Love In The Time Of Sheep Racing

Living on Sark comes with its challenges much like living on any island that isn’t a booming tourist destination or owned by some millionaire. One of the most challenging aspects of living on an island is by far the company. With little to do and even fewer people to surround yourself with, it’s hard to find your people and even harder to find a significant other.

I went to Sark single and with every intention of leaving a single lady but as it turns out I found myself doing the exact opposite. I have indeed found myself a man… And he is a pretty decent one at that.

I’m not one for cliché stories but the way in which we met is possibly my favourite story to tell. We bumped into each other (almost literally) one very drunken night after a weekend of sheep racing.

Now although sheep racing is exactly what it says on the tin I am going to delve just a little deeper in to this island past time. As it turns out this is the biggest fund-raising event of the year on Sark. It doesn’t sound like much but when you are stuck on a really (and I mean really) small island in the middle of the English Channel you have to become adventurous with these things.

Unfortunately for me I was working the majority of the weekend and sleeping during my breaks which looking back now probably wasn’t worth missing this remarkable event. No fear though, I have been treated to the story of how Derek won Alan £2.50 on more than one occasion. So sheep racing for those who are pictorially challenged is where you do your best to strap a teddy bear to a sheep and encourage it to run an obstacle course as fast as its four legs can carry it. I’m not even joking. Check Google images if you don’t believe me, unfortunately as I didn’t attend I don’t have any photos to prove it for myself. You win some and you lose some, it’s always a gamble but for those who don’t like to throw money at beats running there are plenty of other ways to be entertained. A well stocked bar for one is always a good place to start but there are fancy dress competitions as well as other typical fete themed fun stuff to enjoy too.

So what exactly was Alan, a physiotherapist from Stratford doing in Sark for a weekend of watching woolly wildlife race? Well, he didn’t come over from London specifically for this occasion, he was working on Guernsey and when living on the islands one has to just get involved with island life shenanigans!

I can assure you that I had not expected to meet a man on the dance floor, many a cider down and borderline drunk and I am sure that Alan hadn’t expected to meet such a diamond in the rough either (excuse the cheese… and the modesty). He has believe it or not said that I am a diamond more than once so technically these are his words not mine.

We met on the dance floor somewhere between the Rolling Stones and The Fray. It wasn’t love at first sight for me, he was wearing a cookie monster t-shirt and was getting far too emotional and in to the music than my drunken self could handle but for him apparently he couldn’t keep his eyes of me (or so I’m told), and apparently couldn’t resist my epic dance moves (thank you Rekorderlig) and my cattle whistling (thank you sibling rivalry). One cider obviously led to another and before you know it I was willing to hand out my number to any stranger brave and forward enough to ask for it.

Instantly regretting my decision I prayed to the universe to have put one digit in wrong but apparently even intoxicated I’m still capable of typing. In true ‘morning after the night before’ fashion I woke up with The Fear and prayed once again to the universe that the previous night hadn’t happened. Not only did I hand my phone number out to a complete stranger I also decided that outside the church and in front of the cemetery would be a fine place to have a wee. Forgive me God; I don’t know if this is a sin!

I hadn’t foreseen that four months later we would be living together in Bangor and planning a trip to Kenya for Christmas for him to meet the family. Don’t get me wrong, getting to this point hasn’t been easy but it’s been pretty incredible.

At first I was a little skeptic, he was laying on the cheese thick and was being quite intense from the get go so of course my sober mind was telling me that all he wants to do is chop me up in to little pieces and store me in his refrigerator. Turns out he just really liked my eyes and loved me from the very first moment he set his eyes on me. I thought this kind of thing only happened in movies but like most things in my world I end up having to swallow my words.

It has only been four months but what a glorious four months it has been. I still remain un-butchered and he continues to spoil me with weekends away as well as bacon sandwiches in bed (I should say that he’s a vegetarian!)

If Sark has taught me one thing, it’s that even though you are stuck on a very very small island in the middle of a sea you never know who you will meet or what opportunities will come your way. Not only have I met some of the coolest people who know how to live island life to the fullest but I’ve also met someone who I have begun to think I could spend the rest of my life with.

I once read that you never know what comes from a few seconds on insane bravery and it couldn’t be truer. Alan has shown me what it means to be loved and to love in return and it’s because of his few seconds of courage that I now know that even with all my sides of crazy I can be someone’s whole world.

It’s been a long time coming but feeling this happy has been worth the wait. I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again, never settle for anything less than extraordinary but most importantly never underestimate what travelling to unpopular and out-of-the-way places can do for you, more often than not it’s life changing. There really is nothing better than this in this world. True story.

Sark Life

Recently I have found myself somewhat stranded on an island. Not quite a deserted one but if the Barclay brothers (co-owners of the Daily Telegraph) have their way then it could well be one some day. Before you get all excited about island life, I’m going to burst your bubble by saying that I’m on Sark, which can be located somewhere in the English Channel. Hardly the Bahamas or Caribbean or anywhere remotely exotic but still somewhere that I think should be included on an itinerary for the UK. I’m also hardly stranded here, only a Ferry ride away from Guernsey I can quite easily get on and off this island if work permitted. Sadly though this summer is all about working and not playing so I rarely have time for much other than sleep and sunbathing on the beach.

In terms of work… I have found myself breaking my vow and working in a hotel of all places. I thought Australia was the last time and I was quite adamant that it would be but sadly the student life has led to an unhealthy bank balance and I found myself contemplating whether selling organs to pay my rent was a good idea. I consequently decided that although I could get quite a lot of money for them, the after effects were just not worth it. I am therefore sucking it up for one more summer… but I am vowing that this will definitely be the last time. Fact.

Next year I will be working for some sort of publication… Hopefully. Even if it means camping out on the steps at NatGeo HQ and bothering them enough until they have no choice but to either consider me or have me arrested. When next summer rolls around do me a favour and remind me of this plan. I have decided that if all my follows are witness to this statement I will be more inclined to buy a tent and possibly even a gas stove. I may be camping on some building steps but at least I’ll be dry and not hungry.

Anyway as per usual I am digressing from my main point. Right now I am on Sark and this is all about the island life.

I’m actually not quite sure where to start, seeing as I have very little time for playing (thanks work) I find myself exploring the island bit by bit. I think for starters I should give you a little background knowledge and then go from there and see how that goes. I have a feeling this is going to turn in to another little series of blog posts because if I highlight it all in one go I will miss out some good things and there will be another long stretch of silence from me and I wouldn’t want you thinking the fishermen have kidnapped me and are holding me hostage.

For starters, Sark is only a short flight and ferry ride away from the UK so if you haven’t already been here I suggest that you take it in to consideration. If you own a boat, I hear it’s a great place for sailing too! The unique selling point of this island well in my book anyway is that there is no danger of being run over by a bus or even a car for that matter. There is no tarmac on any of the main roads here and the main mode of transport is horse and carriage or bicycle. If these two are too adventurous even for you, have no fear because the island is very small so you can walk just about anywhere worth visiting in under an hour, give or take a minute or two. There are one or two tractors that you need to avoid but other than that I would say that crossing the road here could be done without looking both ways. I know living life on the edge like you would not believe.

