Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wales and Merseyside

14 April
St Davids, Wales (The omission of the apostrophe is deliberate and correct – so there!)
Our luck with the weather deserted us a little over the last couple of days. We can't complain though. Even with the heavy skies, there has been very little rain and we have been able to play tourist in the museums and other 'indoor' attractions of Cardiff. Castles and Cathedrals just keep coming and we just keep falling for them. Many, like Cardiff Castle, have been significantly reconstructed, not just restored, over the centuries. Sometimes it is far more interesting to clamber over the ruins of an abandoned castle that has been left in its ruined state. You can still find them, but these days, every town that has had a castle at any time in its past, has 'restored' it to grab the tourist trade. Understandable - and some of them are just spectacular.
By early afternoon today, the clouds burnt off and the Welsh hit the beaches. A couple of big holiday weekends are coming up and this, combined with school holidays, has meant the holiday trade has hit the resort towns like Tenby in South Wales early. Tenby has some very nice sandy beaches and ,while there wasn't much sunbathing going on today, kids were paddling, kicking balls and licking ice-creams. It must be heaven for parents when the sun breaks through after such a harsh winter.
While searching unsuccessfully for a free camping spot this afternoon, we took some impossibly narrow lanes down to the Pembrokeshire coast. Just beautiful! The coast NOT the lanes! Sadly, we couldn't find any suitable 'freebies', so we are in a Camping Club site on the side of a hill just outside of St Davids. You need one leg shorter than the other to get around this park! It's on a hell of a slope. Luckily for us, the manager had a couple of spare chocks to stick under our wheels to get us almost horizontal! So here we are, at 7:45pm, waiting for the promised amazing sunset of the Caravan Club Sites Book. Doesn't look like coming any time soon, so we will have to start cooking dinner.

15 April
Lay-by near Barmouth, Wales
Here we are, enjoying one of our favourite travelling experiences - free camping in a premium spot by the water, with 'Oldies Rock' belting out on the cheap van CD player, a few glasses of cheap Californian wine (we never drink Australian when travelling) – and the USA is just another busted-arse economy to be exploited while the sun shines briefly on the Aussie $. A nice home-cooked spag-bog is ready to eat and the traffic noise is slowly abating as the long twilight rolls on.
Everything looks better in the afternoon sunlight and Barmouth Bay is no exception. Even at low tide, in the late afternoon light, the dry reed fields at the water's edge look just right against the background of russet Welsh hills.
Today, we finalised our arrangements to cope with the earthquake disaster in Japan. We now have a cottage booked in the Derbyshire Dales National Park area and a little car rented to zip about the narrow lanes that have caused us some anxious moments with the van. We will still fly home via Japan, ten days later than planned, but with just a short stop in Narita airport. So the title of this blog is still valid - just! Africa, Europe and Asia.

18 April
Ormskirk – outside Liverpool
Home of the Fab 4
We are both children of the '50s and teenagers of the 60's. So it will come as no surprise that we are unabashed Beatles fans. Play any Beatles song and we know what follows it on the album. So indoctrinated were our children that they can do the same!
After a couple of “Castle days”, looking at gorgeous Welsh castles, it was a pleasant change today tojump the outer-surban train from Ormskirk into central Liverpool. We haven't been here before, but on this sunny (again!) Spring day, we could easily overlook the usual industrial wastelands that line the tracks of cities like this as we approached the city centre. Once we stepped out of Liverpool Central Station, we found the real Liverpool. It was modern, clean and progressive.
Tourism is mostly about the city's most famous sons. And that's why we were here after all!
Penny Lane, Lime Street Station, John's childhood home, Strawberry Fields and the Cavern Club were all on our hit list. With the help of a very cheap day travel card, plus a lot of 'street walking' - with the appropriate tunes playing in our heads of course - we found them all.
“The Beatles Story” is a commercial 'experience' that we would normally avoid at all cost. Today, however, we made a good call and paid up the fairly hefty entry price. It was money well spent. A great trip down memory lane including a fun 3D film complete with vibrating seats, water sprays and other tactile treats.
It was a long day, but thanks to the northern twilight, it was still broad daylight as we walked the final 2.5kms from the station to our camping grounds after 7:00pm.

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