05
Jun 16

Horniman & Seven Sisters

Another nice weekend on our hands, decided to potter around a bit, nothing serious. On Saturday, we went to the Horniman Museum and Gardens, which was quite nice and we also saw the Horniman aquarium with loads of little creatures. Then we drove down to Crystal Palace for lunch in a nice hipster place (the type that is a cafe but also a vintage crap type shop, managed by three guys in skinny jeans, one of whom brings the coffee late on purpose just to be able to make an excuse for ‘having to get the grind right’ – so, right down our alley, and by ‘our’ I mean Iest’s).

Hipster lunch

Hipster lunch

On Sunday we decided to go all the way to the coast to Seven Sisters, which gave us an opportunity to drive through some nice english sussexy countryside. We arrived at about noon, which turned out to be super busy on a sunny Sunday, so once again, we had a problem parking. Eventually we found a spot, and finally made it out of the car into the sun. In the visitors’ center we got a little seaside life guidebook, which was on sale and is from the same series I already got the bird book and insect book, so I am all set now for my nature explorations. Then we walked the usual path along the river bed toward the cliffs, and in the meanders of the old river branch we saw a beautiful grey heron, very majestically owning the place. And not only that, there was also a little egret sharing the space, all white with a black beak and yellow feet, elegantly wading the waters. We were very excited to be able to observe them, and took many cool pictures.

Heron & Egret living in harmony

Heron & Egret living in harmony

When we had enough, we continued the South Down Way path away from the river and up on the cliffs. It was a beautiful day, so there was a lot of people, but the cliffs were nice and shiny and it was a pleasant walk. We then made it down to the main beach for a little stroll in the cool water.

Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters

All seven of them

All seven of them

By then of course we were already really hungry as we had no lunch or snacks, and so we started to make our way back to the car. On our way down we saw a great looking pub in Friston, called Tiger Inn, but when we got there around four they were not making food yet. So we drove back to the Cuckmere Inn by the Seven Sisters’ park, and we definitely did not regret (egret?) our choice! From the deliciously refreshing virgin cocktails through rustic bread starters and big burgers to the freshly made desserts, everything was perfect. Plus, the outside terrace where we were sitting was flooded with scores of little birds, waiting for crummies and being all cute. A great finish to the day. Well, except for the drive back that was still awaiting us but Iest totally covered that. I managed not to fall asleep throughout, although I did have a couple of weak moments. Fortunately there was and 80s hour on the Heart radio, so that helped to revive the zing in Terrell for the rest of the trip.

Cuckmere entrée

Cuckmere entrée


30
May 16

Wales

So we had a long weekend on our hands, and the first weekend in a long time that i didn’t have to work, so a great opportunity to head up to Wales and have some fun. In addition, we had just acquired Terrell, our new bff, so everything was set up beautifully. The only problem was that the forecast was stubbornly showing downpours for the whole three days, but that as well got sorted shortly before the weekend, and we were ready to go.
On Friday night of course the whole of London town had the same idea to get out and we got stuck in traffic for hours, eventually arriving at our destination super late, after what would probably have been a nice drive through Snowdonia, had it still been light when we were doing it.

But on Saturday, we woke up into glorious sunshine and were happy to be there. We decided to once again go up Snowdon, which we don’t do very often as it is kind of a tourist highway, and especially on the top there is too many people due to the train. But, it is still a nice walk via many of the routes, and from time to time should be done. We decided on the Ranger’s path up and down to Rhyd Ddu, a trail we last did several years ago in lots of snow and frost (&sun). This time, the sun was with us as well, and already arriving to the trail we had some doubts about our choice as all the parking spots were gone, a clear sign that the combo of long weekend and sun brought all the boys to the yard to play. We decided not to be discouraged, found an alternate parking spot and took a hike up from there through a nice farmer’s land to meet up with our ranger’s path. From there, we saw quite a few people, but it was not too terrible, and the walk was very nice overall.

