Holidays and Other Excursions

Month: April 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Paphos Archaeological Park

Sunday 1 April 2017

Tomorrow we go home but first we have a major historical site to visit and it is within walking distance!  Jackie came here on a previous visit and was brought by coach – from the Anabel at the other end of the sea front – but did not go via the direct route!

Most of the Paphos Archaeological Park relates to excavations of Roman remains and typically dates from the first century AD when the Roman empire was at its greatest strength.

As the photos show here, as in Sicily and also in recent discoveries at Silchester, the high quality of the floor mosaics stands out.  It feels like there was a competition in progress between various rich Romans to demonstrate their individual wealth through the mosaics used in the flooring.

The photos are here.

The overall site is huge and many of the mosaics are covered at this time of year – there is obviously much more here than is on display at the time of our visit as a number of displays have explanation boards but the mosaics are covered by a layer of small stones (probably covering some protective plastic sheeting).  Some of the best mosaics are now under cover of buildings and this process will no doubt continue as money becomes available.

The Park is also close to the castle and the restaurants around the remaining port area (commercial port operations have all moved to Limassol).  Down in this area someone is playing music loudly  which is carrying up to us as we inspect the Saranta Colones castle.  We had not really noticed it but then they play “Somewhere over the Rainbow” – a piece we always associate with our daughter Stephanie and which I always feel means she is somewhere close by keeping an eye on what we are doing.

We cover only some of the site – it would take much longer to see the entirety if all of the mosaics were on display – in about two hours during the morning – and we feel a few spots of rain so assume it means it is lunchtime.  But in fact all we get are those few spots!

Lunch is taken in one of the many restaurants along the harbour seafront – and there is plenty of choice both of restaurant and then on the menus themselves.

We wander back to the hotel and try and enjoy a little sunshine; although the sun is there it is perhaps not quite warm enough as we might like.

Off home tomorrow so we pack cases this evening.  In the morning after breakfast we leave them locked away before heading into Paphos for one last meal before it is time to return to the airport.  Elephant are on the case this time to recover the car (the damage from the concrete ball seems to go unnoticed).  BTW I did not hit the concrete ball – we merely found it near the car and with evidence that someone had rolled it there – not easily as it was heavy and nor could we identify where the ball had been before it was moved as there were no missing balls!

And we arrive home early on Monday morning.  Next up is a short trip to Devon but with more posts than this.


Trip to Troodos

Tuesday 28 March 2017

One of the reasons for hiring a car was so that we could do at least one trip to visit the Troodos Mountains which are no great distance from Paphos.

The car has sat nav, there are maps on the internet and there are road signs – what could possibly go wrong?  Nothing does go wrong, I am pleased to report and we have an interesting trip.

We take the main road eastwards out of town and after a few miles there is a sign for Troodos Mountains so we take that exit and now the road seems to go uphill from time to time, although a lot of it seems flat.  We pass through some rolling farming countryside and not much other traffic so an easy drive.

We follow some signs and we get onto some real back roads, including finding a bridge between two valley roads which really is single track.  In accordance with our initial aim we find ourselves in Omodos which Jackie confirms she has visited before on a coach trip.  A cup of coffee is needed.  As we wander around the village we spy a couple of reasonable looking restaurants but it is a little early for us to take lunch.  But at least one of them has rooms so we could come to Cyprus again and stay for two nights eating in both!  There are also some interesting looking art shops and so on as we wander round – coach trips obviously stop here.

We carry on reaching Plano Platres at lunchtime where again there are a number of restaurants.  We park in the main car park and we are supposed to pay and display.  But we cannot get change from the Tourist Information so cannot pay for long enough.  We ask a couple of times but are told that the car park only tends to get checked in the peak of the summer season and indeed we do not get a parking ticket.  Always makes me nervous though if I do not pay enough for parking.

We have lunch in Skylight which is a huge restaurant – presumably with very heavy demand in summer from coach parties – it also has a swimming pool!  As with all meals the Greek salad which comes is almost a meal in itself and we keep forgetting this – we really need to order one to share between us but don’t!  Here is Jackie’s picture:

I had a better meal than Jackie.  Our waitress (and possibly part owner?) originally came from Leeds but had been in Cyprus for many years.

The car is unclamped when we return to the car park and we head on up to Troodos which is the highest point around here.  We pass snow/ice blocks by the side of the road as we ascend – it has not yet all melted at this time of year.

My few photographs of the day are here.  Mainly Omodos and the view from Troodos when we briefly stop.  It is definitely a lot cooler up here than down by the coast.

