Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Adventures in Wales: Bodnant Gardens....Dreaming of Spring


Hi all!

I know I have been VERY inconsistent about writing and sharing on the blog lately, (LATELY?!?!? what does that even mean when the last time I wrote was MONTHS ago?). All I can say is that life is full to overflowing, and the balls in the air sometimes drop, and for that I apologize. I am hoping to get back on a regular schedule very soon! I am revamping my website and the blog, and trying to make some very important decisions regarding my Design Studio which I hope to share with you all very soon! Exciting stuff ahead.

But on to my adventures in Wales. It does seem that we packed a ton of things into a very short time there....(waaayyy too short....we are planning another trip soon). One of my favorite things was our brilliant morning at Bodnant Estate  Garden. It is considered one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK. Created by Lord Aberconway (Henry McLaren) and given to the National Trust in 1949, the garden was the top item on my list of things we wanted to see in Northern Wales. I cannot even describe how lush and beautiful it is. Thank  the heavens for cameras so you can get the gist of it....


The Bodnant Estate is a private building and not part of the National Trust, but we are lucky to just see it from the outside. It was purchased by Henry Davis Pochin, a successful Victorian entrepreneur in 1875 and he began the transformation of the Georgian era estate to what successive generations have produced today. the same family has owned this 80 acre estate for 130 years.

You can read much more about its history and what is planned for its future HERE, HERE and HERE.


We arrived in May of last year, just when the azaleas and rhododendrons were in full bloom. We got to the gardens a tiny bit before they opened, and I ended up exploring around the back of the Estate in places I probably should not have been.....


This beautiful greenhouse was on the backside of the manor house and a did snap a few photos before we were let in to the gardens.


I cannot tell you how extraordinary these gardens are. everywhere you look it was breathtaking.


The wisteria was just about to bloom from a huge old vine. It  would have been amazing to see it in just another month....



The front drive to the Estate was not supposed to be part of the gardens and I think we were not supposed to be here. I did snap a photo before we realized we were probably trespassing...we got back to the proper side of the wall as soon as we realized.....



Views in Wales....now you know where all of those fairytales come from.....


There were acres of formal gardens.....





The Rhododendrons and azaleas came in colors I had never seen before.....


The Wisteria trellises were ready to carry a show of white blooms anytime.....




The gardens terraced down to the Conwy river valley....




The Pin Mill was originally built in 1730, but was suffering decay, so was brought to Bodnant in 1938 and placed on the Canal Terrace. All of the terraces were built without machinery.....whoa....


Further down, we wound our way through the forest with hills full of azaleas and rhododendrons....





We hiked down through the Dell and at the bottom was The Old Mill....built in the 1930's. Next to it is a refreshment house with tea and cakes and sandwiches.... perfect timing for a quick snack....






Yup...that is me on the bridge there....


we would around the creek and back up another way and found "the Poem"....


"The Poem".....what a nice name for the McLaren family tomb. I can see why it has the name....




From The Poem, we walked through meadows of flowers....



and pheasants were enjoying the meadows too....


We were not happy to be leaving, but if we had to, it was not so bad strolling through the famous Laburnam Arch  (Bright yellow trailing blooms) ....just before it was to bloom. It reminded us we will have to come back to see that.......


Above the exit gates....the walls were covered with blooms as well....



Thanks for strolling with me! 

One last thing I have to say.....this garden is so beautiful, I was astonished by how we had much of it too ourselves. Later in our trip when we were in Amsterdam, Paris and all through Italy, the crowds at all of the "attractions" were sometimes overwhelming. The experiences we had elsewhere elbow to elbow to get a photo of what are considered the "must see" sights of the world will never compare to this spectacular place. It was serene, peaceful and breathtakingly beautiful. I will never forget we were able to see it before it becomes overrun. Perhaps we were lucky on this day... in this month, but in looking back.....I will never forget it.....

I hope you have time to visit Bodnant Gardens in person one day. You will fall for it...I promise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Adventures in Wales: of Castles and Kings in the town of Conwy



Time was way too short. An afternoon was not enough, but it would have to do....for now. Wales was breathtaking. History was everywhere we looked, and the town of Conwy was our first exposure. We had arrived in Wales from London midway through a blustery day this last May and checked into our Hotel. After walking the grounds of Bodysgallen Hall, we ventured out to Conwy to see the Castle....one of many built by Edward I....(also known as Edward Longshanks....but that is another very long story. )

Suffice it to say that Edward was determined to hold sway over Wales after his invasion in 1282. To fortify his positions, he built a string of castles to help protect his colonization efforts. UNESCO considers this string of castles to be " the finest example of 13th and 14th century military architecture in Europe."

