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Cymru

August 20th, 2016

red dragon

 

Cymru is the Welsh name for Wales and pronounced (Kamri)

Being an Englishman from the London area, most of my childhood vacation experiences  were primarily of the Eastern and South Coastal resorts, those close to London, However in my early teens my parents became more adventurous and began to visit places further afield, like The West Country.

Cornwall for example had more sheep than one could count in one night, The pastoral English country side, woodland hills, picturesque valleys, miles and miles of wild flowers that covered majestic coastal cliffs, winding paths leading down to isolated sandy beaches, and charming fishing villages, were all amazingly breathtaking to me! I was in ore of this natural spectacle, and whats even more remarkable, Is how Man not in any way by design, had unknowingly and unwittingly added to the natural beauty of this magical land with the creation of simple whitewashed dwellings scattered around the hillsides, and along cobblestone lanes and alleyways close to their place of work, “the harbour” all this then is the unique make up of Cornwall and a Cornish fishing village! If you’ve never been, Its a truly remarkable experience,, like being in another time, another world. Little wonder then, why so many poets, authors, and artists of all descriptions, find inspiration here!

Back in the 50’s and 60’s, 300 miles seemed like an eternity to travel, with the road system not much changed from the Twenties and Thirties, It was all of an 8/10 hour drive, quite a journey for those from certain precincts in the London area (affectionately known by me as the Pie & Mash Brigade) who were used to visiting coastal resorts like Clacton, Margate, or Southend on Sea, which were a mere 1/2 hours away!!

One couldn’t help noticing that this county was caught in a time warp if you will! certainly at the time, 30 years behind the pace of London and the South East, Due in part I believe to Cornwall’s remoteness and seemingly inaccessibility.

Wales then presented a similar but totally different feeling or challenge, even though it was geographically part of Britain and connected by land, it was a place with a different language, another country and again a long way to travel.

Like a scene from the famous 5 or Secret 7  novels I enjoyed reading as a boy, Wales then seemed to be that place “Over the hills, through the mist and far away” A land of battles, dragons, legends, and castles ravaged by the sea.

Newsreels however, told a totally different story, Of coal miners being rescued from a disaster 2000 feet down in the pits! Of young children with dirty hands and faces, rows and rows of soot covered terraced houses, with a back drop of slag heaps, and chimney stacks belching out black smoke, not a pretty sight, and became the vivid reality of never wanting to visit Wales any time soon! How wrong of me to judge the whole country on the hardships of people trying to survive and provide for their families! Cymru had so much more to offer as I was later to find out!

My very first visit to Wales was at the age of 9 during Spring Break, my Father had some business to attend to in Barry Island in South Wales, and decided to take me with him, Don’t remember too much about the visit! only that my Father dropped me off at Barry Beach for an hour or so while he took care of business, I do remember the beach was Huge and the Tide seemed miles away, I also remember buying myself an ice cream cone with part of the 2 shillings my father gave me, only to see to my dismay, two scoops of vanilla and lemon sorbet dump disastrously beneath my feet, all I could do was stare at the melting ice cream in the sand, followed by an awful feeling of helplessness (So far, not a good memory of Wales!!)

Fast forward then to my mid twenties, with a lady friend and a long weekend away from the routine of work in London. We had no pre set plans but somehow found myself driving to Barry Island, the scene of that childhood disaster with the ice cream! Of course I told the story to the girl I was with, while having sympathy for the incident, it didn’t stop us from both laughing our asses off about it, “Oh yes, we both had an ice cream cone No incident this time!! Traveling around the Pembrokeshire coast was as I recall stunningly beautiful, very similar to Cornwall in Scenery, with cliffs and firm sandy beaches that one could walk along for miles without ever seeing another person! Rossilli Beach was particularly memorable, picnicking on the beach with a loaf of crusty bread, cheese, wine and pate we had purchased locally, Such simple pleasures are often times the best! (whatever became of her! living happily I hope)

Many years later while researching for my tour business, I drove north and west from London through the Black Hills in Central Wales, and it was as I recall, an eye opener in many ways, First off, I noticed that everything seemed to move at a slower pace, I also remember stopping at a small sub post office in Buith Wells to mail post cards and buy some snacks, It was here for the first time in person I heard the Welsh language being spoken, 3 ladies who seemed to be friends, were chatting away in Welsh, when all at once the conversation stopped, they had suddenly noticed me, “A stranger in their midst” Just as I was leaving, they turned, their heads, nodded, smiled, and wished me a good day in English, They must have instinctively known I was an outworlder! I found the whole episode to be quite fascinating!

