Monday, 31 August 2015

Sunset On Tybee Island, Georgia

On our recent USA road trip, we spent a few days in the glorious Georgia city of Savannah.  Being close to the waterfront and the beautiful Talmadge Memorial Bridge, we set off one evening to try and catch the sun setting on nearby Tybee Island.  

Tybee is a city and Island in South East Georgia, has a population of several thousand people, and is a popular retreat for locals and tourists alike.   Tybee played an important role in the American Civil War, when Union soldiers laid siege along the North Coast, which, ultimately, aided their capture of nearby Fort Pulaski, and saw the first use of rifled cannons in the conflict. 

Scenery between Savannah and Tybee Island

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Plas Brondanw Gardens

In our quest to keep discovering our new home region of North Wales, we hit up Google and tried to come up with an idea for something to do that was fairly close to our home in Harlech.   After searching for things to do in Porthmadog, I stumbled across Plas Brondanw Gardens.   After reading that it was the home of the man responsible for the design of nearby Portmeirion, I bundled LT into the car and forced him to drive there.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Nant Gwrtheyrn

Located just outside the village of Llithfaen on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, Nant Gwrtheryn is perhaps best known for its Welsh language school.   That was certainly the only reason I’d heard of it since moving here.   However, as I soon discovered, it also has a Heritage Centre, Café, Conference Facilities and Self Catering Cottages, amongst other things.   As I also found out on arrival, it’s a very popular wedding venue.  Or, at least I think it is.   I rather hope that fancy dresses and high heels are not regularly worn by the locals in order to take a walk down to the beach.  If they are, I’m going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe.  And here was me thinking it was the Scottish accent that had been giving me away for the past three months…

Monday, 24 August 2015

5 Great Coffee Shops in Shrewsbury

Anyone that knows me knows I love my coffee.  I also love finding coffee shops where I can indulge in my favourite habit.   This weekend, we took a trip into the beautiful Shropshire town of Shrewsbury, where we enjoyed the sunshine and I wired myself to the moon with some serious coffee fixin'.  

Off The Square:

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Awesome coffee, great staff.
This is a lovely little Cafe on Market Street that is, as its name suggests, just off the main Shrewsbury Square.   It's a pretty little location, which is central and easy to locate, as well as being just a minute's walk from the main shopping precincts.   I loved the decor in the Cafe and the waitresses were just lovely. They make a mean tea cake, which was devoured in record time and my cappuccino was a served in a good sized mug and was excellent.   The Cafe also has free wifi and was reasonably priced.  

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Tales from Cadair Idris

Thanks to Suzanne for asking me to write a post on my recent walk for Sightseeingshoes.  This is mainly because she doesn't really like hillwalking and couldn't write about it herself, but Cadair Idris is really too spectacular not to merit its own post.  

I was really lucky to have chosen a glorious day for walking and the weather forecast down here has just as much predictive value as China's stock market! (at the time of writing.)  However, serious walkers shouldn't let the weather stop them in their tracks. 

As with any walk that I'm not familiar with I refer to a 1:50K scale Ordnance Survey map and on this occasion I decided to download the app on my iPhone.  The app itself is free, but you can purchase 'tiles' or 'regions' depending on your needs.  The app is brilliant and incorporates a GPS location service along with a compass.  I could also annotate my planned journey on the actual map and save it.  This is ideal in situations where walks don't have a clear path or, if you're like me, want to avoid the paths where the masses congregate.

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Baaah!! What are you looking at?

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Plas Glyn Y Weddw

Situated on the coast near Pwhelli in the town of Llanbedrog, Plas Glyn y Weddw is a huge Gothic mansion which houses a gorgeous modern art gallery, woodland walks, a Cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, and a quite spectacular view of the Irish Sea.

Now, that;s what I call a view!
As we continue looking for places to explore in North Wales, we spotted Plas Glyn on a Trip Adviser list and decided we’d roll on by and take a look.   We arrived on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon and were immediately taken by the mansion house and beautifully manicured gardens.  

The rhododendrons were a riot of blues, whites and hot pinks and several couples and their lovely dogs were already sitting out on the lawn picnic tables reading maps and newspapers and drinking coffee.   I immediately wanted to go and speak to the puppies, but I’m always worried their humans will think I’m odd, so I managed to restrain myself.  I did stare at them a lot, though. 

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Plas Glyn Mansion House
There is a small car park on site, which is free of charge for the first half hour and only £1 for each subsequent hour.   Given that the gallery and exhibitions are all free of charge, it’s an absolute bargain.

As I’m no use to anyone without my morning coffee fix, I dragged LT into the Cafe with the promise of tea and cake.   The staff was mainly made up of young girls, who were friendly and efficient, delivering their trays of home bakes to salivating customers.   LT wolfed down some sort of raspberry strudel which disappeared in a matter of seconds.  If that’s not confirmation of how tasty it was, I don’t know what is.