The journey from here is inevitably downhill and we are heading in the direction of Limassol as we use different roads to those used on the outward journey.  What feels different about this journey is that I can tell we are going down, going down and down and definitely down all the time we are moving.  This morning it was not so obvious we were ascending, but this feels relentless – constant use of brakes and so on.

We reach the outskirts of Limassol and then pick up the main road westwards back to Paphos.  A very nice day trip.  We know we did not see all the sights (missed waterfalls and so on) – but it is all part of an excuse to return here in the future.

One more post to come on our Cyprus trip.

Paphos Cyprus

Sunday 26 March to Monday 3 April 2017

A cheap week away in the sunshine.  There will be this post on the holiday and then two more – one on our trip to the Troodos Mountain and another on our visit to the Archaeological Park in Paphos.

The holiday is cheap because we travelling on Air Miles (or Avios Points as they are known these days) reflecting a pay back for our trip to Australia.  We have merely paid the taxes and the flights are “free”.  Jackie has been to Cyprus previously with Veronica and stayed at the Annabel, so she should know her way around and where we need to go.

We are not staying at the Annabel but across the road and round the corner in the Anemi which is a little less expensive.  But first we have to get there and Elephant who are supplying our hire car are not waiting for us.  A lady from another company enables us to make a phone call and they turn up with the car and we are off.  It is now after 10 and we know the hotel locks up at 11.  We make it!  We do take a wrong turn as the final part is a paved area and it is not obvious it is a road to take.  The sat nav then takes us round in a circle to get us to the right place!

The area around the pool is in reasonable order and from the outside it is clear that some rooms in the hotel have been refurbished as the external windows have been changed – and it is equally obvious that the refurbishment work has not yet reached our end of the hotel.  It is therefore a little old and a little worn but the owners are obviously re-investing as the funds become available.  We are there for B&B only and we have a small kitchen area as it is an apart-hotel.  Towards the end of our stay we do establish that the main restaurant can serve a decent evening meal (and entertainment).

To Jackie the biggest surprise is that we can walk out of the hotel and along on to the main strip and there is a profusion of restaurants from which we need to make a choice most days.  Although she had been here before she was staying on half board terms and when she left the hotel the coach did not go along the front and so she was unaware of all the restaurants that exist.

A fish restaurant is selected for the first night and a Chinese for later in the week.  We have also booked St Georges which has been mentioned in the Sunday Times recently as being very good.  One lunchtime we eat in the beachfront cafe of the Almyra which is one of the very upmarket hotels.  All good places to eat.  Lot of seafood of course!

On Tuesday we are heading to the Troodos Mountains (which is a separate post) and on Friday 31 March we drove along the coast to Limassol which is a big port and the weather is wet, so when we get there it does not look terribly attractive, nor do we fancy wandering around in the rain!  Some photos taken along the coast road are here.  We head back towards Paphos and then find Melanda beach where Jackie found some prawns in the restaurant:

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday are days spent doing very little – mainly finding different places to lie in the sun by the pool and absorb the sun.  We also do some observing of the local cat population.  The photos around Paphos are here.

During the week we wander along the front at Paphos and have a drink in a few of the many bars.  However it is not until nearly the end of the week that we find that there is a further group of restaurants right along at the far end by the castle – we did not go that far initially.  Also in the bit of town close to us we have a look at some of the other hotels and apartments to investigate possibilities for future visits.  A number of these have not opened up yet for 2017 and at least one is being redecorated in readiness for the main season.  So in the full season the choice would be almost mind bending – we had difficulty choosing from the selection that was open!

Generally pleasantly warm it is only the end of March.  A nice rest and not too expensive.  1976 miles by air for the single journey, so in total over 4000 miles covered this week.  There are other sights and other places to go, so we may well return to Cyprus in the future.


Barry, Gavin and Stacey, James

Wednesday 8 March 2017

We are going home today – but not immediately as we have one more restaurant booking.

We head down to the M4 and then bypass Cardiff coming into Barry from the west.  Barry Island historically was the home of the Woodham Brothers scrap yard, the location from which many of the preserved steam locomotives now in service around the country were rescued and this accounts for the relatively high number of former Great Western and Southern engines which were saved.  The small scrapping team cut wagons rather than locos and so many of the latter were there a long time.  I never visited in those days, but Dai Woodham is remembered with a street named after him.  The area generally has been redeveloped as there are new roads and buildings – we know about the former as the sat nav does not know where we are!

Much of the television series “Gavin and Stacey” was filmed in the area and the funfair (closed and undergoing winter refurbishment) is close to the front where we park and wander around.  The most amazing aspect of watching the world go by here is that nearly everyone seems to have a dog as there are huge numbers of them being walked on the beach in front of us.

