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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Family Holiday 2014 - Tywyn, Wales.

This blog is about our 18 day family holiday in our static caravan. It does contain a bit about cycling and RPGs but it's mainly about our adventures in a small part of Wales. As such, it's probably only of interest to friends and family. You have been warned!

Day 1
We set off fairly early, around about 10am. I'd already walked the dogs. It was a bright morning, even sunny at times. Mouse sat in the front of the car with me while Lucy did the motorway driving. Mouse and I laughed our heads off talking nonsense with me doing my Lumpy Space Princess voice [a character from Adventure Time TV show]. Martha and Tilly zoned out in the backseats.
At the big Welshpool Tesco, Mouse came with Lucy and me to walk the dogs on the picturesque canal there.
The canal at Welshpool
Freddie the dog fell in the canal and I hauled him out. He smelled. We went to Tesco and bought the first of the recent Planet of the Apes remakes on DVD.

I drove the remaining 53 miles along the winding country lanes, and Mouse fell soundly asleep.
Upon arrival at the caravan, we unpacked the car and then walked the dogs along the beach.
In the evening, Lucy cooked a marvellous dinner of meatballs (what she can create on that little caravan stove is simply amazing) and then went to read in the bedroom. The girls and I tried to play Dungeons and Dragons...
Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring the players' folder which contains the character sheets and maps which they've been using for the last 2 years! Instead, Tilly looked at her tablet device [Samsung?] while Martha, Mouse and I played a game of 21 with Martha's Adventure Time cards. It was a lot of fun. Then we passed the time making up hilarious one-minute stories with each other and reading them aloud. After that, we did lots of drawing and colouring - very relaxing.
Finally, as Mouse completed her artwork, Martha listened to me read Blue Exorcist to her.  The Blue Exorcist manga is one I would recommend although I sometimes find the story a little hard to follow. For example, it's not always obvious [to me] which character is speaking as some of the speech bubbles don't have the 'tails' on them that Western comics do. The artwork, and general plot, however, are top notch. One more thing - the books themselves are excellent value when compared to the cape comics, although we have to bear in mind that the Japanese stuff is without colour.
The girls and I hadn't stopped talking and laughing for about three hours.
I eventually went to bed to read Full Moon by PG Wodehouse. While I prefer his short stories to the novels, this book was probably the best full-length story of his that I've read so far. Recommended.

A good first day!

Day 2
A wet and miserable start to the day. Lucy and I walked the dogs on the beach in the rain. Freddie found a dying rabbit and Monty barked at stones. Lucy and I later heard that Aberdovey Golf Club had allegedly released myxomatosis into the rabbit population in the dunes at the beach in an effort to stop them burrowing in the greens.
After this soggy excitement, we hung up our wet clothes and then took Martha and Mouse to the library. We all tried to access Facebook without much success. I played on Travian for a while and looked at the depressing weather report. When it finally stopped raining, I leapt onto the Specialized and rode up the hill in Llanegryn. I don't know what the hill is actually called so I've named it Nemesis on Strava! It's 1.3 miles of steep non-stop climbing. When I first rode it 2 years ago, it took me 5 attempts to get up it without having to walk!
The view from almost the top of Nemesis (as far as a road bike can go anyway)
Anyway, I climbed it first time today and then the rest of the ride was very pretty, but hard work for some reason. I rode 17 miles at 13.2 mph. Very leisurely!

At home, I discovered that everyone had gone to the beach. I spent an hour planning something different for D&D. I crated a scenario for higher level characters within the same campaign - allowing the girls to play in familiar settings but with new, more powerful characters. After this, I opened a cider and watched the Commonwealth Games!
When everyone returned, we played D&D with the new characters while I drank cava. The game was a great success despite me being a rather tipsy by the end...
We watched Kung Fu Panda after dinner. I enjoyed the film but it wasn't as funny as I'd hoped it would be.
Martha and I read some more Blue Exorcist before I staggered off to bed a bit drunk!

