Travel and Trips

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Family visit and a trip to Kedleston Hall

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I can’t believe it’s March already.  Where did January and February go? I’ve only just got over Christmas…

One of the best things about Christmas 2011 was that my folks and sister came down for a few days. It had been several years prior to that since we’d last had a full family Christmas get-together. And, since that was almost a quarter of a year ago, Paula and I decided to visit my parents this past weekend to say “hello” and to wish my dad a happy birthday. It would also give us a chance to catch up with my sister and to meet her Mexican friend who was staying with her for a short time.

After an enjoyable evening meal with my parents on Friday, Paula and I decided to make the most of our annual National Trust membership and took the short (30 minute) drive from my parents home to Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire. Despite being fairly close to where I was born and raised, I’d never been before. In fact, I didn’t really no much about it at all. That, as it transpired, turned out to be a very good thing as I was very impressed with what I saw once I got there.

After a brief wander around the exhibits on the lower floor, we assembled in the main lobby area with other visitors in readiness for our guided tour around the hall. The tour was conducted by a very knowledgeable gentleman by the name of Selwyn and he was assisted by an equally knowledgeable lady by the name of Heather. Seeing the camera slung around my neck Selwyn stated that I should feel free to take as many photos as I liked during the tour and – hanging back from the main crowd – I was able to grab a few half-good photos of the state rooms within Kedleston Hall. In doing this, Heather kindly provided Paula and I with additional information and history about the house, it’s exhibits and the lives of those who lived (and still do live) there.

A selection of my photos can be seen below.

Sunday was very much a relaxed day and saw Paula, my parents and myself all heading over towards Nottingham to meet my sister. An earlier phone call had given us the opportunity to arrange a Sunday meal together before Paula and I made our way home back to South Wales. It was a long wait until we ate (it was very busy at the pub) but it was worth it in the end. The meal eaten and farewells offered, we went our separate ways as the evening drew in. Until the next time…

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Bristol Zoo

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Both Paula and I have been busy with work recently hence we decided to make the most of our weekend together (well, Sunday at least!) We were hoping for good weather so that we could actually get out of the house (as opposed to being inside and sheltering from the elements). And as it turned out, the weather was fabulous; a crisp and fresh spring-like day with blue skies and sunshine.

We had spoken before about visiting Bristol Zoo but never actually got around to making the short journey over the River Severn. But Sunday was the day we’d make it happen and within an hour we had arrived. But… it was absolutely packed full of visitors all looking to make the most of the glorious weather! As a result we were unable to park the car in any of the car parks (they were all full) and ended up parking outside a church some distance away. That was no bad thing, however; it was good to be able to take a walk and we both could do with the exercise! :D

The trip to the zoo was also the first time I’d used my camera for a while. I literally had to blow the dust off it but it was good to be snapping away again. Sadly, as is often the case at places like this, a lot of the animals were behind glass or wire cages and this made photographing them all the more tricky. Add to that the fact that I was well out of practice and it didn’t bode well. Thankfully, a handful of photos came out fairly well and you can see them below.

The images are a bit noisy and a bit out of focus but I’m not too worried. If nothing else it has raised my interest in digital photography once again. I just need to persuade my friend to let me borrow some of his lenses…

Hungary - September 2011

Looking back – Budapest 2011

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Last September I took a trip over to Budapest, Hungary, to visit family. It was my first time back in Hungary for many years and I travelled over with my sister. My dad was already in Budapest staying with his sister and the plan was to meet up with them once we had arrived.

As the flat where my aunt lives is quite small (especially considering the fact that my elderly grandma is living there and my dad was staying there, too) Nicola and I were staying in the Hotel Charles. This was pre-arranged on our behalf before we got there and the location of the hotel was ideal. It was only a relatively short walk to the centre of Budapest and a short journey to my aunt’s flat. Talking of walking… we walked miles. Miles and miles. If nothing else we certainly kept ourselves fit during our time in Budapest!

During our walks we visited many places including the Houses of Parliament, the Fisherman’s Bastion, Margaret Island and many other historical and picturesque places – as can be seen in the photos above.

Morocco - August 2011

Looking back – Morocco 2011

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August is a good time of year. It’s usually quite warm and it’s also the month in which I was born. Interestingly enough it’s also the month in which Paula was born. :D And August 2011 was that little bit more special than usual thanks to a fantastic birthday treat courtesy of that very lady! A trip to Morocco…

We stayed in a Riad in Marrakech and we were fairly centrally located. We were only a matter of minutes away from the medina and the souks for which Marrakech is well known. In addition, the holy Koutubia Mosque was only minutes away, too and throughout the day we would hear the call to prayer.

Here’s a selection of photos from the holiday:

Our time in Marrakech fell during the Islamic month of fasting, more commonly known as Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during the hours of daylight. The intention is to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God (Allah). It must have been tough due to the extremely high temperatures throughout the day.

To escape the heat of the city we spent some time exploring in the Atlas Mountains with our tour guide. This time was spent crossing rivers and trekking along some fairly precarious ravines. The final stage also involved the climbing of a rock face over which a waterfall fell from some 100 feet high. It was spectacular if somewhat perilous! :lol: I only wish I’d had my camera with me to capture it.

Lytes Cary - 17-Jul-2011

Looking back – Part 4

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There are not many more instalments to go in this looking back series so please do stick with it. :lol:

It was a sunny day in July when we drove the very short distance from home to the local town of Caerphilly. Despite being famous for it’s cheese, the Big Cheese (an annual festival) and being the birthplace of Tommy Cooper, we were visiting for entirely different reasons. We were interested in visiting the Castle, which is the largest in Wales and the second largest in Britain.

I have to admit that I know Caerphilly quite well having lived there for three years or so (in fact, I was there earlier today to get my haircut, to wander around the shops and to enjoy a quick chip butty before driving home… ) However, I also have to admit that I’d never been in the castle during my time there hence the reason we decided to do just that last July.

It’s quite an impressive castle, don’t you think? It’s quite a sight as it stands and dominates the centre of the town!

Moving quickly on (and jumping a week forward in July) a trip was made to Lytes Cary in Somerset. The plan was to check out the Manor House, the Chapel, the gardens and – of course – the cream teas. Sadly the cream teas weren’t all that good here but we did enjoy an hour or two walking around the gardens surrounding areas. And Paula enjoyed her swings yet again…

Thanks for looking. :D

Hardwick Hall - 08-May-2011

Looking back – Part 3

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Continuing with the 2011 highlights reel…

May 2011 rolled around and we decided to take a trip to the Dan yr Ogof Showcaves in the Brecon Beacons National Park. I had been past this place many a time (usually during a ‘spirited’ drive through the Brecon Beacons) but never actually taken the time to venture in. I had no idea what to expect.

It was a great day out in the end, the highlight for me being the caves themselves. They were amazing and equally awe-inspiring in terms of their scale and natural beauty. If you are ever in the area then please do take the time to spend a few hours here.

Some 25 years ago *cough* I was born in the northern shires of Nottinghamshire, not all that far from the Derbyshire border. And the following weekend Paula and I were visiting that very area to see my parents. Whilst we were there we also took the very short journey over to Hardwick Hall (where they made a really, really good pot of tea incidentally!) :oops: It had been many a year since I’d last visited Hardwick Hall…

Towards the end of May we decided to visit the National Trust-owned Montacute House. Montacute House is a Grade 1 listed Elizabethan country house (and gardens) situated in southern Somerset. As we wandered around the grounds and gardens Paula could not resist the urge to jump into each and every swing that she came across… :lol:

Quickly moving forward a month into June, we thought that it might be a good idea to visit the Gower Peninsula. It is a beautiful part of Wales and we were heading to the community of Rhossili which is on the southwestern tip of the peninsula. It was a beautiful day and consequently very busy; but despite the large numbers of people it never felt crowded. There was so much open space, miles of coastline to explore, empty beaches to walk along… I was enjoying the walk so much that I didn’t take many photographs but here’s one I grabbed of Rhossili Bay:

Rhossili Bay - 25-Jun-2011

I am really looking forward to visiting the Gower Peninsula again. It’s a great place to go to simply relax and unwind.

Stourhead - 24-Apr-2011

Looking back – Part 2

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Continuing the [brief] story of 2011…

By the time April came around, Paula and I had become members of the National Trust. This would prove a very worthwhile thing to do over the course of the year as we would visit many National Trust sites and save a lot of money through simply being members.

Tyntesfield was the first National Trust property we visited in April and the House in the estate is Grade 1 listed. Sadly some parts of the house were closed for renovation but work was nearing a close with respect to the new roofing on part of the property.

Next on the agenda was Caldicot Castle. On the day we visited the sun was shining and it could well have been the middle of summer. It was hard and thirsty work exploring the medieval castle so naturally we had to break at one point to sample the cream teas. And they were good. In fact, Caldicot still fills our number 1 slot in terms of the best cream teas we’ve had whilst out and about on our travels. Here’s a selection of photos:

A couple of weeks passed and Paula and I visited Stourhead. I had been looking forward to visiting for some time as I’d heard that it was a really picturesque place with good walks and trails to follow (as well as providing ample opportunity for amateur photographers to get their fill). It was definitely a great place to visit as it turns out and I’m looking forward to visiting the place again soon – maybe at a different time of year to see it coloured by an entirely different palette. Sorry about all the photos but I really liked it here! :oops:

Are you bored yet? I hope not as there is more to come in Part 3 as I continue to look back over 2011. :lol:

Glastonbury Tor - 21-Mar-2011

Looking back – Part 1

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As mentioned in the first post of this new (and improved!) blog I will highlight some of the things I did over the last year or so… Exciting, huh? :P

Back in February of 2011, Paula and I visited the lovely city of Bath. It’s a beautiful place to visit (assuming you can find a parking space) and I would highly recommend spending an hour or two there to take in the sights, sounds and rich history.  For those of you who live further afield you can read more here. Having spent an hour or two roaming around the city streets we made our way to the famous baths. Photos from this trip can be seen below:

March was a busy month as Paula and I visited a few different places in and around South Wales and Southwest England. The first of our three trips was to Dunster. Dunster is a village parish in west Somerset and is looked over by a rather impressive motte and bailey castle. The castle, which later became a fortified manor/country house, is owned by the National Trust. Wikipedia has more information about Dunster and Dunster Castle. Here’s a selection of photos from the trip:

For the record, there is a fantastic fudge and confectionery shop in the village and – would you believe it – I strangely found myself drawn inside! :D Highly recommended!

The second trip in March was to the town of Glastonbury; most famous for (possibly) the annual Glastonbury Festival. Even though the festival is not actually held in Glastonbury… Anyway, it was a lovely day so we both decided to take the walk up Glastonbury Tor. On such a clear day the views are often quite spectacular and, arriving at the top, I wasn’t disappointed.

The third and final trip in March was to the nearby town of Chepstow, Wales. More specifically we had gone to take a look around Chepstow Castle. Once again we were extremely fortunate with the weather and certainly made the most of it as we wandered around the castle and the medieval exhibition that was going on within the castle grounds.

There’s more to come in Part 2 as I continue to look back over 2011…

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