Traveling further North I spent the night at a delightful B&B in Dinas Mawddwy in Gwynedd. The Riverside Inn was situated on 3 acres of land on the edge of Snowdonia National Park  surrounded by dramatic high grass covered hills, flocks of welsh black face sheep, a pine forest, along with a trout and salmon laden river! It was one of those moments when the silence was deafening! what a calm setting, almost surreal, like being part of a romantic novel, or fairy tale!

I remember having a modest evening meal, followed by coffee and cognac served to me in the reading room, I sat in one of those well worn wing backed leather chairs by a comfy fireplace, You know the scene, like straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel or movie!

I awoke the following morning to a dawn chorus, an earthy fragrance of the land, and appetizing aromas of bacon and fresh brewed coffee,

As I looked out from my window, mist was hanging over the hilltops, and a couple of Red Necked Pheasants were foraging for food below, the silence and scene were golden!

Shortly after breakfast I continued my drive through Snowdonia and North Wales, passing through and by several dense pine forests, The Norfolk and Blue Spruce were especially magnificent towering hundreds of feet above the road.

Shortly after Dolgellau, I took what would become the coastal route to Harlech, Just before Porthmadog their is an awesome view of the entire Snowdon Mountain Range with the narrow gauge railway of Blaenau Festiniog running along side the road! More spectacular views of the Mountains and the West Coast of Wales were to be enjoyed after leaving Porthmadog. While soaking up this picturesque scenery, I noticed, remarkably very little commercial beach front development, just the occasional vacation trailer park, a few small farms and occasional private home but overall untouched, and unscathed, How refreshing and reassuring it was to enjoy such unspoiled natural beauty, with very little evidence of Mans commercial footprint!

To be continued

 

 

 

Northumberland Last Outpost?

August 1st, 2016

bamburgh

 

 

Northumbria is the colloquial name for Northumberland, This ancient kingdom covered a larger area in the 8th century, and is for my money, one of the best kept secrets England has to offer, 40 years ago one could have said this of Devon and Cornwall but alas not so today The climate in the South and West of England is generally speaking warmer due in part to the Gulf Stream, while in the North it tends to be more open, with higher terrain, lending itself to spectacular hill country, mountains, and valleys, the weather here being less predictable and at times more severe with greater amounts of Snow Fall in Winter!

A number of fine castles occupy prominent positions along the North Sea Coast, Bamburgh, Warksworth, and Alnwick, to name a few all owned by the Percy family dating back to medieval origins!

Hadrian’s Wall built by the Romans in the 2nd century A.D, is in the South of this most Northerly of English counties While Lindisfarne Holy Island is at it;s most North Eastern, Holy Island is just that a Holy Island much visited in the past and present day by religious groups wishing to see the very place that Cuthbert an 8th century monk lived and served his faith. An interesting fact is that this was the very first place on English soil the Vikings invaded in the late 8th century!

 

The Priory and Castle are the main features of the Island, and are a must to see! the Causeway which connects the island to the mainland is nature at it’s best, allowing one to access the island twice a day at low tide, which I personally find a fascinating natural phenomenon. One afternoon for my amusement, I sat and watched the tide rapidly covering the causeway, while day tourists were scurrying back to the mainland, by, car coach, and foot, all trying to beat the tide, sadly in the past some have  not been quite so fortunate, by easily miscalculating the water depth, and no doubt to ones astonishment, a few have found their beloved Volvo or Ford floating out to sea with them in it!! I never witnessed this personally, but video is on you tube if you care to to view!

Inland one can find the Cheviot Hills, part of the Pennines, which are known as the spine of England, offering wonderful hiking trails and picture postcard scenic beauty! GPS is recommended in this the least populated county in England, Truly the last outpost!

Happy Motoring!

I’ll Pass on the Mint Jelly!!