In need of a cup of coffee (to warm us up) we enter one of the coffee shops and find (to our surprise) that it is packed.  They are all knitting or crocheting and we are told we have stumbled into the “Barry Hookers Crochet and Craft Club”!  And about half of them have dogs under the tables.  It honestly feels like we have actually walked into “Gavin and Stacey” (or perhaps “Stella”).  Apparently they are a club which meets regularly and they do have a Facebook page etc!  Who knew?  I believe there is also a full tour of “Gavin and Stacey” locations which can be done – but we do not have the time.

Returning to the car we meander along the coast to Penarth as our lunch is booked at James Sommerin which is one of the Good Food Guide Top 50 restaurants.  As ever photos come from the phone of Jackie Whitbread:

Goat’s cheese appetizer

Wood pigeon

Pea canneloni. With jambon. Was amazing! James’s signature dish that won him Great British Menu.

My lamb and broad beans.

Jackie’s sea bass which was scrummy (well it  all was)

Tastes of Tarte Tatin.

The cheeseboard from which to make a selection!

Once lunch has been completed we head out of town to the M4 and then bumble home.  We take the M4 itself eastbound and use the second Severn Crossing as we leave Wales.  As we are eastbound there are no tolls (you only pay to enter Wales) so we can just keep going.  Another holiday completed!

No distances this time – but for one holiday not enormous.  Bellies are very large after all those lovely meals.  James Sommerin and Walnut Tree Inn are both excellent.  And a couple of interesting train trips!

The Hardwick Inn

Tuesday 7 March 2017

A short post today.  I was taken out for lunch – but first we popped into Abergavenny to get the papers.

Today we are eating at lunchtime and the restaurant is between Abergavenny and our residence for the week in Penpergwm.  The chef at the Hardwick Inn is Stephen Terry.  As his cv shows he has moved around over the years including a period running the Walnut Tree before it went bad and came good again!  Jackie and I ate at the Canteen in Chelsea either during his time there or just shortly after as it was still pretty famous and that was a long time ago.  We never managed Coast which was famous about 20 years ago – one of those which got away.

Jackie recorded our lunch in photos and so she has provided this record of our excellent meal.


Jackie partook of crab and shrimp linguini followed by Moroccan chicken.  I had some wonderful pork tenderloin with lentils and fennel in a parsley sauce.  Jackie finished with ginger cheesecake with rhubarb and we shared the cheeses.

Jackie kindly drove us the relatively short distance back to our cottage and hardly surprisingly we went to sleep for most of the afternoon.

We found the film “The Railway Man” and watched the story of Eric Lomax.  Inevitably and for dramatic effect (it is a film not a documentary) some aspects of the eventual meeting of Lomax and his former jailer are not entirely true but it is powerful to have it played out.



Monday 6 March 2017

Today turned out to be a little more interesting than anticipated – by accident.  Jackie had expressed a wish to visit Hay-on-Wye which is about an hour’s drive and as Monday tends not to be a restaurant day it made sense to go and see the book capital – even if we were not overly worried about buying books.

So we wander around and it is clearly an amazing collection of bookshops.  I take a look at the shop proclaiming to have a good selection of railway books but I manage to persuade myself that I do not need any more!  We look in some of the other shops (books and other items) as we meander around the town.

We then head into one of the cafes and decide that hot soup is needed to warm up before we make the return journey.

Hay-on-Wye is a pretty little town and exists for book buyers and tourists with a very large car park at the southern end of the town; not overly full today.  I suspect a damp Monday does not bring out the best in the town and I have no doubt it gets busier in the summer.  Our outward journey skirted the Brecon Beacons as headed northwards and the entire setting is very attractive.

The sat nav when asked gives several routes back south so I choose one which is not the main road but appears to run largely parallel to the road that brought us north this morning.  We head out of town and find the right turning and almost immediately we start climbing.  And climb some more.  And keep on going up!

I later discover we are going over the Gospel Pass. As we climb we have to be careful as there are sheep everywhere and a sheepdog trying to collect a flock at one point.  When we reach the top there are some stunning views over the countryside.  Magnificent but unrecorded and I cannot find Jackie’s pictures.

As we progress I express the view that I am glad we are doing this trip out of season as the lane gets narrower and narrower and I have no idea what we might meet coming the other way (later in the year there is a programme on channel five where celebrities take some large camper vans over this road – I am surprised they fit!).  Some wonderful trees along the road too – Jackie’s photos:

We pass Llanthony Priory but again it is getting later in the day and we do not want to stop as it is not very warm.  We shall need to return one warmer day.

Back to Penpergwm and we hibernate out of harm’s way!

