28 May 2008

ein gwyl yn Cymru !

We set off on Friday 16th May at about 9.30 and drove from Oxford, via Gloucestershire to Ross on Wye. We made good time so made a quick detour to the Weston's Cider Farm. Unfortunately they've stopped making the Cider with Ginger (my favourite drink ever) so I got a case of Oak Conditioned Medium Dry Cider instead. I also picked up a bottle of Premium Cider for a work colleague, who will only be allowed it once he says Please and Thank You. We crammed the cider into the already full car and set off again, past Symonds Yatt (we resisted the urge to go and say Hello to Barry - the weird owner of a cottage we stayed in a few years ago), via Monmouth and then followed Singing Bear's directions to Pontywaun. We arrived there around 2pm so decided to go on the Forest Drive SB had recommended. Even though it was starting to drizzle and get a bit misty it was spectacular. The drive took us to the top of the Forest and then down again, with a few stops at parking places to look at the wooden carvings, totem poles and views. Well worth £3. When we'd finished we took a brief walk around the bottom of the Forest, picked up a postcard for SB (for ironic purposes) and then checked into the B&B. After we'd settled in there we decided to take a walk around the village, but by then it was raining so hard we were getting drenched through our waterproofs so we found a pub, had a couple of drinks and a nice dinner, and then went back to the B&B to crash for the night.

The next day, after a huge breakfast provided by the very friendly B&B owner, we set off for Tenby. We thought about a quick detour to a castle recommended by a work colleague (Llantstephan) but by the time we drove past the turning I was getting a bit tired and it was raining hard so we decided to go straight to Tenby. Once we'd arrived, the rain had stopped so we had a wander round for a bit and then decided to find a B&B for the night. The ones on the seafront were too expensive so we went down a side road and found a lovely, clean place with friendly owners. We checked in and then went out again to explore. After another wander round the shops and beach we went to a pub to catch the last 15 minutes of the FA cup final. We supported Cardiff who unfortunately lost. After a drink we got take away Fish and Chips (I can't remember the last time I did that), had another drink and then a long walk along the beach. Then back to the B&B to crash out again for the night.

The next morning, after another quick walk (for me) along the beach we had another big breakfast and then set off again. We drove across the countryside to Cardigan - a lovely drive with spectacular views again. When we got to Cardigan we spent an hour looking around the town but as it was Sunday a lot of places were closed. We set off again and spent the next hour or two driving up the coast road to Aberystwyth. I think this was one of the most stunning drives of the whole trip with views of the coast from the road we were driving along for most of the way. We arrived in Aberystwyth and repeated the process of wandering round, finding a B&B and then more wandering round until dinner. This time we had dinner in an Inn on the pier and watched as dumb and dumber in the kitchen attempted to make Pizzas. Hilarious.

Monday morning we set off for Caernarfon. Again a stunning drive, this time through the Snowdonia mountains. It was a bit scary at times but the roads were ok and I went slowly (apologies to the huge line of cars stuck behind me !). We stopped in Portmeirion, set of the 60's tv show The Prisoner on the way. It cost £7 each to get in but it was well worth it. The village was lovely, picturesque, and exactly as you remember it from the tv series. We walked around a bit, spent far too much money in the shops (T-shirt, Celtic Vodka, Chutney, Welsh Liquor), saw all the famous spots and then got lunch from one of the cafe's (again - expensive). We then set off for Caernarfon, which was only about half an hours drive away. We located our cottage that we'd booked and then headed into the centre of town to look around and do some grocery shopping. When that we done we checked into the cottage (the caretaker was a very weird lady - we really don't have much luck with these people!), unpacked, and then went for a short walk around the immediate vicinity. Apart from an Indian over the road there wasn't too much about - which suited us just fine. We had an early night as we needed all our energy for the next day - the assault on Snowdon.