February 20th, 2015

sheepdog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Spring is a wonderful time to visit Britain, Spring flowers are in bloom throughout the land, the boughs of trees laden with fragrant blossoms, are a sight to behold!Incredibly there is something else blooming, at this time of year and that is that Mother Nature is working her magic by giving new life to a host of Farms across the country! I am referring to the many farm animals giving birth to their young! What one notices most of all are the frolicking Spring Lambs in their thousands, Breeds like South Down or Herdwick, Romney or Cheviot! Everywhere you look cute white coated black faced bundles of joy are nursing and playing in rich green pastures without a care in the world!

And if one is lucky enough,you may be able to witness the Border Collies in full swing herding sheep in a distant field obediently following the commands of the shepherd! It’s quite a sight to behold the team work displaid by both! The end result is the perfectly executed control of the flock!

Just pull off to the side of the road at a convenient unobtrusive spot, observe and enjoy nature at work soak it all in for as long as you care to! These simple pleasures are Free and come with no entrance fees!!  Spring time in Britain offers, in many ways a unique and wonderful experience, an experience we all so often take for granted, or seldom notice in ones quest to hurriedly visit the next venue, be it that Castle or Palace a short distance hence!

As a British born Tour Director, now living in the U.S. I am committed to bringing these types of wonderful happenings to the attention of my tour groups, and am truly gratified when enjoyed and appreciated by all on board!

So for now let’s pass on the mint jelly! (mint sauce if you’re a Brit)

 

 

 

British Christmas Traditions!

December 26th, 2014

winter-leaves1As we all know Christmas is the most wondrous time of the year for a Kid! But did you know in England, Christmas Eve Night is the best time being a kid! Besides the fact it’s perhaps the only night of the year you can get them to go to bed early! So I’ll let you into a special English childhood Tradition that not too many outsiders know about! When I was growing up, it was a tradition in most households, that the parents would tell their kids “You know it’s Getting time for Santa to come “!! Off we would go willingly into our beds!! Our Parents would wait for there kids to drop off to sleep! creep quietly into there room! Tie one of Mums old nylon stockings to the headboard, and fill it with tins of toffees, small gifties, nuts, fruits, and chocolate Santa’s! All good stuff for a kid! And if that wasn;t enough, all the Main Gifts for the little ones, would be wrapped and placed on his or her bed, below there feet ! Can you imagine the delight when we awoke in the middle of the night to these wonders! Bright eyed and totally ecstatic tearing off wrapping paper and eating chocolates and candy at 3 am in the morning Oh What Joys! Oh what memories ! and Oh what FUN!!

Obama – Messiah or Pariah?

November 9th, 2014

white house

Riding the crest of an electoral wave in 2008, Obama came to power, to a trumpets fanfare, in front of Greek columns, and a frenzied crowd of thousands being hailed virtually as a Demagog, as the new political Messiah!  With the message of Hope and Change, Chomping at the bit to totally transform the World, and these United States into his own world vision, Like an overlord or Emperor if you will He also touted openness, transparency, compromise and working with the other side by reaching out across the aisle!, (“We will achieve Great things he said”)

So hows that Svengali type spell and slick rhetoric working out after six years? Hows that “Hope and Change” working out? and his vision and promise for a New World order. I must confess like all things Hyped, they often dissipate and fade away!

However it would also depend on what political precincts you hail from! Followers of Obama would probably say wonderful! and the greatest leader of all time! While Dissenter’s  would probably say disastrous! and has perhaps become a liability a political Pariah!! Unbiased  independent thinkers, would have to say, Not very well at all!! Your humble blogger feels he has been a Failure, which is what happens when you place a community organizer with just a little over one years senatorial experience at the head of the most powerful nation on Earth! In my judgement he is simply Not qualified for the position he holds,

He delights in Bloviating for hours on end to an audience of Lemmings! all Searching for Utopia and altruism, which seems to appeal to the misguided, and naive, but is simply not reality for those of us that refuse to reside in the land of Oz! We clearly see through his self righteous charade and phoney motives!

