Sunday, 5 March 2017

Wild Wales

We arrived in Dolgellau on a dark and stormy night in the wake of Storm Doris but were soon toasty warm inside Tyddyn Mawr - right on the side of the mighty Cader Idris
Then the birthday morning dawned - still a little damp down in Dolgellau
 with birthday choruses received under an umbrella
but soon warmed up in the cosy T H Roberts cafe - crossword and Welsh Lobscouse!
However, not ones to linger when we can get wet and muddy - we were off on the Torrent Walk - having been advised it's best after heavy rain!!
and the torrents were spectacular - you have to imagine a deafening constant roar from the thundering waters below
Still undeterred, though soaked to the skin, we wanted to see the grade 1 listed Arts and Crafts Church of St Mark's at Brithdir - looking very sinister on the outside . . .
was nevertheless stunning and quite unique on the inside
Hot baths and change of clothes then a lovely birthday meal at the stunning Bwty Mawddach and the next morning we even got a glimpse beyond the mist of the bottom of Cader Idris, from our room.
Off we went to the mouth of the beautiful Mawddach estuary and up to the wilds of the Cregennan Lakes - hardly able to walk for the gusty winds and rain.

 with views to the mouth of the Mawddach estuary and the Irish Sea
And were thrilled to discover what must be the smallest railway station ever!!  Morfa Mawddach - where you can catch regular trains between Birmingham and Pwllheli and even the odd one direct to London
We'd also hoped to do were the Precipice Walk and the conquering of Cader Idris - but those feats will have to wait for more clement weather!!
Keep that 'welcome in the hillsides', Dolgellau . . . . we'll be back!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

happy birthdays

The pre-birthday celebrations started high up on the hills of Stannington on Saturday night at the Reserved Cafe pop-up bistro night for a 5 course taster menu of surprises and fun.
Such a lovely whirlwind weekend in the best of company.
Then came my birthday proper yesterday, the day dawned sunny and frosty - totally perfect autumn/winter weather.  Our garden was golden
our pond frozen over
But we were soon venturing up through the woods towards Wharncliffe Crags on a path heavy with frost and ice and quite beautiful, if freezing cold!

The weird thing was, and it was impossible to photograph (a Seamus Heaney fleeting moment like in Postscript) - all we could hear was the sound of leaves falling all around us, frozen from the trees.  Totally magical and surreal.  They were raining down like soft snow.
We trudged upwards past the ponds
and finally out of the woods and onto the gloriously open freedom of the Heath
Though I am getting worried my hair's starting to look frosted too, like some sort of ice queen
Beautiful frozen fronds
and not another soul - the whole of Wharncliffe Heath and Crags to ourselves.
until a little chappy happened along the path towards me!
and we headed back through the woods for warm soup and coffee . . .  just about perfect.
But not to forget, just the day before, Mum reached the grand old age of 96 and all I can say is I hope the 'spring chicken' genes have been passed on!!
And finally,we mustn't forget Tilly, the other November birthday girl - who probably got the best cake of all - but then we don't have 3rd birthday parties every day do we!!
Happy Birthday one and all

Thursday, 17 November 2016

red sails in the sunset

Wednesday 26 to Sunday 31 October - 'Five go to Antwerp and Rotterdam'

(or if you'd prefer to start this holiday at the beginning, please start with "in the midnight hour")


So this was the view we woke up to from our nhow hotel windows - what a joy!
 and we waited patiently for the lift to breakfast on the stylish heated seats
 Loved the edge of the impressive theatre on the edge of the river
 bit weird that the Metro sign looks horribly like the Ronald MacDonald's M
 but it was very snazzy down below
We were soon at the fun and amazing cube houses Piet Blom's Kubuswoningen, built 1984
by now the sun was warm, quite incredible for a late October day.  Loved seeing the immense bike parks all over the place, this one double deckered!
We enter the huge cathedral like Markthal only built a couple of years ago by the MVRDV practice and teaming with people and incredible food stalls.
fabulous wall murals on the inside and double decker cafes, while the apartment dwellers peered down from their little windows.  Enjoyed watching some waffle making but avoided temptation!
 and we found a great little coffee stop just outside - the tea lab
 and not far away was another Rem Koolhaus, his Timmerhaus, built just last year
But the afternoon was now drawing in and we all made a spur of the moment decision to take a boat ride on the Maas from the Erasums Bridge, which was great fun.
And here's the nhow hotel from the water - our 19th floor was only half way up - just near the joins!!
all aboard, full steam ahead and all that
and here's a good classic to float along to:
 past the immense container docks, busy loading and unloading every day of the week
past the rather incredible art deco ventilation shafts for the Maastunnel.
These ventilation buildings, designed by city architect Van der Steur, are also entry points for the bicycle and pedestrian tunnel.  And reading the Maastunnel article, it looks like there are original escalators running down there too, like Antwerp.  Amazing
Full circle: that little old building dwarfed by the new giants, houses the New York bar where we had our nightcaps last night!
So now it was a super dash to get to Centraal Station in time for our trains to Brussels and London - but we had one more feast to go - our intrepid foodies had caught word of Fritez for the best ever (and I mean that) take away homemade-skin-on chips, dowsed in beef stew, that you have EVER tasted.
 and we make it - dodging bicycles and trams - the incredible beautiful Centraal Station, remodelled a couple of years ago by Benthem Crouwel Architects
and I know this is horribly blurred, taken through the glass on a high speed train - but I needed to share the deep pink sunset that blazed in the sky as we sped past Antwerp.
End of a perfect holiday - over all too soon but packed with fun and wonderful things and the best of companions.

If you feel the need to go back and see it all again from day one, just click here "in the midnight hour"