Also a fun fact for you, Sark has been designated as a Dark Sky Community and consequently the first dark island in the world. This is due to having no vehicles and no streetlights so no light pollution. FYI if you do plan on coming here bring a torch because walking home from the pub at night is slightly more hazardous than normal but do yourself a favour and stop and look up at the sky once in a while; the stars are almost as impressive as the Kenya night sky.

Anyway, as mentioned before, the Barclay Brothers are slowly but surely trying to take over this island. Once upon a time there were many hotels and now there are only two; one of which I work at. This has of course pissed off the locals and hasn’t done good things to Sark’s economy but I can’t help but see a little genius in the evil brothers plans. I have been here just over a month but already the beauty of Sark is hard to miss. The seawater may not be warm and the beaches far from pristine white sands but the views and the general setting alone are enough for me to want to join them. My family and I have always thought that owning an island would be the thing of the future so I’m definitely on board with the idea, and if there were an island to own Sark would certainly be some top island real estate.

Ok before anyone goes sharpening their pitchforks or filing some police reports all I am saying is that I don’t blame them. They have the money and sadly with money comes power so what do you expect? I do on the other hand hope for Sark’s sake that it doesn’t happen. The UK really does have a little slice of island paradise and it would be a shame for it not to be open to the public. There are also some really quirky characters that have lived here for years and it wouldn’t be the same without them. I actually don’t know much about the politics surrounding this but it’s always a topic of conversation so maybe one day I will return and do some more digging of my own and really uncover what goes on here. For now though I am going to keep my head down and just enjoy the rocky beaches and impressive views.

Speaking of views… I am in a slight quandary. Do I or do I not include Sark as a new country? Recently the UN has granted this little island it’s own country code and it does have it’s own parliament and laws so going by my rule book this would make country number 17. I say 17 because I have also been to Guernsey, which is in the same boat as Sark. I also feel that as I have considered England and Wales as separate then Sark and Guernsey should be no different. I’m definitely going to need an unbiased opinion on this so if any of you know of someone who carries the official rulebook to this kind of thing let me know. Similarly feel free to let me know what you think.

Until then I’m going to get back to my pebbly perch and chilled cider but I promise that once I am done baking myself in the sun I shall update you on the must dos and sees of this very strange but actually quite awesome little island.

The Cure For Everything

Barely a stones throw away from Bangor, Beaumaris is a very sweet little fishing village that packs in an amazing view. I have often been tempted to trek across the Menai Strait marsh to go for an ice cream. Yes, I could swim there if the waters were warmer, it’s that close.

Unfortunately I’m not in the tropics so the sea has quite a chill to it but thankfully this is also the UK where public transportation functions the majority of the time. A short bus drive through the country lanes and sheep farms of Anglesey, Beaumaris is a place that you simply have to visit when in North Wales.

I have even searched high and low for some fun facts for you all. It’s not the best I have found as of yet but it will do. Pay attention, this could be useful when it comes to pub quiz trivia. So get that Wales guidebook out again and find the highlighters, I can guarantee that you will not want to drive past this town in too much of a hurry.

Biwmares as the Walians call it is home to one the most technically perfect castles in the UK. With it’s classic proportions and perfect symmetry it is quite a site. It even has its very own moat that is home to a swan or two. If I was a castle enthusiast, I am sure this would be considered castle porn. As I am not too familiar with castles I can’t be sure but from a fine-architecture enthusiasts point of view it is beautiful. If Edward I had actually finished it I know that it would be even more spectacular.

According to some other website, he was running out of money and the Scots were being very effective with their resistance to the English Monarch so his grip on Wales was slowly but surely slipping out of his hands. Long story short, he had to focus his attention elsewhere so the rest was left as quite literally history. It gets a little more technical with the extravagant plans of “walls within walls” and the high-techyness (not and actual word I know) of if too but I have a feeling that I could be boring you to sleep if I continue for much more. Apparently it also pissed of the locals who were forced to move to a nearby beach. Who would have thought a cool castle would be so an irritation?

Anyway Google it if you fancy some more information. I didn’t go in to the castle itself so I can’t tell you much more, I don’t think it would be very fair. It’s a pricey place in my opinion too but I think that’s because I continue to live on a very tight student budget!

You are probably thinking this isn’t much of a fun-fact, that’s because it isn’t really the fun-fact I had in mind. A little history has to be done when it comes to these things, especially when castles are involved, not all facts should be fun really.

The real fun fact of Beaumaris is actually to do with the name of the town. Beau Maris in French means ‘beautiful husbands’ so as you imagine people get quite confused as to why this small fishing village in named after good-looking people. The truth is, it’s a corruption of Beaux Marais, which means ‘beautiful marshes’, and of course this makes more sense. Edward I (the man who didn’t finish building the castle) was French-speaking which is why it is derived from the French language. And of course the Welsh being Welsh, they have named it Biwmares, which I think is just the Welsh world for Beaumaris (I’m still don’t know how to speak Welsh).

This small quaint fishing village in indeed quite beautiful and I guess it is quite marshy too so I can see where the inspiration came from. The views alone to the Snowdonia Mountains make the town a worthwhile place to visit. No denying it, the castle has it’s own beauty and dark story to it too but there is nothing more beautiful than snow-capped mountains down by the sea.

Obviously on a cloudy day these wont be visible so you have to put your order in for some sunshine with the weather Gods but even if it is cloudy there are other things that more than make up for it. As it is a fishing village you can entertain yourself with a spot of fishing off the pier, take a walk in the countryside, explore the Georgian architecture, grab a seafood lunch (highly recommended) or just have an ice cream.

You are probably thinking ice cream during winter is downright insanity but trust me. The Red Boat ice cream parlour isn’t famous for nothing. It’s all hand-made and with so much love you can actually taste it in the flavours. I couldn’t decide on which flavour so I went for the Mascarpone, strawberry and balsamic vinegar one only because apparently its their most famous?!? Anyway it was beyond delicious and I could have sat there all day just eating myself silly on the overly yummy goodness. Just looking at the chocolate one alone gave me diabetes but I imagined that it would be so worth it. After a delicious seafood lunch at the Pier House this was the dessert to beat all desserts. And it’s not expensive either, you would think that with the fame the ice cream would cost a fortune, it’s doesn’t. I would have paid much more for my scoop, well worth every penny of the £2.50.

Take it away in a cone or a cup and find a bench down by the waterfront and just sit. There is no better place to watch the world go by and to contemplate anything. With the calm sea, different shades of blue everywhere, the snow-capped mountains, and a little sunshine topped off with the orgasmic ice cream you are bound to forget any worries even for a short while.

The cure for everything isn’t just salt water anymore; it’s strawberries, sexy castles and of course stunning scenery as well. You also never know what could happen, you may be lucky enough to find your Beau Maris around town too. I have a lot of love for this beautiful marsh and you should too.

