Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Cardiff to Tenby

Mick and I don't follow a detailed itinerary when we travel, rather we have a very vague framework and make the rest up as we go along.

Our plan this time was to leave Cardiff in our hire car and head west until we decide to stop for the night.

The first thing we saw was the Brains Brewery in Cardiff.  Hopefully we may even get to try some on our travels.

The weather was still drizzly as we started our trip.  It wasn't long before we had left the city behind and entered a densely wooded area, travelling through a tunnel of trees.  

As we came through a village there was a beautiful garden by the main car park.  The main flowers were begonias, like our Council grows in a special hot house in the park.  We'd never be able to grow them in the garden.  So lovely and vibrant.

We had a rough idea as to which road we would travel along, but changed our mind before long at all.  There was a road on the map which seemed to follow a river and had a few windy bits, which sounded more interesting than the main road.  We entered an area with lots of Victorian terraces in a narrow valley. It was  rather gloomy, with the hills shrouded in mist.

We were travelling up the Rhonda Valleys, which are a coal mining area.  So many old terraces, and steep, narrow roads.

For this reason, our hire car of choice is a small one.  We ended up with a Suzuki Swift, which is perfect for our needs and goes well.

It is always a standing joke when we visit the UK that we will see lots of tractors towing trailers on the road.  It didn't take very long at all before we saw our first big red tractor.

It has been very hot and dry in Wales for the last couple of months, so they are appreciating the rain.  The rivers were running well and we even saw a couple of waterfalls in the distance.

Wind farms are also a feature.

After a while the countryside opened up a bit and the sun briefly broke through the clouds.

We had heard of a Vintage Car Show and Shine and Car Boot Sale in an area we would be near, but unfortunately, when we reached the area there was a very heavy downpour, so there was no point.

We continued on our way and found a little place on the coast called Burry Point and stopped in for lunch.  We got to see our first light house, although it was fenced off.

Our first beach, and it was nice and sandy. 

There was a nice little harbour, but as the tide was out it wasn't all that picturesque at the time.

We were now travelling through lovely farmland on good roads.

Until we had to take a detour due to roadworks.  It was on a very narrow road and the verges were rather slushy.  Rather interesting when you met a larger vehicle and you could see some not happy drivers of black luxury cars.  Our little blue car is rather dirty on the passengers side, so we are now wanting some heavy rain to give it a wash.

I had read that the seaside town of Tenby was nice and had half planned to reach there on our first day on the road.  I didn't know anything much about it, so when we arrived to find medieval walls it was a total surprise.

It was early afternoon, so we decided to make this our destination for the day.  By now the sun had come out and it was going to be a fine afternoon.

Our first priority was to find some accommodation.  It is school holidays over here, so that isn't all that easy.  We were lucky enough to find a hotel right in the middle of town, in the blue house at the right hand end of the row of Victorian properties.  It turned out to be a great place to stay.

We walked through the arch in the town wall and were greeted by a bustling, colourful street scene.

The church was in the town square.

We just wandered aimlessly, taking in the beautiful scenery.

The low tide created beautiful beaches.

However, the boats in the harbour were all stranded.

There are two life boat houses.  The old one was featured on Grand Designs a few years ago, after it was converted into a home.

The new one is pretty spectacular as well, having been built at a cost of 5.8 million pounds.

The lifeboat itself cost 2.4 million pounds in 2006.  It is the most advance life boat in the world and if capsized it can right itself in 45 seconds.  We were lucky enough to turn up on the annual open day, so got to have a good look around.

St Catherine's Island stands just off the coast.

As you can see, it is easily accessed at low tide.

However, look at the high tide mark on the rocks, and it becomes evident that at high tide it is completely cut off from the mainland.  The building is a fort, built in the mid 1800s.

The hill on which I took the first photo of the island is known as Castle Hill.  There isn't much of the castle left now.

We heard music so headed down the hill towards the harbour.  

It turns out that on each Sunday during the summer holidays there is a Tenby Spectacular at the harbour.

There were some champion Irish dancers and great bands playing all afternoon.

The kids were kept amused down on the beach. 

The weather was now nice and warm, so there were good crowds.

