The Holiday I Didn’t Want to End!

Right Stand by people here comes a big post. I will also make it a page, so it doesn’t get lost in all the other rubbish that I let rip on here. As you may be aware I have been on holiday. Yes that’s right. A holiday after eleven years of working I decided enough was enough and that a holiday was needed. Some where I could get away and not have contact with the outside world and I certainly chose the right location, although my facebook was on.

Snowdonia National Park was where I was going to base myself for the next five days in a lovely hotel called the Grapes. I had no network on my phone while in the hotel, or if truth be told when I was out and about. Apart from, the top of Snowdon did give a very good 3G reception 1000m above sea level.

So I set off at about 10.00 after my morning run, and plugged my Brothers TOMTOM in, to see which direction it would guide me. The IQ route said Wrexham and then the A498 and after two hours, where most of it was winding country roads I had arrived my hotel before check in. So time for the first activity of the holiday. Thats right, one my favorite past times… Castle spotting.

Harlech

Off I drove past my hotel and onward to a small village which I have fallen in love with. If and when I retire I am going to live in this sleepy suburb. On the way to my destination I suddenly discovered what people meant about the roads in Wales and I might as well say my piece about it here. I love them. 60 m.p.h along rolling bendy narrow roads I spent a lot of my time getting lost on purpose, just so I could ride the rollercoaster that was the A Roads of this peaceful pleasant area. They were also smooth, not pot hole or rough, they were a real joy to navigate and lets face it, navigation is easy in Wales. You only have two roads to choose from, the one towards Porthmadog and the other to Ffestiniog.

Anyway I was speeding toward Harlech for one reason and one reason only and that was the Castle. And it did not disappoint. It appeared as I came round the bend, looking down, like it was surveying the village. It was wonderful and is now one of my top five. The History is simple. Edward the I built it, then lost it four years later which even he has to admit it was a little bit careless. “Edward, you are a fool, how can you lose a big castle. You better not misplace Carnofen especially now I have the Kitchen the way I like it” Just like women not to understand Edward thought. In fact he had not lost it, more had it taken away from him by the Welsh uprising. The day was cold and dark, and one of his generals came rushing in “Sire the peasants are revolting” The general said. “I know I can smell them from here” Edward said sniggering. Before he knew it the Castle that had taken 7 years and had cost £8,000 (£3,000,000 in today’s money) had been snatched by the Welsh just after 4 years of completion. “Well you don’t have to worry about the leaky roof now Sire” his servant uttered as they packed up.

The Castle was only in the Welsh hands for a number years, but it was where Owain Glyndŵr held court decided to move in. The English soon regained control. The rest of the Castles troubled history saw it involved in the War of the Roses and as a hide out for Charles I during the Civil war.

The rest of this peaceful village was a joy to walk around, and is well worth a look. If you are going to relax, then you could do no better than walk down to the stunning beach, which is masked by impressive sand dunes where you navigate through the golf course to land on the golden sands and tranquil sounds of the Irish Sea.

The day was completed by me settling in to my hotel, which as I have said above was great. Wonderful pub food, and friendly staff. A real warm welcome, where the  manager would ask you about your day. I got into a little routine, of returning back to my room and feasting on the complimentary biscuits and drinking the tea that never quite taste like it should. Then I would slowly make my way down to select my tea from the vast menu, and retire to the privacy of my room. I would then take a bath to soak my legs and find myself falling asleep at 9pm, ready for the next day.

Snowdon

Oh boy, and what a day. The weather was sunny, the sky was clear. The BBC had informed me that it would remain like that, as did the Snowdon weather site. So of I set towards Snowdon. This is a great drive, for two reason. The scenery and the roads. I drove through Betwsy Coed, which I would later return to have a look, and unless you are starting a walk there, then I really would not bother. On my way to Snowdon, I had to stop off and start taking pictures of lakes and mountains being reflected in the water, and as I approached the start of my walk I had to make a quick decision to do Miners or Pyg track. I chose Pyg.

I thought overall without sounding boastful that the walk/climb was mild. I had been told it was challenging, and I was expecting to be pushed to my limited walking experience. But I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong my heart was pumping and my legs had more of a workout than they do when I go running, but overall I found it to be a nice climb. I’m not for minute suggesting it was a stroll in the park but it’s not worth a 5 on the difficulty rating where 1 is easy and 5 is hard.

The way up and way down was glorious, and as with all summit climbs, the Mountain plays tricks on you. Just when you think you can see the path ahead, or the summit, the trail twist and snakes in a different direction. But with Snowdon, you could always see her icy snow-covered top. You would say hello to your fellow walkers, ask them if they had done it before, and if like me, would great them again on the way down. The sign in the car park suggested 6 hours, I did it up and down minus the sit down on the summit in about three and half.