Sheeps

Shortly before summit we got immersed into a thick fog/cloud that wrapped the top of Snowdon, and upon arriving at the top we met the real crowds who had gotten there by the cog train. With no views and the crowds of twerps there was no reason for us to spend much time, and we quickly retreated down to Rhyd Ddu path, which was mercifully sparsely populated, and descended into the sun again. The rest of the walk was lovely and uneventful. Later we bought all the stuff for a four-bean chilli and fell asleep quickly, all sunned out for the day.

Wyddfa

Wyddfa

Down to Rhyd Ddu

Down to Rhyd Ddu

Down to Rhyd Ddu

Down to Rhyd Ddu

On Sunday, with great weather continuing, we wanted to finally take out our sea kayaks. But for that we needed to run a number of errands, from picking up Iest’s kayak from the bodyshop in Anglesey, to buying and installing roof racks for Terrell, to getting a number of missing items like life vests and stuff. So by the time we were ready to go, it was mid afternoon. We didn’t mind very much though, as the days are long and it was warm and sunny, so we took them down to Aberdesach and set out for some paddling around. There was a bit of wind, so we had some nice mild chops to play with, and I was awesome and Iest will need to get better if he wants to keep up with me. But at least i had some time to take nice macro beach pics while waiting for him to catch up. Beautiful day overall.
IMG_7593

On Monday we needed to make our way down to Llundain again, but since we have Terrell we were much more flexible and decided to first go to Beaumaris for a trip to Puffin island. I wanted to go on kayaks but Iest was a scaredy cat and so we went on a little boat with other people. It was nice though as well, as the skipper knew a lot about all the birds and animals and showed us everything. We saw:
– Shags: check
– Puffins: check
– Guillemots: check
– Razorbills: check
– Cormorants: check
– Loads of seagulls: check
…and of course seals, who were very cute as always, just chilling on the rocks in the sun.
Afterwards, we started to make our way down home, stopping over to give Terrell a proper shower, which he needed after the weekend. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t get stuck anywhere in traffic on the way, and had quite a pleasant trip.

Going to ynys Puffin

Going to ynys Puffin

Shags

Shags

Seals

Seals

Cormorant

Cormorant


30
Mar 16

Wales Easter

As usual, we headed up to Wales for Easter. Hurricane Katy was also heading up, so we had to give up kayaking plans, but otherwise we were totes on the top of our game – hiking, sea, sunsets, birds, oen bachs and family time, all check! Plus, awesome time with my macro lens.

We did a nice little hike up the Roman steps to Rhinog Fawr, down by Harlech. Saw a Red Grouse on the way too.

Up Rhinog Fawr

Up Rhinog Fawr

Down Rhinog Fawr

Down Rhinog Fawr

Red Grouse

Red Grouse

Sunset before the storm, from Dinas Dinlle.

Sunset

Sunset

Also a nice hike our fave Yr Aran, the Vatican way this time, with some nice views on the snowy Snowdon ridge.

Gina and Yr Wyddfa

Gina and Yr Wyddfa

Cwm Llan a Yr Wyddfa

Cwm Llan a Yr Wyddfa

Up Aran

Up Aran

Up on Aran

Up on Aran

Down Aran

Down Aran

Spectacularly windy trip around Morfa Nefyn, sort of sunny though. No seals!

Morfa Nefyn

Morfa Nefyn

Macro throughout. Getting really good at it, should be selling them for postcards!

Macro

Macro

Oen bachs everywhere!

Oen bach

Oen bach


13
Mar 16

Hampstead Heath

Sunny Sunday, spring is almost here, so we made our way to Hampstead Heath to give some air to my mini drone. Plus also to find the parakeets and possibly other birds.
We were not so lucky on the drone front, it still pretty much does what it wants and then it ran out of batteries.
BUT we were super lucky on the birds! We saw:
– parakeets (all green, check!)
– geese (of some kind, not check, we don’t know what they are)
– and a KESTREL, and not only that but we saw him catch a mouse and munch on it in the sun in the tree (check check check!) Love my monocular.

