Reporting from Pontypool
02.07.2011 - 16.07.2011
View European Vacation on aboo10's travel map.
What is an omnibus? Here in the UK, at the end of each week there is a 'catch up' show repeating all the episodes of a soapie, just in case you missed it. As I have not been particularly diligent at recording the details of this trip thus far, thought instead of backdating diary entries, would just give you the omnibus version... so here goes:
Had a lovely first weekend with my mei mei (little sister), Marns and her fiance, James, really exploring her neighbourhood of Islington and Angel. We started Friday night with a fantastic BBQ in the courtyard, impressed as well because Jie Jie ate up her sausages like a little champion, while Didi filled up on chips, or crisps as the Brits call them. On Saturday we started with croissants and coffee, again in the sunny courtyard while reading the weekend papers. Then we set out to explore, Marns wanted to show us a potential venue for the wedding reception, and it was lovely - no details from me, because she can share as appropriate when she's ready! Then we walked down to visit one of Jamie Oliver's providores - La Fromagerie - a beautiful little, tiny cheese shop in Highbury, with a cool room full of the most delicious, oozing cheeses and exquisite accompaniments, unfortunately though, they were a little stingy on the tastings!! We bought a selection for a cheese platter, and 2 tarts to take to a BBQ the following day.
Leaving La Fromagerie, we headed back up to Highbury Park and let the kids run free.
Then back to the house to refresh before heading out for dinner, at a Turkish restaurant, owned by one of James' friends. Delicious - loved loved loved the Halloumi Cheese and Eggplant dishes, all with fantastic Tzatziki. The kids were kept fabulously occupied, Didi munching on the bread and a nearby power outlet, and Jie Jie with a colouring pack and an icecream sundae for dessert.
Sunday, we were lucky enough to accompany Marns and James to a BBQ at one of their friends houses, who very conveniently also had a 2.5 yr old boy. We were able to enjoy watching the Wimbledon final, live and in London (very exciting for me) in their backyard while feasting on more delicious food - in particular an amazing cous cous salad. The boys took a while to warm up to each other, after starting off both asleep, and then fighting over Buzz and Woody, to end the afternoon with races on push along bikes.
Monday, back to work for Marns and James (poor things), and off to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. We enjoyed a tour on the number 19 double decker bus from Angel, through the West End and down to Hyde Park Corner, which gave us a good view of London to remind ourselves of where we were. Enjoyed a fish and chip lunch, and a meander through Knightsbridge on our way to the Museum. Oh no, the dinosaurs were closed for cleaning... but we could pay to see an animatronic exhibition, and seeing dinosaurs were high on our agenda, we did. BUT, the kids were terrified. The grunts and movements were a bit too lifelike for our little travellers.
We all liked the primates, spiders, and the enormous whale exhibits.
Tuesday, we packed up and were collected by a fancy minicab with built in baby and booster seats to take us to the Victoria Coach Station, not so fancy, but means to an end to get us from London to Wales. And truth be told, we'll be there again, and again on this trip.
But the car trip to the coach station was thoroughly enjoyable - all along the Thames, then past Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey - which had been on our to do list, as Jie Jie had been very keen to see where the new Princess got married. Glad we'd opted for the museum though, as the queues, even at 9am were awful to get in to the Abbey. We'll see if we get there!
Arrived in New Inn, Pontypool, all excited to see Nannie and Granddad, and as a bonus Mike's mei mei (remember it means little sister), was staying for a couple of days too. So big family reunion! We took a couple of days to relax and wind down, partly forced due to rainy weather, and just spent a couple of days visiting Sainsbury and some local playgrounds. Then on Saturday, we caught up with 2 of Mike's friends from school and their families for a picnic at the Pontypool Carnival. It sort of didn't feel like it had been 2 or more years since we'd seen them, was lovely just to spend time in the sunshine, and enjoy strolling around the fair. Was lovely to see the kids playing together too, as they are all either 2 or 4.
Because we half anticipated that the others were going to be staying in Pontypool overnight, most likely at grandparents, we thought we might be able to go out with just the adults in the evening... but not to be, and as we'd already planted the seed that we were going out for dinner, so a date night was had, and Nannie and Granddad looked after the munchkins that evening. So we popped on our party shoes and set out for an evening out... at The Carpenter's Arms - not too far away, but I had the summer special, lamb loin - fantastic, and with the greatest potatoes ever - I don't usually rave about potatoes, but these were good... and I am feeling like I am a bit potatoed out at the moment!
Monday we headed down to Cardiff Bay, and had a lovely walk around the foreshore, enjoying the view. We think we'll go back and go on a cruise another day. We had lunch down there, and then wandered around the shops, the marina, around to the old Norwegian Church, and enjoyed all the views and changes since last time we were here. The Customs House is being cleaned, so unfortunately not so picturesque this time. Entertainment for Mike was the Torchwood wall, which apparently was the hideout of the character in a TV series and was blown up in the last episode of last season, people have left notes and pictures hoping that this character is going to be saved on 'miracle day', when the new season starts.
Thursday we went to the Brecon Beacons and rode a scenic steam train on the Brecon Mountain Railway. Was really beautiful. It winds up the mountain through farmland, forests and alongside the stunning Taf Fechan Reservoir. Jie Jie provided ongoing entertainment singing one verse from a song she learned at school this year "Coal makes the steam engine go", so definitely seemed pretty with it, knowing that! We went for a walk around the reservoir, and along the way picked wild raspberries. Enjoyed an ice cream at the station waiting for the return train.
Friday, I was so proud of my kids, they walked most of the way along a mountain top path, including climbing over some stiles, and manoeuvring some tricky country gates, and avoiding nettles, and walking through fields with cows, and some with sheep, about 2 km from the Folly to the Shell Grotto, which is at the top of Pontypool Park. The Folly is a tower built at the top of the mountain and provides a good lookout over South Wales, all the way to the Severn River and was originally built in the 1700s, by a rich landowner. Unfortunately it was bombed in WW2, and with no plans was reconstructed using the original stones from historical photos. The Shell Grotto is the remnants of a fancy garden designed by the wife of the landowner. Jie Jie and I walked down from the Shell Grotto, through Pontypool Park to the playground, where we met up with Mike and Didi who had gone back to fetch the car. Didi broke my heart though, as he was coming towards the park he could see me and Jie Jie, and his face lit up, and he scrambled to be put down, and instead of running to me... he ran to Jie Jie, screaming her name and giving her a big hug, then running towards the playground together!
So that is my fortnight omnibus of our holiday so far... tomorrow the adventure continues with an early bus back to Victoria, then Underground to Kings Cross, then Eurostar to Paris!!!!! It's just under 10 years since we were in Paris last... wow, what changes have happened to our lives!! Paris update next!!