A Travellerspoint blog

Day 23 York, England

Friday 5 August 2016

sunny 20 °C

Our day started rather early, not so bright I might add. The fire alarm sounded in the hotel at 2am and frightened the you know what out of us. It seemed like I had only just gotten to sleep. Anyway we were up at 7am and off to breakfast. Apparently someone was smoking in a room. We are staying in the city, right on the river opposite the old town. Parking will be expensive but it is worth it as we don’t have to use the park and drop facilities on the city outskirts.
Our time in this lovely old city commenced by us walking to the area known as the Shambles. It’s a very old street that has the weirdest architecture. The top floors of the houses jut out and nearly touch the others on the other side of the street. We were told that there are several theories as to why they were built like this. Firstly, there was no sanitary system so the people who were rich enough to have a high house had no outside toilets so they used a potty at night. These had to be emptied and this was done out the window into the street in the morning. People could shelter under the ledge on the street level. Another theory as that land taxes were very high so they made the ground level as small as possible and then built out from the levels above.
We met the free walking tour at 10.15. A chap gave us a brief rundown of the history of the area and the influence of the Romans, Constantine the Great, The Vikings, William the Conqueror, Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell. Our walk started in the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey of which there is very little remaining due to it being destroyed under some of these rulers. The area is now a public garden so we walked through it and saw the multiangular tower built in 300AD. It was in this garden we saw our first squirrel going about his busy day. From here, we walked around to the king’s manor built c.1270 for the Abbot of St Mary’s. After several changes of occupation, it is now used by the University of York.
We returned to Exhibition Square where we met the tour and proceeded to walk around the town wall. From various vantage points along this wall we were able to see the York Minster or York Cathedral. We left this area when we reached Monk Bar. From there, we meandered through the town. Apparently the footings are very poor in these places and cracks appear. The way to see if the crack is worsening is by nailing a piece of glass over the crack. If the glass cracks, they know the crack is growing. One place near the cathedral was bulging so badly that it had steel pins from one side to the other side of the house.
The grounds of the cathedral are beautiful. The building itself is under constant renovation due to the sandstone breaking down under today’s stresses. The architecture of the building is stunning but the guide did point out a few “errors” in construction. On several of the window, the glass was correct but the arches around the glass were not symmetrical. You could take thousands of photos of the church and not capture all the detail. On one side of the church there is a statue of Constantine the Great who was proclaimed Roman Emperor in York in AD 306. He was a pagan until the time of his death when he must have decided to keep his ball in both courts. Beside the cathedral is St Michael Le Belfry Church and a pub named after Guy Fawkes who was supposedly born in this area. Another interesting building behind the church was St Williams College. This side of the church also has the new statue of St Peter mounted high up on the newly completed renovation.
We were shown the oldest building in the city and unfortunately, trucks hit it during deliveries so it’s been knocked about. The Holy Trinity Church is a very small church but had some amazing stained glass windows. Our guide showed us through the Shambles again and our final stop was the street named Whip – Ma – Whop – Ma – Gate. Ross and I then went back through the beautiful shops in the Shamble area as well as the Shamble Markets and bought some fresh meat, vegies and bread for lunch.
As we had the two nights here, we were able to lie down and have a nap after our disrupted sleep. We woke and set off to find Clifford’s Tower, covered under our English Heritage ticket. We passed it on our way in yesterday. The tower gives you a 360 degree view of the city. We wandered back towards the city and were surprised to find a Jorvig Viking Centre. This was one of the draw cards for us coming here and when we arrived we found that it was shut as it was flooded on December 27. Not to worry. A young girl in the gift shop said that there was a small display at the York Theatre Royal so off we went. It told about Death and Disease as it was set in what was once an old hospital.
By this, I was thinking about dinner. After reading a few menus we chose Shambles Market Tavern and we ordered this meal - three Cumberland sausages, mashed potato, green beans and gravy. It was delicious. Of course we had two pint of ale. Tummies full, we set off for home to take some last minute shots. This lead us to find the town wall so we walked the west, south and east wall that is still standing then back to the hotel. Got to keep the exercise up!

Posted by gpric6 13:35 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 22 Llangollen, Wales – York, England