What we surely need  is a Pragmatist and not an ideologue in the Oval Office, working for not just minorities, but for all the peoples in these United States!  Obama’s warped ideology are those of his misguided father, and  left wing liberal mother!  influenced by other left wing like minded liberals,  offering a harmful totalitarian autocratic vision and agenda! with his political loyalties lying somewhere on the fringes of Socialism and Communism!

Because of the resent Senatorial mid term elections, He has now lost the cover Harry Reid has provided him these past six years, by not having had to sign or veto bills, that will surely come his way now!  additionally because he no longer has a Democratic Senate or Congress to shield him, Will now ride rough shod over the nation with controversial Executive Orders, Stomping on the Constitution with an Executive Branch power grab, he will become a Law unto himself, Pushing the limits to his power in the Oval Office, Yes other presidents have exercised Executive Orders but nothing close to what we are going to witness during Obama’s last 2 years in office!  Some say he is a very smart person, So was The Pied Piper of Hamlin! To many a convincing orator, as was Hitler!  Cunning in his approach to other branches of government, showing little or no respect for them, bending the constitution to his own imperial desires, a Narcissist with Machiavellian traits, totally lacking in integrity.

One of the reasons he studied constitutional Law at Harvard was I believe to ultimately Weaken and Marginalize the United States, A job he has been groomed to accomplish by the far left since he was a community organizer! He has done a good job in working towards those ends in his 6 years in office! The damage he achieved in those 6 years, will pale in comparison! to the irreparable damage and harm he plans bestowing on this nation in his remaining 2 years! His legacy will prove to be the most controversial and damaging a leader  these United States has ever experienced!

I for one have never been fooled by this man, not for one moment! I saw right through his phoney facade from the get go! He’s not even a good Conn Man, rather like a Carpet Bagger selling snake oil, A used car salesman in a $1000 suit, or a southern baptist preacher ginning up his congregation into a euphoric like frenzy, which I’m sure he learned from listening to reverend wright in Chicago for over 20 years! And you wanna know the saddest thing about it all! Is that two thirds of the population bought his bill of goods!! Shame on you America for allowing this disengaged disconnected unqualified  ideologue to lead our country, and lead it I might add to almost the brink of disaster! Lets hope it’s not too late to save these United States!

 

 

 

Halloween Capers 2013/2014!

October 17th, 2014

witch cauldron Halloween is one of those occasions when the child tends to come out in us all!

We live in a new community that is essentially designed for Nester’s! Don’t ask me why this old fart is living here! I’m pretty much past the munchkin thing!

On Spook Night, my wife and I usually go the whole nine yards, Animated Witches, Frankensteins, Candy Bowls with moving hands, Goblins hanging from trees, you get the general idea!

We even dress up, Which is quite an unexpected fright for the little ghouls that knock on our door, to see my wife and I in Halloween Costume, Some kids are surprised and get all exited, while others are scared shitless! This year we were in Gorilla suits, waiting on our haunted porch, handing out the candy for awhile, Why we even scared the parents!

We never seem to buy enough candy, or just maybe the munchkins are dipping into the candy bowls a little heavier each year! At any rate, we ran out of goodies!

So in a moment of creative genius, I decided to freak out the Munchkins, by putting out a case of Campbell s Chicken Noodle Soup!!! Yes you got it Chicken Noodle Soup in cans!

We closed our door and peered through the curtains to see what reaction we were getting!

It was mixed, Some kids came to our door, Gob Smacked, jaws dropping, can in hand, looking around with a sense of astonishment, With as much as to say “What the hell do I do With this Silly Can of Soup” Then running back to their parents, squealing “Mommy Mommy look what I’ve Got”! Their equally shocked parents shaking their heads in amazement, some doubled over with laughter, While my wife and I were rolling on the floor, peeing our pants, laughing our Asses off!

This whole escapade to replace our out of stock candy with chicken noodle soup, might have made everyone’s Halloween, It certainly made ours!

We will perhaps be the talk of the neighbor hood for awhile, No doubt labeled, Those Gorilla people in the Scary Soup House at the end of the block!

But then isn’t Halloween supposed to be Scary, Crazy, and Fun! I’ll have to think up something unique for the Carolers at Christmas!!!!

