Reporting from Jinqiao
27.07.2011 - 06.08.2011 20 °C
Getting back to base in Pontypool was good, and we took a couple of quiet days out just playing in the sunshine, and doing local activities. I spent a lot of time stocking up on essentials and some 'exotic groceries' in Sainsburys, and contributed significantly to the weight of our luggage, and each item was looked at followed by an eye roll - but I know that once we're home again, he'll appreciate the Giant Cous Cous and the marinated capsicum, and a seven month supply of children's toothpaste! It's one of the quirks of living as an expat, stocking up and transporting around the world things that you take for granted in your home country.
One of the highlights of the few days in Wales was our family lunch at Jamie's Italian in Cardiff. We had secretly arranged with Claire to meet her there, before we proposed the idea to Mike's parents, but they suggested we took her along, which kind of spoiled our surprise. It took a methodical approach to get everyone there at the same time, driving Nannie and Granddad to the bus stop to get a bus to Cardiff, and having Claire meet them at the bus station to get them to the restaurant and us driving down with the kids. Look at this for swish:
They do some fantastic things, with such fabulous flavours in the food. Also the way they present stuff is just plain cool. I particularly liked how to serve the entree on wooden planks raised from the table on some cans of tomatoes.
We then had a couple of quiet days in Wales. Took the kids on their first real bush walk or mountain climb depending on how you look at it... where we walked up the bush trail (I'm not convinced they call it bush in the UK though) next to Pontypool Park, and yep, the whinging started five minutes in... but to give her credit it was pretty steep! Although that didn't stop them from running off after the sheep!
What was our goal? Well, we'd found out that the Folly and the Grotto were open in the afternoons on the last weekend in July - so after our disappointing previous visit, we were keen to get inside. Except we arrived before it had opened, and with no signage indicating opening times, and little mobile internet coverage, but it was good to have some running around time and some time to carefully ponder how grass grows:
Finally the Grotto caretaker arrived, and opened the little retreat up, opened all the shutters and welcomed us in. And wow, what an impressive interior, especially considering the rather drab exterior... but hey, don't judge a book by it's cover. Every square centimetre of the internal walls, floor, ceiling and supporting beams are covered in shells and animal bones. Truly remarkable.
The next day we decided to finish off what we had started, and so we went to visit and climb the Folly as well! Great views over Pontypool!
We had a lovely trip to the 'beach' near Cardiff, which was met with bewildered questions such as 'but where's the sand?'. But the day was beautiful, and Jie Jie took it upon herself to carry a stone (almost from the top) which was about 2kg and the size of a bag of sugar from the top to throw into the water, with the idea of making a big splash. To her credit she carried it the whole way down, but because of its weight she actually couldn't heft it far enough to even reach the water. So she pulled her foot back to give it a kick to send it flying into the water, and I called out not to kick the rock, because she was wearing open toed sandals, but I was too late, and she let fly and the rock didn't move, but her face crumpled up and she stifled a scream as she realised how silly kicking a rock that big actually was. We had a beautiful afternoon, and both the kids did really well climbing over the stone dune.
We visited St Fagan's Folk Museum just outside Cardiff, where we explored old farmhouses, olde worlde shoppes, a stunning castle and beautiful gardens.
And then that evening Mike and I went out to dinner, leaving the children to be babysat for the last time by Nannie and Granddad!
Our last tourist activity was the whole family to Caerleon - again requiring execution efforts of mammoth proportion, getting Nannie and Granddad on a bus to Caerleon and picking up Claire from Newport. We enjoyed the Roman Museum, the Baths and especially playing Gladiator in the Roman Amphitheatre. Last time too, that all of Mike's family were together!
Then back home to do the final packing and be ready for our early bus to London the following morning! Good bye Wales!