us feel in a rush anyway. Up the M40 and M6, then across passed Telford, Shrewsbury and Welshpool, then the final cross country leg. The weather is actually really good, more or less clear skies, and we are tempted to stop near a town on the coast called Barmouth, which neither of us has ever heard of before. We spend an hour wandering around on the beach - precisely the fresh air and walking that Linda wants to spend the trip doing. I, meanwhile, am endeavouring to take some nice photos

The river estuary above Barmouth

Rocks on the beach at Barmouth - with some rearrangement, it occurs to me that this could be made like Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty which I admire so much

This looks very Smithsonian

More abstract views of sand, water and sun

The railway bridge at Barmouth. A steam engine crossing that would look excellent in my view
We arrived at the hotel late afternoon ready for the cream tea that is part of our package. Then an hour or so spent reading and getting ourselves ready for the first of our three dinners. This is our third or fourth time here, and the food remains at a brilliant standard. Champagne in the bar, the chef's tiny taster starter followed by the proper starter, a fish course, a main, then the four desserts, all washed down with an Argentinian Merlot. An excellent first night
After a full Welsh breakfast to provide the fuel for the day, we are off to a nature reserve on the coast at Harlech. Oddly enough, there has been a heavy frost overnight, which gives the air a freshing bite. Our target is the Morfa Harlech Nature Reserve which is unusual in that it is a huge area of sand dunes. Our plan is to walk down the beach to where it turns inland and forms the estuary on which the oddly styled town of Portmeirion (where the 1960s series, The Prisoner, was shot). The skies are clear, the sun is out and the wind is blowing (but not too much) - ideal for a few hours walking we feel

Linda in bird-watching gear

Linda viewing Pied Wagtails

The dunes marking the edge of the nature reserve

Linda examines a jelly fish - we assumed it was dead, but someone told us later that it might just have been waiting for the tide to come back in

A very contented flock of seagulls

After our walk of several hours, we travelled back down to Barmouth where I had three drinks in the cafe, and where we tried to find out if any of the boats were still doing seal or dolphin watching trips - they weren't. So instead we did a 30 minute river trip up the estuary - not quite the same as viewing wildlife on the high seas, but the best we could do.
From there we visited Shell Island, a rather odd campsite compex set in the dunes just down from Harlech. Someone had crossed out the "S" on the road signs leading up to it, which is slightly unfair. But it was the last week of the season and the campsite's central facilities had that end-of-season feel. More sand dunes to walk around.

Linda at Shell Island
A leaflet in the cafe notes that a sight-seeing boat runs long trips out from just up the coast and if the weather is good tomorrow, that is what we will try to do.
Tonight's meal is another mammoth blow-out. We had resolved to maybe skip the fish course but didn't, though tonight we did avoid having every portion we could have had from the "Grand Finale" dessert.
The weather has changed on us. Heavy rains overnight and a forecast of this continuing throughout the day. So our birdwatching boat trip seems off. Instead we drive up to Portmadog, which looks rather drab in the rain, then up to Caernarfon, on the off chance that it has some shops for Linda to wander round (esp an M&S). Sadly it doesn't, but at least the rain stops for a while and we can have a wander round. Linda says there were waste bins for drug addict needles in the public toilets and we did see one or two people in town who could easily have been drug addicts!
We travelled back cross country, close to the Welsh Highland railway which was running steam engine trips this week for half-term. The rivers we passed were in full flood and looks great possible venues for white-water rafting.
Back to the hotel mid afternoon for some quiet time before the onset of our third and final gourmet banquet. I reach bursting point during this meal!
We could perhaps have tried to have a final full day in Wales, but the weather remains a bit bleak and with a long, unbroken car journey, we could get back home in time for Linda to see her mum and dad who have been house sitting for us.
Not a bad trip overall. But not quite last year's French excursion either
And I have to admit that I was keen to catch up with Jerome and find out how the trading was going this week. I have tried to avoid logging on while away, though I have also read Taleb's Fooled by Randomness, so it is not as if I have been completely avoiding everything to do with markets.

No comments: