Parga / Greece

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Going on holiday with a group of girl friends is a kind of rite of passage thing that everyone seems to do when they're 18/19/20. I missed out on those fun and games, and it took me until this year to have my first 'girls holiday'.

I went with Georgia and Emma (yes, same name), who are friends from university so we've known each other a fair few years now. We all live in different parts of the country, which means we don't get to see each other very often, and when we do see each other we spend all our time catching up, rather than truly enjoying each other's company. This holiday was perfect because we got our catching up done within the first day or two and then we could actually talk. About serious things, and silly things, and about people we know, and just life in general. It was so lovely to be able to do that.

We went to Parga in mainland Greece, which was a really fun area considering none of us had heard of it before we started looking for where to go. Something we all wanted from the holiday was to be able to relax on a beach, read and take long naps. Oh, and drink cocktails. We managed to do all of those things quite successfully.

We also went on some day trips - we did a trip to a Greek oracle and the Acheron river (which is supposedly the basis for the river Styx of Greek mythology), a day trip on a ship (a Boney M playing pirate ship no less!) to the islands of Paxos and Antipaxos, and we went to Valtos beach via a castle and a VERY steep hill (or maybe it just seemed steep in the heat ...).

We also did a lot of eating - plenty of feta and halloumi cheese! Lots of restaurants gave us shots of ouzo to start, as if it's perfectly normal to start your meal with alcohol. Hey, when in Greece ...

It was such a fun holiday that I can't believe I waited this long to do it. It was just the right mix of busy and relaxing, and quality time with friends.

Castell Coch

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Castell Coch (Welsh for 'red castle') is in an iconic position on the hillside above the A470, nestled in trees in Tongwynlais. You can see just enough of it for it to be intriguing, and it's somewhere that every child growing up in South Wales visits at least once.

My parents joined Cadw (Welsh for 'to keep') at the end of the summer, which is the Welsh government's service for preserving Welsh history and heritage. When they suggested visiting Castell Coch, I had to tag along - I hadn't been there for so long and was keen to go back. When we got there my mother offered to buy me Cadw membership as an early Christmas present - so of course I said yes!

Castell Coch was owned and created by the Third Marquess of Bute, who also created the Cardiff Castle that we know and love today. Both castles were designed by William Burges, who shared a love for medieval English design and architecture with the Marquess. Castell Coch was built on the remains of a 13th century Norman castle, and looks like an extravagant Gothic version of a stereotypical castle - complete with drawbridge, portcullis and arrow slits. None of these things were actually necessary, though - the castle was built in the nineteenth century, and was hardly used. It was a creation of untold wealth and creativity, rather than ever intended to be a family home. Not sure that's what I'd do with my excess money if I had any, but hey!

I don't often go for a day out with both of my parents, so it was nice to spend time with them. We even had a cup of tea in the little tearoom afterwards, because my mother can't go more than three hours without a cup of tea.

There's some lovely walks around the area that I need to get back up there and do before winter sets in and it gets too cold to be outdoors for long - or I suppose I can go back next year, since I now have my Cadw membership!

To visit Castell Coch, take a look a Cadw's Castell Coch page as a good starting point.
To find out more about joining Cadw, and all of the excellent castles and other historic sites that it protects, visit the Cadw website.
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