Happy Spooky Halloween to you all

P.S. the picture is  from one of Jacquie Lawson E Cards, One of many creative greetings cards they offer at  jacquielawson.com

We at BTBT support this fine company, and highly recommend them to all who visit our site!

 

 

 

Turn Off The G.P.S.!!

October 1st, 2014

GPS

A question my clients often ask me while touring around Britain, Is why I don’t use G.P.S. or as its called in the U.K. Sat Nav?

This wonderful navigational tool can be an invaluable aid for the Amateur when traveling around any country one is not familiar with,  But for those of us Professionals and Purists of which I am one, The use of it can be a hindrance,  The whole purpose of touring is to explore new and wonderful places, on route to where one is heading! This can only be accomplished when I’m not being restricted by an incessant and annoying voice telling me to do this or do that!or take the next exit to my left, or right!

Having a pre set route takes not only the fun out of touring but the ability to be spontaneous! The key to a creative tour is just that, “Creativity”, And that creativeness can happen at any given time or place! There are of course those occasions when impromptu diversions are beyond our control, and are forced upon us, by an act of God, or the local Township,   (e.g. Land Slide, Power Outage, Flooding, Traffic Accident,  a Fallen Tree, or  Sheep being herded from one field to the next, All forcing us to divert!)

But most importantly (If time permits) The desire to be impromptu, by keeping ones options open can be a good thing, For example, Like showing my tour group  off the beaten track hidden gems, or unscheduled pleasant surprises, that can quite often be an exiting experience for all of us!

Additionally, from my own perspective, I  find it challenging and rewarding to use ones Brain to navigate, Being able to read a Printed Map, keeps me on my toes, And my mind alert! It’s easy to be lulled into a sense of complacency and Brain Laziness when one is given the answers ahead of time. I must confess with G.P.S there is simply very little navigational Challenge left for me!

I guess one could label me as Old Fashioned,  or as I mentioned above, A Purist when it comes to touring! Arguably, if one thinks about it, there is some Merit to this bloggers explanation!

So for those of you wishing to be adventurous, My advice is to turn off the G.P.S, Get a good map, follow the road signs, and just Wing it, You may have more fun!!

 

Bon Voyage

 

 

A British Summer’s Day

September 2nd, 2014

Rhossili-beach-1300

This Summers weather in Britain was for the most part fabulous! I can’t remember in resent years when there was so much consistent sunshine mixed in with the occasional localized shower or two! It was one of the few times when one could actually plan outdoor activities several days ahead!

From our B&B in Cornwall it was wonderful to see families taking to the beach soaking up the rays while their kids built sandcastles, and played in the Surf!  Jet Skiing, Sailing, and Wind Surfing were all being enjoyed with equal vigor! Each morning the local fishermen would catch the incoming tide, making the most of the delightful weather, plotting a course to their favorite fishing grounds! It’s easy to envy them, when the ocean is calm, and the skies are blue, how pleasant and relaxing it all seems, knowing that all too soon, mother nature could  have something less tame in store for them! for now, enjoying her at her most pleasurable!

My tour groups certainly had No complaints about the weather, happy smiles each morning looking forward to that days activities, a sheer delight it was, to show them, in abundance all the wonderful places and things these Isles have to offer on “A British Summers Day”

 

 

English Sticker Shock!!!

August 20th, 2014

monopoly-man

When in  Britain you may discover very quickly you need deep pockets, Sticker Shock is a fact of life for the American tourist, from gasoline prices to candy bars! From hotel tariffs to your morning cup of Joe! Don’t expect that Free refill of coffee, you will inevitably be charged for that second and third cup!

What ever you are used to spending in the U.S.A for every day needs, expect to double it, and in some cases triple your spending in Britain ( A Statistical Fact! Britain has one of the top 3 most expensive capitols in the world)

There is no doubt that a bargain is only relative to Brits themselves! what they consider a bargain or sale price, we look at as being overpriced!

There are very few establishments that offer Happy Hours, Ladies Nights, or even Guys Nights, along with complimentary snacks, that we in the U.S, have come to expect in many American Bars, Restaurants and Clubs! For example: Each morning in the States stores like Sams Club and Costco offer Free coffee, danish, and fresh fruit, and again at Lunch offer tasty samples of  a variety of fresh cooked items for it’s business members, which I believe  are all sound marketing strategies! This successful approach to acknowledging ones clientele, and to promoting ones business is quintessentially an American attribute, and virtually non existent in Britain!