Thursday 4 August 2016

sunny 18 °C

Most people are chasing pokemons – how boring. We have spent the day chasing aqueducts, viaducts and bridges. Now that’s what I call exciting.
Our day started when we said goodbye to Llangollen and followed the tourist route to find the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct about 4.5 miles from Llangollen. We were not disappointed. This structure was built by Thomas Telford and is 126 feet high above the Dee River. We were able to walk across the aqueduct and also down to the river below. We met a lovely Welsh chap who had visited Australia. He told us about another bridge to visit at Chirk. He had two gorgeous terrier dogs that were having a ball chasing each other.
On route to Chirk, we found the aqueduct that we could see from Pontcysyllte. It was found at Newbridge. We didn’t get to read about its construction, just drove to the lower car park that had lots of green grass and many mums and kids going for walks. Next stop was at Chirk. What we didn’t know was that Chirk also had a castle so we followed the signs as best we could and there it was, on a small hill, in the middle of a meadow. It was a different type of castle, with low, round turrets. It looked great but we didn’t have time to go through it as we were on a mission to find the aqueduct and viaduct that sat together. We nearly missed it.
Lunch was starting to call so we popped into a restaurant but the service was too slow so we finished our cup of tea, paid and left. We were lucky to find the path we needed so we walked a 4 mile round trip to see this double act. It was well worth the effort. We actually crossed the border between Wales and England and back again on our walk. That was our exercise for the day – a walk to the Chirk aqueduct and viaduct.
Shrewsbury had been on my list to visit so we decided, even though it was further south and we needed to go north, we would head that way. I had read or seen pictures of was an iron bridge and I thought the image had reference to Shrewsbury. The town itself was very interesting with lots of Tudor style buildings and we wished we could have had more time there to explore it. But there was no sign or reference to the bridge. I checked the sat nav and found Ironbridge Visitors Centre, 12 miles, so we thought we would give it a go and … voila!
This structure I was looking for was at Ironbridge. It was the first iron bridge in the world and was intended as an advertisement of the skills of the Coalbrookdale ironmasters. It was built in 1779 and proved to be of great success. We also had a late lunch there – a very tasty baguette. It was worth the extra drive.
It was 3pm and we still had to drive to York. We had booked accommodation so we were not so worried. Suri had us heading towards Birmingham and all seemed well and then we were on the A5 to London. We started to panic but should have realised that Suri knew what she was doing. We finally headed north and passed exits to cities like Nottingham, Doncaster, Sheffield – the Midlands. Finally, we found York and our accommodation awaited us around 7.15pm. Tomorrow is a day to explore this beautiful old city.

Posted by gpric6 15:12 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 21 Llanberis, Wales – Llangollen, Wales

Wednesday, 3 August, 2016

semi-overcast 17 °C

Breakfast at our hotel was a little disappointing. There was a bus load of tourists there and it was like a food fest. We decided to just have cereal and toast rather than risk losing an arm. Check out bought a surprise as I thought the accommodation for B&B was £150 but it was £115. So we were very pleased. Helped ease the disappointment of breakfast.
The wind seemed to be up a little more today and, even though some breaks of sunshine were seen, we decided to leave Llanelli and not try to travel up Snowdon. We headed straight for Caernarfon to see the castle. It was certainly an impressive sight. The castle sits on the water’s edge and it forms part of the walled city. We paid entry and strolled around without a map/guide as they were out of them. Steps were very helpful to climb towers so that was our exercise for the morning. The view from the top of one of the turrets was impressive. We could see the white caps on the water as well as the cloud cover over Snowdon. Inside the castle was a war museum which outlined the impact of war on Britain and in particular, the Welsh Army. They have some marvellous pieces but no photography was allowed. As we re-entered the courtyard from the museum, the sun came out so that was very pleasing as it had been quite cold from the wind. We left the castle and did a quick walk around the old walled city before heading for the car before our £2 parking fee ran out.
From Caernarfon, we headed towards Conwy. We saw some interesting land features as we drove along the coastline as well as tunnels. The idea of visiting Conwy was to see another castle. We didn’t stop, just took some photos and kept driving. It looked pretty impressive but one can only climb so many turrets in one day.
We set Suri for Llangollen and before we knew it, she had us travelling along some goat track. Before long, we did join a major road and the next part of our journey was underway. To our surprise, we found a sign pointing to Conwy Waterfall so we pulled into the carpark of the café and went and ordered some lunch. The walk to the falls was along an unkempt track, was steep and the vegetation was in its natural state. The waterfall had a lot of tannin in it and the water was flowing quite rapidly. Ross spotted fish trying to swim upstream over the rapids. This was certainly an unplanned stop and one that you really appreciate.
Only another 12 miles and we were in Llangollen. We took a room in the centre of town for convenience. We headed straight to the train station to get an idea of timetables. We found that we had to climb to a higher level to find the horse drawn boat ride on the canal. Unfortunately, I didn’t explain what we were going to see and for £7 each we got to sit in a boat and were pulled along by horse – one horse power!!. Ross was totally not impressed. Oh well. You win some or you lose big time.
Llangollen had more to offer – a laundromat. We put a load of washing on and headed up the hill to see Plas Newydd, the home of the ladies of Llangollen: runaway Irish Aristocrats Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby. In 1780 they moved into a modest cottage together and turned it into a Gothic fantasy of stained glass and oak. It was shut when we got there so we admired the external design and the beautifully manicured garden with its shaped trees.
Once washing was dried we headed out for dinner. St Collen’s Church is next door. We only realised this when the bells started peeling. To our surprise this noise has continued for two hours. Not sure when it stops and it is 9pm.

