Archive for August 2018

Road Trip – Fun in the Forest   13 comments

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One of our favourite days out in France is one of the many tree climbing adventure parks. We have them in the UK (Go Ape is best known one) but the courses are limited and very expensive (think over £100 for a family of four). In France they do it better. The courses are everywhere, they are much cheaper (pretty much half the price of Go Ape) and the courses extensive, pretty much a whole half a day to get round.

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We returned to one in the Dordogne we’d been to a couple of times before, L’Appel de la Foret near Thenon, with most of the rest of the gang just leaving Mark and TBH to potter about by the campsite.

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There is not much to say other than it was tremendous fun especially having the young ‘uns with us. Being an adventurous lot they were all in their element

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Of course us oldies also like to have fun as well!! Here is J looking rather duanted by the whole thing

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And TBF and then J on the wobbly canoe obstacle

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Here is DB Jr showing good form

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Encouraged by TBB

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C poses for a photo

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TBB in action

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DB Snr taking it seriously

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TJF smiles for the camera

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E on the last part of the course I attempted. Just like last time (when I got told off for failing on two obstacles in a row), I got into trouble on this part of the course and had to be rescued – very embarrassing and I decided that was enough.

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Also, and I’m not sure why, the course instructors took to referring to me as Captain America. Possibly as I was wearing a bandana to keep the sweat out of my eyes. Whatever the reason they called me that whenever they saw me, high giving and generally taking the pi55, and were even talking to each other on their radios “Captain America approaching obstacle course 7!” TBF thought this was hilarious as did everyone else. I guess I was the days figure of fun 🙂

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The last couple of courses were seriously hard and only the brave few had a go. This includes TBF who as you can see was severely limited by her short stature (we were all disproportionately amused to realise she was the shortest person in the whole group including all the kids)

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The serious focused look tells you how tough this part of the course was

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Clearly being small and light is the key. This is DB Jr, the youngest in the party who just breezed round the last two courses (twice I think)

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And TBF finishes the last of the zip wires to round off a most excellent day with again, many, many laughs (mostly at my expense today!)

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Travelling in the car with the DBs is also a novel experience especially DB Jr. He has a way with questions and stories that seem to come from the most lively imagination. On the journey home we ended up discussing some kind of bank raid that involved using inflatable alpacas with magnetic hooves as a sort of decoy – go figure where that came from but it had me chuckling and shaking my head all the way back

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Road Trip – Sarlat La Caneda   19 comments

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One of the highlights of this part of the Dordogne is the town of Sarlat La Caneda, touted as one of France’s best preserved medieval towns. We took a trip out there one afternoon for a an hour so to poke around and let the kids off the leash to go shopping and buy ice cream.

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Its a fascinating place packed with interesting shops and wonderful quirks of architecture and styles. Me, Mark, TJS and TBF took a wander around to soak up the atmosphere and the sweat

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The narrow streets were fortunately cool as it was a fiercely hot day. This day plus the walk around the castle at Castelnaud proves that 36C is much too hot for sightseeing.

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We spent a happy hour just looking at the buildings and at menus of restaurants tucked into the passageways. I wanted to eat in every single one!

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We also caught a street performer who I have to say had the most bizarre look (he was mostly bald, with a  ponytail, beard and wearing a dress) and act of anyone I’ve ever seen. I was expecting either the police or men in white coats to come along at any minute, cart him away in a straight-jacket and tell us all he wasn’t a street performer at all and would be returned to wherever he’d escaped from. It was very bizarre.

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I’ll let the photos give you a feel for this lovely town

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The main square is the most open and impressive spot but they had or were clearly about to hold a concert there so it was full of scaffolding and temporary seating and not quite as medieval feeling as it should be

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Well worth a half a day, just take plenty of water and a sunhat!

Posted August 26, 2018 by surfnslide in Dordogne, France

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Road Trip – Canoeing Down the Dordogne   13 comments

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There is a whole collection of stuff to do in the Dordogne region. Castles, caves, gardens, towns and the usual collection of activity based adventures. One of the best outings is a kayak trip along the Dordogne itself and its big business (as on most of the large French rivers in the south). We’ve done this many times before and was one of the main reasons I suggested the region as a good destination to our happy band.