Parakeet

Parakeet

Geese

Geese

Kestrel

Kestrel


07
Feb 16

Rainham marshes

Nice February Sunday we decided to explore the Rainham marshes, for some fresh air and possibly birdwatching. We managed to get the right train and in no time we were walking on the pretty circular boardwalk through the marshes. Sun was shining, wind was blowing, and birds aplenty. With the help of my monocular and my pretty birdbook we had a blast.
Confirmed sighting – a Coot (check! but no picture, they were too far)
We also saw some tits, geese and all kinds of other creatures.

Geese

Geese

Rainham marshes

Rainham marshes


03
Jul 15

London – Reykjavik

Glorious heat wave in London but we decided to forgo our only chance at British summer this year and packed for Iceland. Since we got our tickets in January we didn’t have much choice anyway. On Friday, I snuck out of work a bit early, picked up my gigantic backpack and braved my way to Heathrow, on the tube in the rush hour and in the heat. Iest went straight from work and we met up at the terminal. We weighed our bags and were happy our limit was 23kgs as both of them were over twenty. We had them nicely (and expensively!) wrapped, checked in, and went through security – which, for one, I totally failed this time, having forgotten my mobile in the side pocket of my cargos, which earned me a spot in the full body scanner.

Finally through, we still had plenty of time so we had a bit of dinner, while waiting for our gate to be announced. Unfortunately, instead a delay of the flight was announced, and we were a bit worried about our timing for the rest of the night.

Eventually we were taking off about an hour late. Our great window position, so carefully selected at online check-in, turned out to be over the wing, which was a rookie mistake, cruelly held against me by Iest for the duration of the flight. On top of that, we didn’t take our headphones for the trip, so we could not watch the entertainment, which included Fortitude! I was gutted. I went to sleep instead but Iest woke me up for some stupid question, and I couldn’t sleep afterwards and was super tired and cranky.

We arrived at Keflavik airport shortly before midnight, went quickly through passport control (even though the guy was not particularly friendly), grabbed our bags without waiting and out we were.
Despite the late hour it was not dark and it felt very strange, may be like a belated dusk. It was also very fresh and smelled like spring. We got on the bus connection to Reykjavik, which takes a bit less than an hour, and enjoyed our first views of Iceland.

The bus dropped us off at the campsite where we checked in and also bought fuel. Despite everything working our pretty much seamlessly since the airport, by the time we were ready to sleep, it was half past two. The sun was shining and birds were screaming their little lungs out but we had no problems falling asleep.

Icelandair

Icelandair

Icelandair

Icelandair


06
Apr 15

Easter Wales

Thursday, April 2

We hadn’t been to Wales since new year’s, so we were all excited about going for Easter long weekend, even though the weather forecast was nothing special. Booked the tickets online as usual, and on Thursday after work we met up at Euston. Euston was jam-packed as obviously everyone was going away for the weekend but we didn’t worry as we had reservations and it was a direct train. But the train was so full with even the aisles crowded that there was no air and we were also sitting backwards, so overall the trip was quite harrowing. Sometimes I do miss Germany, and these times often coincide with any UK train trips. Nevertheless, we finally got to Bangor, about half hour later than scheduled (yes, half an hour delay on a three-hour direct train), got picked up by Iestyn’s dad, and crashed in bed soon after.

Friday, April 3

We woke up to a morning of incessant rain, but we didn’t mind and decided to go explore a new (for me) Welsh tower Dolwyddelan (or what Iest calls ‘Welsh castle’ but it’s one of those castles that are only like a tower, not like the one in Caernarfon, so it really is just a tower. OK, you might argue that wiki calls it a castle too, but then it shows a picture of a tower, so your call really. It’s a tower. Well built though, proper.). Wiki also adds that “It is thought to have been built in the early 13th century by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd and North Wales. Though the castle was then only one tower with two floors, a second tower was built in the late 13th century and a third floor was added to the first during the late 15th century repairs.” (*tower*, see?)

Tower Dolwyddelan

Tower Dolwyddelan

Up on the tower

Up on the tower

Anyway, the place was really nice, and thanks to bad weather we were there alone. We decided to do some sketching inside, which went great, and we had an awesome soundtrack of the rain and howling wind – very Welsh! It was also by a farm, which had a batch of beautiful new oen bachs, which is the great thing about Easter in Wales too.