Day 3
When I went to the shower block this morning there was a man AND a young woman in the men's block. The woman was walking around in only her pants. I didn't know what to do so I went back to the van.
Lucy and I went to the carboot sale today - except that it wasn't on...It was very wet during the night, maybe it was rained off? We went to the library instead and I uploaded my Strava results from yesterday. I discovered that there is a Strava segment for Nemesis coming from the other direction - and it's slightly steeper and longer!
Cycling on holiday - just to keep fit, you understand...

The sun came out so we packed some sandwiches and went to the beach. It was still too cold and windy for me but the girls spent an hour jumping waves. I read Wodehouse and drank cider. The sun went in and the rain came out so we dashed back to the caravan. When the rain stopped, I jumped on the bike and did a variation of yesterday's ride, including the big climb. I got up the new longer, steeper segment first time, but it was hard work! I went back via country lanes and the New Bridge (which used to be an old bailey bridge). I met Lucy who was on the way to the bridge with the dogs. The ride was 18 miles at 12.7 mph. Sounds slow, but the hill destroyed my average. I was at around 16.5 mph before I got to the climb.
Back at the van, I had a shower and washed my Lycra at the same time!
In the evening, we watched the Commonwealth Games. Lucy and I shouted at the TV a lot and Martha said she was never watching the Commonwealth Games with us again.

Day 4
Today, the five of us went to Cadair Idris. This beautiful place is actually the 19th highest mountain in Wales. Today, we stayed in the picturesque area at the bottom. There was a big pond (or small lake) with little fences and stuff. I got to play with Martha's digital SLR and talk to Mouse about D&D. Everyone was in a good mood. We had a picnic on a bench and then the girls had ice cream at the café there. There was a visitor's centre that had bats in the roof. You weren't allowed to go up to see the bats...
On the bike, I approached Nemesis from the hard side again and managed to get up it in one go - although I don't think I did it quite as quickly as I did yesterday. 18 miles at 12.7 mph.
Lucy made sausage and mash for everyone and we all watched Hercules (an animated Disney musical). Afterwards, Lucy read in the bedroom and the girls and I played a rubbish D&D session which Tilly quickly lost interest in. The girls are missing their original adventures and characters.

Day 5
We all piled in the car and I drove us to Dan's caravan. The drive was hair-raising at times because the coast road (A493 and A496) is so narrow with lorries coming the other way and villages reducing the road to a single lane. There are some stunning views of the sea, however. We had to cross a toll bridge - a low wooden contraption - but it only cost 70p.
When we arrived, Dan drove me and our mountain bikes up to the Penmachno trails. It was a hot and sunny day and the views from up in the woods were smashing. And the trails themselves were some of the best I've ever ridden! Sometimes fast, sometimes technical, but never too difficult to ride, it was split into ten sections. The best section was the seventh - slow and technical but a real challenge to ride well. I loved it. This being Wales, there wasn't much in the way of roots and compacted dirt, the trails being made of rocks - sometimes smooth, sometimes those jagged ones. It meant that it was very important to pick a line before you commit yourself. By the end, my 4 years old Halfords bike was battered - both brakes failing and the headset loose and grinding. We tightened up the headset as best we could but then it was so stiff it was almost impossible to ride.
Back at Dan's, Fiona  cooked a lovely pasta and salad spread and the girls played with Blake until the Blondies (Mouse and Tilly) found out that they could get Wi-Fi. They had all spent the afternoon on the beach. It was one of those beaches where you had to keep the dogs under control and Freddie is a bit of a handful. I think Lucy was glad to get back to the caravan!
We got back at 9, and discovered that Sally, Jess, Jess's friend Liv and Harry had arrived! They were staying the Lucy's parents' caravan which is on the same site as ours and about a 30 second walk away. Very convenient.
We all gathered to watch the very solemn BBC programme about the 100 year anniversary of the first World War. We had to turn out the lights and burn a candle. It was alright if you're religious and/or a fan of upper-class politicians and celebrities.  I couldn't help feeling it was a million miles away from the experiences of the average Tommy in the trenches.

Day 6
I woke up with a bit of a hangover. Everyone else went crabbing and then to the beach.
The gang after some successful crabbing
I went to the library and then took the dogs on a walk along the beach. I eventually met up with everyone and we enjoyed the weather and the waves for a while. We all drove back to the caravan and Lucy made a chilli for all of us. I spent the evening playing games with the kids - D&D was a great success because Harry had fetched the maps and character sheets from Solihull for us! We played a great game with the original four players with Harry the Thief, Kane, and Hunter all moving up to level 4.

