Archive | August, 2013

When the sun shines

26 Aug

Someone told me this was the best summer England has had in years.  That depresses me beyond words.  I admit, we have had many good days of sunshine in the past month or two.  In my usual fashion, a glimmer of sunshine makes me forget all the darkness that came before, and will inevitably return.  So today, while the sun shines, I think summer will last forever.  But — brrr — the days of darkness are coming … just not yet.  And when the sun shines on a bright bank holiday weekend, we head out to events like the Blenheim Palace Festival of Transport.  That’s a fancy name for ‘car show in a field.’

Since I can reliably identify something with four wheels and at least one door as a ‘car’ — and there my expertise ends — I must admit I mostly followed after my son as he exclaimed about numbers and engines and age and other esoterica.  I took photos of things that looked cool to me.

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Yeah, that looked pretty cool.IMG_8064

Hey, look, it’s Captain Chantel DuBois’ Vespa! (Gratuitous Madagascar 3 reference.)
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Ah, these old hood instruments are just too groovy.IMG_8070

Purrrrrrrrrrrrr.IMG_8075

A charming classic cherry red fire engine.IMG_8080

Something with … gears?IMG_8086

Pretty purple Beetle.IMG_8089

Fear and Loathing … or Grateful Dead?IMG_8109

And a chance, later, for a stroll through the grounds and a close up view of the imminent change of seasons.  (See some of my favorite photos of Blenheim.) IMG_8115And the dream of journeying on through this gorgeous country in sunshine and peace.

 

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What I learned today about Weston-super-Mare

21 Aug

1.  Weston-super-Mare exists.  

Earth-shattering, I know.  But for reasons that defy sense, I was unaware that miles of soft sandy beach with convenient beach-side parking and a large boardwalk/entertainment pier existed a mere sixty-minute drive from my home.

2.  Miles of beach, but no … water?

How is this even possible.

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Soft sand, plenty of room for games of volleyball, kite flying, castle building, picnics on the beach.  But no waves.  Where?  Where is the water?  This is not low tide.  This is … all there is.  I think?

3. Rip-off ‘edutainment’.

Just like back home.  But the kids won’t care that you’ve essentially paid fifty dollars to visit toilets off the sand, because as you cruise through Seaquarium, you will hear the most excited child-squeeeeeeeee ever released on the planet: “MOMMY!!  ALL THE NEMOS!”

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4.  The Grand Pier.

Really?  Okay.  Seems like an over-reach, but I suppose it has a sort of future sci-fi Dune kind of look to it from here.  That’s cool.  I’ll  point out that while it sounds nice to enjoy boardwalk fish and chips  sitting high above the sand (again — where is the water???), it is not so awesome when you are forced to breathe in the evidence of Britain’s smoking problem.  Stop smoking, people.  No joke.  IMG_8039

5. Seagulls are evil.

Like the look of these fresh hot doughnuts?  Just pulled out of the fryer filled with who-knows-what misbegotten oils and made with hideous gluten and covered in crack-cocaine sugar?  We did, too, until a seagull FLEW DOWN FROM THE SKY AND ATTACKED ME.  Took a doughnut right out of my hand as I was putting it in my mouth.  Not an exaggeration. People around me screamed.  My own children ran away from me.

Not that I blame them.  I’ve noted the evilness of seagulls before. Today they were perhaps the agents of the paleo gods, since I didn’t get more than a bite before the attack.

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So, to sum up all this fabulous learnin’:  Weston-super-Mare is worth a visit if you like hanging out on the beach but aren’t particularly bothered about going in the, you know, water.  Bring lots of sand toys, and more money than you expect — to spend on random entertainment, seagull-proof gloves, and extra doughnuts.  If you have a warm sunny day in England and an uncomplicated summer day to fill, it’ll be a win.

Witley Court

13 Aug

And here we are in August.  I can tell it is August, because the days are getting shorter, and it feels like autumn.  Our regular trips to the pool are devolving back into more endurance event than summer fun.  And I am trawling through my photos for snippets of sunshine.  Here are some, from one of those beautiful, crystalline-perfect English spring days.  If you haven’t been, check out Witley Court and Gardens.

IMG_6647The house itself is a standing ruin, amazingly picturesque.

IMG_6584Heart throbbing fields of gold peeking through the trees this time of year.

20130601_135716Witley is known for its rhododendrons, which were something beyond incredible.

20130601_140659The fountain is worth seeing, when it runs on the hour.

IMG_6705Almost as fun as the fountain display at Versailles.  Ah, who am I kidding, nothing beats Versailles, but it was still a great show.

We spent most of a day here, seeing the fountains, the flowers, the baroque church, the newly built up adventure play area, the long walks, and having a good lunch in the nearby cafe.  In some corner of my brain I had planned one of my long chatty posts for you, but instead … just this.

20130601_142250Oh, England.  When you are good you are so good.

Crumpets in Cymru

8 Aug

Another holiday, yippee!  Although we have visited Cardiff and many border towns and sites over the past year and a half, we had not yet traveled in to northwest Wales.   A week break is hardly time enough to get to know Wales, but did give us a chance to rest in between car-sickness-inducing drives over beautifully horrible twisty Welsh roads.  Here’s a really quick peek —

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That’s our holiday cottage, viewed from in between stones erected by a local farmer to create his own version of a druid circle.IMG_7409Not too far from the power base of the late medieval Owain Glyndwr.

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And the beautiful Lake Bala – LLyn Tegid.  At four miles long, it’s the largest natural freshwater lake in Wales.

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One can ride the sweet Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid – Bala Lake Railway along the lake.

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We spent one day driving north to the seaside getaway of LLandudno – above is the Great Orme – Y Gogarth as seen from the town’s large Victorian pier.  I don’t know what all that means, but my children learned about this in school so they were thrilled to finally see it.IMG_7520

Just down the road, Colwyn Bay, seen from the top of one of the many towers at Conwy Castle.IMG_7533

A view from the highest point on the Conwy town walls, towards the Castle and inner bay.IMG_7554

Our day trip to Angelsey was more rainy, and gave Beaumaris Castle a damply romantic sort of look.IMG_7610

The Menai Strait in the mist.IMG_7650

Angelsey is home to a dense wealth of druidic and neolithic sites.  We visited Bryn Celli Ddu.IMG_7645

Unlike just about everywhere else we visited, there were no other explorers.IMG_7657

The longest place name in the UK, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, is purely a marketing creation and site of a largish outlet store full stuff you probably don’t need.IMG_7698

Another day, and a train ride up Mt. Snowdon.  It was sunny at the base, and misty at the top.  To the right you can see the walking trail up the mountain — ahead is one of the ‘heritage’ steam trains.  We rode one of the more modern diesels.IMG_7723

The final steps to the summit are by foot.  Would you like to guess if I went up or not?IMG_7739

A cruise through Caernarfon Castle, with its fascinating angular towers.IMG_7880There’s both too much to share and too little.  (I’m not being poetical, my camera is acting weird and I don’t have many blog-worthy photos from this trip.)  The memories are good, though.  I’m so glad we took the time to visit this other country right on our doorstep.  Hwyl fawr am nawr!