Oen bach

Oen bach

Afterwards the weather actually started improving, and we had some great time exploring pretty Welsh places, including the little bit they cut out of the national park, which I wanted to see and it’s actually not as bad as it sounds. We had late lunch in a super old cottage cafe in Aberdaron, and even went to the beach for a bit. By then the sun was already almost blasting. Iest did’t tell me it was on the peninsula though.

Saturday, April 4

On Saturday morning the weather was already great, so we decided to get back on track with our hiking. We decided to do the Moel Hebog ridge, not from Beddgelert but from Cwm Pennant. It was a good choice because Cwm Pennant is very pretty and we also got to pet a cute little day-old one bach, courtesy of a local farm boy. Afterwards we were all ready and ran up via an old quarry to the first peak of the ridge, Moel Lefn (638m). By then the sun was blasting on full force and we had awesome views toward our fav Yr Aran and Snowdon.

Cwm Pennant

Cwm Pennant

Up Moel Lefn

Up Moel Lefn

Views from Moel Lefn

Views from Moel Lefn

From Moel Lefn we followed the ridge over to Moel yr Ogof (655m) and Moel Hebog (782m). Later on Iest remembered that he should have some sunscreen on, so he slapped a bit of my usual sparkly one but too late anyway, and he acquired his first burn of the season. Up on Moel Hebog peak it was a bit windy, so we sat just under the top with our delicious lunch enjoying the views towards Porthmadog and the sea. Since we had plenty time we also did a bit of sketching from that spot before heading back to Cwm Pennant through path down below the ridge. Altogether a beautiful day.

Moel Ogof

Moel Ogof

Moel Ogof ridge

Moel Ogof ridge

Moel Hebog peak

Moel Hebog peak

Moel Hebog sketching

Moel Hebog sketching

Sunday, April 5
Another great day, Iest is burned but that did not stop us from selecting the Nantlle ridge for our day hike as we had not been on that one for years, literally, and it’s a pity because it’s one of the best. Early in the morning (early for us anyway), Iestyn’s dad gave us a lift to Nebo from which we started our trip. The clouds were laying low, sort of lazily snaking and rolling through the valley but we knew the sun was awaiting us just a little hike up the hill. We started our ascent from the lake Llyn Cwm Dulyn and by the time we made it up Mynydd Graig Goch (610m) we were down to the t-shirts. Happily merrily above the clouds we hopped over (yeah there was this almost vertical bit which we thoroughly enjoyed in the blasting sun) to Craig Cwm Silyn (734m).

Llyn Cwm Dulyn

Llyn Cwm Dulyn

 

Mynydd Graig Goch - Iest bottom left

Mynydd Graig Goch – Iest bottom left

Craig Cwm Silyn

Craig Cwm Silyn

From there it was already the usual deal – Mynydd Tal-y-Mignedd (653m) with the obelisk on top, and Trum y Ddysgl (709m), Mynydd Drws-y-Coed (695m) and Y Garn (633m). Then just down to Rhyd Ddu, where we were being picked up again, to make it to the Easter dinner. We were really quite tired from the day, may be not so much from the hike but more so from the day of sun, to which we are not used after the long and dark winter. It was all really nice though.

Looking toward the obelisk

Looking toward the obelisk

Finishing up

Finishing up

Finishing up

Finishing up

Monday, April 6
On Monday we still had a good half day for some family visits and a short stop at Dinas Dinlle, before heading down to the train station. For this trip we did not have any reservations (we had open tickets), we expected the trains to be packed again, and we also knew that due to Euston being under construction, we had to take the long connection via Birmingham. The trip was truly awful, from B’ham onwards we were lucky to be sitting on a half-cheek in the corridor with no oxygen again. Many people in the later stations just plainly did not get on the train. It is really quite strange how the British people insist on the rail services being private in the face of absolutely massive market failures every single time one needs to make a train journey. It is quite obvious that even an incompetent, corrupted, lazy and drunk bureaucrat would central-plan the whole system better than it is run now. Nevertheless, we managed to get safely to Marleybone and then home, super tired but really happy with our Easter weekend.