Dean Forest Railway

Sunday 5 March 2017

Another day, another meal.  As it says up there it is Sunday so what we have planned is a proper pub Sunday lunch – the Crown at Pantygelli is a little way up the valley from Abergavenny.  Whilst we are there at opening time the place soon fills up and we have the nice roast meal that we had hoped to have.

Being the weekend I had already established that the other main railway nearby was working – the Dean Forest Railway.  When doing my research I was a little surprised that both Brecon and the DFR were open and operating before Easter so this is a welcome bonus so early in the year.  The Dean Forest of course is actually a bit of a drive so we get moving immediately after lunch!

Again the line has been much extended as I seem to recall that the train ran out of the low level platform at Norchard when I last visited and then shuffled back and forth on the main line before running back into the same platform.

Passengers still mainly join the railway at Norchard which is in the middle of the line – there is passenger access at both ends but very limited parking whereas Norchard has a huge car park.

Now the railway has a platform at a higher level on the through line at Norchard and that line stretches between Lydney Junction (somewhere close to the National Rail line) alongside which there appears to have been ground clearance for a new development.  The other end of the line is Parkend which opened in 2006 and there are plans to extend further to Cinderford.  Wet and cold in the forest today.

Parkend is a beautiful little branch line terminus station for the end of the current railway and it has taken much work to bring it back to current standard.  From Norchard to Parkend the line is largely running in the forest and it is possible to take the railway one way and walk back and there are walks around the forest.

Photos of the railway are here.

We miss out on the Perrygrove Railway which I had not realised was also in this area, although we drive right by it.  And may well not have been operating.

Our return journey is via Symonds Yat (well a very small diversion).  However it is getting towards the end of the afternoon and it is not very warm so we do not park and walk to the view.  The area is heavily wooded and so we cannot see any views.

Brecon Mountain Railway

Saturday 4 March 2017

This morning we are off to Pant (it is a place not a shortage of breath) which is at the northern end of Merthyr Tydfil.  The first part of the journey which had been so slow through the roadworks on Thursday on the Heads of the Valley road was not too bad this time and we get to Pant in plenty of time to go and buy some papers and then sit in the car park to do some sudoku – well it is Saturday and therefore sudoku day!  It is raining and not very warm at all today, much the same as yesterday – perhaps even colder.  Not ideal weather for a narrow gauge railway ride!

The trackbed was originally the Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Railway, opening in 1859 and closing in 1964.  The current station is marginally to the West of the original site as it was not available when the narrow gauge railway was first built.  The new narrow gauge railway opened in 1980; it is of 1ft 113/4in gauge.

Loco no 2 and three coaches appear for our ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway – and surprisingly the coaches steadly fill up more than I had expected.  No 2 is a Baldwin locomotive, built in 1930, a 4-6-2, originally built for the Eastern Province Cement Company in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and acquired in about 1990.  At the time of our visit it is the only steam loco with the power to haul a train up the gradients.  Another locomotive is being completed to share the duties.

Since my last visit (in the early 1980’s) the line has been extended twice and on the outward journey we do not stop at the previous terminus of Pontsticill which is at the southern end of the Pontsticill Reservoir.  Indeed it is fair to say that Pant station is also completely different and it is clearly a much better developed railway with significant new investment.  But that is true of so many lines over such a long period.

Still some great scenic views as we head towards the hills.  The most recently opened section of the line is in forested area.  The new terminus is at Torpantau and further extension is I suspect unlikely as the railway feels to be a decent length of run and the outward journey, particularly the last section, is certainly an uphill task for the loco.  The northern terminus is also not quite on the original trackbed.

On the return journey we pause for a while at Pontsticill as the loco goes off to take water (and I suspect to clean the fire and a good oil round).  The passengers can (as most do) head for the tea room but there are also stored vehicles which can be inspected and stretch passenger legs.  Probably nicer on a warmer day!

However I am really surprised by the level of patronage as I had half expected an almost empty train – but by whatever means they are clearly getting good support.

Lots of photos can be found here.

We return home to read the papers after some light refreshment at Pant.  Come the evening we trek through the back roads (I suspect the sat nav is having a moment) to Restaurant 1861.  I am not sure we do not almost go round in a circle.

By and large we choose restaurants which are well regarded in the Waitrose “Good Food Guide” and hence the inclusion of this restaurant.  Jackie kindly posted this on her Facebook page:

“Umm!  That was interesting.  Started off well with confit and smoked goose for me and fish soup for Richard.  Then the driest venison in history.  No pud for me as I never throw good money after bad, but we shared some cheeses, so were served one pre dessert (a tiny cup of orange and pumpkin soup) between us with 2 teaspoons!  On objection, I was told is was a complimentary treat from the kitchen.  Needless to say, there was no complimentary tip from the diners.  AND they charge to use a credit card. So a debit card was used.”

