3 Weeks w/ 6 year old in UK (The Trip)

May 20th, 2013, 09:22 AM
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3 Weeks w/ 6 year old in UK (The Trip)

With many thanks to many posters here who commented in my earlier thread: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-old-in-uk.cfm

I didn't want to disappear into the ether and i wanted to let you all know that you were very helpful, both in the above thread and many others which I read. We are currently about a week into the trip at a B&B on a farm in the Peak District. It's been a great time so far. I am writing this up as I get the chance. Right now, it's laundry (we have access to a washer at the B&B) while my wife rests and my daughter plays on the Wii.

Day 1: Some dozing but no sleeping on the connecting flight Philadelphia to Heathrow, Terminal 1. Looked dated and tired – not a great first impression. Bag had apparently arrived on an earlier flight as it was waiting beside the carousel. After stopping for some cash, got a ticket on the Oxford Bus via credit card and fell sporadically asleep on the coach ride into Oxford. Found our way to the hotel (The Buttery) and dropped bags as the room was not ready. Took a walk out to get some lunch and try to fight through jet lag. Ate at a completely forgettable (but not bad) cafe in a courtyard off the Cornmarket.

We noticed we had packed our clothes too light. While wife and daughter slept, I went out and found a sweater to work in as an additional layer and walked around most of the afternoon. Scouted out a place for dinner (Turl Street Kitchen – recommended and just around the corner) and just basically wandered around getting a bit of a feel for the place.

Collapsed into bed around 8:00, put the white noise program on the laptop to mitigate the street noise, and slept. Everyone woke up at about 2:00 AM, but we all managed to sleep again and got up (a bit slowly) a bit before 8:00 AM.

Stayed at The Buttery. Great location, a little bit of street noise. Very roomy bathroom. A little expensive for what you get, but I think that is the norm in Oxford. A special treat: The Wi-fi actually worked in our room, but we were on the first floor, very close to the reception. This has not been the case since.

Day 2: (Oxford to Hay-on-Wye) Starting off a bit cold and dreary, downstairs to breakfast – I just couldn't face the prospect of a full English breakfast yet. Despite being what might be charitably characterized as a "man of girth" (barely avoiding "man of great girth" status) I really have never liked heavy breakfasts. Then it was time for a stroll about Oxford again. Picked up extra layers of clothes for wife and daughter, and then got a taxi out to the rental car place to pick up our car.

And the fun bit – driving on English (and Welsh) roads. I found that it didn't take me long to adjust to keeping to the left. The things that took me longer to adjust to were driving from the right hand side. I would keep drifting left, had to concentrate to shift with my left hand, and kept forgetting where the rear-view mirror was – looking in the wrong place. My wife, who is not all that great in British geography, was my navigator and off we went – randomly more or less. We finally made it to our first stop – Bourton-on-the-Water – though I am still not quite sure of the route. We ate at a tearoom, took a stroll around the town and over the bridges to see the ducks and picked up rain jackets for me and my wife. There was a school fundraiser going on and my daughter found three pony storybooks for 50p each to entertain herself in the car.

After lunch, some shopping and a pleasant stroll, it was off to Hay. After many twistings and turnings and somehow going through Tewkesbury three times in a valiant but ultimately unfruitful effort to stay on the A438, we still somehow managed to get to Hay and checked into our B&B. Based on a recommendation from the B&B owner, we had a pub meal at the Blue Boar, just up the road. Had a walk around Hay in the cold and rain and got the layout of the town. Then back for an early night.

Stayed at: St. Mary's B&B. Reasonably nice place in a convenient location at a fair price. Very pleasant hostess (and presumably host as well, although we only saw him briefly) and a good breakfast. Pretty easy street parking. Would likely stay there again in the event we stop in Hay-on-Wye in the future.

(To Be Continued)
JoelCairo is offline  
May 20th, 2013, 09:33 AM
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I like the idea of using white noise to kill the traffic. Most English/Welsh people don't eat a full breakfast everyday and maybe only at the weekend unless you do manual labour so have a continental and relax
bilboburgler is online now  
May 20th, 2013, 10:22 AM
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Sounds like a great trip!
ALadyInLondon is offline  
May 20th, 2013, 10:58 AM
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posting now because I want to read more!
julia_t is offline  
May 20th, 2013, 11:14 AM
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Enjoying your trip report!
Saraho is offline  
May 20th, 2013, 12:09 PM
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We live close to the Peak District and go there frequently. Have a good time and let me know if you have any questions (though I might not be able to answer).

indy_dad is offline  
May 20th, 2013, 02:23 PM
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Good beginning. I am looking forward to reading more!
irishface is offline  
May 23rd, 2013, 10:41 AM
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Sorry - we've been busy, but my wife and daughter are tired tonight and the hotel has good wifi. Back to the salt mines.