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We hadn’t really made any plans for the trip but on one of mine and Mark’s morning strolls to the bakery we noted what a glorious clear and sunny day was developing and made an executive decision that we should do the trip that day. We booked in at the hire place over the car park from the bakery and then noted how little time we had to get back to the campsite, get everyone out of bed, breakfasted, lunch packed and be ready to walk back to catch the bus to start. A little fraught but we made it!

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The trip was pretty much the same as the one we have always done from Vitrac, past Domme, La Roque Gageac and Beynac and finishing at Les Milandes. Its a classic trip with loads of interesting views (castles, hilltop towns, cliffs) and numerous great places for a  swim. After an epic amount of faffing about picking boats and agreeing who would go with who we set off. This is Mark and TBH trying to deflate a rubber ring, one finding time to smile other not!

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There were 12 of us in the group but despite the fact that most of us have spent some time in kayaks and canoes the only people who seemed able to control one were me and Mark. The first section (no more than a mile or so) took an age, most went round in circles, backwards leading to bickering and recriminations (all in good humour). We tried to tow TJF behind us but the current was slow and it was really hard work to paddle with such a dead weight behind so we quickly abandoned the idea.

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We were compelled to pull over to re-arrange the teams. Thing is, pulling over for a stop is hardly a chore when the scenery is this magnificent. Obviously whenever you stop in such fine and hot weather you should have a swim.

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This turned out to be wonderful spot beneath the cliffs and the stretch was teeming with fish and brisk current to flaunt you downstream before getting out and doing it again

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We were also hungry so we had a first lunch and stopped for a good hour such was magnificence of the location. One of the best micro-moments of the whole holiday

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Here is a good shot of us swimming and fish spotting. There were some seriously big fish in here

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Suitably refreshed and with teams re-arranged we set off again

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There is pretty much nothing finer than gently floating and paddling down a scenic river under a clear blue sky in hot sunshine

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The kids decided to liven things up by standing in the canoes and changing places. They all looked pretty smug about their ability to do it and the perceived cowardice and lack of skill from the adults. Until they tried once too often and TJS fell in!

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We had another stop beneath some white limestone cliffs for a swim. Very scenic but the water on our side was rather shallow and silty

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We set off again for the next leg

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This takes you past the picture postcard village of La Roque Gageac.

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It looks stunning although we’ve never actually stopped here as it’s always thronged with tourists

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The next stage is a long gentle paddle down to Castelnaud. This was the only stretch that felt busy with several school and youth groups which, in the manner of most French teenagers seemed intent on making as much noise as possible

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Castelnaud appeared and we stopped for another break. Most waded across a braid in the river to get ice creams while me and Mark took a swim up towards the confluence of the Dordogne and our campsite river the Ceou. It was an odd experience as the temperature difference between them is very marked. The Ceou is very cold indeed and makes the Dordogne feel like a heated pool. Where the water was mixing you could have one leg in warm water and one in cold. Very strange and enjoyable dip

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Suitably refreshed we set off the final leg past the very impressive town and castle at Beynac. We saw signs like the one in the image below all along the valley. A bit of research reveals they are looking to blast a bypass round this town through some wonderful countryside. You only have walk, drive or canoe through this area to realise the traffic, certainly by UK standards is not any real problem. Let’s hope the local opposition kills the plan

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The views as you pass by Beynac are the best of this trip in my opinion. It provides a grand finish to a superb trip that I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed

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Good preparation for the next kayak trip on the Tarn the following week

Road Trip – Our Campsite Locale   6 comments

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A collection of photos from some outings by foot from our campsite home in the Dordogne.

Camping appears to be a popular Dutch pastime as every campsite I’ve ever stayed on Europe has had many Dutch people staying. They are without exception the most friendly and approachable people all speaking English to an embarrassing degree. We had Dutch neighbours here, a young family, and the Dad was very a pleasant chap. He informed us there was a path out the back of the campsite that went top to the cliff above where there were plenty of caves and another path to the top with great views.

