We loved the scenery in England, Scotland and the Irelands, but the countryside in the Snowdonia region of Wales was spectacular. At first the rural landscape was a deep, rich green with lots of paddocks with lots of sheep grazing. I noted that the sheep over here keep their tails, and it looks very strange to us. Then we drove into the stunning mountain areas and along roads lined with magnificent pine, fir, maple, oak and ash trees, beside fast-running brooks – almost too beautiful for words. Further along, we came to mountainous areas with rocky outcrops and forests of pine and fir trees. We passed through some tiny villages, and the homes were so close to the road I could almost knock on their door from my car seat. The lovely old homes in this area are made of blue-grey stone with high-pitched slate roofs, as are the barns and other outhouses. We were lucky enough to happen upon a lovely restaurant where we could sit in the sunshine on the terrace for our lunch, taking in the beautiful scenery. We then continued on to Crickhowell and our accommodation at The Bear Hotel, which has a 600-year history. Crickhowell is a quaint little township with a lovely village green and some castle ruins. It has three pubs and lots of little shops, many of which had British bunting and other decorations up for the upcoming Royal Wedding. During our delicious dinner at the hotel, the 80-year-old owner came to chat with us and to make sure we were enjoying our stay. She was a lovely lady, very bright and interested in our travels.
We set off for Bath the next morning, via the Cotswolds. The scenery was, as usual, beautiful but I was expecting more parks and flower gardens but found none. There were more of the wonderful little white houses with thatched roofs here than anywhere else we have been, and they look like they have come straight out of storybooks. We stayed at the Harington Hotel in Bath which is located down a very narrow cobblestone street. Most of the streets here a very narrow and winding, and you never knew what you would find around the next corner. We had dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant in Bath, with John and Kerry Rogers, our friends from Australia who just happened to be in the same place as us today and tomorrow. After dinner we went to The Raven pub, across from our accommodation for a few drinks before retiring. All the pubs over here are tiny, and 15 people makes for a crowd.
The next morning we met up with John and Kerry again for the bus tour of Bath. The style of most of the city buildings attempts to keep true to the old Georgian and Roman style on the outside, and it looks great. Our tour guide directed us to look at the back of these stylish buildings only to find that the fronts were really a façade designed by the architects, and the insides were left to the whim of developers and were very higgily-piggily. After hearing about the very old history of Bath on our tour, we then did a tour of the Roman Baths. It was fascinating how advanced the Romans’ skills were in engineering and plumbing, but how primitive their thinking was in regard to sacrificing animals to the gods, and having curses written on lead by a scribe to punish anyone who aggrieved them which were then thrown into the baths to be read by the Goddess Minerva. The baths were not just a communal pool area, but also had steam rooms, training rooms, and a religious temple.
We also had a look at Bath Abbey and its spectacular stained glass windows and ornate seating and pulpits. There was also an Australian flag on the wall in commemoration of Governor Arthur Philip, who spent his last days in Bath after leaving Australia.
We then left Bath to make our way to Port Issac, the setting for Doc Martin, a favourite TV show of mine, Ian, Lynne, John and Kerry. We all walked around the village to find the various buildings familiar to us from the show. We found Doc Martin’s house/surgery, the pharmacist shop, the school teacher’s house, Bert’s restaurant and the school yard. It was great fun and lots of pictures were taken. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we then went to one of the pubs for drinks and cheese, before wandering up the hill and round the coastal track, to dinner. We had a wonderful couple of days with John and Kerry and after dinner said our goodbyes, and will hopefully get together again when we are back in Australia to compare notes of the rest of our travels.
We made an early start on our travel back to London the next day. We stopped at Taunton to visit the Somerset Cricket Ground, and Ian got to walk on the pitch for a close look at the wicket. We set off again, and after a stop at Swindon for lunch, continued our long journey. Danni cooked us a lovely roast lamb dinner that night and we caught them up on our adventures. Ian and I left them and will see them again when we return to London in one month, and Lynne said her final good-bye as she is flying back to Sydney tomorrow.
In the morning we said farewell to Lynne for her journey home to Sydney, in business class no less, and we made our way to St Pancras International Station to catch the Eurostar to Brugge in Belgium.