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Down in the River To Say "Bore Da": Wales May/June 2014

Down in the River To Say "Bore Da": Wales May/June 2014

Jul 12th, 2014, 09:26 AM
  #21  
 
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Missed this when it began, but it means that I got to read a lot before having to wait for the next installment. Really enjoying your trip; it's bringing back lots of wonderful memories.

Thanks for sharing.
irishface is offline  
Jul 12th, 2014, 09:27 AM
  #22  
 
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Missed this when it began, but it means that I got to read a lot before having to wait for the next installment. Really enjoying your trip; it's bringing back lots of wonderful memories.

Thanks for sharing.
irishface is offline  
Jul 16th, 2014, 12:39 PM
  #23  
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Goodness, I'm dragging this thing out! Sorry about that.
Sunday, June 1st Carmarthen to Swansea

We spent a couple of hours at the National Botanic Garden on our way to Swansea. http://www.gardenofwales.org.uk/ I hadn't realized everyone in the group would enjoy gardens as much as they did when I planned the itinerary! Maybe it just comes from living in the high desert.

This garden has really nice displays, some of which (the pond and vegetable/fruit gardens) are educational as they apparently host a good number of school groups. Pictures are in the link in my first post. It was fun going into the dome and seeing plants and flowers from California, where I grew up.

The guys did another quick concert outside the garden's theatre, and the garden director was so delighted she posed for pictures with the group and had them sign a special guest book.

From the garden, it's a short drive to Swansea, where we stayed at the downtown Swansea Travelodge. I heard a lot of complaints about this place, and we had problems getting things we needed in the room - basics like an extra towel and things like that. Dinner was included in the room rate, but by the time they'd asked our group to start showing up to eat, they had already run out of many of the items on the menu.

On the bright side, the hotel is only about a block from the waterfront, which has some nice walks and the interesting National Waterfront Museum. https://www.museumwales.ac.uk/swansea/

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jul 21st, 2014, 01:14 PM
  #24  
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Monday, June 2nd Swansea to Cardiff

It's only about an hour from Swansea to Cardiff, so we'd planned to have our bus driver take us around the Gower Peninsula before the guys sang at St. Fagans National History Museum.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that Alan Bullock arranged to have a guide, Robert Llewellyn, join us on the bus that morning. http://www.walesbestguides.com/guide.../#.U818tvldVZ4 He was great - informative and entertaining. Besides telling us about what we were seeing, he gave us some helpful tips for Cardiff.

We drove through Swansea down to The Mumbles and then around the Gower Peninsula. It rained quite a bit on the peninsula, but it was clearing up by the time we got to Rhossili Bay. This is another place where I would be happy to spend a few days.

The group's final formal concert was at St. Fagans National History Museum just outside Cardiff. http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/stfagans/ What a fascinating place! More than 40 original Welsh buildings were carefully deconstructed, moved to the site, and re-erected. We had time before and after the concert to look around, but we weren't able to see everything. You could easily spend most of a day visiting St. Fagans.

The men sang in the Pen-rhiw Chapel, an 18th-century Unitarian church. As you can see from my pictures, it's really tiny. The guys had to sing upstairs in the gallery while David stood in the pulpit to direct them. http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/stfagan...penrhiw_chapel

We arrived in Cardiff in the early evening. Our hotel, the Maldron, is in central Cardiff, very close to public transportation and within easy walking distance to a variety of attractions. Mr. Pickle decided to nap before dinner, so I went out and explored the open-air mall and the arcades which opened off it. I'm not a shopper, but there were some really fun-looking stores which I would have liked to explore.

If you prefer indoor shopping, the St. David's shopping centre is along one side of the open-air mall. I had plans to meet a group of knitters at the John Lewis the next day, so I went in to find their meeting place at the espresso bar.

Our bus driver was required to have a day off, and we planned to spend all of Tuesday in Cardiff so some of us (namely, my other itinerary planner, Vicky, and me ) would have time to visit the Doctor Who Experience.

However, at some point between when we had checked to make sure they would be open and Monday night, we found out they were closed Tuesdays during the school term.

Vicky and I talked it over and decided we could push back our departure time on Wednesday in order to make it to Doctor Who. We figured that we deserved it, given all the hard work we'd put into planning the whole trip! We talked it over with David and our bus driver and decided we would make it work.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 12:18 PM
  #25  
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Tuesday, June 3rd Cardiff

After spending some time Monday night revamping our Tuesday plans, we strolled up St. Mary Street, aka the open-air mall, to the Cardiff Market. http://www.cardiff-market.co.uk

This place is a lot of fun to explore! Butcher shops, flowers, a fishmonger, produce, tea and coffee, bakeries, cafes, and a really great CD/DVD/etc. shop where I could have spent a lot of time and money. We decided to come back and pick up lunch later.