We took up that challenge and set off an a steep and sweaty climb. The caves and cliffs were superb.

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The first couple caves were small but as we worked across the face there were some impressive specimens

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Here is one of A who I will now refer to as TBB, The Birmingham Bomber, on the basis of her propensity to pronounce selected words in a broad Birmingham accent even though she is a child of Lancashire with parents from the East Midlands and the North East!

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The DBs of course were in their element. They found one small cave and appeared almost by magic from a hole much lower down the cliff than I expected

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The caves have clear signs of habitation, hardly surprising considering their size and the fact that there are many examples of prehistoric cave dwellings in this part of the Dordogne

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It looked like the edge and the cave systems went on for miles but it was hot and it was approaching lunchtime, time for a swim and the consumption of more bread and cake

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Rather than pick up bread from the campsite I took a walk each morning into the village to the bakery. Its something I always do when on holiday in France. The combination of an early morning walk in the clear air and the chance to gaze at (and smell) the wonderful produce is always a pleasure. I find it an interesting difference between the two cultures of the UK and France. In France they have wonderful local bakeries in every village and many more in cities in towns. In the UK we have Greggs! Says much about the UK don’t you think

Most mornings I went on my own but a couple of times with Mark. He’s a handy chap to walk through fields, woods and lanes as he’s a marvel at spotting wildlife, insects and flowers (I just tend to wander in a daze at this early hour). On this morning there was a low mist clearing to a deep clear blue sky

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On other days the views were not quite so dramatic but equally enchanting

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We also took a walk to the local castle but alas I forgot both my camera and phone so no photos (it was too hot take photos anyway!). Later the afternoon we took a wander down to the bridge on the way to the village

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The kids wanted to try put a rather serious looking jump out of a tree into deep water. Some locals had nailed some planks into the tree to aid the climb but it looked seriously dodgy.

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A few of us (me included) made various attempts to climb the tree but all – part from E – thought better of it. After much coaxing she braved the jump

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Everyone else contented themselves by jumping from the bridge. Here’s Mark and his attempt. I’m sure he will thank me for sharing this photo with the world

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Here’s a quick compilation of burst photos of both jumps

 

On our last morning me and Mark again walked to the village together for the bread

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On most mornings, hot air balloons had flown over the campsite. I’d heard the roar of the burners but never got up quite early enough to see them. This morning we got some great views. Not sure if this one had been launched from behind the castle or had inadvertently drifted there. Whatever, it was very, very close!

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They made a wonderful photographic subject with the caste and the clear blue sky

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While writing this post it occurred to me that we stayed a week and never really seemed to do much other than a couple of days out. What that tells me is we successfully re-created the spirit of our trips to North Wales that kicked off this holiday. When it’s just my family we get restless pretty quickly and are always off out in the car doing stuff or finding different places to visit. On this trip we settled into a very happy rhythm of leisurely days, long meals, games, swimming and relaxing. It was reminiscent of our stays at Towyn Farm and that is a very good thing. The company was wonderful and laughter was the recurring theme. We spent many hours just chatting, joking, and winding everyone up with gentle banter all takena and given in good spirit. Sitting at home this evening and reminded by a similar comment from Mark on his blog, I really miss those days and the friends I shared them with.

Road Trip – Camping in the Dordogne   10 comments

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It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the Llyn Peninsula is a long way from anywhere. Its a long way to the English Channel that’s for sure. After saying our goodbyes to the Yorkshire Massive we (and the Silverdale Posse) headed off on our two part journey to France. Towing a trailer on the UK motorways is a stressful experience as you’re limited to 60mph and get stuck in with the lorries. 8 hours in the company of HGVs through endless roadworks and packed service areas is not a happy experience.

Luckily the end of the journey was brightened by the rather nice Black Horse Farm campsite near Folkestone. Lovely pitch, nice facilities and a decent chippy just down the road. The Camper passed another test with a very swift pitch for the one night stay. We had a pleasant albeit brief stopover.