After a while we kept on exploring all the little streets and alley ways.  The Tudor Merchant House Museum looks like it comes out of a Harry Potter movie.  No,we didn't go in for a look.

By now it was late afternoon, so we found a beer garden overlooking the sea and enjoyed an ice cold beer.  It really hit the spot.

On our wanders we had come across the oldest pub in Tenby.  Another fun thing we do in the UK is visit pubs that claim to be the oldest something or other, so this had to be our venue for dinner.

We found a nice snug little corner to sit.

After dinner we went back down to the harbour and found a very different scene, as the tide had come in.  The beach had completely disappeared and the water was lapping the base of the blue house.  I'd hate to be there in a king tide.

Before long the sun set.  What a sight!  By the way, this was after 9pm, as we are still on daylight saving time.  It is well and truly daylight before 6am too.

We had to hang around the harbour for another hour, as at 10pm there was to be a fireworks display.  It started off OK, but nothing spectacular, and we thought that was nice, but it went on for ages and got better and better.  In the end it was one of the best displays we have seen.  A real bonus to our stay.

Walking back to our hotel, the church looked lovely all lit up.

The following morning it was high tide again and we were surprised to see how much water there is between St Catherine's Island and the mainland.

We thoroughly enjoyed our drive through the Rhonda Valleys and our stay at Tenby.  The added bonus of the festival, life boat open day and fireworks were the icing on the cake.

A New Adventure - Home to Cardiff

It was a cold and frosty morning when we left home on Friday to drive to Sydney.

We flew out mid afternoon with Singapore Airlines.

Of course we had to take our usual selfie at the start of the flight.

There was a brief stopover at Singapore before we arrived in Heathrow at 5.30am, after our 23 hour flight.

Next we hopped on a train to the lovely Paddington Station.

Where we hopped on another train to Cardiff in Wales.  Why Cardiff?  Well, we have toured quite a lot of the UK but have not really touched on Wales before.

It was a glorious blue summers day when we left London, but as we travelled west the cloud cover increased. By the time we reached Cardiff it was full cloud cover.

Our hotel was perfectly located, being close to the train station and also right in the centre of the city.

By late morning we were ready to start exploring, just as it started to drizzle.  It proceeded to rain for the rest of the afternoon.  We had to chuckle, as they have had hot dry weather for the last month.

The main street looked nice and cheery with the floral displays.

We discovered some lovely little arcades.

And stumbled upon the Cardiff Markets.

Where we bought a punnet of delicious big British cherries.

Some Welsh Cakes may have been purchased from this stall.

There were all types of stalls.  One just sold umbrellas.  Mick purchased one, as we had forgotten to pack his.  We always say that if we forget something "there are shops".  This came into play.

We found a nice little tea shop in one of the arcades for lunch.

We went for a walk along the River Taff to collect our hire care and were pleased to see that they are painting water towers over here too.

Back in the city, there are modern buildings as well as the old.

We still had plenty of time, so headed off to visit Cardiff Castle.  Everything is so nice and close.

The castle was interesting to wander around. 

No one seemed worried by the wet weather, but I'm sure it would have been much more crowded had the weather been fine.

The old and the new - with the Millenium Stadium in the background.

There was a wedding reception taking place in one section and the bridal car was rather lovely -  a Beauford, which I've never heard of before.

One section of the castle was the home of the owners.  After the bare keep, it was rather sumptuous.

The Arabian Room was extremely lavish.  The ceiling.

The floor.

 The dining room ceiling.

The drawing room was redone in the mid 20th century as the lady of the house found the existing decorations to heavy.

The library was another amazing space.

I was fascinated by the beautiful locks on the drawers in the display cabinets.

I was enchanted by this huge old spreading tree.  It was a Home Oak, a variety I'd never heard of before.

The clock tower was highly decorated as well.

Another interesting building in the city is the Cathedral.

The interior is fairly simply decorated with a barrelled timber ceiling.

By now we were starting to feel a little tired, so headed back to the hotel to take  a nap prior to going out to get some dinner.  However, that never happened and we slept for about 12 hours.

It had been a big day.  We had no real expectations of what we would see in Cardiff and really enjoyed our brief visit.

Now to start our mystery tour of the rest of Wales.