Our last stop was the Cotswolds. We finally managed to leave the Gower after being temporarily trapped by cows hanging out on the road in front of us. Heading straight down down the M4, we got to the Severn Bridge and low and behold there was a joke-like divide behind England and Wales; a clear line separating the grey cloud over Wales and the glorious blue skies in England. Laters Potatas to grey sky! (at least it hadn't rained in Wales for once though). We headed up the M5 and stopped off for a tip-top but very melty ice-cream at Winstones on Rodborough Common in Stroud. The common was full of people with exactly the same idea. Next onto Nailswrth to pick up some souvenirs and then and then through the tiny country lanes to Cowley Manor. We were going to stop in Cirencester before but decided to stop after for a salad supper instead. If you're going to do the Cotswolds, you might as well do it in style like the celebrities and do it in the sun too! A five-star luxury spa, Cowley Manor's C.Side Spa (and the hotel for that matter) is a more exciting contemporary take on your traditional Bath Spa retreat. The interior and furniture is all specially designed by young British designers. The only problem was that somehow I had misplaced my bikini and had to wear a quick-grab black and white spotty pound shop number. Don't worry I wore it with style - making pound shop cool, yet again.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The journey from Blackpool to Wales began late due to ages sorting the piles of stuff we had collected along the way and haphazardly stuffed in the boot (The hotel guests thought we were nutters with our bags of rock, fishing tackle and extensive tea-towel collection sprawled out across the car park!). Instead of doing the whole five hour plus journey at once we decided to break it up with an overnight stop in Herefordshire. The hotel in Hereford was nothing to write home about and we would definitely have stayed in one of the Woodland Tipis (or yurts) nearby instead if we could have stretched to their two night minimum.
Just the thought of another cooked breakfast in the morning made us feel full. By this point in the week it was definitely diet o'clock so we made a swift exit. We took the scenic route down through the Brecon Beacons passing the turning for Abergavenny where the Green Man Festival takes place this weekend: 'Cradled in a beautiful valley, the Green Man Festival is an indie-folk fairyland where antler-wearing Druids lead processions of children past wishing trees' (2008 Observer review by Tamzin Lewis). The Druids have even blessed the sight this year so that it won't rain (if you are one of the lucky ones to have a golden ticket, i'd pack your wellies just in case...). After the Tom Tom trying to drive us into rivers and freaking out about new roads it wasn't aware of, we finally arrived at Pilton Moors to drop off our stuff. Having booked their converted shepherd's hut, complete with a wood-burning stove, us two city girls were pretty over-excited about this back-to-nature adventure.
We spent the afternoon exploring the AMAZING surely-can't-be-British beaches. Three Cliff's Bay has been rated one of the top ten places in Britain to watch the sunset (Worm's Head in Rhossilli not far behind). We ran into the sea, lay on the powdered white sand for a bit and then went and collected wild marsh samphire. On our trek back up to the car we also munched quite a few blackberries. They didn't feel so great swimming around our bellies along with the salty samphire when we were reminded by massive horse poos that we only had fifteen minutes to make our hack at nearby Clyne Farm and had to peg it up the steep hill (REALLY glad we skipped the full-English). My first memory of horse riding was when I was nine. The horse got scared of some pigs and bolted back to the stables, going straight through bushes; low branches smashing me in the face. My second experience was a long horse-riding trek on the beach and through the rainforest in Dominican Republic, bareback, only having the bolting experience to draw from. Anna somehow managed to convince me it was a good idea though and thankfully it was third time lucky. The horses were calm and well trained and the view from Mumbles (we cracked up when we found Mumbles means breasts in English) was the best. We could see right across the Gower, out to sea and over to Swansea. There are other riding schools but this is particularly good because you are so high up. For more experienced riders you can go on day-long hacks down to the beach too (hence the poo on the paths). They also have tipis you can rent at the farm and various other activities if you feel like being a hunter-gatherer sort.
Before dinner at Fairyhill (great award winning food, mainly locally sourced but mainly full of quiet couples much to our disappointment, or theirs to our arrival?! Although the staff were very friendly) we just had time to check out Mewkslade and watch the sun go down at Worm's Head. Mewkslade is only a beach when the tide is out. On the walk down, there were hundreds of rabbits hopping about and we were the only ones to see the waves crashing against the rocks at this time. If you visit the Gower in Autumn apparently there is hardly anyone around and you can can often have the beautiful beaches to yourself. Pretty. Damn. Cool.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The bright lights of the Golden Mile are back on the trendy map it would seem. Firstly it is the hometown of Little Boots whose kaleidoscopic-style video for the single Remedy
(coincidentally by our friend David Wilson) is reminiscent of the flashes and whirls of the funfair attractions on the Blackpool sea-front. As your Aunty will probably tell you, Strictly Come Dancing was filmed in the lavish Tower Ballroom and as soon as we mentioned that we were going to Blackpool everyone made us promise we'd pay it a visit. More like something you'd expect to find in a gold-plated Rococo Palace, rather than a tacky English seaside resort, it is pretty amazing to get close up and see it in it's full glory when not distracted by the fake tans, highly-sequinned dresses and colourful lights seen on television (as much as that is right up our street too). The old biddies, quietly dancing away on the massive parket floor to the sound of a wurlitzer was perfect entertainment for our high tea. The circus show, which we visited after, lasts two hours is split into two parts. The first hour being a trip down memory lane and the second half, a modern circus. The traditional first half wins hands down- we left just after the interval. We then went up to check out the Charlie Cairoli exhibition (which seems to be the part that other vistors miss out- FOOLS) Viktor and Rolf would be wetting themselves over the costumes on show. So desirable, we were wondering if anyone would notice the sound of the display cabinets smashing and us walking out dressed like glitzy clowns. No joke, we would rock clown costumes everyday if they looked anything like these!
So Blackpool is the kitsch capital of England. There is no denying it and anyone who knows us will know we are suckers for kitsch. If plans go ahead to turn the Golden Mile into a Las Vegas style strip, lined with massive casino hotels, I reckon Anna will booking the whole of Tiffany's Hotel out and giving Elvis a call to marry her at her shotgun wedding. (That's if Carmen Petulengro, the famous South Pier palmist's predictions come true...)