I’m very glad I did it and enjoyed the walk and climb. Also liked seeing people running up it, and walking there dogs. The school Children who were climbing in font of me didn’t all make it. The teacher claimed that they went back to the bus. I don’t want to point fingers, but it was a long way down.

After Snowdon, I drove and went down towards the Keep I saw on my way to Snowdon. This was the 2nd castle I had on my list. Dolwyddelan Castle is just a dwarf compared to the others, but plays a large significance on Welsh history. I parked my car and walked up to the start of the path and saw a sign “Please pay at Farm House” I walked toward the house and saw nobody about, then from inside a stout woman pointed towards a door around the side of the house. Within a few minutes she unbolted several locks (Not that there was any one around) and instructed me that the castle was up that path and pointed to a field. ‘What about the pay’ I enquired. ‘No pay today, as it’s St Davids Day’ I rushed up the slope to the castle to be thankful that David had planted all those Leeks and Daffodils and got made into a Saint as even for a Castle lover like me, £3.80 is a bit much for a stone tower.

I drove onwards to Ffestiniog power station, which is part of the first hydro-electric stations. Here I walked for a bit and stood to look at the Narrow gage tracks, and decided that at 6pm I was a little tired and food and sleep was in order.

Portmerrion

This was a busy day. My plan was to drive far and work my way back towards the hotel. Instead I got so excited by seeing the Ffestiniog railway, with the train being stoked up I had to get out and watch it set on its way. By which point I thought the sun won’t be out for ever let’s go to the film set. So off I set from Porthmadog to Portmerrion. Now for those not in the know, I only know of this place, not because of the crazy man Ellis who designed and built it in the 1920’s and led the project till it had finished in the 1950’s or for its super importance as a site that no one can touch or do anything to without permission from the UK government, that includes Ellis himself.

The whole village was built to prove that towns could be built to look beautiful and to function, but the reason why I know it, is due to a big white balloon that prevented Number 2 from escaping. I am referring to the hit 60’s show ‘The Prisoner” Now as I walked around this populated village which Ellis describes as miniature… Everything is scaled down I found it rather creepy. Not sure if that was because of the ‘Prisoner’ of if the village gave of that vibe and that is why the producers picked it.

The woodlands that surround and mask the village are spectacular, quiet and peaceful they carry the same erriness as the fabrication they circle. Within the woods is a ghost garden that if excuse the English was hunting, and as the path down was more or less a tunnel that had been carved through the trees and hedges, to an overgrown area. Along the wood was also a sheltered space called ‘Dog cemetery’ where graves stones stood proud above the graves of loved dogs. This did nothing to calm the nerves but instead heightened the strangeness and peculiarity that this small area of Wales held.

I really do recommend anyone going to see this village. The whole thing is locked away and for those who live her, security gates are the norm, luckily they are not subjected to the £8.00 entry fee, but I feel it was worth it as I was absorbed into the surroundings and strange tranquility of the place.

Next on the list was another castle, and again luckily the cost did not burden my pockets, as the ticket booth was not open, but the gates to the castle were. This was still a nice castle to look at, but after the English invasion was over the castle was left to fall apart. The idyllic setting was yet agin on a mound over looking the sea at the edge of the town. The Town is called Criccieth, and there is not much else to do apart the castle, so I hastily drove to the final stop, a copper mine.

This was a self guided tour, and you would not believe how creeped out I was as I walked the steps of history. The plastic moulding of men in  fixed positions did not help, nor did the voices from hidden speakers and lets not get started when all the lights went out to show you how dark it would have been. But the sites of the underground lakes and caverns were spectacular, and the mountain walk afterwards was a good strong climb to amazing views. This got me energised and I wandered off to walk up Snowdon again. This time I only made it half way due to fading light and I’m no fool when it comes to climbing mountains in the dark. The path I chose was the Watkins path which Lloyd George opened on a rock in front of 2000 people.

After this I decided enough was enough and it was back to the hotel for me.

Cader Idris and Barmouth


Now without upsetting people, which I know will happen, but this mountain which is said to be the 2nd most visited, is truly amazing. I loved it. The climb up was not harder or easier than Snowdon, but seemed to use more energy. The end result was also more rewarding. The height of Cader Idris stands at just under 900 meters so is in no means a dwarf, but Snowdon some what has the lime light for one reason and that is its height. You get to the top of Snowdon and you have wonderful views of the other mountain ranges. You get to the top of Cader Idris and you see hills, valleys, Barmouth  and its bridge. Plus the last half a mile to the summit is so rewarding it’s untrue. I wanted to shout while I was at the top, but there was an older gentleman eating his lunch.