Tuesday morning we got up early and set off for Llanberis, which is a little village at the foot of Snowdon. We parked the car, found the mountain path and set off. The very first bit is up a steep road and that bit nearly made me turn back straight away but we continued, and the views as we kept walking were stunning. It was a nice day, sunny and cloudy, so we walked in just our t-shirts at first, then as we got further up had to put our hoodies on as well. The first hour was quite easy, then it started getting a bit steeper and harder. At one point the train went almost directly past us, full of people smiling and waving at us. Hmmmm. We eventually got to the half way point, where there was a little cafe. We sat outside it for a few minutes and drank some water. Then we set off again. This time it was much steeper and the path was really rough - we got about another quarter of the way up and then decided to give up and turn back. Going down was ok at first, but after a while it started to get to our legs. When the train went past us again I commented "If anyone smiles and waves at us this time I'm picking up the nearest rock and throwing it at them". Not that I would have had the energy by then !. We stopped after about half an hour and ate some lunch, which seemed to give us a boost and then set off again. By the time we got to the bottom my legs felt like jelly and I could barely walk - but we were very pleased with what we'd achieved. One day soon we hope to go back and try again. When we got to the bottom we picked up the car and drove back to the cottage. We had a short drive around the village and then crashed out for the night.

On Wednesday we went to Bangor - a lovely student town approx 15 miles away. We toured the shops and I left Sean in Cob Records while I looked round some more. An hour (and £80+) later he emerged from the record shop and we had a look around the small Cathedral, then a walk across the Victorian Pier. I will own up to the fact that I only put 2p in the Pier's honesty box and I owe them 48p if we're ever in that area again. The pier was nice, and had good views of the Menai bridge and the mountains. By this time we were feeling the after effects of the mountain climb so we headed back into Bangor and got lunch from Subway. After that we headed about a mile outside Bangor to Penrhyn Castle. It was the biggest place I've ever seen in my life ! It was still intact with all the furniture etc, and we even got to tour the Servants quarters (one of their smaller rooms was bigger than our entire house). We overheard a National Trust guide saying to someone that when the castle had been in use (late 19th or early 20th Century) it was owned by a family who only visited twice a year - what a waste !. After we'd seen the castle we had a walk around the garden, which was very nice. There were about 3 little ponds absolutely packed with tadpoles, and an intriguing Bog garden. Still feeling very warn out, we headed back to the cottage after we'd seen all we wanted.

On Thursday we visited the Lleyn peninsula. We stopped on Pwheli first, not much to see there but we had a nice walk around a Nature Reserve and got some Beer and Wine from a local shop. We then attempted to find a National Trust place called Plas-Yn-Rhiw. It didn't look too far on the map but it took as an hour to get there, mainly due to the fact it wasn't sign posted and also the fact that we took the wrong road a few times. At least we had a nice drive around the Peninsula. Abersoch looked nice as we drove through. We eventually found the NT place and it was well worth it. It was a smallish house donated to the trust by 3 sisters who had restored it. It had been left exactly as they had lived and was fascinating. The smallish garden was nice too. By then it was just starting to rain, and we set off in the car again. We'd planned to stop somewhere else on the way home but by then it was raining too hard so we just headed back to the cottage. Note: There was a hell of a lot of roadworks going on in North Wales - is that usual ? The rain had eased a bit when we got back so we went for a shortish walk and then started packing for the beginning of the return home the next day. That night we watched our last episode of Pobol y Cwm, a Welsh soap opera all in Welsh. By this time we'd become addicted to it, and had hoped we'd be able to pick the Welsh channel up on our Freeview when we returned home but unfortunately not.

On Friday morning we packed the car up and had a quick stop in Caernarfon before we set off again. We got some sweets for our work colleagues and some Welsh T-shirts for ourselves. We also got a Welsh-English dictionary and plan to teach ourselves Welsh. By this time we'd picked up quite a few words: Araf (Slow) Arafwych Nawr (Reduce Speed Now) Heddlu (Police) and Siop (Shop) being the main ones. We left Caernarfon around 11am and drove from there to Ludlow - a 4 hour drive. It was very nice, through the mountains, through the last of the Welsh Countryside and then into Shropshire. We'd spent a couple of hours in Ludlow last year on our way home and as it wasn't enough, so we'd decided to use it as an overnight stop this year. We checked into an Inn for the night and had a walk around Ludlow town and along the river. Ludlow has a very nice Hippie type shop called "Kaboodle" and we got a Beatles mug and a Gargoyle for the garden from there. We also found a very nice cafe to eat in that night - The Feathers Bar/Cafe. I had a refreshing (after all the rubbish I'd eaten that week) Thai Curry and Sean had Sole - and he really shocked me by eating the Capers that came with it. Unheard of !