And thanks for the comments.
JoelCairo is offline  
May 23rd, 2013, 11:13 AM
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Day 3: (In and around Hay-on-Wye)

"Watch out for sheep, lambs, and poop"

The forecast had said rain and chilly, so we planned on a day of book shopping in town, but after a drizzly morning and some browsing, the weather started clearing up. We have learned that any time the weather is looking up, you need to get outside now, as there is no telling how long it will last. We have also learned that forecasts past about 24 hours are near worthless.

Anyway, we started by taking a walk a little way along the Wye, but I managed to talk the rest of the family into a visit to a site I had had my eye on: Llanthony Priory. We got into the car and headed south. My wife was navigating for me and she was convinced we were on the wrong road as our road was "single track" with occasional wide spots to allow opposing traffic to pass each other. As it became clear that we were, indeed, on the right road, I began to appreciate some of the comments my wife's friend's husband (who happens to be English) had made about Wales.

We took 45-50 minutes to go the (according to google) 12 miles to Llanthony Priory, crossing two small ponds that had formed in the road (one big enough that I only crossed after watching the car ahead of us do so successfully) and dodging a few sheep who were spectacularly unimpressed that we were in a car and they weren't. We then arrived at the priory, and explored.

This is a great stop if you happen to be nearby. Very well preserved. You can google up some pictures if you like. Since our daughter was feeling restless, we set out to walk a little way up the hill to get a view up the Vale of Ewyas and down to the Priory. My daughter noticed that the sheep were plentiful and ... prolific - leading to the statement: "Watch out for sheep, lambs, and poop."

The drive back was uneventful – our monstrous pond seems to have drained in the two hours we were in and around the priory and we only had to dodge a few oncoming cars – only having to fold mirrors in once to allow a car to pass.

Late afternoon was spent in book hunting (wife) and town walking (me and daughter) followed by a meal at the local Indian restaurant, Red Indigo (good and friendly service, good onion bhaji, okay lamb korma and chicken tikka masala) which was okay but not really worth seeking out.

Next: Off to the "farm"
JoelCairo is offline  
May 23rd, 2013, 02:14 PM
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I just realized this was quite long. However, it was a long-ish day.

Day 4: (Hay-on-Wye to North Wales)

This day, we found ourselves heading to our farm stay in North Wales at Tyddyn-du Farm. Since the weather in Wales is fickle, we planned two possible routes. In the case of rain, we planned to stop at the Corris Craft Center and let our daughter play around there. In the case of good weather, we planned to stop by the beach at Aberystwyth. As the weather co-operated, we headed toward Aberystwyth, with a quick detour to Devil's Bridge.

I had had the walk at Devil's Bridge down as a possibility and had read the story of the triple bridge and how the lowest/first bridge got the name Devil's Bridge (see: http://www.devilsbridgefalls.co.uk/index.php?page=103 if you are unfamiliar wih the story). Anyway, we opted for the longer (advertused as ~45 minute) walk down to the waterfalls and to see the aforementioned bridge.

Some online commenters had complained about the steepness and slipperiness and poor condition of the trail, that it was unsuitable for strollers/prams, and that the price was too high, etc. My own take: The walk was nice, not that strenuous, and would indeed be slippery in the rain but not dangerous. It is clearly impossible with a stroller and I woudn't take a toodler on it, but it was well within the ability of my 6 year-old who is not particularly coordinated or athletic. Just wear sensible shoes and it is fine (don't do like I saw some women in Sequoia National Park do and try to hike it in heels!). I thought the price was a little high (9 pounds for the three of us), but I think that just about every price in the UK is a little high. Overall verdict: Nice walk, but not worth a significant detour. I suppose if you were to take the little train up from Aberystwyth, you might as well, as there is little else to do at the end of the rail line.

After that, it was on to Aberystwyth (which, apparently, is referred to simply as "Aber" by many – especially the University students there). My first impression on coming into town is that whoever renta out scaffolding is making a killing, as it seems that whole blocks were under renovation simultaneously. We parked at a free space along the promenade – there were only a few available and I imagine they would be difficult to come by in high season – and started with a walk down the beach. The beach is a crescent (forming a small, shallow bay) fronted mostly with B&B's, hotels, etc. (My town map says that some of the buildings on the north end of the crescent are student residences from the university – lucky students if this is accurate.) Okay beach for strolling.