Our next stop was St. Mary's Church, just up the street a little ways. This church has some lovely carvings and stained glass, but we were looking for the Cyberman that Robert, our guide from the day before, told us was inside the building. After we spent about 20 minutes looking for it, another member of our group who had come in shortly after us spotted the Cyberman in a side chapel. The chapel has a bunch of little knight statues, and the Cyberman was put in the place of one of the knights.

From the church, we headed over to Cardiff Castle. http://www.cardiffcastle.com/ We decided to pay a little extra to take the house tour, and were pleasantly surprised to receive a coupon for 10% off the Doctor Who Experience.

The house tour is worth spending extra for, as you get to see several rooms that aren't on the regular self-guided tour, and you can actually go inside several of the rooms that are on the general tour, instead of standing behind the ropes and peering in.

At some point in the 1800s, the Marquess of Bute decided he wanted to redo the Castle lodgings, and he hired a man named William Burges to do the work. The rooms we saw were over-the-top opulent, with different themes - medieval, Arabic, occult, Old Testament, etc. It was pretty spectacular in a "look, I'm rich" kind of way.

After the house tour, we walked back to Cardiff Market to buy lunch - meat pies, fruit, and cake for dessert - and sat in the little garden behind the church to eat. Mr. Pickle wanted to buy some tea, and we'd noticed the tea and coffee vendor was open, so we headed back inside to shop.

While we were sitting on the garden bench, a friendly caterpillar had started crawling up my arm. I'd brushed it off, but either he or a friend decided to make his way up the back of Mr. Pickle's shirt. Neither of us noticed until it started crawling up his shirt, at which point Mr. Pickle launched into the Flailing Dance of Contortion, trying to brush the caterpillar off.

I wasn't much help because I was laughing too hard. I calmed down, started looking for the caterpillar, and then got a look at the tea seller's face and started up all over again. Eventually we found and removed the caterpillar, bought our tea, and went back to the castle.

We went in the old Norman keep that sits on one side of the property, walked through the parts of the walls that were used as air raid shelters in WWII, and enjoyed the sunshine. While we were looking at their birds of prey, we met a young American couple and found they had been at the guys' concert at St. Fagans the day before.

When we finished at the castle, we stopped at a little souvenir shop across the street. Mr. Pickle had been looking for a Wales polo shirt since he saw one in a Conwy shop. This store had the right size, so he bought that.

Our next stop was Forbidden Planet, just down the block. http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk Our kids wanted Doctor Who souvenirs, and we thought we might find a different selection and/or better prices than they would have at the Doctor Who Experience. We were partly right; Forbidden Planet had a set of TARDIS salt and pepper shakers which we knew PickleDaughter, who was getting ready to move out again, would like.

We took our goodies back to the hotel, rested a bit, and I went over to John Lewis to meet the local knitters' group from Ravelry. I was pleasantly surprised to see the nice selection of Rowan yarns the store had in stock, though I managed not to buy anything.

I sat and read for a while at the espresso bar before the other women arrived. We chatted about life in Wales and New Mexico, showed off our current projects, and had a really enjoyable visit.

Lord willing, I'll finish this thing tomorrow!

Lee Ann
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Jul 29th, 2014, 01:00 PM
  #26  
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Yikes! Sorry I messed up the html.

Wednesday, June 4th Cardiff to Bristol via Tintern Abbey

About six of us got on the Baycar by our hotel in plenty of time to get to the Doctor Who Experience before they opened. http://www.doctorwho.tv/events/doctor-who-experience/ It was raining, so the employees let us wait in the cafe before they officially opened. We wandered around the lobby taking pictures of the exhibits - a giant Dalek made of Legos, display cases for Clara and River Song, things like that.

The "experience" itself was a little cheesy, but still fun. The idea is you have to help the Doctor (in this case, Matt Smith, who just finished up his run as the eleventh Doctor) fix the TARDIS and save the world. You go through a variety of sets and encounter Daleks, weeping angels, Cybermen - most of the classic Who baddies. One little boy in our group was dressed like Matt Smith's Doctor, down to the fez and bow tie. He was pretty cute.

Eventually you get into a two-story museum of sorts with costumes, props, and monsters from all the years Doctor Who has been around. I've only seen a couple of the "classic" Who episodes, but there seemed to be a pretty good blend of the old and new. There were some interesting displays on sound mixing for the show, an "evolution of the Daleks" display, all kinds of fun stuff.

After a fairly quick stop in the gift shop, where I picked up a "bigger on the inside" mug and a weeping angel T-shirt for PickleDude, it was time to get back on our bus and head for Bristol.

