Archive for September 2011

Birthday blast

September 26, 2011

My 31st was a blast. I received gifts, cards and parcels days before my birthday but I kept them in a corner to open them on the actual day. We went out for a delicious lunch at the Atlantic Hotel in Porthcawl and sat at a table looking straight out to the sea. I received three gorgeous bouquets of flowers on that day. Dinner was spent with my sister-in-law and her family. R requested his relative to bake me a “Cath Kidston” inspired cake with lemon filling as he knew I didn’t like sponge or chocolate. The cake was all shimmery and beautiful. We opened a bottle of champagne to share. There was no big party, poppers, extravagance or drama, but all the cards and gifts made me feel very loved and being able to spend the day in quiet celebration with those I love, really made me very happy.

Porthcawl: seaside town

September 21, 2011

中秋节

September 21, 2011

It was cloudy, we couldn’t see the moon. It was raining, so we couldn’t go out with our lantern. But at least we ate mooncake. And we were together as a family.

Snowdonia Road Trip

September 18, 2011

I’ve been meaning to write about our Snowdonia road trip but haven’t been able to find time to do it till now. I’m basically jotting this down so I remember all the ups and downs of this very interesting little holiday.

Day One

We set off at 13:00pm after lunch at home. We had three little suitcases, a nappy bag, bottles of water and bags of snacks plus a pushchair. Our tiny, tiny boot was literally filled to the brim and the slightly blocked the driver’s view through the rear car windscreen. With three adults, one toddler and a ton of luggage, our 999cc Hyundai was going to have to work very hard to get us up the mountain.

My Mum drove the first part of the journey on the motorway (because I decided I couldn’t deal with four lanes and cars zooming past at 70mph/140kmph), then through the Brecon Beacons National Park. The road from then on was going to be just one-lane each way because believe it or not, there are no motorways connecting most parts of Wales. So we stopped at a road shoulder and I got into the driver’s seat. I figured that I could deal with one-lane roads through the mountains since there was usually a speed-limit of 50mph/100kmph and I only had to focus on the front rather than having to worry about cars on the left and right of me.

I did okay surprisingly until I got to Dinas Mawddwy, which was a village with very steep roads and I panicked when I had difficulty getting the car uphill. I was holding up traffic behind but my little Hyundai could not climb any faster despite me flooring the accelerator so I just did whatever I could to get us up those slopes.

We made it eventually, and stopped at a lovely cafe, Machinations, for a cup of coffee and a quick look at their cute rabbit village before continuing our journey and arriving at our hotel in Dolgellau, situated within the Snowdonia National Park, at 18:00pm.

Day Two

We had booked two rooms in the hotel but because we had gotten such a good offer on price, we weren’t assigned ensuite rooms. But each room had its own private bathroom just a few steps away. That wasn’t too bad. Lucien slept in a cot provided by the hotel in my mother’s room and R and I had the other bedroom.

A full cooked English breakfast with hash browns, eggs, baked beans, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes and vegetarian sausages welcomed us each morning. After we had our food, we set off for sightseeing at 10:40am. We drove to Lake Bala, a very scenic natural beauty spot but it didn’t look at all appealing to me as it was gloomy, drizzling and terribly cold when we visited. I’m sure had the day been warm, sunny and cloudless, it would be been beautiful. So we hung around for a few minutes in the rain and then quickly hopped into the car again to get to our next destination, Blaenau Ffestiniog, which was a town 20 miles away up in the mountains famous for its slate quarries.

On the way there we got up to the top of a magnificently high mountain and R wanted to stop to enjoy the view. We got down and it was so terribly cold! The wind chill was unbelievable! I had R’s coat on and I was still freezing and it wasn’t even autumn! In Blaenau Ffestiniog we stopped to have pancakes and coffee for lunch at a little cafe. Coming from South Wales where most of the population congregate, we couldn’t believe how remote some of these places in the North were, and how far it was to the nearest big town. Before we continued on, we found some pieces of broken slate near where we parked and took with us a few as souvenirs.

Next, we arrived in Porthmadog, a pretty harbour town. Lucien fell asleep at this point after screaming for the best part of our journey. I guess he wasn’t a fan of car rides. My Mum and I had a little wander around the bustling little town while R stayed in the car with Lucien at the car park.

