Friday 17-02-2012 -
We had a bit of trouble finding our accommodation in Cardiff, but with the help of a taxi driver we got to it eventually. This was an apartment and we were really looking forward to having some extra space, and we weren't disappointed, lounge, dining, bedroom, kitchen, - heaven, (except for the bed being only a double).First things first we went for a walk and found where the grocery store and restaurants were, bought ourselves some easy to heat meals and settled into the pleasures of a lounge.
We woke to miserable raining weather, the urge to stay in and relax definitely tempted us but with new things to see and do, we ignored the urge. Rugged up and headed into town, got 100 meters down the road and thought NUP, too rainy, but decided to keep going. We walked through town, which is unique in that it had lots of special malls that look like they were old narrow cobbled streets, that had been given a roof and the ground floors were converted into shops. We were heading towards the Cardiff Castle and found it easily, however right in front of it was parked the 'Big Red Bus', considering the weather, we opted to jump on that and do the tour of the city and hope the weather improved.
Cardiff is only a small city, but has some interesting buildings. Unlike other cities we have toured on a Big Red Bus, this one only took 45 minutes, but gave us ideas of what we wanted to see, which was basically nothing in the city. Just more churches and the Millennium Stadium, which really didn't interest us.So we hopped off at our original stop and headed to the castle. We had a lovely walk around it, climbed the top of the parapet, then went inside, it seems to be quite common that they have a huge castle but tourists are only allowed in a very small part of it, bit disappointing really. We headed home, buying ingredients at the markets for a home cooked meal.
We made ourselves lamb steaks with all the veggies we could fit on our plate. So yummy.
We were unsure about exactly where we were going to go when we left Cardiff, so this morning we drove the car into town and went to the tourism centre to get some advice.
Then we headed to the outdoor Natural History Museum, acres of outdoor history, with a castle, and houses that had been relocated (stone by stone) displaying the history of life in Wales. The weather was fine and the displays were just awe inspiring, my favourite was a 13th Century home that had a huge fireplace, I asked the guide why so big; he explained that the size of fireplace was the status symbol in those days (much like the size of our flat screen TVs now), it was of course foolish because they had to burn so much more wood to keep the house warm, hence the 2 sayings "money to burn" & "up in smoke" . Hard to believe how old these places are, compared to Australia. We spent quite a few hours there then headed home to enjoy our apartment for the last evening/night.
We hadn't prebooked accommodation for tonight, and Marty's idea was to just drive somewhere. Somewhere?We had to put an address in to the GPS so we could follow the directions, he seemed to have a bit of a problem understanding that, but eventually he got the message, so we decided to find the Pendaryn whiskey distillery.
It was only an hour's drive and when we got there, we had about 40 mins to wait until the next tour, so went down the road to the pub and had a coffee (ha, bet you thought I was going to say beer). While there I found a brochure for our next stop. Back to the distillery, and we had a very informative tour and tasting of Wales only legal distillery and Marty said the whiskeys are as good as any Scottish or Irish whiskey he has ever tasted and it is distilled the same way as he does his alcohol, in a single pot still, but much better.
Our next stop was another hour away, and I fell asleep on the way there. The brochure said that tours had to be prebooked so we thought we would drive there to book a tour for the next day, but they were happy to give us the tour then and there. The mansion called Abbey-Cwm-Hir ( pronounced Abbey come here) was built in 1834, the middle aged couple that owned it now bought it 14 years ago when the reclusive owner died. She had lived in the house as a recluse for 33 years and when they bought it, it only had a chandelier, 2 mirrors and a billiard table in it, BUT, and this is the amazing part, it had 52 rooms.
Paul and Victoria had spent the life since purchasing it, restoring and furnishing all 52 rooms in the house and doing up the 12 acres the mansion sat on. It had 4 stories including the basement, and words cannot describe what they had done. I would highly recommend googling it just to get an idea of what we saw in the 3 hours that Paul gave us escorting us through every single room of his house; including his wife's dressing room with 4 massive wardrobes full to bursting withclothes, shoes, handbags, coats, all stored in colours. Cost £14 each.