Speaking of the t-shirt, I've never seen one with its own smartphone app before. You download the app, point your phone at the shirt, hit the app, and a weeping angel comes to life and tries to attack you.

Our final opportunity to use our CADW passes was at Tintern Abbey. It was still raining, so we didn't stay quite as long as we might have otherwise, but we had lunch, walked through the ruins, and the guys had one last time to sing together. We also made a quick stop at the Abbey Mill Wye Valley Centre http://www.abbeymill.com/index.html which is next door to the Abbey.

We arrived at the Arnos Manor Hotel http://www.sjhotels.co.uk/hotels/arn...hotel-bristol/ in Bristol in the late afternoon, did a little laundry, and hung out in the hotel's bar before dinner. We wanted to double-check our plans for London the next evening, and it's a good thing we did!

I had gone to the TFL website before we left the US and used the travel planner to figure out how we'd get from our Heathrow hotel into London to see Perfect Nonsense. Somehow, though, I'd gotten myself mixed up on the return time, and had typed 2000 instead of 2200. By 2200, our options for getting back to Heathrow were really limited, so I'm glad I discovered my error in time.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 12:57 PM
  #27  
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Thursday, June 5th Bristol to London

Almost done!

About half the group went to the SS Great Britain. www.ssgreatbritain.org The Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, engineer and possessor of the world's coolest name, was "the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, iron-hulled steam ship" and a marvel of its day. It had quite a varied work history before eventually being scuttled and partially sunk in a shallow bay in the Falkland Islands.

In 1970, as more people recognized the historical importance of the Great Britain, the ship was refloated on a giant pontoon and carefully towed back to Bristol, where it was restored as much as possible and opened to the public. It's a fascinating place to visit.

After lunch, we got back on the bus for our final journey to Heathrow. Traffic was fairly light, and we arrived earlier than I'd expected we might. http://www.ihg.com/holidayinn/hotels...no/hoteldetail We didn't spend much time at our hotel, the Holiday Inn M4/J4, but our room was comfortable.

Bill had agreed to drive those of us who wanted to go into London. This saved us quite a bit of time, and we gave him a generous tip. I enjoyed seeing bits of London we hadn't visited the last time.

Most of those who were extending their trip were staying near Hyde Park, so Bill dropped us off there. In retrospect, he should have driven up the street a few more blocks, which would have been helpful for some of the older couples who had luggage to pull, but I didn't think of that when he stopped.

Mr. Pickle and I had left our suitcases at the hotel, so we enjoyed a stroll up the street to the Tube station. I've been enjoying Georgette Heyer's Regency novels, so it was fun seeing streets which would have been familiar to her heroes and heroines.

We arrived at Leicester Square, walked around a little to get our bearings, and decided to have dinner. I hadn't had time to really think much about our options, but I knew we should find something fairly decent in the area. We ended up at Wagamama www.wagamama.com, which fit the bill for affordability and tastiness.

The National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/ stays open late Thursdays; since we were practically next door to it, we went in for a quick peek at the Jane Austen portrait. As most of you know, I'm a huge JBA fan, so it was a must-see this visit. I'm also a fan of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, so I enjoyed seeing portraits of other historical figures of that era.

We'd decided to splurge a bit on theater tickets, and got front-row seats for Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense for 20 pounds. We had a great view, though occasionally I had a little difficulty seeing things that happened near the floor. If you're taller than 5' 8" or so, that shouldn't be a problem.

If you're a Wodehouse fan (and even if you're not - and if not, why on earth not?), don't miss this show. We laughed ourselves silly.

That's pretty much it for this trip report.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Feb 21st, 2015, 08:01 AM
  #28  
 
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Thank you for taking the time to post your trip report. I'm finding it very helpful for planning our first trip to Wales this September. Deborah
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Feb 21st, 2015, 01:04 PM
  #29  
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You're welcome! I'm glad you're finding it helpful.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Feb 21st, 2015, 03:23 PM
  #30  
 
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Just seen this, I live in Cardiff and your report clearly shows a good time was had by all.
Isn't Cardiff market just great!
I often pop in for a quiet and inexpensive cup of tea whilst Mrs M is raiding the shops

Glad you enjoyed your trip.

Muck
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Feb 22nd, 2015, 08:48 PM
  #31  
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It was really great, Mucky. I'd enjoy spending more time in Cardiff.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 02:33 PM
  #32  
 
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Thanks for posting your trip report, Ms. Pickle. We're going to the south of Wales in April 2017, and I'm just starting to do my planning.
artstuff is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 02:44 PM
  #33  
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You're welcome, artstuff! I hope you find my information helpful.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  

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