Tilly then joined Sally, Lucy, Jess and Liv  in watching the Sound of Music in our caravan so Martha, Harry, Mouse and I remained in Jane's caravan to play more games:
21 with the Adventure Time cards and then Top Trumps with the DC and Marvel cards. We discovered that Top Trumps was more fun if we ignored the ridiculous stats on the cards and just had a discussion about which character would win!
It poured down with rain when it went dark.

Day 7
The whole gang got up early to go to a trampoline activity in a  mine. Yes, going down to have 'fun' underground in an old mine. They were very brave. It sounded like my idea of Hell.
I took the dogs on a long 2hrs and 40mins walk. The weather was fine and I walked barefoot at the edge of the sea for nearly all of the walk - trying to get of bit of colour in my white feet.
After leftover chilli for lunch, I did a good fast bike ride (even though the average was slow due to it being very lumpy at times. I went up Nemesis the hard way and took my pulse at the top - 138 bpm. Trouble is, I have no idea if that's good or not!
I arrived back at the van in time to see the kids walking into Tywyn. After I showered, Lucy and I walked into Tywyn to find the kids. Eventually, everyone except Tilly (Lucy, Sally, Martha, Mouse, Jess, Liv, Harry and me) was in the Buccaneer amusement arcade gambling our 2 pence pieces away! We all had fun wasting our money and winning tat.
Back at the vans - Lucy knocked up fish fingers and chips for the kids and Sally made a marvellous frittata for the grown-ups and me.
The whole group gathered to watch British Bake Off which is basically Masterchef but only using ovens. We loved it and I don't know why.
Early to bed.

Day 8
Up at 7:30.

Sally, Martha and I went to climb Cadair Idris.
Cadair Idris
Sally drove us to the bottom and it was a beautifully clear sunny day without much wind. I had everyone's food and water (2 bottles each) in my backpack so it was quite heavy but after a while I hardly noticed it.
One mile done

The climb was a lot harder than I expected! It was so steep in places that we had to use our hands to scramble upwards. We were incredibly high up - 2,800 feet according to 
Strava. We even saw fighter planes flying below us!

It took 3.5 miles of walking to get to the top. It made me a little dizzy if I looked over the edge.
Two miles completed

At the top, I saw a pair of mountain bikers suddenly appear! I hadn't noticed them making their way up and I knew it was simply impossible to ride a bike on the route we'd taken. I ambled over to the bloke and asked him how he'd got to the top.
Three miles!
He replied moodily, "We cycled up." His girlfriend, however, was much friendlier (which may explain why he was so grumpy!) and she told me that there was another, much longer route that comes up from a car park near a castle. She told me that they could ride about 90% of that route. I still don't know where it is, but I WILL find that route next year!
At the top!

We had lunch at the summit whilst looking at the sea at Fairbourne.
On the way down - four miles of walking done!

The route down was really steep and rocky, very technical. Martha was very sensible on the way down and Sally was bravely suffering with her ankles and knee.
Fifth mile completed!
Both ladies did very well indeed. After about 6.5 hours, and over almost 7 miles, we reached the café at the bottom. We had ice cream, tea and flapjack.
Six miles!
We then did a bit of shopping and met Lucy at the caravan. The rest of the gang was already at the beach. We headed back to the beach and all us kids (except Tilly) played in the sea (it was hot enough for me to put my head under and jump waves with the gang.)


I then barbequed some sausages and Lucy had cooked some chicken drumsticks and made salad. It was a good party on the beach and I was sad to go back to the van!
In the evening I watched the Lego Movie with Martha, Mouse and Tilly. It was a really funny film and had us all laughing out loud. "Everything is Awesome!"