We left feeling somewhat overwhelmed, but also a bit creeped out, they were 2 of the most eccentric people we had ever met, (I actually described them as being insane, Marty was kinder and said eccentric). It was almost dark, so we hastily made our way into Newtown and found a room at a pub for the night. Pubs name - Elephant and Castle, it's a very UK thing, they put the names of 2 of anything together and that's the name of the pub/Inn, bit like the Pig & Whistle, I am sure there is a story behind the name of every single one of the thousands of pubs/Inns in the UK, but I don't ask.
Just a quick mention on the Welsh language, it almost died out over the last 100 years because when Wales economy was booming in the last century because of coal, the English came over to work, and everyone started to speak English. There has been a revival to try to keep the language and all signs are written in both English and Welsh.
Cymru = Wales (figure that one out)
Creoso = welcome
2 ff together make the sound th
2 LL together make the sound rrcchh
Caedidd = Cardiff (pronounced Caerdith)
We were heading to Ruthin for our castle stay, but on the way wanted to see the aqueduct and have a ride in a canal boat. The brochure said it was at a place called Trevor, I found this really odd as just about every place in Wales has a weird name like Llangollen, and out of nowhere is Trevor. But anyway, we followed the signs once we got into Trevor to the aqueduct, and guess what, everything looked closed, we asked a woman from the shop and she told us the boats parked in the canal were for overnight or day trips. We had to go to the next town, 4 miles away and turn right at the taxidermists (seriously).
So we headed to the next town, found the taxidermist and turned right and found the place where we could get a canal ride, but no parking, back into town to the car park, paid our £3 and walked back up only to find that even though all the signs were up advertising the canal rides, it was actually shut. We were really annoyed by this stage, not so much that it was closed but more that the brochure didn't advise that it closes for winter, and that the signs were all up. If they had of been taken down we wouldn't have bothered parking and walking up. So we were a bit lost at this stage, with what to do next, had a walk around the town centre, then decided to head off to the castle. Once we got in the car I realized that we hadn't even seen the aqueduct, so we headed back to Trevor and went in search of it. Turned out it was only a few meters away from where we were originally but it was around the bend so we hadn't seenit. We walked over it and got some photos; looking at the road from the duct I recognized the one lane bridge that we drove over and was flabbergasted that we hadn't seen the aqueduct from the road, but I think we were more interested in the tiny bridge so didn't look either way.
The aqueduct was built in 1805 to carry goods from town to town via water, it was an ingenious construction built with 11 massive brick pillars (the mortar used on the bricks was made from lime, water and ox blood) and a metal trough nearly 6 feet deep with all original materials still standing. We chatted to an older gentleman and he said he not only used to swim in it but him and his mates used to walk along the edge of it, not bad considering the edge is only a few inches wide and it was 38 metres to the creek underneath. No one swims in it these days, WH&S and all that.
Before getting to the hotel, we stopped in town at a pub to have lunch, when we asked the young woman at the bar what the soup of the day was, she answered 'alaska', we both thought it must have been some sort of crab soup or something, but when she came back and said it was veggie soup, we realized her accent was so strong she had actually said "I'll ask her" meaning the female chef.
Marty had really wanted to stay in a castle, so he had found this one on the net, and obviously was quite taken with it because of the name, Ruthin Castle Hotel. It was an actual castle built in the 13th century. On checking in he asked if it had a four poster as he had requested one, they said no, I also said that if we liked the room we would stay 2 nights, bottom line is we got upgraded to a Royal Suite, which apparently was the best room in the castle. And it was glorious, huge room with separate bath, lovely 4 poster bed, separate dressing room, very special.
We had planned on taking a walk around the castle grounds and doing the historic walk through the town of Ruthin, but the weather was horrible, raining and windy, definitely not walking weather so opted to stay indoors and do some planning for the next week. We did however have a couple of games of snooker on a 12 x 6 table that was given to the hotel by the the king of England, King Edward (Bertie).
Thursday & Friday 23 & 24/02/2012
We were sorry to leave our castle but had more places to go and things to see. We stopped at Carlisle (back in England) overnight and on the Friday headed to Edinburgh Scotland. The drive through Scotland was gorgeous, their paddocks are like bowling greens and the old homes and castles certainly made it pleasant.