Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Castle Adventures

Raglan Castle
Living in South Wales, we're blessed with a fair number of local castles, in varying states of decay.  So Squeaky & I decided to have a little adventure to one of the castles we haven't visited before, Raglan Castle, in the hope of finding ourselves a brave knight or a handsome prince.  What? A girl can dream, right?

Anyways.  Raglan Castle, somewhere not far from Monmouth, and just off the A40.  Admittedly we went because Squeaky's school homework was to visit a castle & write about it, but I wanted to go somewhere different, rather than the ironworks owner's folly at the top of the road.  But an adventure is an adventure, even if there is an ulterior educational motive behind it.  Right?

Small archer
Pretentious arty moment
We were lucky to have a dry day, not many of those round here at the moment, and the sun even peeked out from behind the clouds for a while, just long enough for us to enjoy a picnic in the fountain courtyard.  We did everything it's posdible to do in the ruins of a 15th century castle.  Climbed to the top of the tower, imagined what it would be like to live in the bedrooms, shot imaginary arrows through the defences, went down into the spooky cellars (including a wine cellar! There was none left, I checked!), took pretentious arty photos through anything with a hole in, and were very glad we didn't have to use the soldier's toilet in the fortifications!
The soldiers' toilet
Squeaky and I came to the conclusion we'd love to live in a castle, but we'd prefer one with a roof and some glass in the windows!  It's just a bit too air conditioned for my delicate sensibilities.  That said, there's a lovely cafe, with free wi-fi.  All mod cons, almost!

Exploring castles can be a dangerous pastime, apparently.
Our castle adventure is linking up with the Coombe Mill Country Kids linky.  Show them some love!  Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

That London!

Post Office Tower - a useful landmark for finding our hotel
We did something amazing recently. Managed to escape La Squeak for a whole weekend & headed off to That London for excitement, adventure and really wild things.

I do enjoy London, all the glitz and sparkle, though there's a bit of me that's glad when I can escape back to my quiet little town in suburbia, and get out of the hustle and bustle. There's something for everyone, I find, and that's what I enjoy the most. 

Carnaby Street
 Carnaby Street is a good way to judge someone's musical age.  It can be the centre of Swinging London of the 60's.  It can be the home of the Smash Hits office of the 80's.  Or it can be "Eh? Where?" if your knowledge of music begins and ends with Katy Perry.

Ducklings in Regents Park

 Having an adults-only weekend means we can walk and mooch about to our hearts' content, no moaning about hurting feet or needing ice cream. We strolled through Regents Park, looking at the gardens and ducklings, wished our bank balance away in the shop windows of Old Bond Street, and took in the randomness of Covent Garden, where I might have slightly got carried away with shopping, just a little bit. Ahem.

The only Easter Egg I want this year
We didn't really make any major plans, and so wandered from our hotel in search of something to eat in the evenings, and happened across a lovely Greek Cypriot restaurant, only a few minutes from the hotel.  For a very reasonable price (even by my standards!) we tucked in to the most tender, delicious lamb I've seen this side of Athens.  And I probably shouldn't mention the sticky cake I followed it up with.  Mmmmmmm!  We could have so easily spent a fortune in an upmarket restaurant, there's plenty to choose from, but by just stepping back one street from the main shopping streets, we found fantastic food at much better prices.

Daddy decided he wanted to see a show, and got himself a cheap matinee ticket to Eric & Little Ern - the Morecambe & Wise tribute showing at the Vaudeville Theatre. That show was totally not my scene, so instead I was all cultured and spent a happy hour mooching the National Portrait Gallery and being amazed by the Andy Warhol picture of Elizabeth Taylor (which is under copyright, so I couldn't take a picture.)  The theatre can be great value in the daytime, the matinee shows are often cheaper than the evenings, and you can pick up tickets from cut-price vendors on the day.  The major galleries and museums offer free entry, though they do ask for a contribution (and give a rather hefty suggested donation), but it's all voluntary, and they offer good value as well as making you feel that you're all civilised and grown up.  (And galleries tend to have good coffee shops as well)

What else did we do?  We found a Banksy - completely by accident.  Though to be honest I was more amused by the comment someone had left alongside it.

We took a tour of BBC Broadcasting House, where we met up with an old friend.  These tours are a whole lot of fun, and you never know if you'll bump into someone famous popping out to pick up a sandwich.  The tours are a really interesting way to see a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes at the Beeb, we even got to sit on the One Show sofa (with a special cover on it, because Alex Jones' bottom couldn't possibly be contaminated by the mucky jeans of a mere mortal!)

I'm still a bit confused by Daleks, to tell the truth.  They're evil and all, but it's even more like an egg whisk, sink plunger & washing basket up close.  The security guard who was hovering somewhere just to the left of this photo was considerably more intimidating.  That's my suggestion for the next series of Doctor Who, forget the Daleks & Weeping Angels, have a terrifying race of security guards who won't believe you that the "suspicious shape" in your camera bag is the magic string that connects the camera to your computer, even when you show them.

And then there was this.  I have no idea why the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square is currently home to a giant blue chicken, but it is.  Your guess is as good as mine.

That's the thing really, the randomness of it all.  There's a London for everyone, whether you're grown up and cultured, a traditional tourist, in need of a good pampering & an expensive meal or a really silly person who spends half an hour going on about Big Blue Cocks.  It's all there, somewhere.