Soon headed back into town in search of lunch. Ate at a forgettable pub – most intriguing thing was my daughter's nachos and, in particular, the substance that was labeled as "salsa." i am not quite sure what was in it, except tht it was very sweet to my taste. Now, I realize that nachos in the US are completely Americanized (and, in fact, an American invention), but it was odd to me seeing another reinvention of the concept. (As an aside, one theme I have noticed in a lot of the food I have had here is how sweet it tastes to me – the salsa, the brown sauce, even the curries I have had. Similarly, to my taste most of the food is dramatically undersalted. This may be due to small sample size or may be idiosyncratic to my palate.)

After a short walk around town, we headed off to our first "farm" stay. The farm is in quotes not as a mark of derision, but as an indication that this is not really a working farm in usual sense, but rather a B&B that has some animals and takes on some trpapings of a farm. Again, this is not meant to put the place down – it is what it is and attempts to infuse some of the romance of the idea of being on a farm for holiday – you can help feed the lambs and the sheep, play with the dogs, collect the chicken and duck eggs, etc., and it is a great place for a child. As soon as we got there, the dog, Pero, came running up to our car and wanted our daughter to play fetch with him. Our daughter was in love with the place already and would have been happy staying there all week and just playing with the dog.

Alas, we had to go eat dinner. On the recommendation of Paula, our hostess, we headed out to a pub called the Radnor Arms outside of the nearby village of Penrhyndeudraeth. She warned us that it might be difficult to get a table if we went later in the evening – and her words turned out to be prophetic. We got a table but many people after us did not. The meal was typical pub fare, but well done. I wouldn't mind stopping by again if in the region.

We headed back to the "farm", let our daughter play with Pero again and resigned ourselves to another night without Wi-Fi as I couldn't manage to to connect to the signal. (I later learned that some new construction they were doing on site had added a couple more walls between our room and the hotspot, making the signal weaker than before – this has not been an uncommon problem.)

Stayed at: Tyddyn-du Farm. Verdict: Lovely place. Very welcoming. Great if you are traveling with kids. Good breakfasts and a wonderful hostess (and family) and a very friendly dog who will be willing to play with you nearly indefinitely. This would be a good "vacation from the vacation" stop.
JoelCairo is offline  
May 23rd, 2013, 02:48 PM
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Thanks. I have enjoyed reading your posts. They have been quite helpful!

JoelCairo is offline  
Jun 15th, 2013, 08:28 AM
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I am posting this out of a personal need to complete what I have started doing and as a reminder to myself of the trip. We are currently back in the States and planning our next trip - sorry for the delay to anyone actually following along.

Day 5: The Llyn Peninsula

After breakfast (had enough of the Full English Breakfast at this point and went with a very nice muesli), we headed out to the Criccieth castle and the Llyn.

We had layered up for the day and arrived in the town of Criccieth in the late morning. We had no problem finding free parking near the castle and spent about an hour poking around the castle and looking out over the water.

After poking about the castle, we headed downhill to the beach at Criccieth, stopping for takeaway at a Fish and Chips stop along the way. Spent a pleasant hour or two strolling the beach, skipping stones, building sand castles, and watching a few crazy people (young men, naturally) actually wading in the water and somehow not contracting hypothermia.

Afterward, heading into afternoon, we headed West and stopped at the beach at Llanbedrog, paying 1 pound to park (as we arrived after 4:00 PM) and strolled the beach again – daughter playing in the sand and wife looking for shells. By now the weather had warmed up sufficiently to be pleasant.

At the end of a nice relaxing day, we stopped at a Tesco in Porthmadog, grabbed some food to prepare in our room (we had a full kitchen) and enjoyed the evening.

Day 6: Conwy

This morning, we headed North for a day at Conwy Castle and the town of Conwy, stopping at Betws-y-Coed along the way. Betws-y-Coed was our first glimpse of heavily-touristed Wales – until this point we had been blissfully off the most heavily trammeled portion of the tourist trail. Betws-y-Coed is a cute town with a resort-y feel that feels just like any number of other cute little resort towns I have been in in my life, complete with lines of tour bus groups following their flag-holding drum major to a group lunch, etc. Cute, but I am glad we chose not to base here.

After this brief stop, we headed to Conwy and had no problem finding a spot in the pay-and-display lot next to the castle. The castle was magnificent and a completely distinct experience from Criccieth. You needed much less help from your mind's eye to see the castle as it must have been from a structural point of view, but it was much more crowded and, as Betws-y-Coed, directly on the tourist trail. It was also in Conwy that we first started seeing phalanges of tourists thmbing Rick Steves guides, nose in book and not much looking about themselves.

That being said, Conwy Castle is sufficiently large that you can find nooks and crannies for a little quiet contemplation. I am sort of glad we went on a drizzly day as I imagine that held down the crowds a bit.

