Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Swn y Don review

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 | Reviews, Travel

swn-y-don

During our recent trip to Anglesey we stayed in a villa named Swn y Don in Cemaes Bay. It was a big place with a living room, dining area, large conservatory, two kitchens and five bedrooms.

conservatory

The coastal path runs right next to the garden so you get people walking right past. Not that they were interested in us, but it did mean we had to observe the rules about wearing swimwear while in the hot tub.

It made for a very nice view though.

view-from-garden

Beyond that there was a rocky cliff down to the water, so no access to the beach. You could walk down into the village if you wanted one.

Hot tub

The hot tub was really good. It was ready when we arrived and continued to work throughout our stay. The water was a little grimy by the end of the week, but we found the chlorination tablets to clean it up.

There was also a BBQ on the patio which was large and allowed us to cook for everyone. Both of these were advantages over Ullapool where we had to take our own BBQ and hot tub!

Connectivity

This was probably the biggest annoyance about the place. They had broadband, but we had to restart the router and modem several times a day to get it working. This would not have been so bad if I could get any photo data, but there was no signal anywhere on the property.

Kitchen

The kitchen was narrow and made for a bottleneck when someone was in there. However there were two fridges, a freezer and a wine cooler, meaning we had plenty of space for food and drink. The cooker was amazing! Five gas burners, including an extra large one, plus a separate grill and two ovens that became hot really quickly.

cooker

Cooking was sometimes a challenge because the kitchen was missing a lot of the tools I have at home. It had an electric whisk, but no soup pot or cake tin, and all the knifes were pretty blunt. All the doors had keys in them, which was really useful as we could all take different ones when we split up.

Summary

It is a beautiful house and a lovely location. I would definitely stay here again, especially if North Anglesey ever get some proper broadband and phone signal.

Ship Inn, Anglesey

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 | Travel

ship-inn

While in Anglesey, we had lunch at the Ship Inn. It is located in Red Wharf Bay, and we had lunch right on the waterfront.

red-wharf-bay

The food was pretty good. It was not anything to shout about, but good for a pub. Elina’s dish was served with steamed vegetables rather than salad, which was lucky as lettuce would have blown away! The gulls were soon in there after we had gone.

gulls

It is a beautiful location and worth a visit if you are in the area.

Anglesey Sea Zoo

Sunday, August 14th, 2016 | Travel

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Anglesey Sea Zoo (not to be confused with Anglesey Sea Life Centre) is located on the south-west coast of the island. It has a lot of fun looking creatures, including some of the the cutest cuttle fish you are ever likely to see. It is not a huge place, but it is an interesting place. For around £7 each, that makes for good value.

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Anglesey

Saturday, August 13th, 2016 | Friends, Travel

anglesey-panorama

For this year’s group trip, we headed to the north coast of Anglesey where we had a villa booked in Cemaes Bay. As you can see from the photo above it is a beautiful location and the villa was situated right on the coastal path. A short walk down from there and you could find the nuclear power plant.

power-plant

Unfortunately, they did not have a visitor’s cafe. Local attractions were not that important though: we were mostly interested in the hot tub. The weather was good for us and after an entire day of drinking in said hot tub, pretty much everyone except Elina and I were horribly sunburnt.

beer-bottles

Not a bad effort for the first 24 hours we were there. The rest of the week consisted of barbecuing, more hot tub time, and occasionally going to the pub.

bbq-lunch

We also had a look round Beaumaris Castle.

Beaumaris-Castle

As ever, it was a super chance to catch up with friends that we see too infrequently. Roll on 2017…

group-photo

Tropical paradise

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 | Travel

Given that I am from The North and Elina is from Finland, we are not hot weather people. Twenty degrees is fine. Twenty-five is roasting. This is the reason that when are looking for holiday destinations, we usually head north.

But it doesn’t work. Everywhere we got turns into a tropical paradise.

This is a photo I took on the Summer Isles…

summer-isles

They’re a small series of islands in Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands. On the west coast. The place where it rains every day. This was in September. It was exhausting climbing to the top of the hill because it was so warm.

Then here is us in Finland. The country where it regularly goes to minus twenty degrees celsius in the winter…

finland-beach

This is just after we had been swimming in the sea. The baltic sea. The one that spends half the year frozen. The day after we went swimming in a few lakes and that was even warmer. We went lake-swimming on our last trip too.

Finally, here is us in Iceland…

iceland

Iceland. The country of ice. The clue is in the name! On the right, we’re at the pool in our hotel. It was too warm to sit in for long, so we sat on the decking, that even in the shade was warm enough to sit outside. On the left, the blue lagoon, from which I came home from sunburnt.

sunburn

Every time we pick a colder and colder country to visit, and every time it ends up being super warm. How does this keep happening?

Iceland

Sunday, July 10th, 2016 | Photos, Travel

I have written a lot of posts about Iceland over the past month. In this final post, I wanted to discuss our trip in general and share some of the photos I have not had chance to yet.

initial-weather

When we first arrived, the weather was very British. The area around the airport is not very interesting. Therefore it seems odd that the airport is 45 minutes away from Reykjavik, and why the car rental station is a mile away from the airport. As soon as we put some distance between outselves and Keflavik, the weather improved, as did the view.