Day 9
I woke up hungover and stayed in bed for the morning (hey, I'm on holiday!) Then Freddie decided to get far too excited with the kids and ended up biting Harry on the lip. It was a proper wound with blood everywhere. Harry was very brave and went back to see his mom to recover. Lucy took the girls crabbing again and I stayed in to watch Monuments Men - George Clooney's film about Nazis stealing art during WW2. I enjoyed it immensely, particularly the way the leading actors played off each other. It's basically a wartime buddy movie - like Ocean's 11 with uniforms.
I went to the library for a while.
I ended up doing a longish but slow bike ride until about 6pm.
Jonnie showed up at 8:30 and the grown-ups had pasta in our van while the kids were banished to Harry's van. Jonnie was in particularly good form and we arranged to go riding in the morning.

Day 10
Woke up feeling lazy. I sent a text to jonnie to tell him I'd be even later than our agreed 10am starting time. After brekkie, I discovered that the Specialized had a puncture (its first). Jonnie came over and it was he who discovered that the tyre had an inch long gash in it! Useless! We leapt into Jonnie's Land Rover and he drove us down to the Tywyn bike shop. I found a 23mm Vittoria Rubino Pro Intrepid tyre in the bargain bin for £8! Result! We went back and fitted it and then went for our leisurely ride in the sunshine. Jonnie very wisely decided against riding up Nemesis today - it was his first time back on the bike after he completed the 105 miles of the Dynamic 100 on July 13th. We stopped off at the Railway Inn in Abergynolwyn to refuel.
Jonnie at the Railway Inn
We had Cumberland Ale which was a decent thirst quencher and then the discovery of the holiday:
Rev. James ale! It's brewed by Brains and tastes not unlike a richer Newcastle Brown Ale. Highly recommended.
We completed our ride in the sunshine and then got changed ready for the next event: a visit to the Talyllyn Railway Beer Festival!
Spoilt for choice
We went there with Lucy and Sally and met Dave, another guy from the caravan site (and keen mountain biker). Talyllyn Railway Museum is a great place to be - one I always enjoy visiting. Grown up toys and railway memorabilia for sale in the gift shop are just added bonuses. I managed to pick up a wonderful hardback book of colour photographs about steam trains for just £1!

Then the highlight of the afternoon: while I was supping a local ale at the station, we witnessed the steam train chug in, only a few feet away. Bliss.
Back to the van again to get ready for a grown-ups' night out. We went to the Britannia Inn in Aberdovey. Good beer and smashing food in huge portions. I had a massive piece of haddock and it didn't contain even a single bone! I followed this up with cherry crumble and chocolate ice cream - a unique mix I requested myself. It works, try it! Afterwards, we rolled into a taxi and were home by 10. I went back to my van and let Lucy, Sally and Jonnie get even drunker in theirs!

Day 11
Howling wind and rain for most of the night and morning meant that nobody went anywhere (apart from Lucy who bravely walked the dogs on the beach.) The kids eventually went to the cinema. Jonnie and Sally came round and we stated drinking again! We cooked Sunday dinner together with Jonnie doing most of the work. I was in charge of frying sausages. The dinner was great - all 10 of us scoffing in Lucy's parents' caravan.
The grown-ups got smashed again while I played boules with Harry, Martha and Mouse until it was too dark to see outdoors. Liv and Jess did the washing up, while Tilly went back to our caravan to be by herself.
Back at our van, we started watching Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children. Not an easy film to understand if you haven't played the game but I was able to help with the details as I've completed it three times.

Day 12
Today was a good day.
Jonnie came round to announce that he wasn't in the mood to ride the bikes today (anything to do with last night's festivities, Jonnie?) He drove back to Solihull shortly afterwards. Then Sally, Jess, Liv and Harry headed back too. I rode to the Co-op to get milk.
After breakfast, Martha, Mouse and I went to the local market in Tywyn. Lucy and Tilly joined us a bit later. We bought lots of sweets and biscuits. Martha bought a box of loom bands.. We went to the library for a while and then headed back.
At the caravan, Martha and I made loom band bracelets in silence which is possibly one of the most relaxing things I've ever done!
Lucy's parents (Jane and Eric) arrived! Jane came with us to the beach. It was violently windy. Mouse and I went in the sea but Martha wouldn't today because she thought she saw a jellyfish. It was great fun in the sea but really cold. At the end, Mouse said to me, " Let's get you out of here," because I was shivering and had goose bumps. I had started to lose feeling in my fingers. Mouse was perfectly fine, however. That kid is hard! Lucy told us that we had been in the sea for almost an hour but it didn't seem that long.
As soon as we got out, we decided to get home out of the wind. Back at the vans, Jane made a fantastic Shepherd's Pie which she served with vegetables. We scoffed that and I had some of her homemade cake too.
The kids and I played D&D and then watched the rest of FFVII: Advent Children. We had a giggle and all went to bed happy.