Plas Glyn Cafe copyright sightseeingshoes
The lovely surroundings of the Cafe.  Check out the cakes on the left... 
The entrance way to the main gallery is really impressive, with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows.  It was brilliant to see so much local art and, as this is the first time I’ve been to a gallery in Wales, I was really impressed by the talent on display.   

Obviously, I also managed to sniff out some Scottish artwork in the shape of piggy banks.  I think this helps to reinforce the stereotypes about Scots and, shall we say…their love of not spending money.   Clearly, this isn’t true as I spent a pound on the car park.  A WHOLE POUND.  I feel I’ve made my case.

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stained glass and vaulted ceilings
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lower gallery
We spent an amiable hour, happily wandering through the floors of the gallery, stopping occasionally to gaze out of the upper windows at the green seas in the distance.   After looking through the ‘Haf’ exhibition (Welsh for summer), we took ourselves down the gallery shop to stick our snouts in the locally made candles and ooh over the hand crafted handbags (well, I did, anyway) before heading back out into the sunshine to check out the woodlands walks. 

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Solomon's Trail 
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exterior sculptures
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colourful rhododendrons in the grounds 
There are several walks to choose from, each marked with the cutest signpost (as pictured below).  The woodlands surrounding the mansion are lovely and, as we walked towards the main bulk of trees, we noticed that the outbuilding towards the car park also has a roof terrace, which visitors can use as a further open space to relax in.  

‘Haf’ runs until the middle of September and will no doubt be replaced with some other fabulous exhibition that I’ll have to go back and see.   These are some of my favourite pieces from the gallery.  One of them is a dog (because, obviously…)

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Scooby Doo! 
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I couldn't agree more
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Scottish piggy banks 
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Wales, baby!

Monday, 17 August 2015

City Guides: 6 Things Not To Miss in Istanbul

Istanbul is the most highly populated city in Turkey and has the interesting quirk of being located in both Europe and Asia.   It is situated on the Bosphorus River, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.   Around 64% of the population lives in Europe (the Thracian side) and the remainder in Asia (on the Anatolian side).

We booked an apartment through Air BnB and spent a week exploring the city.   We also discovered that Turkish mosquitos LOVE LT and they spent much of the week eating him alive.   I’m usually a pretty tasty snack for them, but he’s clearly way more enticing.   

Sultan Ahmet Mosque
hagia sophia
Hagia Sophia

Days 1 and 2: Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Mosquito Bite Count: around 40
Mood: Itchy and Mildly Annoyed

Hagia Sophia:
This former Christian basilica and mosque is now a museum and one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.   The famous dome and minarets can be seen from all around and it tends to be a very busy attraction.  We waited around 30 minutes to buy tickets, but it was definitely worth the wait.   The interior is filled with mosaics and marble pillars and I guarantee you’ll come out with a sore neck from all the craning you’ll do.   

Sultan Ahmet Mosque (The Blue Mosque):
The functioning Mosque is just a coupe of minutes walk from Hagia Sophia and gets it’s nickname from the blue coloured tiles that surround its interior.  This was the highlight of my trip and although, again, there was a wait to get in, it was well worth it.   You must remove your shoes before entering and ladies must cover their heads before proceeding.  You can pick up a headscarf at the entrance, where they are very kindly left out for you.  The Mosque has a massive main dome, 8 minarets and 6 further, smaller domes, which give it its beautiful shape.   Sultan Ahmet Mosque is widely considered to be the last great Mosque of the Classical Period.  It’s also worth going back to see at night when people crowd around the nearby fountains and the Mosque is fabulously lit against the dark.   Both this and Hagia Sophia can be accessed on the tram to the Sultan Ahmet stop.

Hagia Sophia lit up at night
The beautiful Blue Mosque in the evening
Hagia Sophia by night

Days 3 and 4:  Basilica Cistern and Street Food
Mosquito Bite Count: 140 approx.
Mood: Miserable, Even More Itchy, and In Need of Beer

Basilica Cistern:
Descending 52 stone steps into the cavernous vaults below the city streets will see you enter the Sunken Palace.    James Bond fans might recognise it from 007’s adventures in ‘From Russia With Love’, and Dan Brown enthusiasts from final scenes of the author’s book ‘Inferno’.    I was way too busy marveling at the dark and creepy interior, which was made to seem darker as we’d just come out of the brilliant sunshine.   I spent much of my time trying not to lose LT as he darted around taking photos.   Luckily, I managed to hear his soft Scouse accent in amongst the throngs of foreign tongues, as he regularly cursed and clawed at his new mosquito bites.   This made him a bit easier to locate.  

The Basilica is a maze of columns and pathways and is easy to navigate.  One of the highlights is the Medusa column, which manages to be beautiful and ugly as sin at the same time.