This summit also played on the mind, as you could never fully see your goal till the last moment, so just when youthought you were about to reach the top of the summit you had your eye on disappeared to reveal another mound.

Anyway who ever likes walking should do this, it is a mix of flat hill, steep crumbling rock climbing, large stone step walking and strong hiking.

This rather took the breath from me, both in the climb and the views the walk down was just as strenuous and if anything was slightly harder. It was broken up by chatting to a nice couple of Warkshire who were up for two days, and I had met in the car park where they had guided me through the walk step by step. Now we spoke about views and other walks, but I was to tired for any more walking today, so it was off to look at a train museum that ended up being a shed and was in fact closed. This was where I had to push my little car to the full, as the red petrol light illuminated telling me Marko was thirsty. This was the only time I got my brothers TOMTOM out, to direct me to the nearest station. 15 miles later Marko was watered so to speak and he had done over 400 miles on a tank. The best MPG yet.

With this I headed toward Barmouth to enjoy more sandy beaches but really to take a peak at the wonderful bridge that crosses the mouth. With that I retired to my hotel room to bath and change before my last evening in Wales.

The Last Day

This was a sad day. I didn’t want it to happen, but knew I had to leave if only because Simon had hired my room out to some one else for their holiday, and there was a small fact I could not afford it.

I knew I did not want to go back to Manchester til night fall, so what was there to do. I thought I could drive the coast road back on the A55 and take it in all my castles on the way back, but I certainly was not going to pay to go in side each one. My legs were tired from all the walking I had done and while not all of it is documented here I covered a fair few miles I can tell you. The only town I had not yet been to was that of Llanberis where the Snowdon railway starts for those lazy people who can’t be bothered to walk up, but it is also the home of Electric Mountain, the Hydro Electric power station buried deep into the hill-side. There were no tours this day, but there was a slate museum, which I took great interest in, and delight and looking at the largest UK mainland water wheel.

From here I decided to take a walk through the national park and the quarry. This was where I got lost. Walking my new hobby mixed with a quarry and Victorian engineering I was in some kind of fantasy or on a Dr Who planet. It was a deathly quiet place. The odd the bird of prey circled overhead as you paced through history that was left to decay. Old miners houses built into the hillside, the old workshops where they spilt the slate before loading into the wagon that were trucked down the incline on huge steel wires. All the buildings and inclines built from the raw material they had blasted from the hillside. In this desolate rubble, Snowdon towered above, keeping a watchful eye. For some one who was tired off walking, I managed another day of trotting around for several hours, in the quarry and the woods, trying to catch snaps of the Kingfisher but in the end finding myself taking pictures of a different bird entirely as well as Kid (goat)

The day was complete by paying a visit to another Keep, this was Dolbadarn Castle, a small but yet impressive feature on the landscape. I don’t know much of this history, but the English did not build this masterpiece.

With that, the time was getting close to six, and I was gearing up for bed. It was to the car, and the coast road for a lasting sight of the Castles of North Wales and a glimpse of my favourite bridge.

By the time I got home, I was ready for bed, I did almost drift off a few times and was glad to be home and secure. But am not happy about leaving the place I called home for a week. But some important decisions were thought about, and time will see if having a holiday is what people really need, or to be more precise what I needed.

Wales and Snowdonia Rule.

Postcard #5 Dr Who could of been filmed here

Well I’m writing this little gem back in Manchester, and I am fully depressed. I want to be back in Wales, and I celebrated the last day by driving through all the towns with castles and seeing my favourite bridge. I also spent the last day walking around Llanberis slate museum and walking around the quarry. This was me in my element. My new hobby walking and soaking up the deadly atmosphere in a quarry that looked like a planet from Dr Who. The heritage and Victorian engineering that went into this quarry is extraordinary and the wildlife that now surrounds it was wonderful. A Hawk, or Kestrel was spotted and plenty of birds. This town is well worth a trip and I wish I had discovered the area sooner as the walks and views were fantastic. Plus there was a castle.

 

A full blog/page (one can never tell if you should do a page or blog post for these thing) of my holiday will be up soon. Once I have written it. But you will see lots of wonderful cute animals like this fella. I named him Edward.

Postcard #4 Snowdons got the height, but thats it….

The final postcard…. Boo. I’m upset about leaving and if I had no place in Manchester I would carry on living here and driving round with my little car. This postcard may cause discussion, but when I write my Wales Holiday page hopefully you will see why I make the points.