Afterward was a walk through Conwy town, down to the harbor with a bit of takeaway on the benches there for afternoon snack, a stroll along the walls, and then back to the farm for our last night in Wales.

About Wales: We got some weird looks from our English friends and acquaintances when we said we would be going through Wales on this trip – like we were heading off the edge of the Earth or something. It does feel a bit like the forgotten side of Britain, but I absolutely loved it. In fact, of all the places we went in Britain, Wales turned out to be my favorite part. Part of it may be because it reminded me a little of where I grew up and my family (in the foothills of Northern California) and part of it is that it felt like it wasn't completely overrun with tourists yet. I plan on lobbying for our next trip to Britain to focus on Wales and nearby areas (e.g., Shropshire to which I can trace my family tree).
JoelCairo is offline  
Jun 15th, 2013, 08:53 AM
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Just found this and am enjoying it.

I was intrigued by your comment that you found the food too sweet. When I moved from the UK to the US, I had that exact complaint about American food (OK, maybe southern American food, I moved to NC). In fact, it used to be so difficult to find bread without some kind of sweetener that I resorted to making my own. That was 70s-80s, I now have an actual French baker five minutes from my house and a Whole Foods a bit farther, but I still often find the bread in restaurants, even good ones, too sweet.

On the "under-salted" comment, I read recently that there has been a health initiative in the UK to reduce the use of salt. See, e.g. http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/news/...2013/92628.pdf
thursdaysd is offline  
Jun 15th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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I just found it too - and am enjoying reading it very much.


how true. it seems almost impossible for north americans to understand how long it will take them to drive from one place to another in the UK [mind you, i didn't believe how long it was going to take to get around Sri Lanka, so who am I to talk?]

thursdays - you're right about the campaign against salt in the UK - which I personally feel is misguided unless one has a specific health problem or eat processed food and nothing else. I'm not aware of food here being particularly sweet, but who knows? it's what one is used to, I suppose.

joel - very nice report, thanks for posting it.
annhig is offline  
Jun 15th, 2013, 09:26 AM
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I must have read the first post back in May but lost track of the thread after that. Great trip report!

I remember your planning thread and am looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip. That 'farm' B&B sounds perfect for a family visit.

I really enjoy north Wales but don't get there as often as other parts of the UK. You mention the CA foothills - the Nevada city / Grass Valley mines were largely worked by Cornish and Welsh miners.
janisj is offline  
Jun 15th, 2013, 09:30 AM
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Forgot to mention, if you're heading back to Wales definitely include the Pembrokeshire coast.

annhig - I've been reading lately that salt may not be as bad as people have been saying. Of course, that's no surprise. I'm happy I went right on eating butter when it was supposed to be bad, too.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jun 15th, 2013, 03:10 PM
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I'm with you there, Thursdays. if you listened to everything they said about this or that food being dangerous, you'd never eat anything. Even the heavily larded products of northern Italy have some benefits, according to a programme I was listening to recently.


jj, it is said that anywhere in the world you find a hole, there'll be a cornishman at the bottom of it.
annhig is offline  
Jun 15th, 2013, 09:59 PM
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"how sweet it tastes to me – the salsa, the brown sauce, even the curries I have had."

You've just chosen bad Indian restaurants (probably because you were in places there was no alternative). Prepackaged curries (and Thai food) sold into low-end eating places like pubs are routinely oversweetened - as ready made curries and Thai in supermarkets are, though doubtless they've all got the market research saying that's how most customers like them.

But there's also a distinctive oversweetened taste that's the hallmark of an Indian restaurant either buying in readymade sauces (a growing problem, since our immigration laws make it difficult to find the cooks any more) or using the "make something the English will eat" recipes mired in the days of the 1960s Moti Mahal Curry Houses ("five minutes from this cinema").

Outside the major cities, it's tough to find anything else - except, oddly, in the occasional pub where a Caucasian curry hobbyist will do some decent South Asian food alongside the shepherd's pies and.
flanneruk is offline  
Jun 17th, 2013, 12:14 PM
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enjoying the report, reading the first 5 days made me realise that although i've seen a fair amount of the US i haven't seen much of my own country and have never been to Wales or Scotland or an awful lot of England, another incentive to learn how to drive!
fredandgingermad is offline  
Jun 17th, 2013, 01:18 PM
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This is a lovely trip report, JoelCairo. Thanks for sharing with us!

We spent a couple of days in Wales in 2007, and we're heading back next year with Mr. Pickle's a capella men's choir. We may rent a car rather than riding the bus with everyone - hopefully we can get off the beaten path a bit!

Lee Ann
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