Day 13
Robin Williams has died. I know everyone has their favourite film of his and I am no exception: I think Good Will Hunting stands head and shoulders above everything else he's done. What sad news to wake up to.
I had Hobnobs for breakfast with Mouse. I did a fast cycle ride including Nemesis the hard way. I remembered to take my pulse again at the top: It was 162 bpm which was higher than the last time I did it. However, it returned to below 100 a lot faster this time. What does this all mean!? I had to ride really hard to keep my average above 13mph: 18 miles at 13.1 mph.
I stopped off at the library on the way home for the Wi-Fi. Strava didn't work properly again and missed out loads of segments.
The girls were at Gaynors when I got home. Gaynors is, in my opinion, the best shop in Tywyn. It has lots of useful stuff in it that interests me: It's a hardware store and also has a good stationery section. You find lots of useful stuff in there, like bike locks and dog leads and graph paper.
The only trouble is, the woman who works there is the most miserable in existence. Example: last year I was in there while she was on the phone to a customer who was asking about sledgehammers: She was describing the sledgehammers that she had in stock. Meanwhile, I swear this is true, on radio 2, buzzing out of a little radio behind the counter, Peter Gabriel was singing his 80s hit 'Sledgehammer'. After her phone call, I excitedly informed the shopkeeper about this coincidence and gave her my winning smile. She merely grunted at me without changing her expression, which is similar to that worn by a person eating a sprout sandwich. On stale bread.
I went off to send a postcard to the parents. When the girls got back, we went to Dolgoch Falls. We've been there twice before but we always enjoy the place - it's just such a nice environment to be in: with the cascading water, lush greenery and the beautiful little railway, it's one of the most relaxing places I've ever been. Plus the dogs love it too! I drove us out there (I'm starting to get to know my way around our part of Wales now) and we had our picnic at the top.
Picnic at the top of Dolgoch Falls
On the way back down - we encountered a chap who had obviously fallen - he had a bandaged knee and head and was surrounded by ambulance personnel and mountain rescue bods (with more on the way). There was even a helicopter.

We saw some Orthodox Jews and the steam train station.
Railway at Dolgoch Falls

I drove us back and then Martha and I went to play golf with Eric. I had never played golf before. We were just hitting a few over at the old bailey bridge. Martha and I were hopeless but Eric was awesome, even at 76!
Back at the vans, I did a barbeque with lamb burgers and sausages, Lucy cooked some marvellous chicken and other bits too. After a feast, Lucy and I retired to our van to watch the Rise of the Planet of the Apes (the first of the recent remakes). We were very impressed by it - a good story which makes full use of the rapidly developing CGI technologies. Martha came over a bit later too and she enjoyed it. The blondies (Mouse and Tilly) came over to watch the end of it, but Mouse soon gave up!

Day 14
Jane smashed her way through our caravan to take the dogs for a walk early in the morning. When the rest of us woke up, we took Jane to Machynlleth to visit the Wednesday market. It carried on raining when we got there but it didn't spoil the day. Disappointingly, a lot of the market stalls were the same ones we had seen at the market in Tywyn on Monday. I enjoyed the charity shops.
The highlight of the day was an art gallery displaying the works of amateur artists. We were asked to vote for our favourite piece on display. I think the grown-ups all really enjoyed doing this. The kids did some drawing there too.
Lucy had bought a Foo Fighters Greatest Hits CD so we listened to that while I drove us home carefully in the pouring rain.
Back at Tywyn, Lucy and I took the dogs for a walk in the wind on the beach. Freddie managed to catch rabbit in the sand dunes behind the beach. We told him to let it go and it bounded off. Nice work, Freddie!
The kids and I played D&D while Lucy made two meals: a wonderful curry  and sausages and mash. Jane and Eric came round so Lucy managed to feed 7 people with her tiny caravan stove. We watched some of the European Athletics and then British Bake Off.
By 9, the kids were in bed and it wasn't long before Lucy and I called it a night too.

