Monday, 20 November 2017

Beautiful Llangollen in Autumn.

When all around you is fraught . . .

. . .the only solution is a walk along the Glan yr Afon - Riverside Park in Llangollen. So wonderful at any time of the year. The noise of the river rapids soothes. The timeless beauty of the towering mountain clothed in autumnal colours makes you realise what really matters.
Colours of autumn on the mountainside along the river Dee in Llangollen

Llangollen in the Dee Valley is beautiful at any season as is the drive down the A5 to Betws-y-Coed

Memories in the mists of time.

We are so lucky to live in this wonderful part of North Wales and thankful that we chose it all those years ago when looking for a better future. Times were a-changing in Lancashire in the late 60's with the closure of the coal mines and cotton mills - affecting engineering trades in the service industry. With hope in our hearts, we took the plunge and, with our small baby, went into unchartered waters in a manner of speaking.OH had passed his driving test but having no car, we hired one as he came for his second interview in a village nearby - the passport to a new life. 

We first saw Llangollen one snowy January as we drove down roads packed with ice and snow. The roads had only just become passable. The A539 runs alongside the river as it flows along the bottom of the valley. With snow-laden trees sparkling in the winter sunshine, to a young couple coming from a Lancashire mill town it was like fairyland. The street signs were - and still are -  in Welsh. Llangollen has a deep Welsh history and culture. Stopping for lunch at the Grapes Hotel just over the ancient bridge on the A5, we and our baby daughter were given a warm welcome and food.

Fast forward to November 2017

A view of the River Dee looking towards the bridge and rapids.Parking up in the car park on Market Street last week and hoping for an empty space I commented, " I think that Tuesday is market day". And it was. Stalls were spread along with market traders coming to the end of their morning's trading. We found a space. Coming out onto the street, we decided to head into town for a bite to eat. The Italian Fouzzi's Cafe Bar by the bridge and the Royal Hotel was again a good choice. Settling for a hot roast pork bap, side salad and fries, washed down with a cool drink, we had to hurry back to the car park to put in more money as OH must have pushed the wrong buttons when a 50p piece was rejected. One hour cost us £2.00 instead of £1  and we wanted 3 hours at £2.50.  Meanwhile, I wandered along to look in the range of independent shops of which Llangollen has many. 

Turning to head towards the side streets to the river, in front of us was that timeless view of the towering mountain that rises above and shelters the town. Today it was wearing its colourful autumnal dress. Passing the Cornmill riverside restaurant, we stopped for a while to watch the canoeist riding the rapids. This part of the river is a favourite for canoeists; the water races over the rocks as it heads towards the ancient bridge and beyond, through the villages and towns on its way to Chester and the sea.

This particular group appeared to be in training and quite young. Each waited for the signal from the instructor before they launched themselves off the weir into the raging river. So brave!
The rocks and changing scene of the river at Llangollen
Further along we were struck with awe and calmed by the sheer beauty of what nature had provided in this ever-changing scene. The photo above explains what I mean.

A little further along, we stopped to read the information board about the history of the Riverside Park. Retracing our steps, we took the easy, level  route back to the main road.

This little trip was just the medicine needed to soothe the soul.
Illustrated information board about the Glan Yr Afon Riverside Park.


Sunday, 12 November 2017

A Virtual Visit to Cordoba and Ronda in Andalucia, Spain.

Re-visiting memories as a consolation for not visiting Andalucia and Nerja this year.

Is it really three years since we re-visited Ronda and discovered Cordoba? Time flies. Unable to make our planned visit to southern Spain and Nerja this year, the first time for some years, I have been looking back on earlier blog posts. In 2013 we took advantage of the opportunity to re-visit Ronda in the mountains above Malaga and San Pedro on the coast. Ronda sits in the middle of no-where. When we rode there on our Gold Wing motorbike all those years ago we saw it sitting there surrounded by a 'nothingness'. 
Here is what I wrote in 2013.
Another Sojourn in Spain.


With four included trips during our stay in Nerja, Andalucia, (or Costa Del Sol) we hadn't anticipated wanting to take in any optional ones. However, Ronda called to us and it was a better alternative to hiring a car.
We actually first visited Ronda many, many years ago when staying further along the coast in Fuengirola. It was two bus rides and lots of winding roads up the mountains from the coast. Then we had a wonderful four days when we rode there on the Honda Gold Wing in 2001 as part of our Andalucian Adventure*
It was time to re-visit to see the gorge again. We were met by a local guide. This is normal practice in large towns of cultural interest. He was so enthusiastic and explained about the bullring before taking us around the side from where we could see over the plains - as well as a statue of a huge bull.
Walking around the side of the Parador to the distant strains of someone playing a Spanish Guitar, we all looked over the wall into the depths of the gorge below. 
Rounding the side of the Parador we came to the huge square in front of it - by the bridge. The guide was to take our party over the bridge into the old part of Ronda which goes back to Roman and Arabian times. I elected to stay behind as I wanted to wander at will and perhaps have coffee.

I found that the hotel in which we had spent our time in 2001 had changed its name. It is down a narrow street which leads from the square to the bullring. Coming back to the bridge, I noticed that the Hotel San Miguel across the road had terraces going downwards as they overlooked the gorge from the other side of the bridge. Taking the lift down, I settled down for coffee and to absorb the wonderful timeless view. Meeting my husband later, he was full of the tour and we elected to have lunch in this hotel - again on the terrace down below - and savour the atmosphere.


Cordoba was an extra trip which the Saga Reps organised. Being part of the 'real' Spain with so much history attached, we could not let this opportunity pass. Cordoba was occupied by the Moors in 711AD until reclaimed by the Spanish in the 13th Century. It is famous for its Mosque-Cathedral or Mexaquita as it is still known. It is actually now a Cathedral. It was too large to pull down so they built the cathedral inside.
On entering you are rendered speechless in awe at the wonderful design of arch after arch, one behind the other, going into the distance.

As we walked around we could hear the sound of an organ in the distance and a choir singing. Entering the main chapel we were fortunate to experience this at closer quarters.
Leaving the Mexaquita through the Orange Tree Courtyard, our guide - again a local guide - took us into the old Jewish quarter with its narrow streets and alleyways crammed full of shops of all description. All in all, the time there was not long enough. You need a few days and more to really explore but it was wonderful to get a flavour of this important city. After lunch in a typical tapas bar/restaurant (which had a wonderful display of richly embroidered and embellished matador outfits belonging to famous matadors) where we devoured a huge pizza each, we strolled back to our pick-up point by the side of the Rio Guadalquivir.
Stopping by the Roman Bridge we captured more photographs and reflected how the buildings in those early days have lasted all this time.
Needless to say, after an early start we slept on the journey back to Nerja!

Read about Part One of our sojourn in Andalucia - Nerja, Malaga and Granada. 

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