Again wonderful weather to wake up to and agin more walking. So I gt into my car and drove to Cader Idris just under 900 meters is not small, but seems to be dwarfed by its larger Cousin. I admit the walk up Snowdon is nice, but the pay off for the effort is average. Cader Idris however offers the best payoff and climb to the summit going. The rest of the day was spent driving to Corris to see a railway museum that was basically a shed, and then driving round trying to find a petrol station before Marko stopped running. At 412 Miles done on a tank I had filled up and it was on to Barmouth to see the bridge and walk along the sea front. Tomorrow is home time but not before I stop of at Electric Mountain, and the Slate Museum.

See you when I get back.

Postcard #3 – More waking above and in the ground!

Hello today started with the walk around Portmeirion which is such a long adventure I have to blog about separately. From there I went Castle hunting and good news was that the shop was closed so I got in for free, as basically it was not worth the £3.00 entry fee. I then went off to walk in a copper mine and was scared out of my wits as I was walking along by myself in a cold wet mine. From there I decided to go and walk up Snowdon again before coming back to the hotel. I now need to plan what I’m doing for tomorrow, but I can imagine it will be some more climbing, and walking.

The picture of the day comes courtesy of a nice Robin that allowed me to snap away.

Postcard #2

Hello,

Well I am writing this back at the hotel, tired and thirsty and extremely hungry. Not sure what to go for tonight on the old pub menu, if it will be like last night then everything will be fabulous, I can really welcomed this place, and will be coming back here once again. But for now I am having to write this with a cup of tea and complementary biscuits. Why do they only give you two packs?

Today’s little adventure was up the Pgy trial to the summit of Snowdon, and I did it, there and back in 3 hours (which made me laugh as there were some young people dressed in all the gear feeling pleased that they’d done it in 3 hours and 15 minutes). I have not included the 30 mins I spent at the top. I then went from there on a driving mission. I love the Welsh roads so bendy and fast. I must say I am very pleased with myself that I managed to climb it and am glad I did, I wouldn’t say I’m an experienced walker but I had expected something more challenging. Don’t get me wrong it was hard in places but I was expecting a lot worst.  Anyway I am now feeling very sleepy. Tomorrow I feel will be a very slow relaxing down, walking around towns and riding on steam trains as well as running on a beach as I may be on holiday but I need to keep up the training.

Photos as always are uploaded onto my Flicker Site Link in the right hand column on main page.

A little annoyed

A little annoyed is a understaement. A huge understatement. If it was any more under it would be popping out in Australia.

The day was going well, I had got up and had gone on a nice run only to pause at the end to wait by Victoria Station to see the Steam train depart. And by George what a departure, the smoke and steam that bellowed from the heart of the engine that was whisked by the mild wind was truly extraordinary. One minute the locomotive was there the next it was wrapped in a blanket of her own doing, and with a high pitch whistle and a slow ‘Chud Chud Chud’ the curtain of smoke lifted to reveal the shiny black boiler of a truly beautiful machine, and with another blow and large exhale of smoke it began to move, picking up speed and filling its path with glorious black and white clouds, and as I watched it vanish into the distance I thought what a thrill it would have been seeing these engines in a station every day and with that thought fresh in my mind I carried on running back to my house, for the nightmare that was about to happen.

By the time I got back to my house and reached for my keys, all I wanted to do was get back in, but my key fob had other ideas… the electronic button that allows me to open my door had decided to disconnect itself from the circuit board thus preventing the radio waves to transmit the signal to the door. I was outside, in shorts a little muddy as I had run through a park and all I wanted to do was the put the kettle on. My housemate was alway and I was not about to buzz other flats asking if they would be so kind as to allow me into the complex. I circled the building trying the doors, waiting outside for people to leave so I could gain access.

Eventually I got in, and straight into my flat to phone the agents. No answer. They seem to think that working Saturdays is beneath them. I phoned the emergency line. ‘Sorry can’t help you, don’t have a spare key’ Can’t help, can’t help so I am now trapped, no wait I am now imprisoned in my house I have no way to get back in so you’re telling me to sit tight till Monday when the office opens again. The response was simple and like the steam engine caused me to expel a lot of steam. ‘Yes’.

Yes, Yes, Yes…. You mean to tell me there is noting you can do. ‘No Sir, I don’t have access to the office as I’m just a sub contractor, if you were locked out of your flat then I could let you in by changing your locks’.

Well that was good to know, as if and when I was ever in that situation I would know whom to phone. ‘I could call a management person but that is £125.00 call out charge’.