Day 15
In the morning, I went to Tywyn with Jane to visit the charity shops. I ended up buying a pair of waterproof walking trousers - but they were too big, if I'm honest.. I walked home via the library after Jane met Lucy in Spa. Then we all went crabbing .
Except nobody caught any crabs.
So we sat on the beach and had a nice time until 3pm.
Back at the van - I decided to walk the dogs. Then Mouse decided to come with me. Then Martha did. Then Lucy. And then Tilly! We did a big walk on the beach and took loads of family photos. We finished with ice cream and slushies on the sea front. It was windy but very sunny - I got a sunburned head again!
Monty at Tywyn
Tywyn Beach
Martha on the beach

Ice Cream and Slushies!

At the van, Lucy and I got smartened up and then went to the Aberdovey Golf Club to meet Jane and Eric and to scatter her uncle's ashes. There was a good turn out at the 12th hole with beautiful sunshine and beautiful views. Some people toasted him with Guinness and wine.
After dinner in the van, we watched the Lego Movie again.
It's still hilarious.

Day 16
A disastrous walk on the beach!
I walked the dogs on the beach with Jane while everyone else was asleep. I left my trainers in the car...
We walked for about a mile, maybe more, along Tywyn Beach. When we turned around, the tide had come in a lot faster than I had expected it to! I had to walk barefoot all the way back on the rocks at the top of the beach. It took a very long time and it was very painful.
Jane on the beach, just before my barefoot walk of pain began!
Lucy and I walked to the library to use the computers. Then I drove us all to Fairbourne. We left the car there and got in a little boat across the harbour to Barmouth.
Crossing to Barmouth
On the boat at Fairbourne
Barmouth is chav heaven! Crap tattoos and leggings everywhere, in fact, everyone there looked like an extra in Eastenders!
We enjoyed all the tacky shops and the girls liked the fair and chip shop. We had our picnic on the seafront. We got another little boat back to Fairbourne and then I drove us all back on the windy winding coast road.
The girls at Barmouth
Enjoying the fair!
Arousal Cafe
We played D&D for at least an hour, had a marvellous dinner of stir fry vegetables and noodles, watched some more athletics and then settled down to enjoy Monsters Vs Aliens.

Day 17
I had a fantastic dream: I was a member of Team Sky! I went riding with Dave Brailsford and Jens Voigt and then chatted with Peter Sagan in the changing room. It didn't seem to matter that Voigt and Sagan aren't Sky riders!
I went to the Saturday carboot sale with Jane and Lucy and Jane's friend Eileen. Jane bought me one of my favourite films on DVD - The Thin Red Line. Unfortunately, I discovered when I got back home that I already own it.
Lucy and I had a walk around Tywyn and saw people getting ready for today's Race the Train run.
Back at home - I replaced a long bulb in the reading lamp above our bed and put in a pull-switch in the bathroom. I bought the stuff from the hardware store in Tywyn - the guy who runs it told me he was a caravan site manager for 22 years. A useful man to know!

After this, I did a bicycle ride and saw lots of runners coming back from Race the Train. Lots of people were out cheering them on and it was a good atmosphere - I'm going to have a go next year. I hit Nemeis from the easy side and clock 13.7mph for 20 miles. My heart rate was 126 at the top and only took 4 minutes to get below 100 again.
Back at the van, the little ones were in Jane's caravan. Tilly, Lucy and I watched Captain America on DVD and I drank a beer.
That evening, Eric bought everyone a Chinese takeaway and I bought the booze! It was a nice night. with lots of giggling. Finally, we watched Star Trek: Nemesis before bed. It was strange to watch Tom Hardy in a film before he got massive (both physically and in terms of his fame!). The man is one of the best actors alive today. It's a matter of time before he gets an Oscar - in my opinion, he could have been considered for both Warrior and Bronson.

Day 18
Today was our drive home. We stopped off at the canal at Welshpool to walk the dogs for a bit.
It was good get home and I even went to train at the dojo in the afternoon.
Already looking forward to going to Wales again next year!

Holiday Smiles