Lake District: There is No Lake When There is No Rain / Day 6-7 of 2019 UK Holiday

I guess it is true. There is no lake when there is no rain. We have visited the Lake District in the UK and during our visit, most of the time, it rained. Some hiking plan we proceeded. Others, we abandoned. Hiking in the rain is fine except it inevitable wets our shoes.

Click here to view the part one of our Lake District tours. The camera was Nikon Z6. Lens was 35mm f/1.8 Z.

Day 6 we left Snowdonia and we had our breakfast in a charming little town called Betws-y-Coed. We had vegetarian/vegan breakfast with soy latte whereby in retrospective, we should have ordered a normal breakfast (with meat and dairy product, etc.).

The first lake we visited, we have encountered a young couple. It was only the four of us. All of a sudden, they took off their clothes and jumped into the lake in their swimming attire. I screamed at them from the shore, “Isn’t that cold”? They replied affirmatively. Both of them looked happy though. They took a selfie once out of water. Young love is made of this.

We spent a fair bit of time in a town called Amberside. It is a lovely town. Plenty of shops selling hiking gears.

Later on, we headed to another town called Windermere. The town is beautiful. We parked our car next to the railway station and hiked to Orrest Head – a good vantage point to the surroundings of Windermere. Throughout the day, it was raining on and off. We had dinner in Windermere, an Italian restaurant on the second floor. Seat outdoor with heating above us. The ambiance was romantic.

Caernarfon is Beautiful (and It Has a Castle) / Day 5 of 2019 UK Holiday

Caernarfon is a short drive from Beddgelert and it is a coastal town in Wales. The castle is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As Cynthia is attracted to anything UNESCO, she has boldly added Caernarfon onto our travel agenda. Now I must say, Caernarfon is beautiful. The best of all? There is a reasonable £5 per day flat charge for parking, which relieved us from having to figure out how many hours we need to park the car upfront. How would a tourist know how much time it is required to tour the city? How would we estimate the time required to queue and enter into, say, a castle? How much time should we spend exploring the castle without even knowing what to expect? Of all the car parks we have visited, only one offered flat-rate parking and another charged us when we left (I will get to that in another post). The rest needed some crazy guesstimation.

The photo album (with captions) can be accessed via this link. The camera I used was a Nikon Z6 with a 35mm Z lens.

There is an entrance fee in order to enter the Caernarfon Castle. The person who collected the money spoke in Welsh. It seems that this castle is popular amongst the locals because the ones in front of us spoke Welsh. So did the ones behind.

The castle has quite a few towers. If not for Cynthia’s superb sense of direction, I would have got lost many times. To climb up the towers, there are narrow staircases going both ways. Each tower has multiple levels whereby you could get out and take some pictures. Some towers are connected through the mid-levels and hence, it can get really confusing.

The view at the top of each tower is amazing. Needless to say, each tower offers a different outward and inward view. As a photographer, I was confused a great deal. I ended up taking A LOT of photographs and that took me a long time to figure out which ones to delete.

In the morning, the tide was low. In the afternoon, the seawater level had risen. This offered a unique photography opportunity. I love it! There is a bridge that connects the castle to another part of the coast. It can be opened up in order to allow ships getting through the canal (see the photo album). I overheard that during the recent heatwave, the bridge was stuck as it failed to rotate. It is a rather old mechanical bridge so I was told.

Our next destination was a beach in the town of Llandudno. I wasn’t expecting to visit a beach in the UK but my wife managed to fit that into our diary. It isn’t a sandy beach though. It is a beach full of small rocks (and oversized seagulls).

We had fish-and-chips for lunch and burger and doner kebab for dinner. Not exactly a healthy kind of diet. I couldn’t finish the chips and I fed the seagulls instead. I knew I really shouldn’t. But those pleading eyes. How could I say no? And my friends, that explains the size of the evolved seagulls.

Damn those eyes (and their immense patience).

Sunny or Rain We Hiked in the Snowdonia / Day 4 of 2019 UK Holiday

Snowdonia National Park is located at northeast Wales, which is around two hours drive from my previous location Shrewsbury. Cynthia has picked a small town called Beddgelert to stay because according to her, it is the most scenic town in Snowdonia. She is right. Beddgelert is beautiful. But even with voted UK’s best mobile network Vodafone – unless it is an advertising scam – there is no mobile data access in town. Google Map is not very good in the UK either. We ended up driving up the hill, onto a narrow unpaved road, and into a farm as we were searching for our Airbnb. Thankfully, the car comes with Satnav. I still prefer Android Auto though. But to use Android Auto – whereby most of the time, it does bring you to the right places based on the postal codes – we need mobile data access. In the UK and outside of the big cities, mobile data access can be pretty patchy or even non-existence. It could be the country or it could well be Vodafone.

To view the photo album and read the captions of our day 4 adventure, click here. For this trip, I use a Nikon Z6 with 35mm Z lens.

Since yesterday’s afternoon, there has been raining in the UK. More like drizzling on and off. I am pretty used to the UK weather. My wife found it rather fascinating as compared to the weather in Southeast Asia. Our plan was to hike. Since the rain was not that heavy, I bought Cynthia a nice and warm jacket (with a hood!) and onto Snowdonia we hike.