LlanfairPG (For Short)

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

It may look like I have just slammed my head down on the keyboard but I haven’t, I promise, although I came close to it. Trying to spell it alone was painful enough I couldn’t even begin to imagine saying it. I have developed a theory that pronouncing this ridiculous word is only possible if you are either A. Welsh or B. a genius. For those of you who can indeed say this with perfection, you deserve some sort of certificate; because I have tried and failed many a time therefore have decided it was high time to give up. This obviously long and complicated word is the name of a not so long and complicated town situated somewhere in the North of Wales along the Menai Strait. Look it up if you don’t believe me. I know you are wondering why someone in their right mind would name a town in such a way; it must be purely for the humour factor right? Give it a go for yourself… don’t you sound like an idiot and wouldn’t it make for light entertainment? The truth is, they weren’t looking for cheap laughs and it wasn’t trickery either. It was all just a ploy to get more tourists to visit this sleepy village packed with a little history. Speaking of history, Llanfair PG (for short) used to be called Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, which is, as you see, just as hard to pronounce. In the 19th century it was decided that this town deserved to be recognized so the only way to do it was to make the already overly complicated town name even more overly complicated. Please note, sometimes I can do even a little history. Their aim was to encourage tourists to the area and for once a crazy idea actually worked. By giving this town the famous and uber long consonant-mangling name and therefore an uber long station sign, they were on to a winner. The effect I like to imagine must have been something similar to throwing bread at a duck pond: feed them and they will come. Tourists (myself included) flocked (pun intended) from all over the world to get the much-needed cheesy photograph (no doubt a selfie) with the longest one-word place-name in Europe. You would think that with such a high number of tourists the town would be a booming metropolis of shops and sights and all things tourists like, I can assure you it isn’t. There is a shop and there are sights but these do not rank highly on anyone’s to do list. To give credit where credit is due, the shop might be of interest because as shops go it is the mac daddy of malls, but an hour or two is all you need to cross this place off your list. To this, I can testify. Only yesterday I found myself procrastinating, and doing my best to avoid any university work so I decided to go somewhere that was close and of course cheap. I have been to Llanfair PG before in all honesty but I only stopped for no more than 10 minutes. This time I thought I would give it the best part of 3 hours, a good amount of time to avoid work at all costs especially if I factored in the need for some well-earned sustenance, after all sightseeing is hungry work! Ok in all fairness, I did wait for the train for an hour which even I couldn’t justify but seeing as I spent at least and hour in the shop already I couldn’t think of anything else to do and I conveniently left my required reading at home. From bedding to crockery, model trains to tweed coats, whiskey to trinkets, you can walk away with everything including the kitchen sink and it is all conveniently laid out in one not so small shop. Let’s not go forgetting the standard knickknack souvenirs that you find in every tourist shop either! It has everything. Of all things I could have walked away with, my favourite thing that I found in the shop of all shops was this:

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I have in my hand the smallest bottle of scotch whiskey, and no I do not have giant hands. So not only does this small Welsh town have the longest one word place-name in Europe but it also has a collection of the smallest bottles of whiskey. And why not? Well, if you are going to hold a Guinness World Record, why stop at just one. I couldn’t agree more. When you have shopped your house and car full may I suggest taking a little walk, there are a couple of historical columns to climb up (it’s only 115 steps) with views that I can only imagine as dreamy. The one I am talking of in particular is the Marquess of Anglesey’s Column which commemorates Wellington’s right hand man in the 1815 battle of Waterloo; Henry William Paget. I know, yet more history, even I am starting to amaze myself! Unfortunately it was closed but I know the view can’t be anything less than incredible up there. If you have a look at http://olivingthedreamphotography.com you will see some of my photos. Ok so these roadside versions do not do it justice and the snow isn’t a permanent feature but you get the gist. Shame about the pylons though, but I guess you can’t have it all! These scenes of snow-capped mountains and sheep actually remind me of New Zealand. The longer I live here the more I am discovering why I find these grounds so familiar. New Zealand as you know is my home away from home so Wales is quickly becoming my home away from my home away from home. It took a while to work out that sentence, not going to lie. It is because of this that Wales, in my book, has become a forgotten part of the world. I have therefore vowed to myself to do the best I can to get it back on everyone’s maps, and what a better place to start than the town with two world records. So mark the town of Saint Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a rapid Whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio near the Red Cave on your maps because with a name like that do you really need any other reason? From myths to mountains, world records to recorded worlds and more castles than you can count on two hands there is so much on offer in Wales that will whet absolutely anyone’s appetite. Get out those guidebooks and prepare to highlight the fun facts readers because this is just the start of my very own Epic Welsh Adventure.

The Countryside Version Of London

Bristol may not be the number one destination for most people but seeing as I know enough people there I thought I should pay a visit to the place people call “Little London”. Bristol is most famous for the infamous graffiti artist who has been stencilling his way around the globe and in to the hearts of any lover of street art. I can’t say I am a great following of Banksy; I don’t tour the globe hoping to catch a glimpse of his latest masterpiece and I certainly don’t sign myself up to all the many appreciation societies or the like. I do however enjoy oohing and aahing at his latest and greatest. And what better place to ooh and aah than Bristol?

Banksy isn’t the only street artist to plaster the walls and doors of this city, if you walk down Gloucester Road alone you will get dizzy crisscrossing the road to try to absorb it all. Wonder down all the little alleyways too and pay attention to the shutters of all the shops. There is art and talent to be seen absolutely everywhere. It takes a while to walk down the road so I would strongly suggest a good breakfast and even a boosting smoothie from the two Boston Tea Party shops that can be found in that area. If BTP doesn’t take your fancy there are heaps of other independent shops and cafes for everyone’s taste buds. Plug in the tunes and have the camera ready, this road alone is enough to entertain you for a whole morning! Keep an eye out for the Banksy that can be seen on one of the walls there too, it’s a goody! I hear there are a couple of others not to far away either so if he is your thing then download the map or join a walking tour and get seeing!

If you are starting to feel peckish pick up a map and head down to St. Nicolas market for a bite to eat. From Moroccan to pies and even biltong (South African delicacy) you really can’t go wrong. The smell alone is enough to get your mouth-watering. Pick a place and dine in or take out. Pretty cheap too and students wave your cards about, there are many discounts to be had! Be warned it does get busy but don’t let that put you off. When bellies are full and the feet have recovered from the walking, head further down to Queens Square and sit for a while, watch the world go by and soak up the sun (if it’s a summers day). If you don’t fancy just sitting then keep walking and head towards the Marina, here you will find yet another Banksy (my personal favourite) and maybe even a pirate ship or two. The M Shed Museum will also give you the run down on the history of Bristol if you fancy something a little more history based. Pretty exciting stuff for a city in England!

