Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wales and coasteering

We were starting to get a little stir crazy with winter winding down. To escape we booked an Easter bank holiday weekend trip to Wales. Rugged coast line, beautiful countryside and best of all, sparsely populated outside Cardiff and Swansea.

To make the most of the long weekend we took off after work opting to do the easy but boring motorway driving to Swansea.

One quick side note. Driving into Wales on the M3 you cross a great bridge across the bay where you have to pay toll. This is when you see that the pace of life has changed. Things instantly SLOOOOW down and from the non stop, out of my way attitude in London to the "Have a lovely evening" way of Wales was a very welcome way to start the trip. Even if I did have to pay toll for it.

Knowing we'd be getting in just short of midnight we opted to stay at a cheap sea side B&B in a little place called Mumbles. Well cheap is what we got. It was a bit rough but luckily we only had to sleep and go...

A major theme for the trip turned out to be the weather. Wales is known for its unpredictable weather and there were no guarantees we would even see sunshine but we did and lots of it. What a change from the winter gray of London.

From here a buddy of mine from Wales recommended we explore the Gower, a little peninsula sticking out below Swansea where he was from. We drove around the peninsula ending up in a fantastic village, Rhossili, at a place called Worm's head. It is a little island stuck out off the coast. Possibly resembling a worm's head? We walked along the high cliffs out towards the island that is only reachable in low tide.

From Rhossili we headed towards our main stay near the village of Mathry stopping along the way at a fantastic castle. If you don't know Wales its the land of castles. Throughout the centuries everybody wanted their own piece of Wales so in defense they built castles and lots of them. This particular castle was stuck on a hill top with a staggering cliff face. Check out the photos. Very cool. I'm not sure if you can see it in the pictures but there is a man made walk way built out on the cliff face leading to a natural cave which was fun to explore. Steph got a big kick out of taking our small flash light and leaving me in the dark. Not funny Steph!

After a bit of castle exploration and a few pictures we set off to the main attraction. Our Adventure Cocktail Weekend. A 2 day adrenaline filled weekend of coasteering, sea kayaking and hiking on the rugged coastline all staged from a 5 star ecolodge. Green and fun, what a combination! All provided by our friends at Preseli Venture.

I'll start with the lodge. It was a very camp-like atmosphere. With housing facilities for 30+, all full for the weekend. Some of the rooms had bunks for 6 or more and a big room to eat and hangout. Meals were served all at once and were a very hearty mix of soups, lasagna, jacket potatoes, ect. By "Eco" they really mean self sufficient. They would never say but I'm guessing it was geothermal powered. They used ecotricity and the building was built to maintain all the heat possible plus, as everyone should, they made huge efforts to recycle everything.

Now back to the events. First up Saturday morning was coasteering. Yep - you read right so what is coasteering. Its a combination of swimming, climbing, jumping off cliffs through sea caves, up and down with the sea swell all in the frigid ocean which even in April was a staggering 7 degrees. ( 40 Fahrenheit ish ). Luckily full winter wet suits were provided along with gloves, booties, buoyancy aides ( haha ) and helmets.

Once at the coast we made our way down to the sea, sun shining and waves tumbling. We all took a big gulp knowing what we were about to do. As we edged into the cold water it hit us. The water was so COLD it was almost painful. In fact, it was painful.

Eventually the wet suit did its job and we started to warm up, sorta. Then a distraction. A bull seal, how cool! It came to investigate and then was off. Game on.

Up and over rocks, swimming through little coves dodging the surf we went. Jumping off into the water at different points was the best. The last jump was 25ft up and was exhilarating. Just the pure shock of it all. The water was so cold, on the rocks the sun warmed you up and then nervously jumping off back into the cold water adrenaline pumping all the way.

Before I go for now, I should say I froze the whole time. The wet suit helped but not enough. Steph had a hard time breathing deeply - it was so cold! After more than 2 hours we were ready to get out! The hot chocolate afterwards was needed but I'd still recommend it to anybody with an adventurous spirit. It was a fantastic way to spend a morning.

Kayaking and hiking still to come.

All Wales Photos

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A long winter's slumber

I realize we have been offline for a while but we have now awaken from our long winter slumber. We haven't been traveling January through March but things are starting to pick up again with the end of audit busy season and the start of spring weather and holidays.

To catch everyone up - we have decided to stay in England a bit longer so we won't be coming home in April as originally planned. I have changed jobs in the past few months and am really enjoying my new and challenging role. Steph has also just changed roles in her company moving from audit to business consulting. Its a move she is excited about which should give her some incredible work experiences.

We are also moving flats this coming weekend. After 2 years we have finally figured out all the little apartment intricacies that are important to us (we hope!) and we have found a great flat. We are staying in Clapham Junction but moving to a quiet street, in a Victorian house with a massive back garden that is all ours! The new place is small (just 1 bedroom!) but as Steph puts it, "oh-so-homey". It has the original hardwood floors, decorative crown molding, french doors opening to the garden and a small finished cellar.

Also in the past little while, our friends Hal and Stacie came over to London and we got to spend time with them while they were in town. On the Friday they were in, we took them out for fish and chips to a place supposedly in the top 10 fish-n-chips shops in London and - WOW! It was the best fish and chips I have had since moving here. It's always excellent to have visitors as we often spend a little extra time looking for things to do/eat and we come across jewels like that fish and chippy shop! Rock and Sol Plaice, good name huh. We also had a fabulous dinner in China Town that was chart-topping as well.

Well, I think that's about all that's happened since January. I wasn't lying when I said we were in a winter slumber! Our first official trip of 2009 was this Easter weekend. We took the 4 day weekend to head over to Wales and spend some time out in the country. More to come on that in the coming days.

A couple notes to wrap up the post. Our 2 year anniversary of living abroad has come and gone with today marking 2 full years of us working in the UK. Oh how time flies! We want to thank everyone for their continued support. We couldn't do it with out you.

It is also my Mom's birthday so I want to wish her a very BIG Happy Birthday!

For a teaser I attached a picture from Wales...