Want to use the bathrooms, some gas stations supermarkets and restaurants have them, and some do not, Public Bathrooms if you can find them, have opening and closing times, (I wish I could say the same for my bodily functions!!) along with a charge to relieve ones self, expect to place 50 cents in a slot (correct change needed) and go through a turnstile to enter, (in London double that cost) if you have no change, and in danger of having an accident, Then the closest shrubbery may be your only option !!

Parking everywhere is at a premium,Want to visit Grandma at the local Hospital! Then expect to pay “Heavily” for parking, If of course you can find a spot!! good luck with that one!! Even the Traditional English Garden is undergoing a transition, slowly sucoming to an ugly cement slab in ones front yard to accommodate parking for the family’s many vehicles! So you see parking is a major issue everywhere in the populated area’s, all attributed to the incessant love affair the Brits have with their automobiles, This cause and effect, is the primary driver of limited parking and high parking costs in many parts of the U.K.!

However I’m just scratching the surface of what can be an overwhelming sticker shock experience, and at times inconvenience, so plan on bringing lots of $$$, and taking things as they come! It’s all about coughing up the cash, while understanding they do things a Little differently in Britain!!! My advice, Don’t make U.S. comparisons to the Brits themselves they will probably think you are bragging and wind up hating you for it! besides no one likes to be told their country has flaws and faults! Keep reminding yourself when purchasing something, or settling your dinner tab that this is Britain and not the U.S.A, Calmly dig out the Plastic, and quietly mutter to yourself “I’m on vacation” and it may all seem less painful!

An extra couple of unrelated side notes to be aware of!!  Firstly there is always that charmingly dependable English weather to look forward to! Rain and more Rain! Keep your fingers crossed the Rain Gods are asleep when you are there! It’s this very same climate inconsistency and wishing good value for money, that force many Brits to warmer climes for their own vacations! My second tip is, to avoid driving in or through large towns and cities,they can be the cornerstone of grid lock and bottle necks! And here’s a great little insider tip! Always expect the unexpected when driving around Britain, Its quite common to see  a Greyhound Bus, Mack Truck, or Combine Harvester, barreling towards you on back roads that were clearly designed for a Horse and Buggy! These back roads are without a doubt quaint, charming and beautiful, while offering splendid sights to see of the real Britain! but be aware they can be daunting and tricky to drive!

This Blog is not intended to upset or offend any British Patriots (although I’m sure it might, as the truth often offends those in denial!!) It is however just this Bloggers truthful facts, observations, and current hands on experience of what to expect and not to expect for their vacationing Cousins from the U.S of A.

Ta Ta for now, Happy Travels!

British Cottage Holidays

April 17th, 2014

mill-gardenSome of the very best of times spent in Britain can be when one rents a cozy period cottage for a week!

Being in one place cooking ones own food etc does have it’s advantages over B&B! It’s especially advantageous when one wishes to spend time exploring a certain part of Britain in depth! weather it be for research, historical curiosity, (as it is for my wife and I), or just the need to know more about a particular region!

Shopping at the local village stores is always amusing, the locals while friendly towards you always seem to know, you are still outsiders! renting so and so cottage at the end of the lane!

The pleasant hiking trails  across British country side coupled with the sites and sounds of the wildlife, the distant peeling of bells from another village church off in the distance is quintessentially British! Then there’s that tradition after a  memorable country walk, of rounding things off, with a much anticipated pint of local brew with lunch  in the local village pub, is quite definitely the ultimate in simple pleasures!! and does give one  a sense of being  part of the community for a short while! While at the same time, meeting interesting characters, and perhaps making new friends, is always a memorable occasion!

But one of the most rewarding experiences, is to relax in the coziness of a period cottage by a log fire with a good book at days end! What simple soothing pleasures these can be, and very therapeutic away from the hustle and bustle of the Hi Tech age we all live in today! Have I drawn up a delightful picture for you??

We plan this very same getaway in late May of this year! Perhaps you should try it too some time soon!!

Tower Bridge London, England
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