The first trail is called Gelert’s Grave. It was a very easy trail. A very enjoyable walk. The story behind the trail is rather sad though. Legend has it that a baby was missing. And when one dog came back with blood around its mouth, the owner concluded that the dog must have eaten the baby. So the owner killed the dog.

As he went searching for the body of the baby, he found the baby alive next to a dead fox. He then realized that it was the dog that killed the fox that was trying to eat the baby. The owner was very sad and a grave was built. The trail is a short hike from Beddgelert to the grave and back. While the story was sad, the scenery was beautiful. It was a good walk.

Next, we headed to the legendary trail of Dinas Emrys. It is a story about Merlin and the dragon. My wife is really into Merlin (thanks to Netflix) so the trail is more for her. On top of the hill was a small ruin whereby underneath, the dragon sleeps. So said the legend anyway.

The last trail we did was Craflwyn circuit. The cloud broke just a little bit. It was quite a hilly climb and we have encountered pairs of sheep. The scenery was also beautiful. It was green everywhere with pink and purple flowers dotted the hillside. Occasionally the sun shone through and we took the opportunity to take some pictures.

On a high note and despite the rain, we managed to reserve a table at Hebog – during our breakfast at … Hegbog. It is quite possibly the best restaurant in Beddgelert. The lamb rump was so tender and so juicy. Dinner was delicious. One of the best I have during our holiday in the UK.

30 Years Ago I First Stepped into Concord College / Day 3 of 2019 UK Holiday

Looking back, entering into Concord College thanks to a local scholarship from Hong Kong was one of the life-changing moments of my life. It was back in the year 1989, which is exactly 30 years ago. On the third day of our 2019 UK holiday, my wife and I have visited the school that I have spent two years studying for the A-level. The same school that prepared me to enter Oxford University. There are so many things that I have learned and experienced back in those two years beyond the textbooks – the good and the naughty – that has definitely shaped the way I am. In that sense, Concord College is part of who I am.

Click here to view the photo album with captions. The pictures are shot with Nikon Z6 and 35mm Z lens.

Because we have to be escorted during our visit, the Alumni Office has requested Josh to accompany us. I could have met Sara instead who was one year my senior but she was on leave. Maybe next time!

The road trip from Oxford to Shrewsbury was rather long. But we have started early. The drive was pleasant. In fact, more pleasant than I have anticipated. The final stretch from Shrewsbury into Acton Burnell, part of the road was much wider than I remembered. When I shared that with the staffs at the school reception, they were quite surprised. Because many visitors have commented that the road is windy and narrow. The road may have been widened over the last 30 years or it could well be my imagination. Either way, I had a fun drive into Concord College. We reached before 11am.

The old front gate has been relocated to the other end of the college. And it has become a much wider and grander entrance. Even though Sara has warned me in advance through email the night before, following the Google Map instruction, we still ended up at the old front gate. Fortunately, the town is kind of small. We found the new front gate in no time (thank you, Sara)!

Josh is such a wonderful guide. He is young and full of energy. He is so passionate about the school facilities and the changes the school has made throughout the years while mindful with the fact that I come from the dinosaur era. There are bits that I remember and bits that I don’t. And then there are other bits that I am not aware of.

The overall experience was magical. It is as though I have time-traveled from 1991 (when I graduated) into 2019. There are buildings that look more or less the same. Such as the main hall, the old front gate area, the old chapel, the old science lab, and the Old Wall (which is a thin stretch of rooms with one side forming the wall). There are buildings that have been augmented. Such as the all-girl accommodation called Red House (front part has been renovated and I could hardly recognize it), the outdoor haunted swimming pool that has now become indoor, the extended canteen and Bell House (I once kissed a girl across one of the windows!) that has been enhanced with new structures. There is one building that it doesn’t seem to exist anymore (I think it was called Park Side – my first accommodation in Concord College). And many new buildings were built after my graduation (oh that new Tuck Shop!) that are too long to list here. But one thing I can say is that the students today are very, very fortunate to be in Concord College. The facilities are top-notch. Over the top in a good way kind of top-notch.

To wrap up this entry as it is getting really late here in Singapore (5am and I am jet-lagged), Josh has invited us for lunch in the college. My wife loves the food there. She said it tasted healthy. As for me, I am very amazed that the design of the food tray looks exactly the same as it was 30 years ago. I guess some good things don’t change.

Of course, the food was good. It still does.

My First Time Visiting Cotwolds & Bath / Day 2 of 2019 UK Holiday

There are many good reasons to let Cynthia organizes our holiday. While she would take into consideration the destinations I requested – more for down the memory lane if you get my drift – more often than not, she would pick somewhere that I have not visited before. Like Cotwolds and Bath.

Click here to view the photo album with captions. The pictures are shot with Nikon Z6 and 35mm Z lens.

Bath is rather near to Oxford. like less than two hours’ drive. I wonder why in the past, it has not crossed my mind that I should visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bath is beautiful. And so are some of the towns in Cotwolds. Such as a medieval town called Burford as well as Chedworth Roman Villa. This day could well be the highlight of our UK holiday. We have tried the Bath buns for dinner. They are giant buns. I wish there was a wholegrain version (which may not be too traditional, I guess). We must have spent more than four hours in Bath. Since the sun sets late in the summer, we could afford to take our time and enjoy the dinner before heading back to Oxford.