And then Eurotunnel took over. Apparently the “unprecedented” hot weather and school holidays (who’d have thought that could happen in July!) had overloaded their Air Conditioning Systems.  For our “convenience” they decided that it was better to queue for 3 hours in an overloaded car park than sit on a stuffy train for 40 minutes. We were lucky – the delays were up to 6 hours by the end of the day. End result we were 3 hours late setting of in France and weren’t scheduled to arrive at the campsite until after midnight. Thanks Eurotunnel!

Luckily French Roads are always pretty much empty and the long drive was easy and trouble free with a couple of decent picnic area stops to keep everyone happy. Even luckier, our friend J (of the pink Crocs) arrived at the campsite well before us and sorted out our pitch and access to the site. She and E also stayed up till 1am to welcome us and provide a friendly face after a long drive. I will be forever grateful to them both 🙂

After that long drive it was hoped that my choice of campsite was a good one. It was!

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Camping Maisonneuve was a superb spot. Set back a mile or so from the Dordogne itself it was spacious, friendly with a family atmosphere and views of the local limestone cliffs and castle at Castelnaud. Best of all there was a small river running through the site, the Ceou, with perfect deep water hole complete with small falls and a jumping and diving platform. The weather was very hot while we there so whenever we felt a little overheated we took a dip in its clear cold waters

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The DBs spent hours in here just jumping and diving and I think they found their spiritual home. I quite enjoyed it as well!

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Here is a little compilation of video and burst shots of me, the DBs and TBF having fun in the water

 

The site had a complex of classic old golden stone buildings and great views to the cliffs above

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It also had a nice restaurant where enjoyed a very nice meal on our first proper evening there. Nice team photo of all the gang

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They also had a very nice pool area but we never used it, preferring the fresh cold water of river pool

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Our meeting place was generally under Marks huge group shelter. We ate together under there most nights and there was much fun and laughter

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TBF was happy I promise

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Our little home and camper. Thank heaven we asked for a shaded pitch. Its would have been unbearable in the heat of the sun

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We went swimming in the pool every day often many times. Some really happy memories of swimming, jumping and watching everyone else have fun.

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Every campsite should have a cold fresh water stream running through it

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As with the Towyn trip, Kubb was a regular feature. This game with the added difficulty of playing in near darkness

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When the weather is hot and dry there is nothing to beat the simple pleasures of a warm evening playing games on a campsite

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I can’t imagine visiting the Dordogne and staying anywhere else

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The row of pitches we called home for a week

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And a last lingering look at the pool, its clear cold waters and its waterfall with TBF enjoying a swim

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More Dordogne fun to come

Road Trip – Carn Fadryn Makes Clouds   12 comments

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Our trips to the Llyn Peninsula would not be complete without a walk up Carn Fadryn – the poster hill of all small hills in my view. Me and Mark were clearly tuned into the same wavelength as we both thought that watching the sunset from the summit would be good idea. We made plans and ate early for a change but the weather looked like it was on a very different wavelength. The summit had been shrouded in cloud all day. There were signs that it might clear (the clouds over the campsite had dispersed) so we went for it anyway.

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We ascended through moist damp mist and the signs were not looking good. Still its a fine walk in any conditions and we still had hope. As we approached the summit there was definitely a semblance of light and possible views. What we got was extraordinary and magnificent.

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The very moist air was being blown along by a strong wind and pushed up over the mountain. As it rose the water vapour condensed and formed clouds while we were watching. It was Orographic Cloud formation in action and we were right in the middle of it

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The kids seemed not quite as excited as the adults but they are smiling in this photo so they must have been happy. DB Junior would have been happy as this is his Birthday Hill and we’d climbed it even though his Birthday wasn’t for another couple of days

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The views along the peninsula would appear in stark clarity and then just as quickly disappear again as the cloud washed over us

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It was hugely impressive although its looked like we weren’t going to get a sunset. As well as the cloud swirling around us there was a bank of cloud over the Irish Sea that was going to cover then sun. We did get some sunlight reflected off the sea and that combined with the weird clouds we were watching was more than enough for a worthwhile climb

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It was pretty damp and most of us were inappropriately dressed in T-shirts and shorts so it was time to head down. I’m not sure why but me and EWO lingered for an extra couple of minutes. Just enough for the sun dip below the cloud and light it up with an ethereal other worldly glow

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The light was just amazing and we called the others back for a look (the kids were long gone by now)

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The light was like nothing I’ve ever seen

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Very difficult to capture on film with such fleeting views and poor light. I probably should have taken some video – that only occurred to me this evening over a month on!