26
Dec 14

Our London Christmas

Christmas started early for us this year. Gina came up with an epic timetable (it was called Action Plan – Gina), and different tasks for us to complete. My first task of the festive holiday, was to locate us a real, nice Xmas tree – and by the last weekend of November, I’d located one – fairly close by in Brick Lane, with a nice wee company called ‘Pines and Needles’. We were both super pleased with our wee 3 foot Nordman Fir Tree!

Our real hard work came on the first weekend of December. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Gina’s famous Czech Christmas Cookies – so, this weekend marked the first weekend of many, where Gina pulled up her sleeves and worked hard making the different doughs for us to bake. We now have many, great different cookie shapes (including a Welsh dragon-shaped one, which I got at work from my Secret Santa – he really IS watching!), so we got extremely busy.

Man shaped cookie

Man shaped cookie

Christmas tree cookies

Christmas tree cookies

Gina in the Cookie Factory

Gina in the Cookie Factory

Chocolate dipped cookies

Chocolate dipped cookies

Jam filled cookies

Jam filled cookies

Iest learning 'piping'

Iest learning ‘piping’

Cookie factory

Cookie factory

One of Gina’s project for the festive season, as my beard is pretty epic if I don’t say so myself (yes he does, all the time!) – was to create a ‘Christmas Beard’ – so one evening Gina went wild, and decorated my beard nicely. (Was not really a project, just a spur of the moment inspiration; wasn’t even on the Action Plan!)

Christmas Beard

Christmas Beard

Gina’s beautiful birthday also falls in the Christmas Season (there’s so much wrong with this statement! If anything, it’s the christmas which falls in my birthday time; but in reality, it’s actually both my birthday and the christmas that fall in the Winter Solstice days, the real reason for the season!) so we celebrated nicely. I made her some blueberry pancakes for breakfast – and we headed out for the day to town. (Yeah, like that breakfast was epic – the blueberry pancakes were delish, the tiny candles so cute, the rose petals so romantic, and The Economist: World in 2015 so me!)

Birthday breakfast!

Birthday breakfast!

And, what was left was the actual Christmas Day! Every year, it’s a tough one for Gina, as she usually has her Christmas presents on the 24th evening (by Baby Jesus), but here in the UK, we get them on the 25th in the morning (by a guy from a CocaCola commercial). So she did extremely well not to open any – although, she had a great time eyeing the presents that were nicely placed under the tree.

Our Nordman Fir Xmas tree

Our Nordman Fir Xmas tree

Christmas Morning!

Christmas Morning!

Christmas Morning! Ho Ho Ho!

Christmas Morning! Ho Ho Ho!

After opening our beautiful, beautiful gifts, I went to the kitchen, and started to work on our Christmas dinner – which took around 4 – 5 hours of cooking. This year we went for Veg Christmas Pies, with a plethora of seasoned baked veg, and for desert, a Cranberry meringue roulade – which was oh-so-good (I helped on that one). Very nice.

Christmas Table

Christmas Table

Christmas Food!

Christmas Food!


05
Aug 14

Wales trip

There has been so little activity around here, it’s up to me to sweep out the cobwebs and try to remember what we’ve done in the past like half year. Writing this at the end of November – let’s see what I can reconstruct based on some scattered pics and my memory (which is usually very selective).

There was one nice trip to Wales in August, super sunny and fun. We decided to go up Tryfan, and it was the first time i saw Tryfan in good weather, so finally saw the awesome views from up top, and also we could have a little snack break on top rather than trying to escape as fast as we can to avoid being blown down by gusty winds.

View from Tryfan

View from Tryfan

I also made friends with a seagull up on top, but Iest forbade me to feed him pieces of my granola bar, apparently it’s not good for the gulls to be up there, I’m not sure why, i think it was great of him to swing by. I asked Iest to at least take a picture of my gull pal, this is what he produced:

Gina's gull pal (by Iest)

Gina’s gull pal (by Iest)

I think he just didn’t like him; he holds grudge against gulls since he had to fight them for his lunches as a chubby kid. We also saw this awesome dragonfly on the way down:

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

We also went for a trip to a hill near to Llandudno, which i forgot the name of, and went to Llandudno itself, which Iest was a bit grumpy about. But we did have nice scones with clotted cream and jam and tea there, so finally I think everything worked out fine.