Þingvallavatn

When we arrived we drove to our first hotel, Ion Hotel, located near lake Þingvallavatn, at the bottom of Þingvellir national park. We drove round the lake to get to Gullfoss and Geysir. Click the photo for a larger version.

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After we checked out of Ion we headed north to Þingvellir.

road-north

Þingvellir

We stopped off at the Þingvellir visitor’s centre to take a look at the location of the historical Icelandic parliament.

thingvellir-1

thingvellir-2

After Þingvellir we drove north on what Iceland calls a road, but what anyone else would call a gravel track. They are not big on health and safety: we often found ourselves on step hills and twisty rosds with large drops just a foot off the track, with no safety barrier in sight.

mountain-road

This left the care filthy, which I was quite proud of. At the end of our stay, people were returning clean 4x4s. What’s the point? When we took our car back, they had to wash it before they could inspect it to see if there was any damage.

Snæfellsnes

We drove to the Snæfellsnes peninsula where we stayed at Hótel Búðir. I have covered this in those posts, but I love this photo of the petrol station in Borgarnes. Certainly beats the view ay my local station.

petrol-station

Reykjavik

To finish the trip, we drove to Reykjavik to spend a few days there. We went whale watching, visited the penis museum, Blue Lagoon and had a general wander round. We ate at a lot of fine restaurants too, as well as the Chuck Norris Grill.

Conclusion

Iceland is a cool place. The scenery is absolutely beautiful. It’s very Nordic; you could describe it as the Scottish Highlands on a much bigger scale.

The weather is good. There is a saying in Iceland, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes”. I’m British, so this is lost on me. Their weather can be unpredictable, but in the week we were there, it was nothing compared to ours. It was fairly consistant while we were there, and very warm away from Reykjavik.

It is expensive. My god it is expensive. We were on our honeymoon, so we were not doing things on the cheap. This perhaps adds some bias to our spending. However, I found it significantly more expensive than Finland, which is not a cheap place either.

Whale watching

Saturday, July 9th, 2016 | Travel

whale-tail

While in Reykjavik we went whale watching. There are number of companies doing the tours: Elding and Special Tours do big-boats while another company offers inflatable rib boats. The latter allows you to get closer, but you don’t get the luxury of a nice big boat you can go inside, and it is twice the price.

We went dolphin watching while in the Highlands and that was amazing as the dolphins come and swim alongside the boat, jumping out of the water.

whale-watching

Whales are not like that. They come up to take a few breaths and then go for a dive. You see a fin maybe as they sit below the surface and then the tail as they dive down, but that is about it. Generally, this is from quite a distance. You see a whale of course, which is cool, but you don’t physically see much.

The photos are taken with my 200mm lens, and were clearer than you could see with the eye.

whale-watching-boat

When you get on the boat, they offer you a seat of warm overalls to put on. I would recommend taking them up on this. Elina and I came prepared: Finnish wooly socks, fleeces and my new extra-warm coat and it was still a bit chilly.

Overall, I think I was disappointed with the whale watching. I think it was around £50 each, so that’s £100 for the two of us, and you just don’t see much. You could get closer by taking the rib boat, but then that is around £200 for a couple.

Icelandic coastguard

Friday, July 8th, 2016 | Photos, Travel

icelandic-coastguard

I do not advice messing with the Icelandic coastguard. They have battle ships.

Icelandic daylight

Friday, July 8th, 2016 | Travel

On my previous trips to Finland I discovered just how much daylight there is when you go north. However, there was always some kind of a night in Finland.

For example, here is a photo I took shortly before midnight while visiting in mid-July:

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It is not exactly a proper night, but it has got darker. There is something you could genuinely refer to as night there. Iceland is not like that. Even by the start of June, anything you would describe as night has disappeared.

It is difficult to represent exactly what it looks like because you are always interpreting the scene through the exposure setting. However, I took a few photos from my hotel window shortly after midnight.

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I purposely have not done any editing on these images. There is a clear difference between the first two and the last one, depending on what I told my camera to set the exposure by, but none of them really class as anything other than daylight.

This was from my bathroom window, a room which you could easily use without switching a light on. Equally, while you have to have your lights on at all time while driving in Iceland, it was enough light to do without them.

Icelandic Phallological Museum

Thursday, July 7th, 2016 | Travel

penis-museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum, better known as the penis museum, houses the world’s largest collection of animal penises. The collection has been going since 1974 when it was founded by Sigurður Hjartarson. It now has 282 specimens from 93 different species.

A lot of the species come from around the Iceland area, and whale penises are featured heavily. They are huge.

sperm-whale-penis
Elina standing next to the penis of a sperm whale.

There are many other animals also, and even some folklore penises: such as troll penis and elf penis. The museum now has several human penises too, after several people offered to donate theirs after their death.

The museum is based in one room, with some side compartments, so will not take you long to get round. It is worth the visit just for the novelty of it. They do some nice merchandise too.