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Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Northern Wales

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 20, 2017

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Without a car, Mark and I had to use public transportation to get around. None of the towns in the coastal area of Wales seemed interesting enough to justify all the time and effort it would take to get there and stay only a few days. Moving around in Wales is a pain when taking the train or bus. Many of the routes we looked at took 7 or 8 hours because to go from point A in Wales to point B in Wales, one would have to go through Manchester, England. The equivalent would be… going from Miami, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia, by way of Austin, Texas.

To see northern Wales, first Mark and I found accommodations in a Welch town, very near to the English border, called Shotton. At Shotton we bought return (round-trip) tickets to Holyhead. With these tickets we could get off and on as many times as we liked on the way to Holyhead and back.

The only restriction was that the tickets could only be used on off-peak trains. I searched the Arriva website for when exactly the off-peak hours were. I looked through forums and even a few Reddit pages. No one had any clue as to when the train’s off-peak hours were. On the train I asked the conductor who checked my ticket, “When is off-peak anyway?” He looked at Mark’s and my tickets and said, “Well, it’s Saturday. You shouldn’t have a problem using these anytime today.” Everyone knows that the whole weekend is considered off-peak for traveling in most places. So, I got the feeling that the train guy didn’t know the actual off-peak hours either.

I do love a good obelisk

The first stop was at Holyhead. We had a little over one hour in the town before it was time to get on the next train out. It was just enough time for us to see an obelisk near the station, cross the Celtic Gateway Bridge, and see a church near the remnants of an old Roman fort. In fact, we even stopped to grab a bite to eat from a small grocery store in town. Had we had a car that day, we would have driven to the west coast of Holyhead to see the South Stack Lighthouse.

The next stop was at the town with the really long name. Here we had exactly one hour. In that time we bought a bunch of post cards from James Pringle Weavers, wrote on them, ran to the post office to mail them, and then ran back to the station with 3 minutes to spare to get on the next train out.

At the store James Pringle Weavers, there is a translation of the town’s name in English. It still doesn’t fully make sense, but I love this sort of thing.

The next stop was in the town of Llandudno at Llandudno Station. Initially, we were going to stay here for 2 hours, but stayed for 4 because it was so nice. We walked around looking for Alice in Wonderland characters. We soaked up the sunshine along both the shores and on the walk down the pier.

This was actually my second time in Llandudno. I came here years ago when I lived in Manchester and was a grad student. It was a nice little break in my bleak student life. It was wonderful then and it is still just as lovely now.

Our last stop was in the town of Flint to see Flint Castle. But we actually stopped here because Mark lived near Flint, Michigan. The two Flints are a drastic contrast of each other.

That ended our tour of Wales.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Holyhead

Basic Information

Cost:

  • Everything at this stop is free

Hours:

  • all the sights here are available 24hrs a day

Videos:

Notes:

  • The town’s name is pronounced “Holly-head”.

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch 
Llanfair PG

Basic Information

Cost:

  • I think we got 6 post cards for 2 pounds.
  • It cost about 80p each to mail the post cards, I think.

Videos:

Notes:

  • There isn’t really much to do in this town.
  • This town is a requested stop.
    • The train will not stop at this station unless there are people waiting for the train at the station, or someone on the train has asked for the train to stop there so they can get off.

Llandudno

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Everything but the items in the shops and parking are free.

Video

Notes:

  • There are many characters from Alice in Wonderland in statute-form around the town.

Flint

Basic Information

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • You cannot enter the castle.
  • The grounds around the castle is basically a park.

Map:

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Posted in Flint, Holyhead, Llandudno, Llanfair PG, Shotton, United Kingdom, The, Wales | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brecon

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 15, 2017

Monday, August 21st – 25th, 2017

We took a public bus from Cardiff to get to the YHA (Youth Hostel) in Brecon. We know that the bus passed by the hostel only once every 2 hours, so we did our grocery shopping before getting on the bus in Cardiff. By this time on our trip, cooking our own meals was not just about saving money any more. We wanted to eat at “home”. We were tired of restaurants and sometimes, we just wanted to stay in.

The YHA at Brecon

The YHA in Brecon was very quiet and peaceful. It was a fantastic place to get away and relax. Unfortunately that works better if you have a car and don’t depend on public transportation. There are a few trails that start right outside the hostel’s door. But, for more options, it’s better to have a car.

We, didn’t really go to Brecon for hiking. We went there for the caves… and because it was in the middle of Wales. We were working our way through Wales with the goal of getting to Scotland by September.

To get anywhere in the Brecon area, you first have to take a bus to the town of Brecon. We got up very early on morning to catch the 7:00AM bus downtown. Once there we had to wait at the bus depot for 2 hours for the next bus to the caves. If we had a car, the drive from the YHA to the caves would have been about half an hour.

