Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wales Castle Visit

One thing we learned about Wales was there is a lot of castles. Most of them are in ruins because they were created to defend against the invading forces (England). As England took over an area they destroyed the castles. Its a bit of a shame, but my kids love climbing over castle ruins rather than touring fancy castle museums.

The castle we found was Coity Castle. As you see all signs are written in both English and Welsh. Ironically hardly anyone speaks Welsh, but the government is trying to bring back the almost dead language...thus the signs. 

The castle was located in the middle of a neighborhood. There was local boys were playing soccer in the courtyard, and there was a nearby playground.

Wales: Cave and Farm

The owners of the cottage we hired suggested that we take the kids to The National Showcaves which was a couple of caves and a couple of cheesy family attractions like a dinosaur park and farm.

Since there wasn't anything to spear Misty on, we decided to feed her to a dinosaur.

This is us as we begin our journey into one of the caves. 

The caves were beautiful, but unfortunately they don't photograph well.

I enlarged this one a bit so you can hopefully see that there are two waterfalls inside this cave. The path curved around so you actually walked behind the waterfalls and then in between them. This cave was popular for wedding ceremonies, so they named it the Cathedral Cave.

In dinosaur land, Misty found a touch screen game that allowed her to paint the dinosaur. This was one of her many creations.

They had a sleuth station to pan for gold. Suprizingly they actually had real gold to pan for instead of pyrite  but it was just small worthless flakes. Neil and Lexi thought it was fun though. Here Neil shows Misty the finer points of sloshing.

Onto the farm side, Neil found some random rocks that had some historical significance.

While Lexi made it a mission to pet every animal. Misty was a bit exhausted at this point so she didn't enjoy this part of the day as much.

Wales: Waterfall Hikes

Normally I break up our holidays by days in a chronological timeline; however, I think it would work better for this trip to categorize it by experiences. 

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Wales was because they are known for beautiful waterfalls. I love waterfalls. 

We really had no idea what to expect from Wales. Ray works with a Welsh lady, and before arriving we had the impression that Wales was like Texas....everyone there THINKS they are special, but in reality everyone knows they are special. We found this to be untrue. Everyone in Wales was very nice, and it is just a slower pace of life than in the cities of England. Wales is mostly just countryside full of country people.

The countryside of Wales is beautiful. It was also VERY muddy. We rented a wonderful cottage, and before arriving the owners told us to bring wellies (rubber boots). We are very thankful for this warning since it was very muddy. The kids enjoyed it though, esp Misty who told us her wellies needed to be wet and muddy.

The hike to the waterfalls were long and in rough terrain.  The first one we picked was by the cottage, but we later found out was the hardest waterfall trail. At points we were hiking up a rocky cliff, splashing through puddles, and walking through thigh deep mud. 

Sgwd-yr-Eira meaning the waterfall of snow

The waterfalls were worth it though. 

The kids were able to get behind one of the waterfalls.

On a different trail we got to follow the river on a much more mild hiking trail.

Sgwd Gwladus

Sgwd Gwladus

 We saw several other waterfalls as we were driving. I can see why they call this part of Wales Waterfall Country.


While my mom was visiting, Ray and I snuck away for a romantic getaway to Edinburgh. We took the train up there, which was a very relaxing way to travel. 

Old City
New City
The city is divided into two sections: the old city and the new city. In the old city there are two castles that are divided by what they call the Royal Mile which is a medieval street of shops and restaurants.We stayed in the old part of town a block away from the Royal Mile. The new city was full of modern shops and chain restaurants. 

Our first stop was the Palace of Holyroodhouse which is at one end of the Royal Mile. This is the official residence of the Queen when she stays in Edinburgh. It was very interesting to see the place all decorated for Christmas.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Abbey in the Palace of Holyroodhouse
 One of the things we loved about Edinburgh is that around the next corner you never know what you might find. It was very historic with a bit of a Roman influence.

Random pic
Next we ventured to the waterfront to see the Royal Yacht Britannia. Ray and I really enjoyed the tour of the boat. We enjoyed a royal feast of a lunch and tea while we were on the yacht which was very fancy.

After lunch we returned to the Royal Mile for the castle at the other end: Edinburgh Castle. It was SO windy there. The castle is at the top of a huge hill and the winds were stronger than usual. We got blown over a few times. 

Edinburgh Castle

Angie at castle gate

After the castle tour we did a tour of the Scotch Whiskey Experience. It explained the different types of Scotch based on the various regions. We each got to sample a Scotch, but I must say I had the idea of butterscotch in my head and it was nothing like that. Ray's tasted like you licked a campfire log. We decided maybe we selected poorly, so we tried a different type and it was terrible in a completely different way.

Whiskey Museum at Scotch Whiskey Experience

The last part of our trip we decided to go on a haunted underground tour of the city. It started at this church where the guide talked about the corruption in early Edinburgh. We went underground and heard some ghost stories. At one point I got a chill that ran down the right side of my body.

I splurged and upgraded to a first class train ride back home. It was a nice upgrade that came with yummy snack boxes.

The Goodwin's Christmas

I was about to update our blog about a recent trip to Wales, but then I realized I hadn't posted my pics of Christmas. My mom came to visit for Christmas, and we decided to take a little trip to Bath and Stonehenge. We also walked around downtown London and saw all the window displays and sat on Santa's lap at Harrods.
I had heard the town of Bath was really nice. It gets its name from being a former Roman Bath. I must say the town was very beautiful, but I was disappointed that the shops were all just big name international chains.
Bath, UK

Bath, UK

On the way home we stopped by Stonehenge. There was a ceremony going on inside the center of rocks. We didn't go through the official path to see what they were saying or doing, but I think it had something to do with the winter solstice.
Downtown London has a lot of fun things to do for Christmas. One of the attractions is called Winter Wonderland where they turn Hyde Park into a big Christmas carnival. Unfortunately everything was super expensive, so we didn't do much other than walk through. We did sample some yummy food though.
Christmas market at London's Winter Wonderland

We decided to splurge a bit and take Misty to Harrods to see Santa. Ok it wasn't as much of a splurge since it wasn't that much, but I did have to make reservations in August to get a spot. Of course Misty was terrified of Santa, so I don't really have any pictures of it that anyone would want to see. It was a fun experience though.

A small note: I want to thank my mom for the pictures since I stole them off her facebook page ;)