Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The benefit of having friends around the UK means that when you visit them, you also get to visit where they live (and get free accommodation!). I'd never been to Manchester (unless the airport counts ... which it doesn't!) until I went to visit my friend Chantelle in her northern lands. I was only there a day and a half and I loved it, so I'm really keen to go back.

We started with a (Chantelle guided) tour around Manchester, going around places with hipster sounding names like Spinningfields and Northern Quarter. We had a yummy lunch in The Oast House - anywhere with finger food that has garlic butter dripping down onto it is a winner with me!

We also took a trip around the John Rylands Library, which was gorgeous. It was like something out of a gothic romance novel.

That evening we were joined by Chantelle's boyfriend and had a delicious meal in Cau in Media City. I don't seem to have any photos of this so clearly the food was so good that I tucked straight in!

The next day we explored the Imperial War Museum and then walked around Salford Quays and the Media City area. We even got to see the Blue Peter garden!

Before I left we had time to go to The Alchemist for some of the most exciting cocktails I've ever seen.

Mine came with two mini flasks (I'm sure there's a scientific/technical term for them ...), and when I poured them into the glass it changed colour and smoke billowed from it! Chantelle had one that frothed, and looked exactly like bubble bath, while her boyfriend had one that they set half of the ingredients on fire before putting mixing it altogether. Definitely a way to end on a high!

Goodrich Castle

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Since becoming a civil servant, I've been reaping the rewards of being a member of CSSC. I pay a small amount out of my pay each month, and it means I get membership that includes free entry to Cadw and English Heritage properties. There's plenty of other memberships benefits too, but being the kinda girl who loves a good day out to somewhere historical, it's ideal.

My mother and I ventured to Goodrich Castle, which is an English Heritage property in Herefordshire, not far from Ross-on-Wye. The castle is a ruin, although parts of it are still very well-preserved - the essential structure of the castle is still very clear.

Goodrich Castle is surrounded by countryside and overlooks the River Wye. It was a Norman-built castle and 'guards' the line of the old Roman road that ran between Gloucester and Caerleon, where the road crossed from England into Wales. In the English Civil War it was the site of one of the most desperate sieges. During the siege, it was fired on using a mortar known as 'Roaring Meg', which has been restored and returned to the castle (you can see it in the bottom left of the picture below).

The castle is built on sandstone, a lot of which is visible around the base of the castle. I had a great time jaunting across these rocks as you can see!

The visitor centre, which is by the car park and a couple of minutes' walk from the castle itself, is modern and has a really nice little shop and cafe - my mother and I had a happy few minutes trying samples of the different wines and liqueurs they had for sale in the shop!

If you want more information on visiting Goodrich Castle (and if you like castles or a good day out, you should - we had a great time exploring it all), take a look at the English Heritage website for opening times, prices and directions to get there.

Craig-Y-Nos Country Park

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Brecon Beacons are one of my favourite places in South Wales - there's so much of them to explore. At the end of summer we visited Craig-Y-Nos country park, which is in the upper Swansea Valley and surrounds the River Tawe. We made the mistake of going on a Bank Holiday, which meant that the car park was full. We ended up having to park on the side of the road, which Justin wasn't too pleased about!

The country park used to be part of the Craig-Y-Nos castle estate, which is right next door. It's a foreboding looking gothic-style castle that now holds weddings. The castle and the estate used to belong to Adelina Patti, who was apparently once an internationally renowned opera singer.

It was a pleasant day out. The park was a lot smaller than I'd expected it to be. It seemed as if there was a lot of land that didn't have any paths through it. In fact, we ended up taking a turning that led us out onto the road on two occasions! It's really close to Dan-Yr-Ogof caves, which is definitely on my Welsh To Do list.

Interested in visiting Craig-Y-Nos country park? More information can be found on the Brecon Beacons website.

Disneyland Paris

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

(WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

Ask anyone who knows me even partially well, and they will tell you that I love Disney. I've been visiting Walt Disney World every year since I was 7 years old (oh, and I worked there in Epcot for 15 months too), and I've also visited Disneyland in California twice and Disneyland Paris (DLRP) five (I think) times. The most recent trip was in July last year, when I decided that Justin had to experience a Disney park. We've now booked to go to Florida in March (which will not only be his first time to Walt Disney World, but his first visit to the United States - and outside of Europe!), but I think he'd agree that this was an excellent warm up.

We went by Eurostar, and it was so so easy to do. We had to change at Lille, as the direct trains to Marne-La-Vallee (where DLRP is located, on the outskirts of Paris) were SO much more expensive, but that was no more tricky than changing trains in the UK.

We stayed at the Hotel Cheyenne, which is my favourite of the Disneyland Paris hotels. It's one of the cheapest, but also one of the best themed. Who doesn't love a good cowboy theme?

One of the best things about DLRP is how easy it is to get everywhere; you can walk from the hotel through Disney Village and straight to both parks. Since when you stay onsite your park tickets are included, it's so convenient to be able to go into the parks straight away. We spent the whole trip going between the two parks based on when the next show/parade/Fast Pass was, and it was great.

The weather was really hit and miss while we were there. It was mild for most of the time, and we did get lucky and have some sunshine and blue skies. It absolutely POURED down on our second day, so we bought very fetching ponchos to be able to venture outside. Of course, the next day when it rained again we'd left them back in the hotel so ended up getting soaked ...

I loved getting to see Dreams, which is was (they're changing it for their 25th anniversary celebrations this year) the nighttime spectacular. We watched it all three nights that we were there, because why not?

Besides Dreams, there were quite a few new things since the last time I went back in 2010. The Ratatouille attraction was amazing - it's a 3D ride (hence the fetching glasses above!) that 'shrinks' you to the size of a rat as you travel around Remy's kitchen. Very clever, although I did feel a little motion sick when we got off!

There was also the Disney Magic on Parade uh, parade, which was as much fun as a parade should be. I didn't expect parades to be Justin's thing but he was the one suggesting we watched it a second time!

All in all, an excellent trip to a) get my Disney fix and b) introduce Justin to the magic. Next stop: Walt Disney World!

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