I think that’s about all you would want to do in a day, it’s quite a lot of walking and sightseeing so head back up towards the market and find the Milk Thistle speakeasy bar or any restaurant that happens to waft your way. Another brilliant feature of Bristol is the food, I would love to go back and feed myself silly on a restaurant tour. From breakfast to brunch, dinner and even just tapas there is so much on offer. Make sure you book, it’s a busy place so don’t get disappointed. I only managed a trip to The Ox on Corn Street but it was the best steak I have had and the atmosphere made it all the more so. It’s down in a basement somewhere but ask and someone will point you in the right direction. I am only going to touch on this subject as I ran out of time but find some locals and ask them where and what it is that you should be eating and drinking. There is so much happening you will be spoilt for choice!

When you have eaten and drunk yourself in to a coma jump on a canal boat tour or venture up to Clifton. There are some really cute knick-knack type shops and more cafes to savour and enjoy! The view to the suspension bridge and across the city is also something to marvel at and just the coloured houses alone are enough to keep the eyes well entertained. Don’t forget Bristol is also a massive student town so keep and eye out for the wild parties if you want to throw some shapes and if you find yourself around the area from the 6th to the 9th August live a little and join in with the annual balloon fiesta, it’s not to be missed!

I will be going back to Bristol soon and will of course update you on more of the ‘must dos’ but with so much to see, do and eat you would be silly not to stop by if you are around. Keep in mind that Bath is just down the road too so why not make the most of what the South West of England has to offer. Check out http://visitbristol.co.uk for a more up to date version of the what’s what and who’s who and get planning. Who needs the bright lights of the big city London when you can get all this and more in the smaller countryside version?

Head over to http://olivingthedreamphotography.com for a little insight in to the wonders of Bristol.

To Bathe Or Not To Bathe

There is absolutely no question about this; you cannot bathe in the Roman Baths but people once used to. If you could indeed bathe like the good old days you definitely wouldn’t want to anyway, the water is a not so delicious shade of green and just think of all those naked bodies stewing in the warm waters. Eeks. All bathing aside though, these definitely warrant a visit.
I’m not going to rant on and on about the history of the baths or the surrounding buildings, you have Google for that, but I am going to tell you why you need to join the millions of viewers and get planning your trip.

Firstly if you have been paying attention and of course reading my previous blog posts you will know that I have a not so secret obsessive love for architecture. Bath does not disappoint so why would the Roman Baths be an exception? There is something to be said about the building, dating back quite a few years ago it has a lot of character plastered in to the walls and the stones would tell a good tale if they could talk. From the floor to the ceiling there are so many details to look at you will get dizzy trying to take them all in. Pay special attention to the ceiling in the ticket hall, be warned you neck will get sore but every sore muscle is so worth it.

If the architecture is of no interest to you, you need to rethink this but do not despair because the baths are more than just a beautiful building. Thanks to the audio guides that come in 8 different languages you can be as antisocial as you like! It also just happens to be quite amusing for children too so for the parents out there, be safe in the knowledge that it is definitely a family friendly affair. My personal preference was actually the children’s version of the history. I’m not a fan of just being spoken at in jargon I don’t understand so the child’s version suited me just fine. For those who would like to know each and every historical fact possible then of course there is enough signage and some boring history buff, actually I think it’s Bill Bryson chatting at you on the end of a phone. If that’s your kind of thing then you will not be disappointed, please not this is coming from someone who has no interest in learning history!

If you aren’t interested in neither the history nor the architecture then perhaps you might be in the wrong city! The whole point of Bath is the Roman Baths, if they weren’t so important then the town certainly wouldn’t be called Bath. I can assure you that even though you think you will be bored to tears you won’t. This building is like art, you have to search for what you enjoy but it really is exciting for everyone and I just know you will find something to entertain yourself with. If millions of people visit each year then just think of the people watching facilities but those numbers speak for themselves really! There are plenty of shops to traipse through and even some wishing pools dotted about the place as well. Perhaps you could toss a penny or two in the hopes that your wish for a speedy exit will come true but if 3 small children can be highly entertained for a couple of hours, I am sure you can brave it for a few minutes too. You simply can’t go to Bath without visiting the Baths; it’s almost a sacrilege.

When you have delighted in the waters until you can’t take anymore then feel free to pop in to The Pump Room for a delicious lunch. I didn’t actually sit down for a meal, because we had small children who had no desire to sit there for another hour or so but everything looked and smelled extremely delicious as we walked through. As a fun fact of the day, the water they serve if from the Baths themselves. I am hoping it’s not the green water that you see but from the springs instead. Apparently it contains 42 minerals and is believed to have healing powers, not bad for a glass of water really. They do various high teas, and offer children’s specials as well. If you would like lunch, book ahead because the restaurant always looked busy!

The opening times are quite decent but they do differ from season to season, so make sure you check these first before booking your trips. From what I can see on their ticket pricing you have a few options too. Buying early always saves a few pennies so it is never a bad idea to think ahead. Students also get the much enjoyed discounts so don’t forget to take any student ID cards that you will need. You don’t need much time to make you way around the whole building but plan to spend either a whole morning or afternoon there. I would also try to time it well with a visit to Bath Abbey (see previous post) as they are in the same area. The bus stop for the hop-on-hop-off buses also leaves from close by so you have that option as well.

Keep an eye out for any bargains when booking your hotel rooms or other activities; they do offer package deals and of course family deals too! If you go in summer, you may also be able to go on a later tour where the baths are lit up with torches. Dinner in The Pump Room followed by an evening wandering around a beautiful building really does sound like the perfect way to spend a summer’s evening, and what a city to be spending it in too!

Now that I have done all the major touristy things in Bath, I am really looking forward to heading back there to explore the more local side of such a great British city. Don’t worry; I shall do my best to always keep you posted.
In the meantime, get planning; Bath isn’t going to see itself you know!

The Beauty Of Bath

This is one guilty pleasure that I am not so ashamed to admit and I also know I am not the only one either but I just love the beauty of buildings. Pretty sure I should have been an architect or even a builder but I just can’t help but soak up the stories from the bricks and tiles used in constructing the buildings of our lives. Quite deep and philosophical but have a think about it, take for example an old church or listed building and breathe in the life of that one place, there is just something quite astonishing in the design, the structure and the method of how it was built. I am a big fan of wildlife, wild open spaces and nature but I definitely find the same appreciation for some man-made structures as well.

Bath in Somerset is my idea of building heaven. I have spent quite a lot of time in Bath and every time I go there I see something new, not a new building per se but a building that I hadn’t noticed before. A while ago now I was lucky enough to get the pleasure of jumping on one of those hop-on red buses that most English towns seem to have. Quite a nerdy way to spend a day but I was looking after my niece and nephew from the extended side of my family. They really wanted to go on a tour, for what I am not entirely sure but I am guessing that as they live in Kenya, English life and our concrete jungles are somewhat of a novelty. I know I was much more excited that the both of them put together but in my defence from a story or two up everything changes.

