UK Trip Highlights (Part Four)

From the hotel in Swansea, my dad, Debbie, Sue, and I hit the road for the West Midlands, the place I come from (Stourbridge)…   🙂

Took a photo of my old school (it’s converted into offices now):

Debbie’s sister, Louise, put us up for the night and also went all out on a great meal. On Sunday morning, after visiting my grandparents graves, the five of us went out for brunch with my aunt at The Olde Tea Rooms in the village of Kinver (where my grandparents lived). Unfortunately, my cousin Joanne had recently moved to Scotland, so we didn’t get to see her on this trip. Just gives us an excuse to visit Scotland next time, though!

After that, we hit the road and headed back up north. We got back to my dad’s in time to catch the England/Panama game. Wow.

The Last Week

We did a bit of shopping in Preston & Chorley (souvenirs, clothes, treats that are hard to find in Canada) the last week, had some nice meals out, and managed quite a few lovely day trips and stops:

Eden Camp

On Tuesday, we headed up to Eden Camp in Malton, Yorkshire. This is a privately-owned museum, based around huts that originally housed Italian WWII prisoners of war. Louise had mentioned it in passing, and we thought it sounded interesting and worth a visit–I was very surprised that I hadn’t heard of it before. Notable items included the local military history (and particularly of the original POW camp), a small uniform collection, and the various vehicles and planes onsite. Of course, there was a pub onsite too, themed like a 40s cinema!

Canals & Narrowboats

Sue’s been really interested in narrowboats and canal life lately, mainly from folks on YouTube.

We wound up walking along the canal near Chorley twice. Once just for a walk, and then went back again because we noticed that one pub had some great vegetarian options. It’s a really pretty area – especially with the great weather we had during our trip.

The Lake District

The Lake District is beautiful – and a significant tourist draw. On Thursday, we had a nice walk in the sunshine, said “hi” to the cows, petted some strangers’ dogs, and stopped for lunch at Chesters-by-the-River in Ambleside (top notch vegetarian restaurant) and a cheeky pint after the walk back to the car.

Then we stopped by a beach area for a quick stroll and an ice-cream (make mine a 99!). This guy had obviously had a few drinks, as he wandered into the lake fully clothed:

We waited for him to fall over for a good “action shot”, but he didn’t do that ’til after we gave up waiting. Headed back to my dad’s to watch the England/Belgium game.

Going out for an Indian

Friday morning my dad cooked us a terrific big breakfast, we headed out for a bit of last minute shopping, and then we packed our bags as we were flying home the next day.

Friday night we went out to the local Indian restaurant for a great meal. Can’t possibly have enough curry meals on a trip the UK, and this one was a standout.
Pretty sure Sue’s thinking about my bhunas in that last pic.


…and the next morning we got on a flight at Manchester Airport to Toronto. From there we were to connect to Winnipeg. We had a few wrinkles with the connection, and wound up getting bumped by Air Canada from a 4:30pm flight to an 11pm flight. Not the greatest ending to the trip, but couldn’t take the shine off it.   🙂

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UK Trip Highlights (Part Four)

UK Trip Highlights (Part Three)

Wednesday & Thursday

Sue and I spent the second part of week two with my sister, Lucy, and her family in Porthcawl, Wales. Unfortunately, we didn’t take as many pictures; probably because we were so relaxed.   🙂

Lucy made us feel at home and it was an absolute pleasure to spend time with her, my brother-in-law, Dafydd, niece Seren, and nephews, Jamie and Harri. They have a great goofy dog (Toby), too.

Toby surprised us on the first night, opening the bedroom door and jumping into bed between us. Then he flipped over on his back and started snoring. Comedy gold!

Porthcawl is a pretty seaside town, with a lot of personality and charm. The sunny weather didn’t hurt either… We had a great time with Lucy, Dafydd, and the kids. One evening we enjoyed a walk down to the harbour, a few drinks, and the obligatory fish and chip shop dinner (which had a shockingly good selection of vegan/vegetarian options).

Friday

We headed to Swansea for an overnight at a hotel there. My dad and his wife, Debbie, had gone to great effort for us all to have a special birthday party (there are several milestone birthdays in the family this year, including Sue and I are both turning 50 – the main reason for this trip). He and his wife drove down to meet up with us, my brother and sister, and their spouses.