The next morning, after our last big Breakfast for a long long time, we had another little wander around the shops, and the Market and then set off for home. It was a relatively short trip and by 12.30pm we were home. After that it was the usual stuff, unpack, do the washing, go grocery shopping etc.

It was a fantastic holiday, really relaxing and at the same time energising, and I've now got North Wales on my list of places to move to.

15 May 2008

Off To Wales!

15 Kupris - Year 87 p.s.U.

Pixie and I will be off to the Welsh countryside for a week starting tomorrow. We'll be staying near Cardiff for the first night, then trekking up the coast towards Caernarvon. I've been told I can go here if I walk up here--oof, we'll have to see...that's gonna be a hike! It promises to be a great holiday, even if the weather's not ideal for late May.

I'll post a little something when we're back (maybe with some pics as well). I've started on the second episode of the podcast and will finish and post it after we've returned. Thanks to all who listened and left comments over at My Podcast. See ya when we see ya!

10 May 2008

The Kaleidophonic Stroboscope Switches On!

5 Iyyar - Year 5768

Certain critters over the years have suggested I present a radio show. I'll admit that I was pretty lazy most of the time and never really got it together. I did audition at the Connecticut School Of Broadcsting...oh, about ten years ago now. I passed the audition, but the tuition fees were (are?) steep and at the time I couldn't afford to take out another loan to pay them. The coolest radio station in Conn. at that time was (and probably still is..) WWUH, the University Of Hartford's campus outlet. All of their time slots were filled and so I didn't have a chance there either.

A WWUH program that I "discovered" back in 1990, while hanging out with my friend Dave M., was The Greatest Show From Earth. T.G.S.F.E. features psychedelic rock, progressive rock, ambient and space music and is still going today. I discovered so many great bands and artists through that show, such as Gong, Fairport Convention and The Orb, to name just a few. It was the first radio show that I really listened to with any kind of devotion (O.K., besides Dr. Demento in the mid-80s and er..The American Top 40 (hosted by "Shaggy" himself, Casey Kasem) in '83/'84). I was a regular listener for nearly ten years, but then as I had collected most of the albums and bands they featured, I started tuning in only every once in a while. The set-up and style of T.G.S.F.E. had a big influence on me and I thought that if I ever was able to host a program, I would like to do something similar.

Another, more recent program that I regularly check out is Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone. T.F.Z. started up on BBC 6Music a few years ago and also features a lot of psychedelic and prog-rock, as well as esoteric electronic stuff, British folk-rock and some jazz and world music. It's quite an excellent show and most of the time I think "Right on!" when ol' Stu plays a track I really like. A must-listen if you're into an eclectic muso-mix.

Sooooo...I finally got round to at least attempting to get a program going, with encouragement from a couple of different sources (Pixie being one). I wrote up a proposal and e-mailed it to a few local stations (even Fox FM, but I sent it there for a laugh really). I did get a couple of replies and both asked for a demo. Oop--I admit I was a bit under-prepared. I cobbled a demo together over the past two weeks, using Audacity and a mic that was lent to me (cheers, Baxter!). I'm trying to upload it to My Podcast as well--so anyone who wants to check it out, can do. I'm having problems with My Podcast's upload process at the moment--but I'll post a link to the episode as soon as it's ready.

(UPDATE: I finally was able to upload the mp3 file to "My Podcast" - you can check out the episode here)

The track list for the first hour is:

The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever (take 4 - recorded late 1966)
Schicke, Fuhrs & Frohling - Sundrops (1976)
Coil - Slur (1987)
Boards Of Canada - In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country (2000)
Caravan - Waterloo Lily (1972)
Klaus Schulze - Some Velvet Phasing (1974)
Jefferson Airplane - Fat Angel (live 1968 - released 1969)
Danielle Dax - Numb Companions (1983)
The Incredible String Band - The Half-Remarkable Question (1968)
Wire - I Feel Mysterious Today (1978)

You also get my dulcet tones in-between some of the tracks, as an added bonus! Enjoy!