It’s no a surprise to me that Bath has been a World Heritage Site since 1987 largely due to it’s architecture. Fun fact of the day for you: it is the only city in its entirety in Britain to achieve World Heritage status (thanks Wikipedia). Quite impressive really, those statuses aren’t handed out like candy on Halloween, they take some work. A status that Bath is certainly well deserved of, from the high street shops, to the larger office and residential blocks to the Abbey and Roman Baths it does not disappoint. This is true architecture at it’s absolute finest, coming a close second to Budapest on my scale of love for cities.

Leaving out the nitty-gritty historical facts again here because I will only be stealing that information from online sources so I see no point. If you would like to know more Google will be much more useful to you but I will share with you some of my personal favourites and of course the most well-known buildings of the city. All of these can be seen on the bus tours, which run frequently and there are some options of types of tours that you can take. Tickets can be purchased just about anywhere but the best place to leave from is the stop near Bath Abbey. There is a large ticket office with maps and the standard touristy souvenirs for you to amuse yourself with and they have mountains of information too. They are really helpful and within a matter of minutes you can have a jam-packed schedule organised down to the last stop.

This is where my tour started from, but we paid a visit to Bath Abbey first. I am not a church-goer normally but a stunning building from the outside I couldn’t resist a sneak peek on the inside. Tours of the Abbey only happen at certain times of the day and all it costs is a tiny donation fee (exact information can be found here: http://www.bathabbey.org). As these tours only run at certain hours I would plan ahead so the levels of disappointment are kept to a minimum. You don’t have to spend long if you don’t want to, it may look big but in actual fact from the inside it isn’t as huge as you would imagine. Admittedly there is a lot to look at so if you are only there for a couple of minutes something went wrong. Take your time; soak it all up and read the given information too, the Abbey is so beautiful and such an impressive structure. I was in awe of all the finer details (check out the ceiling) and just the scale of the place, I went there purely for the architecture but for other people there is so much more to take from this. It is art in the truest sense of the word, take from it what you want but I will guarantee that no matter who you are you will find something that captures your attention. Please have a look at this link: http://olivingthedreamphotography.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/the-beauty-of-bath/ for some more of my photos. It’s all building and not much else but you get an idea of what I am going on about.

From here you meander around the city, the bus itself is just a big red bus (sorry the novelty has worn off for me) but with no roof it is ideal for sightseeing. Luckily as I went in the summer I was fortunate enough to be graced with sunshine, Bath is so beautiful that even in the rain you can still enjoy it though I am sure of this. The bus does have a covered base area but the top deck is the best place to get up close with the bricks and mortar so I recommend braving it if the elements are tolerable. As you drive around have a look at some of the houses, I don’t know what the buildings are called so I can’t tell which to look out for specifically but near the Jane Austen museum you will find quite a few that deserve your full attention, namely one that is covered in creepers, it can’t be missed. Don’t worry the audio guide will keep you informed at all times so nothing will be go past you unnoticed, this is also a much more interactive and exciting way to get all the history. Google is pretty cool but it definitely doesn’t beat running commentary. The tour goes on for a couple of hours but like I said there are some options. If you drive by somewhere you fancy spending some more time feel free to hop on and off, I think there may be restrictions on how many times you can do this and your ticket is only valid for 24 hours but you check out all the details here: http://visitbath.co.uk/things-to-do/tours-and-sightseeing, this site also gives you many other ways of getting round all of bath. Perhaps next time I go I will be looking for something more adventurous than a double-decker bus!

When you are done with the big red bus and have seen enough rooftops to satisfy your love for architecture then Bath is full to the brim of restaurants and bars. Finding a place that everyone will love won’t be an issue, the variety of choice is ridiculous and the settings are in their numbers too. I come from a family of chefs so I appreciate the finer dining and I was not disappointed, I guarantee that what ever you are looking for you will find it. Don’t settle for McDonald’s or KFC, it’s almost an insult to the city! If you aren’t sure where to go or don’t want to walk around searching then always ask the locals; they can maybe let you in to a little hidden gem. Just be aware that Bath is busy so it’s not a bad idea to plan ahead and book tables. Jamie Oliver does a good deli for those wanting a quick bite and there are plenty of good pie shops and sandwich bars around the main square. The ice cream and fudge around town is delicious too so same some space for dessert!

As with many British towns, the shopping is always a prominent aspect, with all the typical high street brands and even some not so well-known shops around every corner. The shopaholic among us will definitely find some amusement a long the main streets somewhere but don’t just stick to the main streets, if you head on out-of-town and keep your eyes out a long those roads, the shops get quite quirky but you are bound to find a few treasures among them. If shopping is not your thing then grab and ice cream, find a bench and watch the craziness of Bath unfold. From the man who has an unhealthy love for pigeons to painted models pretending to be statues you will be entertained for hours watching the world go by. As towns go Bath is really bizarre but in my opinion that just adds to its beauty.

Before you exhaust yourself completely with all things the city has to offer save some energy and excitement for the Roman Baths. I should really have mentioned this first but as they are such a big part of Bath I thought that I would give them the honour of a separate post. I won’t say much as I don’t want to spoil the surprise but just keep them in mind. They rock my world in so many ways from the audio to the architecture, you find yourself spending absolutely ages in there without even noticing! The tour itself seems endless but their beauty and charm is endless too. In my opinion they are definitely the icing on top of an already pretty delicious cake! (Excuse the cheese; architecture has that effect on me). I know there is so much more to see and do and I have missed out some important places as well, namely the Jane Austen Museum, but I will definitely be returning there again soon so if you aren’t sold on the city yet don’t worry there is definitely a lot more places to explore, don’t give up just yet.

 

All Rocked Out

I haven’t been air guitar-ing away at some cheesy rock concert with men who have unwashed hair and an unhealthy fondness for tight jeans, nor have I therefore overdosed on the mosh pit and crowd surfing (I am not that cool). I have however over rocked out with some oldies, Neolithic and prehistoric oldies to be truthful but they did indeed rock or more precisely they were rocks.

You are probably wondering what I am talking about, well if you don’t already know I take it you are either A. Not from this country or B. Haven’t seen my photography blog! (Like what I did there, cunning I thought! Check it out at olivingthedreamphotography.wordpress.com)
I recently paid a visit to the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Don’t worry; I am not about to start giving you an in-depth recount of the History of why and who only because I am no historian. But If you are interested in the finite facts and figures then I am sure Google will help, or better yet the actual stones themselves tell quite a mystical story so pay them a visit, you wont be disappointed!