We started off with a few drinks in the hotel pub (as you do), and then off to a private room for group parties (there were other birthday groups and a couple of hen parties in there with us). The theme was “80s night”. My dad arranged for a custom made birthday cake, that incorporated symbols of Canada, England, and Wales.


It got a bit loud in there for conversation, so we eventually relocated back to the hotel bar for the rest of the evening (we shut the place down). A good time was had by all.

Saturday

In the morning we met up for breakfast. After that, we headed back to my brother’s, so Sue could spend a little more time with my niece and we could say “goodbye”.


Then my dad, Debbie, Sue, and I hit the road for the Midlands…

UK Trip Highlights (Part Three)

UK Trip Highlights (Part Two)

The first part of week two was all about my brother and his family in Wales (and reuniting with Suzanne after her time in Portugal)…

Saturday & Sunday

I took the train down from Preston to Cardiff on Saturday June 17th, and my brother, Ben, sister-in-law, Sarah, and niece, Leila, picked me up at the station.

I stayed with them for the first part of the week… It was great to spend time with them, and we had a lot of laughs. Leila wasn’t born when I was here last; she and I got along like a house on fire from the start. She’s a complete sweetheart.

On Sunday we visited the Penderyn Distillery, home of the only single malt produced in Wales. It’s located near the Brecon Beacons National Park, a really beautiful part of the world*. Tour was good, and included a couple of delightful samples (and of course, an exit through the gift shop [picked up a t-shirt and some small taster bottles of whiskey]). Turned out that the guide had relatives in Winnipeg. Ben and I chatted with some women from Ireland on the tour that had spent some time working in BC and Alberta, too.

After the distillery, we followed the steep trail to Henrhyd Falls. Apart from being a pretty spot in its own right (reminded me of the cenotes in Mexico), notable as it was used for the opening to the Batcave in The Dark Knight Rises. This was literally the only rainy day we had during the entire three weeks in the UK; they’re going through a heat wave at the moment, and it was cloudless blue skies and temps in the high 20s/low 30s every day, otherwise.

Monday

Ben and I walked Leila to school, then headed to Cardiff Bay for a walk and breakfast at a cafe on the barrage, the mechanism that keeps the water level in the bay constant regardless of tide (excellent vegetarian full English, btw). Then we took the water taxi back and headed into Cardiff for a drink and to catch part of the Sweden/South Korea game in The Goat Major. We had a bit of a walk, hit up Forbidden Planet and Games Workshop, and then headed back to his place for dinner.

After dinner, I checked into a hotel (easier with Sue arriving from Portugal late that night) and Ben and I settled into the hotel bar to watch the first England match (against Tunisia).

After the match, we chatted until Sue turned up. Just before she arrived, Ben and I were cornered by the only other guy in the bar; a very drunk English guy. Good times.

So good to see Sue after a week apart.

Tuesday

Sue and I spent the day together shopping, eating, and drinking (there were stereotypically awful loud Americans in a pub we stopped at – blech!). Then we headed out for dinner at an excellent vegetarian Indian restaurant, Vegetarian Food Studio, with Ben, Sarah, and Leila.

Surprise! A Timmies in Cardiff.

The next day we checked out of the Cardiff hotel and met up with my sister.


*Nearly 30 years ago, I had an accident there and literally fell off a cliff, spraining my ankle. This came up more than once.

UK Trip Highlights (Part Two)

UK Trip Highlights (Part One)

Flew from Winnipeg > Brussels > Manchester (left Winnipeg on Saturday, arrived Manchester Sunday morning)… Not the most direct flight, but the shortest amount of travel time, with less time hanging around in airports.

Sue had left the day before, for Ponta Delgada. She’s spending the first week in Portugal with a friend, and we’re meeting up next week in Wales…

Flying out of Brussels

The first couple of days were pretty relaxed – few small walks/drives in the area, etc. (with the required stop at a pub for a cheeky pint).

Warhammer World (Nottingham)

Wednesday morning my Dad and I set off for Nottingham…

Obligatory picture with the Rhino at WHW.
…and my Dad.

I didn’t take pictures of all WHW displays, but just those that were things that caught my eye (or of figs I own but haven’t painted yet).

Warhammer/AoS/Blood Bowl
Warhammer 40,000
“Hunt for the Assassin” and Bugmans Bar

We didn’t find him.

Then we had a quick drink at Bugman’s.