Later when he woke, we all had a stroll down to see the yachts docked in the harbour and had a browse in one of the gift shops. When we returned, we discovered to our horror that we had been slapped with a £25 penalty charge for overstaying in the car park for 10 minutes. Of course we cursed and swore. Okay fine, R did it on all our behalves and we made a hasty exit and went to our final destination, Portmeirion.

This was a very pretty village with Italian architecture and famous for producing beautiful floral porcelain utensils. We only spent about an hour or so walking around as the weather was pretty miserable and they were closing at 17:00pm. I managed to grab a small cereal bowl as a souvenir and began our journey back to the hotel.

Lucien screamed and cried all the way back and this made driving very unpleasant for me. When we got there it was proper peeing down and we just parked outside a small restaurant somewhere in Dolgellau to grab something for dinner. Once out of the car, Lucien turned into a complete charmer and enjoyed being able to stretch out and walk around. After we had food, we went back to the hotel, which was only a minute away and tried to wash Lucien in the shower cubicle as there was no bath tub. This didn’t go down very well and he screamed from start to finish.

Day Three

We checked out at 10:30am and decided to walk around Dolgellau for half-an-hour before beginning our journey down South. There was a small farmers’ market in the little village hall and I bought two small jars of homemade jam. We decided to take a different route home and chose to drive down the West Coast instead of through the mountains in mid-Wales.

My mother and I took turns to drive. Our first destination was Machynlleth, a market town in Powys, Wales. Lucien fell asleep when we arrived so R stayed with him in the car while my Mum and I checked out the few shops on the main street and bought a cheap pair of trousers and a pair of earrings. My mother then took over the driving. But because she hadn’t been driving the car at all yesterday, she hadn’t realised how winding the roads were and almost crashed into the vegetation at the side of the road.  Thankfully, we managed to arrive at Aberystwyth, a beautiful University town on the West Coast, unscathed.

We had a lovely lunch at a cafe on the pier and enjoyed beautiful views of the sea. We still had a long drive ahead so we decided to press on and we made sure returned to the car park within the time limit to avoid yet another hefty fine. We continued through Aberaeron, a quaint little seaside town in West Wales. Lucien fell asleep soon after as we drove through winding country lanes to reach the main motorway to take us home.

My mother took over the driving from here as I felt exhausted after sitting behind the wheel for two days. I opened a large packet of crisps and had a good drink of water from the bottle. Once we joined the motorway from West Wales, we were home within the hour. It was 18:00 when we got in and unloaded the car. None of us wanted much to eat that evening, I had a quick meal of instant noodles and went to bed.

Afterword

The next day I went to the Post Office reluctantly to pay the parking fine. It has been a crazy road trip. None of us had ever been to North Wales and some of the scenery we had witnessed was absolutely breathtaking. Though the weather was a real letdown and Lucien’s horrible temperament didn’t make things easy, but I think we made the most of our holiday.

Driving through those winding mountain roads and steep hills was definitely good practice for me and boosted my confidence. All in all we covered over 300 miles (600km) in three days. I do enjoy road trips as I appreciate the freedom of being able to stop and go whenever you like, and I think being in a car as opposed to being in a plane or train really allows one to fully take in the scenery.

I wouldn’t want to go on another one of these epic road trips again though, not with Lucien at least. I think we will consider somewhere a lot closer next time we take the car for our holiday.

Cath Kidston sneakers

September 12, 2011

This is so beautiful. Handpainted by the extremely talented Sarah.

Things for a fiver

September 12, 2011

Heart necklace in gold from Portobello Market, London. £5.00.

Chunky chainlinks bracelet with diamante star from Portobello Market, London. £5.00.

Hook earrings with ruby-coloured stones, from a shop in Machynlleth town, North Wales. £5.00.

Black patent flats from Portobello Market, London. £5.00.

Portmeirion small porcelain bowl with flowers from Portmeirion, North Wales. Reduced to £5.99.

Royal wedding porcelain commerative mug from Portobello Market, London. £5.00.

Mmmm…

September 4, 2011

I heart ice-creams.