Conwy Castle and the walled town have withstood the tests of time long enough for us the scale the walls and imagine what it much have been like at the beginning.....


Tim has family in Wales in a town called Beaumaris on Angelesy Island. This is why we came to Wales and why we began our month long European expedition in England.  London was out first stop (I will do my best to get those photos out to you soon!) and we spent a few days there taking in all of the sights and eating our way through town. Then it was off to Wales! When we first started to plan this trip, we thought it might take too much travel time to get to Wales, but with the high speed train, it only took 3 hours to get here. 

I cannot tell you how happy I am we took the time to visit Wales. Out of all of the places we visited through the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy, it is perhaps my favorite. Perhaps we were lucky with the time of year and the weather, but I cannot describe to you just how beautiful it was. I hope the photos can do the slightest bit of justice.

Perhaps it was the time of year....a little early for "the "season"....or maybe Wales is off the beaten track from the larger tourist attraction cities of Europe. Whatever the reason, we found Wales in general to be wonderfully "far from the madding crowd". It was part of what we enjoyed so much and what made this place so easy to love. Not once did I find myself dodging a waving selfie stick, waiting in any sort of queue, or jostling my way through a crowd to see a view or famous piece of art.  It was inspiring, invigorating, allowing for imagination to expand, and yet peaceful, nostalgic with a bit of magic tossed in.

So....on with a bit more of Conwy Castle......





Tim has always been one to scale the highest point possible wherever we go. The panoramic views are his "thing". I am always game too, so you will be seeing many photos in the coming days from the "highest points" in every town we visited.  In Conwy, it is from the tops of the walls surrounding the town.....


The town walls stretch from the castle, all the way around the town, about.81 miles in all. They were built around the same time as the castle....1283-1287.


Once back down to earth, we walked through the streets of Conwy. The town is beautiful, holding all of the charm and history one would expect. Fish and Chips, Ice Cream and local pubs were very easy to find, and we took full advantage....


We stopped on this street to have some ice cream and were heading outside again, cones in hand, when we heard a scream.....a couple rushed by us back into the ice cream shop with alarmed faces and then broke into laughter as they warned up not to go outside! There seems to be a renegade seagull at large that had swooped down and grabbed the girl's ice cream cone out of her hands! We decided to eat ours inside. There was an older couple in the shop who decided to brave the dive bomber regardless. After we were finished, we passed the couple sitting on a bench just waiting for the kamikaze gull to try and take their ice cream. The gentleman was ready with his camera to catch the offender in action.....but we did not stay much longer so did not catch a second attempt.

We pressed onward to see what we could see, and found Plas Mawr....


Plas Mawr, or "Great Hall", is considered the "finest surviving town house of the Elizabethan era to be found anywhere in Britain". It was built by Robert Wynn, a member of the local gentry and a wealthy merchant. I just discovered that the hotel where we stayed, Bodysgallen Hall was also a Wynn property built by Robert Wynn's father, John. (Next time, I will tell you about Gwydir Castle, another Wynn property we visited. I did not know until today that all three properties were owned by the same family. Apparently, they were quite wealthy and influential!)


By the 20th century, the house had fallen into disrepair, but its architectural significance was quite valuable. It underwent a huge restoration in later 1990's with the plaster work, which was largely intact, repaired and repainted to resemble the original appearance of the 1600's. Much of the furniture is original or was replicated due to the very detailed inventory of household contents that existed from the original house.


The original kitchen



Fireplace in Robert Wynn's bedchamber


The bedchamber of Robert Wynn


Original paneling and plasterwork showing many of the symbols, badges and heraldry of the Elizabethan era.


The Great Chamber


The servants quarters in the floors above the main living quarters.



The attic shows the arched braced collar trusses with "double pegging"


Views of Conwy Castle from the windows of Plas Mawr



Views from Plas Mawr



From the top of the house back down to the gardens


The gardens were replanted and restored to what they may have been in Elizabethan England. They are thought to have been planned to resemble those of Bodysgallen Hall.


It was time to move on.....we had dinner plans back at Bodysgallen Hall and had to be going.......


Only to return another day......