As you do, we exited through the gift shop. I picked up the photo book of the dioramas, a couple of WHW exclusive BB figures, a t-shirt and some other goodies, and the Lietpold the Black figure from Forgeworld I’ve been wanting for a while (as a general for my DoW WHFB/Kings of War army). My Dad bought a book of AoS fiction (he likes fantasy novels, so he thought he’d give it a whirl).

Wargames Foundry (East Stoke)

Foundry is outside a village, in a fairly rural area. Last time I was there they were located in urban Nottingham.

I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but long enough to pick out a few packs of figs from my shopping list (Swashbucklers, ostensibly for Ghost Archipelago, and Brit WWII Paras), have a quick chat with the man himself, Bryan Ansell, and take a few pictures of some of the more well-known figs in the collection displayed there (especially the old school Genestealer Cult limos [!]).

We then set off for Bromley/Chislehurst in Kent. We stayed overnight at an excellent pub/hotel, the Bull’s Head. Had a great Italian meal at Due Amici. I had a few bowls of loudmouth soup, and we stayed up talking politics.

…and then the next day, the real highlight so far and a serious bucket list item for me:

HOME OF CHARLES DARWIN – DOWN HOUSE

The sense of history and the weight of the importance of this place were overwhelming. It’s amazing to walk the same hallways and rooms as the Darwin family.

The house is set up as a combination of informative displays (including original journals and notebooks) and preserved/restored rooms (such as Darwin’s study, games room, and dining room). The staff were informed, friendly, and obviously had a keen interest and involvement in the subject. My Dad was very impressed with the facilities as well…

I spent some time in the house, and then went outside to wander the grounds. The gardens and greenhouses were restored, and included the experimental gardens and items of interest.

But, the absolute highlight was the Sandwalk*…

Perfectly, I was alone as I retraced Darwin’s steps around the path.

I was crushed by the emotional weight of being in such an important place and got quite teary-eyed, if I’m being honest. Greatly meaningful to be there, personally. Appreciate my Dad making it happen.

Today was pretty relaxing – I had my first night of uninterrupted sleep (always an issue when traveling), and we went for a nice walk in a nearby woodland area. Heading out to the local pub later and then back for dinner. I’m taking the train down to Cardiff tomorrow, to spend some time with my brother and sister, and also to meet up with Sue. I’ve been missing her, of course, so I’m looking forward to that (not to mention getting down on the floor to play Lego [literally or figuratively] with all the nieces and nephews).


*from Wikipedia:

“In 1846, Darwin rented from Sir John William Lubbock a narrow strip of land of 1.5 acres (0.61 ha) adjoining the Down House grounds to the southwest, and had it planted. He named it the Sandwalk Wood. One side was shaded by an old shaw with oak trees, and the other looked over a hedge to a charming valley. Darwin had a variety of trees planted, and ordered a gravel path known as the ‘sandwalk’ to be created around the perimeter. Darwin’s daily walk of several circuits of this path served both for exercise and for uninterrupted thinking. He set up a number of small stones at one point on the walk so that he could kick a stone to the side each time he passed, so that he did not have to interrupt his thoughts by consciously counting the number of circuits he had made that day.”

UK Trip Highlights (Part One)

Fun in the sun

My wife and I just got back from a week in Cancun. Great fun and a nice break from the long Winnipeg winter.

The Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea

Apart from the rest and relaxation (i.e., the beach, eating and drinking like kings, and a bit of shopping), we also fit in some culture and history with visits to the Museo Maya De Cancun (including the San Miguelito Archeological Site) and Chichen Itza.

Walking path through the museum's archeological site
Walking path through the museum’s archeological site
San Miguelito Archeological Site (view from our hotel balcony)
San Miguelito Archeological Site (view from our hotel balcony)
The Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza
The Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza
Mural at the Great Ball Court; assuming to show the sacrificial beheading of the winning team's captain
Mural at the Great Ball Court; assumed to show the sacrificial beheading of the winning team’s captain
The Temple of Kukulkan
The Temple of Kukulkan
El Caracol; assumed to be a proto -observatory
El Caracol; assumed to be a proto -observatory

On a gaming related note, I managed to find four Matchbox ’43 Jeeps at the Cancun WalMart (I’d been looking at home but hadn’t spotted any). With a little conversion work, these make excellent WWII vehicles at a ridiculously low price (I think they were about $1.40 each).

I cleaned out the stock of Matchbox '43 Jeeps from the Cancun WalMart
I cleaned out the stock of Matchbox ’43 Jeeps from the Cancun WalMart
Fun in the sun