Speaking of disappointment, I’m also slightly afraid to admit that while the Stonehenge is impressive and quite cool I can’t help but feeling that much like Australia and their beloved Opera House, us English folk have done the same to these rocks, and have given them a slight over-rating (please note I said slight.) Ease up on the hate mail and cyber abuse and give me a chance to explain. Also again please note that I did say slightly.
From start to finish if I had to rate the experience on a scale of 1 to 5 (think if it as the starring system the tourism industry uses) I would have to rate it as a 3. Not bad, some places pay good money for 3 stars! Told you it wasn’t going to be that bad!! Firstly, and I am nit-picking here, but the traffic which you have to endure on the drive to the rocks is enough to make anyone lose their sense of humour and you haven’t even arrived yet. Trivial I know but apparently this jam is caused by the gawking drivers trying to get a glimpse of the monuments from the roadside and this just grates on my last nerve for a couple of points:

  • That is just laziness and extremely inconsiderate. If you are indeed one of those drivers, stop. If you want to see the rocks, follow the signs and buy a ticket like the rest of us. Some people just want to get from A-B at a decent pace and you are preventing them from doing that!
  • What you see from the road is nothing in comparison to what you see up close. They are much much bigger and definitely way more impressive.
  • This happens to be one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe (direct quote from their website, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/.) You need to see it at face value, just because it’s the done thing. There is an unwritten rule when it comes to stuff like this.
  • If you have seen it before then why do you need to see it again from the road, this is just silly.

Do us all a favor and get out of your car, pay the entrance fee (£13.90, a little extortionate in my book but the money goes to preserving your history and heritage) and get cultured for a few brief moments. You are looking at the rocks anyway so you can’t use that as an excuse! Besides I hear that fresh air is good for you and it’s a pretty decent walk too. If you don’t fancy the walk there is also a fancy custom-made Land Rover train to get you from the ticket shop to the rocks!

Yes, the entrance fee is slightly too expensive and the shop/ticket office/exhibition building is extremely ugly and sticks out like a sore thumb (apologies to the world-renowned artist who designed the concept), but as days out go it’s not a bad place to be.
Now I know I said that they are over rated and they are, but like all art, you to take what you get from it. I just find it so fascinating that these rocks came from so far and someone thought strategically arranged rocks would be a great idea. While I feel it is random and at the end of the day they are just large stones, it did leave an impression on me, albeit only little. Exactly what that impression was I am still rather unsure of but I must have loved something, I took way too many photos which all look the same.

If rocks and history are your thing, this is a definite must do. They have really great information boards and an audio that you can listen to in various languages (so nerdy and also so antisocial: could be both a good and bad point), then if that still isn’t enough you can potter around the museum come exhibition hall to read until your heart’s content.
I have to admit that the geek in me did find the museum quite interesting. Firstly as you walk in you are given the privilege of seeing the rocks from the inside out and in all-weather. I’m an artist and photographer at heart so as you can imagine I was soaking this up, the night sky and winter shots being a personal favourite (I even vowed to return when it snowed!). Considering I barely rate things and hardly ever promise to revisit anything, this treasured sight is doing pretty well (bet you are glad you didn’t send that hate mail now!)
After this art-gasm you are then taken on a historical journey, The Stonehenge through the ages. I don’t want to completely spoil the surprise but there is a skeleton or two and some old gold and a whole bunch more photos! Exciting right!?
The well-placed shop (at the exit) is full to the brim with so much junk you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself. I could have come away with a whole new house and kitchen sink with the standard Stonehenge branding of course. It took me a good 20 minutes to pick a postcard!! Any keen shopper will not be disappointed, plus who doesn’t want a shirt saying, “I have been to the Stonehenge and loved it” or a mug with something else equally as cheesy printed on it.

Once the shop, stones and exhibition have bored you beyond imagination then potter around the teeny tiny village of Neolithic houses and get a sense of what it would have been like to live back in those days. All pretty basic structures built using traditional methods that are slowly dying out. Admittedly, I was impressed with the thatching. Then finally if you are feeling strong and self-assured, you can have a go at trying to pull one of the stones, a sort of put yourself in their shoes kind of moment. Ok, so it isn’t a real stone and it definitely does not move but a couple of lights flash and people cheer, it can get pretty crazy.
They do have a café on sight and the place is very family friendly and generally really people friendly and very accessible too (got to love the UK, it’s good at this). In fact absolutely everyone can visit which is the beauty of it so there really is no excuse!

I probably won’t be going back anytime soon because I am too busy this winter, but it would be awesome to be there on the longest day of the year where hippies in tie-dye shirts dance around and chant earthy tunes (no idea if they actually do this), but I have heard that the summer solstice is pretty impressive. It does look really beautiful at night, so in all honesty, I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate the summer and watch the sun set on the longest day of the year. A crowd pleaser and a perfect excuse for a summer party… Sold, I’m in and I shall hopefully see you all there next year on the 21st June 2015. Mark it in your calendar because I have a feeling it’s going to be a rager!

Death By Indulgence

The only thing to do when you turn 25 is mask the fact that you are half way to 50 with copious amounts of chocolate cake, cider and champagne. This is a well-known fact of course so with the thought in mind that facts are good I proceeded to do just that for 5 whole days. It was marvellous and now not only am I feeling old but I am certainly feeling a few thousand grams worse off. I imagine you are picturing me waking up and replacing the healthy goodness of a bowl of all bran with a large enough slice of cake, this was not the case. It remained a civilised affair and we drank at reasonable hours (surprising really as normally I find the excuse “It’s 5 O’clock somewhere in the world” somewhat legitimate when all I fancy is a cold one at 10am on a weekday!)

It was a case of early bed times and days filled with countryside shenanigans, sophisticated yet not over the top. What I am failing to tell you is that the early bed times were usually because we had finished off the bottle of port and only had the wine stored in the back of the cupboard to drink which didn’t smell nor taste too good. And yes, although our day time activities were kept to a mature nature (paint a pot and river swimming) we always ensured that we would either finish near a pub or at home after we swung via the shop to replenish the booze cupboard. I may be getting older (25, eish) but I did not let that stop me from enjoying some of the good life.

The sunshine didn’t help in the death by indulgence either. There is nothing greater than sipping on a Strongbow whilst soaking up the sun rays and catching up on all gossip. Thankfully I was not drinking alone, the good thing about the company that I was in is that binge drinking is encouraged and alcohol was always on the shopping list. Plus it had been a few years since we had last gathered so the catching up was entertaining and we even planned a women only adventure down Africa. Not a bad way to spend a few days down in The Shire (Devon specifically), in fact so good that I have booked a bus ticket back down and this time will be staying for 2 weeks. Unfortunately afore-mentioned company wont be there but I have no doubt that I can indulge and enjoy for two weeks whilst looking after the house, dog, cat and garden! 25 after all you know, I figure I am somewhat responsible?!

All joking aside, Devon is a really great part of England. My time down in The Shire goes way way back to school days, (I went to boarding school in Somerset and used to escape to this exact same place when the going got rough) but as I age the quintessence of Devon becomes more apparent. It’s a sophisticated county with much to do, I only ever thought of it as country bumpkin territory where old folks used to walk around saying “alraight me luver” instead of the more usual “Good Morning” or “Hello”. It still holds a little of this, I couldn’t help but laugh when a sweet old man cracked one out whilst I was mooching in a charity shop but it does have a lot to offer in terms of age appropriate activities.