Street Food, Turkish Tea and Local Beer:
After spending the following morning checking out our local neighbourhood, we spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun and trying out the local cuisine.   We stumbled upon the tiniest café I’ve ever seen, with a food cart outside serving up chicken breast, white rice and chickpeas.  It sounds simple, but it was sooo tasty and incredibly cheap.   On each tabletop in the Café (by which I mean both of them), were clay pots with whole chilies in them.   I stuck a couple in my chicken pilaf and proceeded to make lots of odd panting noises and the inside of my mouth slowly melted away.   They. Were. Fabulous.    So fabulous, in fact, that I bought a jar to take home with me.    

After setting my chops on fire, we moved on to some Turkish apple tea, which was served cold with a bit of sugar to sweeten and then rounded off the late afternoon and early evening with a few local Turkish ‘Efes’ beers in the shadow of the Blue Mosque. 

A well deserved refreshment
Choose your fresh fruit and have it squeezed into a cup while you wait.
Basilica Cistern in all its creepiness...
Medusa Columns.
Day 5:  Cruising The Bosphorus and Topkapi Palace
Mosquito Bite Count: almost 200
Mood: Approach With Caution…

Cruising The Bosphorus:
As poor LT was, by now, almost entirely covered in bites, we thought we’d take the day and head out on a cruise.   We decided on a boat with a roof, so that he could stay inside.   We haggled on prices with some vendors outside the Blue Mosque and got a great deal on a short circle cruise around The Golden Horn.     

We hopped aboard at the dock and set sail.  It was fantastic to view all the Minarets of Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, and all the other places of worship as we peacefully floated around the river and beneath the massive bridges that carry vehicles from Europe to Asia and back.  

We also got to sail around Maiden’s Tower, which sits on a little islet.   It was also featured in the Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough’, which is the second time I’ve written about Bond movies in this post.   I’m not actively trying to visit Bond movie sets; it just so happens that these are the facts that stick with me.   My head is full of useless knowledge.  

Cruising the Bosphorus gives you a great sense of how massive Istanbul is and provides wonderful views of the unique skyline on both sides of the river.

Topkapi Palace and Grounds:
Once back on dry land, we hit up Topkapi Palace and Grounds.  Now a major tourist attraction, it was previously home to the Ottoman Empire for 400 years.  It is now a museum and holds extremely valuable artefacts from the Muslim religion, which includes the cloak and sword of Muhammed.  

Topkapi is also a UNESCO world heritage site and quoted as one of the best surviving examples from the Ottoman Empire.  It has huge grounds with beautiful gardens that can be enjoyed, as well as the interior.  It seemed to be a popular hangout for sunbathers and it’s wise to set aside a good few hours to properly experience it.   Topkapi is located within a few minutes walk of The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, so everything here is in close proximity. 

A bit of mosquito relief for LT 
stunning city views from the Bosphorus
Topkapi Palace and Gardens

We did spend a full seven days in Turkey, but our trip to Cappadocia and the Grand Bazaar were fully deserving of their own posts…which they now have.   Ever get the feeling I’m trying to drag something out?  Quite.   

PS - LT made it home in one piece, with just a few bite scars to remind him of his trip to Istanbul.  

The Travel Bug's 3 Fascinating Facts about Istanbul!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

City Guides: 8 Free Things To Do In Liverpool

Aside from my love of the accent, I think that Liverpool is one of the friendliest cities in the UK.  Everyone always seems to be happy.  As LT is from just across the Mersey in Wirral, I've been lucky enough to be able to regularly spend time in Liverpool (and Wirral) when we visit his family.   These are my favourite free things to do in the city: 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Cup Cake Cafe, Torphichen, Scotland

Sometimes, there are cold, wet, miserable days (I'm from Scotland, so this happens quite a lot), where all we need is a little pick me up. On these days, I find that cake does the trick.   Luckily for me, roughly half way between mine and my parents home is Cup Cake Cafe.   This means that, not only do I score points for visiting on a Sunday afternoon, I also get to stuff my face afterwards to reward myself for being such a wonderful daughter.  It's a selfless act.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Day Trippin' in Hawarden

I was trawling through Twitter on Friday night (as I do from time to time) and happened upon a tweet about William Gladstone.  Please don’t ask me what I was looking for, as I really don’t know.  Honestly, I don’t usually spend my Friday nights researching ex-Prime Ministers.  I’m way too much fun for that*   

Anyway, I found the tweet and Googled the good man only to realise that he lived in North East Wales.   I live in North West Wales and, well…. it’s not really that far, is it?   I checked out the local area and found that it had several attractions that interested me, so I signed up LT and we headed off bright and early (well, early) the next morning. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Travel Bug's 3 Fascinating Facts About Melrose, Scotland

While helping out his humans on a day trip to Melrose, these are the facts TTB uncovered:

Aargh...get me down from here!  TTB visits the top of Melrose Abbey.
  • The heart of Robert the Bruce, once King of Scotland, is buried at Melrose Abbey.   The rest of him lies in Dunfermline Abbey in Fife.

  • Melrose is home to Scotland’s first Teddy Bear Museum.

  • Melrose is the birthplace of Scotland’s famous Rugby Sevens competition, which is contested every year.