We thought we would spend the whole day in the park. It is advertised as having 3 caves with one being called the “Cathedral Cave”. The first cave was nice and took about 40 minutes to an hour to walk through. The second cave, the Cathedral Cave, was very beautiful. But, the walk through that one took about 20 minutes. The walk up to the last cave took longer than the walk in the cave.

In fact, there was no walk in the cave. The cave was very small compared to the other two. Everyone just stood around and watched a video of the history of the cave. The video was interesting. It talked about the people who used the cave throughout history; first neolithic men, then Romans, and now us. But the video was about 15 minutes long.

The rest of the park is mainly for little kids. There are plastic dinosaurs throughout the park which all the children really enjoyed. But by noon, Mark and I had seen everything we were interested in seeing. We ate our lunch then waited for the bus back to the YHA. Since it was still the middle of the day, we had more than enough time to hike a trail near the YHA before sunset. That would be our new plan so the afternoon wouldn’t be a total loss.

The bus back to town had such great timing. The bus we needed to transfer to, to get back to the YHA left just 5 minutes after we arrived at the bus depot. But, of course we had to do some shopping before heading back. The next bus after that wasn’t for another 2 hours.

By the time we got back to the YHA it was about 16:00. We did walk about for 30 minutes but not on any of the trails. We saved that for the next day.

The next day we focus more on doing laundry and relaxing, but we did manage to get in a nice late morning hike. On the trail we speculated on where we could have gone had there been a better bus system in the area.

“You know, it’s not that expensive to rent a car here,” Mark told me.

“Yes, but they mostly rent stick-shift,” I replied.

“I can drive stick,” Mark said.

The seed was planted on our imagination. The freedom that would come with renting a car would be amazing, even if the car was a stick-shift.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most other hostels.

National Show Caves

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 15:00

Video

Notes:

  • One of the caves was used as a filming location for the Doctor Who serial The Pirate Planet.
  • There is one very long cave, but you can’t see most of it.
    • It takes about 30 minutes to walk through it.
  • There is one really nice cave, but it’s not very big.
  • There is one cave that is very small and all you do in there is watch a video.
  • It’s a great place for kids, but not that entertaining for adults on their own.

Map:

Posted in Brecon, United Kingdom, The, Wales | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Cardiff

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 10, 2017

Sunday, August 20th – 21st, 2017

In Cardiff we visited Cardiff Castle, which comes with an okay audio guide. The castle is very nice and the interior was unexpected.

Cardiff Castle was built in the late 1200’s. When I think of old castles I think of cold, dark, and dank (and not the good meme-like dank) places. Like the Tower of London which gave off a very dank vibe. Cardiff Castle felt more like a home; a home that was turned into a museum, but still a home.

We had a very nice time at Cardiff Castle. It’s wasn’t too eventful, just nice.

Saving Money While Backpacking

Some of the hostels Mark and I have been staying in have been okay, but lacked something… We stay at hostels because they are a lot cheaper than hotels and because we want to meet other travelers. But many of our hostels act more like bars with rooms.

The accommodations are inexpensive, but you are highly encouraged to eat and drink at their overpriced pubs. Some ban guests from bringing outside food into the hostels. Others provide a kitchen just big enough for them to advertise that they have a kitchen, but not big enough for more than one person to cook at the same time.

If you are traveling for a weekend, those kind of hostels would do. But for Mark and me, traveling the world, we want to save money where ever we can. Cooking for ourselves is a great way to keep costs down. So in Europe, we needed to find hostels that would allow us to do that.

Mark in the kitchen

In Cardiff we bought memberships in YHA which is the youth hostel organisation in Wales. YHA is a subsidiary of Hosteling International (HI). After enjoying our first night in Cardiff, we have tried to stay in an HI hostel whenever we can. There is a long list of benefits for choosing an HI hostel over other hostels.

They are generally cleaner. Like any chain brand, they have a reputation to keep up. Hostels in HI have to meet a certain level of cleanliness and they have to be environmentally friendly as they do it.

They have better kitchen and clothes washing facilities. Although they do have cafes and bars, no one is pushing you to eat and drink there. Because of this, they tend to have less drunk travelers.

They are more family friendly. The downside is that you’ve traded in loud drunk backpackers for loud annoying kids. But, I’d take the kids over the backpackers because children have a bedtime. Besides, kids staying at an HI hostel will be placed in a private room with their parents.

The HI hostels are less expensive, generally. Plus, as a member you get £3 off per night per member for your stay. Also, when renting a car it’s good to know that most, but not all, come with free parking.

Overall, HI hostels helped Mark and I to save money on our trip. I feel more comfortable and at home in these hostels. The employees act more in control of the running of the hostel. For example, if something is broken, they will fix it or call someone who will, rather than waiting until the end of their shift and letting some other staff member deal with it.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most other hostels.

Cardiff Castle

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • £12.50
  • You get discount if you have downloaded the audio guide app.
    • You can still use their audio if one is available.

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 16:00

Video

Notes:

  • Built in the late 11th century.

Map:

Posted in Cardiff, United Kingdom, The, Wales | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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