For a start the Moor is always a good place to explore the county and see the panoramic vistas of the typical English countryside. River Dart offers a few spectacular woodland walkways as well as “countryside beaches”. Not the normal sea-sand combo we are used to but pebbly and grassy areas where you are more than welcome to set up camp and enjoy the summer. Anyone crazy enough to brave the cold waters can go for a dip whilst the others watch from the side and laugh at the hysterical effings and blindings about the freeeezzzzzzing cold temperatures. If you are not quite frozen from the core an ice cream truck is always strategically parked in close proximity. When we headed down we took nothing but towels and cameras but the impressive pop up tent and wind breaker villages that we saw was definitely the essence of British Countryside and country bumpkins at their best.

Too cold for ice cream and need warming up with a larger? Not a problem, quaint country pubs are never too far away and the winding lanes always make for beautiful driving scenery. We ended up at a really sweet pub (possibly even my favourite) called The Rugglestone Inn. Picture a classic English cottage and cover it with creepers and plonk a few farm-yard animals in the garden and you have the Rugglestone. It is beyond adorable and the food is delicious. Cider was pretty good too; a local home-made brew if you like, not for the faint hearted as it is genuine Shire Cider. There are so many other pubs in this area, I could literally write a book about them (obviously having to revisit many – in the name of research) but I can guarantee they all have their own character and they are each filled with the best of their locals. For anyone coming in to the UK who has never been, put “Visit a genuine English pub” on your bucket list. It is well worth it for more than one reason.

If a pub is not quite up your street (I suggest rethinking this) there are always restaurants around too. Again I am sure there are endless books on these and so much I could tell you but one in particular which is new for me and I think for Devon too is The Riverford Field Kitchen. This is more than just a restaurant, I see it as more of an experience. Without sounding like a food critic or even an expert in cooking this is definitely by far one of the best restaurants I have visited. The idea is simple: fresh organic produce straight from the farm to your plate. How could you go wrong? The truth is you can’t. Get a great chef and cook everything in butter and you are on to a winner. The best thing of all though is keep it simple, Riverford does just that. Their menu changes daily depending on the crops available and you don’t get a choice. Not the best restaurant for someone who likes to choose or even someone a little bit fussy but I am going to suggest going out on a limb and booking a table, you will not regret it, I promise. The restaurant itself is adorable too, an old converted barn where everyone sits on big tables a little bit similar to a school dining room. Dinner is served in the middle of the table and everyone helps themselves. Three courses of mouth-watering, tasty, organic produce that you know has been loved and nurtured from seed to harvest. And the desserts! Hmm…To die for. Again with the help yourself concept you have to go up to the kitchen where the chef will do his best to sell you the desert of the day from a choice of 7 or so. As I am fussy I took a while to decide but settled on a chocolate mousse that out-did any I have had before. The chef was charming too which made the decision even harder (he was suggesting a custard tart to a non custard fan) but I left with a large bowl of chocolate heaven topped up with and an unhealthy serving of cream as well as a candle and a whole restaurant singing happy birthday to me. It was cringe worthy but I was loving every moment. At the end of the evening I made a conscious effort to thank the chef, not only because the food was good but through my wine goggles he was cute too. In his defence he was cute and charming even before the wine and he can cook!!

If you don’t fancy just eating and drinking yourself in to a stupor there are many things to do that don’t involve eating or drinking in and around Devon. Totnes offers a great non food market and a chocolate box (excuse the food related description) town to walk around. Be warned though, you can come away with a whole bunch of nik-naks that you don’t need and enough fudge to induce diabetes. Ok so you don’t have to get the fudge I admit but I was not on the food avoiding tour so I couldn’t resist. China Blue is also a great place to take the kids (although we did see tables of just adults, ours being one of them) where you can paint cups, bowls, jugs and pots until your heart’s content! (I just read on their business card that their slogan is: Shopping heaven since 1997. Really, how could you resist with that?!?!) Being a little creative I loved this and I look forward to taking all my nieces and nephews there too as an excuse to add to my collection. Pot painting paired with a pub lunch and an afternoon stroll on Dartmoor is definitely the ingredients required for a day well spent.

To end with something a little civilised though, may I suggest a visit to the Sharpham Wine and Cheese farm (not sure what the correct terminology is for a vineyard that also produces cheese). A short walk round the vineyard is finished off with a tasting session and if you fancied planting yourself there for an afternoon they have a well stocked bar and a view anyone would enjoy. The ice cream is great too and the garlic and herb cheese goes down nicely with copious amounts of wine. It really is a stunning place and in the summer just beautiful. I will indeed go back but perhaps stay a little longer to really see if the Rhubarb and Custard red wine still tastes as good at the bottom of the bottle. Please note it isn’t officially called Rhubarb and Custard, I can’t remember its actual name or the spiel about why it is unofficially called Rhubarb and Custard, it is good though and the perfect way to end a summer day.

The long and short of if is that Devon has the best of the British countryside on offer and anyone who doesn’t risk heart failure by really getting stuck in to country life is simply bonkers and needs to take some time out to re-evaluate life. I am also going to make a suggestion that this re-evaluation occurs in the warmth of a typical countryside pub with a generous helping of pie and cream all washed down with a pint (no less) of perfectly crisp and lovingly brewed countryside cider. Indulge a little… for you have no idea what you are missing out on.

Beauty Of Bangor

Wales is usually known for its wet and windy weather but this summer has brought everything but. Obviously there has been the odd day of rain, this is after all the UK and to be expected but nothing quite as extreme as I what I was told I would be facing. I can definitely say I am pleasantly surprised by this glorious summer. This will not last however, I have to be realistic. With the end of the year fast approaching this can only mean that Winter is not too far away either. God I hate Winters. There is not one bone in my body that is looking forward to leaky shoes, wet socks and soaked through jackets not to mention the bone chilling negative degrees that comes with it. I haven’t had a proper winter in a while, I don’t count the “winter” I had in Australia. Yes it was cold and yes I was freezing most of the time but I don’t think it quite matches up to what I classify as Winter. Unfortunately in the UK we don’t get the awesome snow fall of Canada or America or anything close to as beautiful but we do get the cold temperatures and some snow fall on the odd occasion. I am currently going through the process of mentally preparing myself as well as stocking up on thick socks and a nice warm coat. Not something most British people do in the Summer, this is usually left for the Autumn or indeed when Winter is well and truly settled in. I however can’t wait that long, I need to be sure that I am going to be warm for my own sanity and mental stability. I am going to be wet and cold on more than one occasion and I need to know that with my trusty thermals and woolly hat I will be able to keep the risk of frostbite to a minimum. Not to mention currently taking every opportunity to soak up as much of this summer sun as possible.