Posted by gpric6 13:35 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Day 20 Llanelli, Wales – Llanberis, Wales

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

rain 17 °C

Parking at the Travel Lodge was free overnight as long as we were gone by 8am. I am so over having to pay for parking. So we were on the road by 7.30 and headed further west via a lovely country road to Carmarthen. The fog was quite heavy but we took our time through the bends. Breakfast was had at the Forge Restaurant and Lodge at St Clears. It was ok. I wished I had just asked to have toast and jam as we are a bit tired of bacon and eggs every day.
I decided to can the trip to via Fishguard as I wanted to get to our destination and find accommodation at a reasonable hour as we have been getting in so late each night. We set Suri to head for Cardigan. From there we travelled along the coast as well as inland. Wales hadn’t looked terribly attractive but finally we were seeing some beauty. We had to squeeze through little villages, wind through shrouded lanes and climb to various altitudes along the way. We had passed by Machynlleth and Dolgellau until we reached an exit near Porthmadog. That was where the adventure began. The road went up into the Snowdonia National Park. In parts, it was very tight around the bends. When the rain and cloud cleared, we came across lakes and best of all, running streams. We took the time to stop and have a stretch and admire the lovely fresh, flowing water. One place was so lovely we could not resist the urge to park and go back to the village. It was called Beddgelert. We had a wander and then decided to have tea in a very old looking café. With the scone came, bara brith, Welsh fruit cake. It was very tasty.
From here, the road climbed to an altitude of 1210 feet, the road being opposite Wales’ highest peak, Mt Snowdon. Now that doesn’t mean we saw it. In fact, all we could see was a very windy road, heavy fog or cloud and a fence that prevented us from falling to the chasm below. It took no time to weave our way down to lower ground once we reached the peak of the climb. At this point there were many people gathering and we assumed that they may have been climbers. On our way to our destination, Llanberis, we stopped and tried to get a snap of the mountain.
Our first job was to secure accommodation at The Royal Victoria Hotel, a very old landmark in the town. We went down to check on the train to Mt Snowdon, seeing that it was raining. They advised that there were no seats until tomorrow afternoon and even then, the trip may only go part of the way as the winds prevent the train from making the full trip. We felt that that at a cost of £29 each return, it was not worth it, given the weather conditions. I was disappointed as I have been looking forward to doing the trip but apparently the weather has been like this for weeks. And this is summer in Wales!!!
As usual, our wanderings started in this new town and we found a FREE museum – yes can you believe that – FREE. On our way in to the town, we noticed that the side of the mountain opposite to Snowdon was denude of vegetation and also strewn with what looked like mine tailings. These tailings belonged to the slate mine which was closed in 1969 and the museum was created from what remained. It was very interesting. We saw a demonstration of how the stone mason split the stone and bevelled the edges. The water wheel, that turned all the machinery, had a diameter of 50 foot 5 inches, massive even in today’s terms and still operational. We found that we could access the section of the main quarry. It has diving activities there as the water is very deep. It is difficult to believe that this area has been damaged so badly for humans to have slate.
Behind our hotel, there was a castle. It was not supervised so entry was a matter of walking in. Dolbadarn Castle served as a prison. It was built in a perfect place with views down the river one way and to the mountains the other. The path into the castle was beautiful with a flowing stream and trees covered in green, green moss. What an afternoon.
Dinner was had at the hotel. I chose roast which was turkey and very delicious and Ross tried the steak.

Posted by gpric6 14:19 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Day 19 Bath, England – Somewhere unexpected in Wales

Monday 1 August, 2016

rain 16 °C

It was amazing to find that we had slept in at our “New Fairmont” until 8.30. We went down for breakfast and I ordered my regulation two poached eggs and Ross ordered eggs benedict which weren’t really benedict as he didn’t want the sauce!! Once the car was packed and we paid the bill we were off to explore the Cotswolds.
Now, I was a little disappointed as I expected thatched houses and very narrow lanes. Maybe we missed the best place. We got Suri (we have worked out how to get towns now!!) to take us to Tetbury but we didn’t stop. Our first stop was Bibury. It was a beautiful little spot with a running stream, part of a fish farm, and gardens. Unfortunately, it had started to spit to rain. After a cup of tea, we headed for The Slaughters – Upper and Lower. It is so difficult to get parking in these places so we didn’t stop – took a few quick photos out of the window instead. Next was Stow on the Wold, the highest point of The Cotswolds. We had a walk around the village and decided to get some lunch. I was determined to see the thatched roof on a house and a lady suggested we go to Chipping Camden as she had a postcard with one on it. She explained that this is not the traditional type of house so maybe I had the wrong idea. We found Chipping Camden and did see some thatched rooves but they were quite modern houses and the streets were normal in size and layout. Not to worry – it was certainly a beautiful area to drive through with the farms and villages all around.
It was time to cross the border in Wales. Unfortunately, the rain came in as we drove and it turned to heavy rain. I had planned to go to Cardiff but decided to save some time and head to Swansea. The rain became heavier and did not let up. We tried to find accommodation in Swansea to no avail. Apparently all the campers had abandoned their tents and had moved into motels. We drove for quite some time, even resorting to following some accommodation sign to a place that looked like the scene of duelling banjos. Through some miracle, we came across Travel Lodge at Llanelli and we took the offer of room only for £50. After grabbing some dinner downstairs in the American Diner, we settled into our “box” for the night.

Posted by gpric6 14:17 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

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