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It felt like the show went on for ages but it can’t have been more than a couple of minutes

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The sun then dipped behind the cloud bank, the light returned to a grey gloomy and we were damp and cold, but completely fulfilled. A magnificent outing, not quite the sunset we had in mind, something much better

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Last lingering shot of the setting sun over the farm

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Carn Fadryn – the mountain that always delivers!

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Posted August 21, 2018 by surfnslide in Llyn Peninsula, Wales, Walking

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Road Trip – Towyn Farm   14 comments

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On to our summer hols. We had a major three week trip planned with some of our old friends and families who regularly appear on the blog. The main focus of the trip was France so what better way to start than a 3 hour journey in the opposite direction to North Wales and the Llyn Peninsula. For a variety of reasons we had to do the trip in the early part of the summer hols but we didn’t want to miss out on our annual trip to Towyn Farm so we just combined the two legs into one long 3 week holiday. Lots of driving but always good to get in a 3 week break from the rigours of work.

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Right on cue the endless hot summer broke the day we travelled. We’d been on the road 10 minutes before we saw rain. We pitched the camper in slanting cold drizzle instead of hot evening sunshine. Despite the fact that we had rain overnight and a few very damp misty mornings I seem to recall sunshine on most days and by the time we moved on the heatwave was back in action

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The routine for these trips is simple. Get up late, eat breakfast late and lazily, wander to the beach, play some games and swim, eat lunch lazily and late, back to the beach, eat tea late, back to the beach in the dusk and dark. We normally throw in a trip up Carn Fadryn (later post) and sometimes a walk further afield but the general tone is one of relaxed and unhurried pottering and play.

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It was also the first time out for our upgraded camper. The old aluminium poles have been replaced by inflatable Air Beams and its amazing. Its now genuinely quick to pitch. I can have it unhitched and ready to inhabit in around 30 minutes. The beams seem amazingly strong although they have yet to try out a UK storm. The awning is new and is also supported by air beams

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The air was still warm and humid so it was wonderful sitting on the beach and playing, Despite the hot weather the sea was bitingly cold, possibly a result of the cold winter with sea temperatures always lagging behind the land. Might be good for swimming in October!

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The game of choice is Kubb (or Plop as me and EWO are want to call it – gives you a very clear idea of my puerile sense of humour)

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Who would have thought a game of throwing wood at other wood could be fun but it is. Especially enlivened by our little gang’s propensity for over-reaction, baiting, gamesmanship, barracking and the like

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We played many, many times over the course of the holidays and it was always fun and generated many laughs and recriminations (including me knocking a block over and seeing it right itself – everyone thought it was hilarious insisting I hadn’t knocked it down when a post holiday check of the rules confirmed I was right – outrage!)

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Playing Kubb remains one of the abiding memories of the holiday

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Evenings were always a highlight. We ate outside and BBQ most nights in a very convivial atmosphere

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I even bought some special BBQ marshmallows although it wasn’t entirely clear how these differed from ordinary marshmallows

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And of course this spot deliver some stunning sunsets

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Our upgraded camper minus its awning

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Dusk and the rising moon

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And another sunset

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A view to Carn Fadryn on our last morning. The clouds hugging the summit were a feature of our stay and it delivered a memorable experience when we climbed it. More on that in the next post

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Another great trip and I’m hoping that we can persuade the kids to keep up the tradition of these visits as they start to move into their new lives as University for some of them approaches

Posted August 20, 2018 by surfnslide in Llyn Peninsula, Wales

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