And what a Summer! In my 3-4 weeks of me being here I have managed to enjoy as many days of sunshine as I have rain. Not bad going for the UK and especially the North of Wales that has this reputation for being under water most of the time. Someone even told me that they were told to pack an inflatable boat! I couldn’t imagine why, this has been simply just beautiful! Speaking of beauty, not only has this weather been something to really write home about but this scenery. Oh. My. Goodness. The scenery. Where to start?!?! Firstly you have everything you could possibly wish for and more packed in to one teeny tiny university town bursting with outdoor adventures and more beauty round every corner. Hillside, Seaside, Mountains and more country all in one neat little Welsh package. In fairness I am perhaps exaggerating ever so slightly as they will unlikely be mentioned as top ten reasons to visit Bangor in the Wales Lonely Planet guidebook but for me I literally could not ask for more. I am yet to see this place in Winter but from some (only slightly photoshopped) photos I can see that the beauty comes with all seasons. I actually look forward to capturing my own slightly less edited versions, I don’t think I have ever looked forward to snow in the UK at all. I’m not asking for much, just a slight dusting but some snow would be good this year. Enough to keep the British world moving and not that slushy rain that no one enjoys. Good Canadian Style powder would go down a treat. Until then I am going to enjoy another (hopefully) few weeks of this glorious sunshine so I can continue to be unemployed and outside working on my flip-flop tan line. I could do without the unemployment factor but with the town resembling somewhat of a ghost town I just have to knuckle down and keep myself occupied until work picks up again in September. How I hear you think. Well as mentioned before, Bangor really does have a lot to offer so I am rarely bored and with a few libraries to boot stories of adventures are just around the corner and down the street.

Firstly without the need to get on a train or a bus or even a boat if that is what takes your fancy you can walk pretty much anywhere around here and be surrounded by views from all angles. My favourite walk so far has to be the one down to Garth Pier and to Menai Bridge. The walk itself is nothing spectacular, a bit of forest dotted here and there and a field or two but the views at the end. Wow. Garth Pier juts out on to the Menai Strait and after a largely inexpensive entrance fee (50p) you can have the pleasure of spending an afternoon or morning watching the sea life go by. Sail boats, speed boats, fishing boats and even a kayak or two use this stretch of water as an entrance to the wide open ocean but mostly for recreational purposes. If you go on a good clear day you can see as far as Anglesey and across to Menai Bridge, you can also see a few mountains and hills that eventually make up Snowdonia. As an added bonus the tea room at the end of the pier sets out a few tables and chairs for you to enjoy homemade high tea whilst you soak in the sea air. Take a good book with you and you could find yourself sitting here for the best part of the day, not bad for 50p and a couple of pounds for a scone! If you are a fan of fishing you could pay a little extra to enjoy a spot of crab catching, not ones you could take home to eat but still an exciting way to spend a sunny day. There are also numerous restaurants and pubs around if you get bored with the pier and fancy a pint all within walking distance. If you are feeling slightly more adventurous Penrhyn Port isn’t too far a walk (up a slight hill) for an up close look at some of the fishing vessels docked there and for those who have a car or fancy a further walk up another hill Penrhyn Castle is just that little bit further. An entrance fee (or a national trust membership) will get you in to visit the castle and botanic gardens for a day and possibly even throw in a tour or two and some train museum time! I haven’t yet been as I am still too poor to pay to get in but it is definitely on my list of places to go.

If a castle doesn’t take your fancy there is always the Bridge. A wonderfully quaint suspension bridge that I am pretty sure sways side to side as you walk across it. Again I have only been to the Bridge on one occasion but the views were a good enough reason to go. Halfway across you get a full view of the Menai Strait and can even see the Pier too if you look closely. On the other side another bridge (Britannica Bridge) frames the view once again in a wonderfully architectural way (selling it enough for you??). More pubs/bars await for you on either end of the bridge so for those who are finding this cultural walk a little daunting a beer is never too far away and a pack of pork scratchings too as a little more incentive to keep exploring. Apparently there are more botanic gardens further on from the bridge so one day I shall have to check this out and of course update you on all flower varieties and proximity to the pub although I am sure the pub is again just around the corner.

Continuing on with the cultural theme the town sports a vibrant Cathedral, all I have seen/ heard of it are the bells but apparently it is beautiful. Most of the time I have tried to visit there has been some sort of service (possibly because most days I remember to go is a Sunday when I can hear the bells ringing) but as I don’t fancy myself as much of a church goer again this is still on the “To Do” section of my list. I have been in to town however and wondered up the not so vast high street. Pretty standard British High Street at it’s best. All the usual shops and cafes but this one seems to have more pubs/bars than most I have been too. Obviously because the students need enough establishments for a decent bar crawl so be warned, if you visit during school term then be prepared to be inundated with college goers involved in some initiation process or just finding some inspiration to attend lectures. If you however fancy popping in to catch a glimpse of the university, this can be found in upper Bangor on College road. You can tell who all the students are from a mile away so feel free to ask some questions and introduce yourselves. They normally show you all the best bits and of course where the best bars are too. It is an impressive university building but I can’t say I have frequented many so my opinion isn’t based on much background research!

For the more adventurous types there is many a walk you can do and of course Snowdonia is really not too far away. On a side note when the sun is out the chances of having to be rescued are lowered so if you fancy yourself as a mountaineer then head up in Summer or prepare to fork out thousands for an air rescue helicopter! If you are feeling up to it I am sure some lovely local could point you in the right direction and lend you a map too. Again I am yet to achieve this but in my defence not many who come to Bangor actually go up in to the mountains! Aber falls and Penrhyn quarry are a little less strenuous but also apparently worth the little sweat that it takes to get there. If you are now feeling really in to this outdoor adventure malarkey, Penryhn quarry boasts the longest and fastest zip line in the world!! You could be soaring the skies travelling at over 100mph, 500ft in the air! Exciting stuff and worth it I reckon. Again when I get round to it and when I am feeling rich enough then I shall keep you posted on the amount of alcohol one must consume before braving this craziness. I am actually quite excited by it, its been a while since I have done any form of zip lining and this was way back when I used to be a ropes instructor on an outdoor centre! Nothing near as impressive as this so we shall see how my nerves fair when I go.

There is so much more to do around here but I feel like I am boring you to tears reeling off the endless amount of activities so I am going to stop there. Hopefully I have given you enough of a taste to be inspired to check out Trip Advisor and indeed just google Bangor in General. There is really a lot to entertain yourself with and for people of all ages. Bangor I doubt is going to be at the top of anyones list sure but if you find yourself in Wales, North Wales specifically then drop in. From here you can go to a lot of other places (Portmeirion and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch) to name only two. And if none of the above appeals to you some typically English beaches are not too far away and if all else fails still then even a beer with a view is on offer. Really how could you go wrong?!?! As Wales goes though, Bangor has lived up to my expectations. I was promised wet and windy and I got sun and summer so until the terrible weather sets in I have high hopes for the next three years. Perhaps settling down to do an undergraduate may not be such a bad idea after all. Let’s see how it goes though, I am only at the beginning of a long three years!

Next Stop: Ashburton, Devon for some 25th Birthday celebrations. Eeks

P.S. I have been to Wales before so sadly this isn’t another country to add to my growing 13 but with 17 left to go and only 5 years until my big 3-0 I think I am in a good spot to start taking over Europe. Watch this space for more adventures to come 🙂
You can also follow my daily antics on Twitter (@NomadicGoldon) and Instagram (olliegoldson)!!