My main course was hearts from the daily menu which I rather liked and I enjoyed.  So we have slight disparity of views over our main courses.  I do feel that the lack of a pre-dessert for Jackie was simply wrong and since this was experienced we are moving to the point where credit card surcharges will largely be abolished as I understand it.  Tonight was a disappointment.

The homeward journey was by the main roads rather than the back roads – which requires almost going into Abergavenny and out again.  But better than the narrow backroads after a glass of wine.


Friday 3 March 2017

The plan today is for a much quieter day than yesterday.  We bumble into Abergavenny and find both the cheese shop and the market where there is of course a cheese stall.  A number of smelly cheeses are acquired.  The weather is nowhere near so nice today and there is ongoing drizzle and  it is not as warm.  Burton have had a shop in the town for many years and it is possible to record evidence of the attractive signage that used to be used and its incorporation in the building structure.  It makes the current one word “Burton” seem very stark by comparison.

The main plan for today revolves around taking lunch at a place which has been on our “to eat at” list for many years.  The Walnut Tree Inn at Llandewi Skirrid has been famous for a very long time.  The original owner (Franco Taruschio) retired and sold on and the restaurant had a few bumpy years before being bought by Shaun Hill in 2008 and has returned to good standing.  The chef we last encountered in Ludlow when it was the centre of restaurant excellence a few years ago.

We both choose the same starters, a Lancashire cheese souffle, and main courses, confit duck, black pudding and pigs cheeks.  Eating the same meal used to be a little more common than it is these days.  As we eat the restaurant steadily fills up and the kitchen keeps the meals coming.  Here are Jackie’s photos of the two courses mentioned:

With lunch complete we return back to our cottage.  I admit to Jackie that the last time we ate the chef’s food it was in Ludlow and we had not been terribly impressed at the time compared with our other meal there.  Certainly this was not lacking in any way.  I know it was a Friday and the restaurant is just a few miles outside Abergavenny but the place steadily filled up with at least one celebratory party and meals were also being delivered to people sitting in the bar so the team were working very hard.  And I have no doubt it is like that most of the time.

Discussing it after the holiday we agree that this was probably the best meal of the week.

Brecon Beacons

Thursday 2 March 2017

I had worked out a longish drive today to see some different countryside and for much of the day we are in sunshine and for a period in the afternoon we even have the top down on the TT which is good considering the date.

First we head along the Heads of the Valley Road.  This is now a very busy road and has been much improved over the years – although some sections still go up and down the sides of the valleys!  Indeed just west of Abergavenny there is still a lot of improvement work going on along this  section and so it is very slow moving.  Further west it is much improved and we can move along at a better speed, much of the improvement is EU funded according to the signs.  We are skirting along the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons because the plan is to cross over them at their western end.

Upper Brynamman is our first target on the sat nav (as satellite navigation system is usually abbreviated these days) as it marks the way onto the A4069, which is known as the Black Mountain road.  Jeremy Clarkson is known to get up at a very early hour in London so that he can come down and drive this road when he has a suitable car with little other traffic (I gather it has featured on “Top Gear”).   Given the great weather we can drive at a relatively gentle pace enjoying the views as we descend on the far side.  We are heading north and there is a small stop so I manage to take some photos.

We drop down the other side into Llangadog and find the Red Lion hotel where we have a very cheap and good quality lunch (liver and onions for me).

From there we head cross country to Lampeter which all looks a little run down and old.  So we keep going to Tregaron and I find some toilets.  Jackie then finds some much nicer and newer ones!

Now we are on the western side of the Cambrian Hills and there is another tiny (un-numbered road) which is known as the Abergeswyn Pass.  Some more lovely driving.  We have the sat nav on and we follow its guidance as there is certainly one point where the “track” to take is not particularly clear and we really are in the middle of nowhere.  I wonder where we would have ended up had we turned left rather right!

Down the other side and as we wander through the countryside we see a sign to the Lake Country House hotel which we follow.  Despite having lunch we both fancy a cream tea plus a break from driving and where better than a country house hotel?   The hotel is near Llangammarch Wells.  Here is a photo of tea from Jackie Whitbread:

After our break we pass through some more beautiful countryside heading south through Upper and Lower Chapel and then through Brecon and onto the A40 for Abergavenny.  The A40 here in Wales is a pale shadow of the road which exists in West London.  Quite a few miles today and some lovely scenery, none of which I have covered before that I remember.

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