£125.00 for what, coming to the office which should be open and opening the key cupboard to give me a new key is going to cost me a third of my weekly wage. This was not a good start to the weekend. After being pissed off yesterday and extremely annoyed in the evening I thought that after listening to Stereophonics I was in a good mood and felt good, felt fit and had enjoyed my run, seen a bit of history puffing through Manchester and was looking forward to the holiday, the holiday that was the first one in 11 years. But now my evil key fob had decided to bring me smashing down to the ground so quick that I had to take time out to put boots on to kick objects, so I didn’t break my feet.

I decided to agree to the £125.00. I have to, my housemate is away, I’m working tomorrow, and when I return from holiday my housemate will be working and it will be the weekend again and I need that fob to gain access to my apartments front door. With a fob I can’t go out, I can not leave my house. Some my argue that is worth £125.00, others and this includes my good self will argue that the agents should drop the call out as it was there equipment that has failed and thus not keeping to the terms of the tenancy agreement.

So to say that I am little ticked off is an understatement. Thats £125.00 that I never had, I can’t afford that money, that was holiday budget money. March is going to be a hard month as it is with insurance, MOT and Car service and the fact that I have no income until the middle of April does not bring me any happiness. I also have a hotel to pay for and petrol to put in my little car, credit card to pay plus the electric and water.

So at the moment if you imagine me as a cartoon, I am slowing burning with anger and as I type away at the board in front of me that anger seems to be for ever-growing. Hopefully at 4 O’Clock when the new fob arrives I will have calmed down and treat myself to seeing the Steam Train pull into Victoria, but for now I am one angry guy who is finding it hard not to throw this portable computer across the room.

 

On the Street

Well, after having 3 weeks off from the gym, and replacing that natural drug which is released when you pump your bodies to exhaustion, with that powerful drug they call alcohol I’m back to my routine with the first port of call to get rid of all the tyres that have been placed around my midriff from the cider.

There is now only four months left until the big day and still the sponsorship is low, and so is my energy. I find running 5k easy on the treadmill, it’s flat and with my long legs I can complete the distance in 25 minutes. However the road is a different story, and with my area being a mix of up and downs as well as several small parks It’s taking me 25 minutes to run 4k. Still not that bad. What I find hard is getting my pace correct. If I run fast I become tired and out of breath, where on the old treadmill in the gym, I am fine running with my legs flapping all over the place in an uncontrolled sprint.

Anyway, I did some road jogging and got the pace correct, almost got hit my some cars and was almost ran over twice but apart from that I got home in one piece. The last time I went road running, the next couple of days my legs felt it, especially in the shins, so hopefully my warm up and cool down routine I did to-day will solve that little unfortunate issue, as that was the main course that prevented me from going to the gym as my legs would not of responded well to any more unnatural abuse in the strive to become fit and healthy, and hence the vacation in the land of beer also bought on my some turbulent times and just basically being annoyed and pissed off.

But I think I am back on track. All I need to do now is get my stomach back to expecting the food at the right times. As when I drink, and I wouldn’t say I’m a/or was an alcoholic, but I feel I have to continue until I am so pissed I fall asleep or at least all the beer and wine I have as been nested in my stomach. So a couple of drinks with friends after work would involve me going home to buy a bottle or two to continue the spirit by myself. With this, I cottoned on to making sure I got pissed at a slow rate, so I would eat before I drank, and then just before I went to bed I would have pizza or take-away to make sure the hang over was minor or in most cases not present.

Basically I was consuming a lot of calories, and my body still thinks he needs it. So when I go to the gym now I return to my flat with healthy food, but also some very high calorific items. This is not helping to deflate the tyres that have surrounded my once toned body (I wish) But running and burning off 1000 calories is easy, the hard part is to train yourself into eating the foods that are good for you, and not being tempted by those treats every second of the day.

Anyway, the jog was good, and I’m back in the routine, just in time for work to spoil it by going into a tech week and then I have a week off before I return to the cut and thrust world of self employment. I just have to remain focused on the training, and force myself to go when I have a spare minute or two.

And here comes the asking part as a blog entry about the training would not be complete with out the selfish act of me holding out my hands asking for any spare change. But unlike people on the street it’s not to buy a cup of tea, its to buy a life, or a machine that would ease someones suffering, or help give a family the support they need of loosing a loved one.

Any donations that you could spare, would keep me focused. I am trying to raise £500.00 for Christies a Cancer Charity based in Manchester, that treat patients from across the UK as well as researching treatments and causes. If you would like to donate then please click HERE to go to my just giving page, or if you know me personally then get in touch if you would like to give me the money direct.

Speak to you all soon