Llandudno

Llandudno


11
Feb 14

A Welsh weekend in Dublin

Gina decided to come to Dublin for a long, 4 day weekend. We decided to have a nice relaxing weekend, filled with good food and good times.

Friday
Friday was a nice and chill day. Started off with Gina topping up on her few weeks worth of reading Saturday’s Guardian, and eyeing up some fantastic biscuit recipes we could do later on over the weekend.
After a hearty breakfast and Netflix, we decided to head into town to do a bit of walking around and shopping. There isn’t much to report on the shopping front.

…and yet another unfinished post by Iestyn, it’s becoming ridiculous, he really has the attention span of a froot fly. So I’ll take over it from here.

There really is not much to report on the shopping front – the problem is that I come from a very under-served town as far as the variety of shops goes, and as much as I hate shopping, I still needed to give it a go and try to find some work-worthy pieces. I did find a nice pantsuit in Next, which I really liked, but unfortunately it just didn’t fit right, and I ended up empty handed. But anyway, I do like walking around Dublin, and it was nice.
For dinner we went to Yamamori, which was super tasty and nice.

Saturday
Saturday was the most exciting day, as Iestyn had a couple of tickets to a Six Nations match in Dublin, Ireland vs. Wales. I was super psyched, as I never saw a rugby match live (or any other match, really, if you don’t count volleyball which I played for years).

We walked to the Aviva stadium surrounded by crowds of Irish fans, but there were some Welsh groups as well. The weather was nice and sunny with occasional showers, but it was really chilly.

Gina looking awesome

Gina looking awesome

Us at the Aviva Stadium

Us at the Aviva Stadium

We bought some rugby junk food before the match on the stadium, and watched the teams warm up. I was really excited. The Welsh looked much bigger and stronger, so I thought that was a good thing, and not only they brought over my favorite sheep guy, but they had a new addition of a proper huge beard (and 2m in height!). I was very hopeful for the match indeed.

Adam 'sheep guy' Jones

Adam ‘sheep guy’ Jones

Jake 'proper huge beard' Ball

Jake ‘proper huge beard’ Ball

However, it is fair to say that my expectations were not exactly met by the Welsh team’s performance. As a matter of fact, they got their asses kicked so badly by the Irish, I must say I was a little bit disappointed. It was still nice to watch all these guys doing their little rugby thing, but if the match was a little bit more even in terms of scores, it would have been more thrilling. Anyway, it was still fun and I was very happy we went!

Full stadium!

Full stadium!

Live rugby action

Live rugby action

Match in full swing!

Match in full swing!

In the evening we went to the cinema as we both wanted to see the new movie by the Coen brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis. We both really liked it, may be I liked it even more than Iestyn, I thought it was very beautifully made. I think i’m going to get it when it’s out on dvd as well and watch it again.

Sunday
On Sunday, we decided to make a batch of the cookies for which we found the recipe in the Saturday Guardian – and I must say it was a great call! They were the Orange and lemon coconut biscuits, and they were divine. With the help of Iestyn’s housemates they disappeared quite quickly.
We also went to the cinema again, because we heard such great things about the LEGO movie – and they were totally right, the movie is AWESOME. As a matter of fact, everything is awesome.

Monday
On Monday, my pressie finally arrived, but it was sent to Egg, so we walked over to Iestyn’s work to get it. I was super excited because I didn’t know what it was. And I was even more excited to open it and find out that it was a new Ward Lock & Co. guidebook for my collection – this one for London! It’s good hundred years old and is in a really good shape too! I love it. I wish we could do our retro project with it around London, it has some cool photographs.

In the afternoon it was time for me to go, which is always so sad. But it was a great fun weekend in Dublin, and we’ll see each other soon enough hopefully.