Sound Track For Hiking #2


Road Trips of Exploration

I have been busy this month travelling around on what Kate refers to as our road trips of exploration (RTE). This is where Kate points to a place on a map,we get in the car and go and explore.  I even managed to squeeze in my usual 10 mile hike wearing my new backpack the Osprey Atmos AG 65.

The focus of the first RTE began in the town of Shrewsbury. Unfortunately, on all the RTE’s  I didn’t take many photo’s. Only one or two. Which is odd for me.

Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire on the river Severn and founded in the 9th century. With a sandstone castle (not sure this would stand heavy bombardment) and Abbey it is historically known for its wool trade and brewing. Okay, those are some of the facts but what was the actual experience like? For starters, the people are very friendly as you would expect from the West Midlands (slightly bias opinion as I also live in the West Midlands). The town is fairly large with old looking buildings lining the streets and supplying high quality products from chocolate to camping gear. A ukulele group of around 20 people play Octopus’s Garden  by The Beatles (probably the worst Beatles song in my opinion)  to the hustle an bustle of the Market. The Market were selling home produce. Cakes, chocolate, nougat, art and I have to say the nougat was excellent covered in blackberries and raspberries.

Shrewsbury Market

Walking around ends up with the need to stop for a cool pint. So we chose Cromwell’s Inn. The beer and food are outstanding with great service. Everything seems to be home-made not brought in from a factory from the  far stretches of the country frozen and then reheated . I couldn’t fault it.

Okay, so as I’ve done a few RTE’s I will move onto the next destination. Gloucestershire.

Gloucestershire Cathedral

Gloucestershire is a county in the South West of England on the border with Wales comprising part of the Cotswold Hills and part of the River Severn valley and the entire Forest of Dean. Known for it’s timber, silk weaving and agriculture the city oozes with history from the Brythonic people (Welsh ancestors), Iron age and Roman periods. This is another place I need to spend more time exploring as it is large and has plenty of shops to look at and we only had so many hours to look around. We opted to go to the Cathedral which is a must for Harry Potter fans as parts of the first two episodes where filmed there. If you saw the Troll scene, Moaning Myrtle and Harry and Ron walking the corridors of Hogwarts School then this is where it was filmed.

Inside the halls of Gloucestershire Cathedral

Apart from the Harry Potter franchise, the history and religious interests are more inspiring. This Cathedral has it all and even if you’re not from a Christian religion or you’re an atheist it’s worth a visit just to appreciate the architecture of this huge structure.

Okay, I know what you’re all waiting for. Where did I go for food and which cool amber nectar did I refresh my thirst with? This time I did away with a pub and we decided to eat in a Pan-Asian restaurant in the dockland area called Vinings. This is an all you can eat style buffet with foods from Asia. Washed down with a cool Boston beer. The staff were very inviting and friendly and accommodated my son’s taste for anything that wasn’t Asian food without any fuss at all. He is a fussy eater still but I’m sure his tastes will expand as he grows up. My daughter is however a lot more willing to taste new foods from anywhere on the globe. So as far as the food I thought it was okay. I’ve cooked food that tastes the same from a jar so I can’t really rate it highly but a good place to take the family where the food isn’t very spicy if you have young children. A bonus to the restaurant is that you get to look out onto the water in the surrounding docks. It did however feel a little isolated from the rest of the city.

Gloucester has a market and we did hear an American voice looking at purchasing sweets from ……an American sweet stall? Not very adventurous.  My son has a fascination with all things and persons American and has been saving his pennies in an old coffee jar towards visiting. I think though it may take a long time and a lot of coffee jars before he gets to go. He puts half of his pocket money away each week so I don’t discourage him as it is a good lesson in budgeting. He was very thrilled when Barrak and Michelle Obama recently visited England.

So lets quickly move onto this weekend. Foregoing the regurgitation of my 10 mile hike which I’ve talked about before. ( I may throw in a picture for the sake of it as I’m wearing a new Osprey backpack). It’s Kate’s birthday weekend and we decided at the very last minute to take a trip to the Welsh capital of Cardiff.

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

Cardiff is a port on the south coast of Wales where the River Taff meets the Severn Estuary founded as a city in 1905 and became the capital in 1955. It was a Roman military fort in 55Ad where the current castle now stands. Popular for its rugby, singer Shirley Bassey, comedian Griff Rhys-Jones, writer Ronald Dahl and the infamous pirate Henry Morgan. Cardiff’s history stems from coal and exporting coal. Setting the price for coal worldwide.

I wasn’t expecting too much but I was blown away. Cardiff is massive. Never ending shops, restaurants, pubs music in the street. It took all of the day to get around and we still didn’t see it all. Large music shops selling Guitars, keyboards. Dress shops, theatres and a Castle. It was too much to take in and we decided to visit the castle when the children were not staying at their grandparent’s house. My mothers family are Welsh, although a lot have passed away. My nan (now departed) was a big fan of Cardiff. The welsh accent is all too familiar to me and reminds me of my visits to see my welsh family in Abertillery, Merthyr Tydfil and Abergavenny as a child.

So let me talk about food before I reminisce into my childhood memories too much. We went to a restaurant called The Meating Place. No I haven’t misspelt “Meating” as it refers to Meat as in Steak. I love steak….rare! This lovely restaurant had dark stained wooden beams and struts and was dimly lit by small flickering oil lamps on each table. Served by a French waitress and a chap from Birmingham. What are the odds someone who lives 32 miles from my home serving us. In Wales it actually doesn’t surprise me. It’s very multi-cultured, so a Brummie and a yam yam (someone from the Black Country – further reference:  would fit in easily.  Actually only ten percent of the population in Cardiff actually speak Welsh but you will hear the English-Welsh accent rather than the actual Welsh language.

Second Severn Crossing Suspension Bridge into Cardiff

The food was outstanding. Beautiful steak covered in a blue cheese sauce which was almost melting in my mouth, home-made chips cooked to perfection, it was so good. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

As ever, all good trips come to an end until another day and tonight I need to celebrate Kate’s birthday. She does so much for us and I love her with all my heart.

Happy birthday Kate X.




I feel a great disturbance in the force….

George Lucas and Disney Characters
George’s realisation that he just lost Lucas Films in a poker game the night before

The story loved throughout the world, a simple fantasy tale of love, revenge, over coming difficult challenges, evil overlords, religious orders and swash buckling heroes. A story influenced by Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress”. Yes, I’m referring to Star Wars set in a galaxy far, far away.  Where robots camp it up  and giant green slugs have a thing for scantily clad princesses in chains. Like it or hate it,  Star Wars is one of the greatest film franchises ever made and has a religious following all of its own. So why did George Lucas decide to sell Lucas Films?

“I feel a great disturbance in the force. Like millions of voices cried out in terror and suddenly silenced.”

George Lucas said he always wanted to pass Star Wars on to someone who could continue its legacy. Someone with a new perspective on the story. So it was surprising that he sold it onto Disney. A company lacking in original ideas but strong on marketing. It was  also surprising that Disney snapped it up for only $4.1 billion.  Disney are known for buying up franchises and  have previously acquired Pixar .  Even more surprisingly they bought Pixar for more money than they did for Lucas films at a staggering $7.4 billion .

Some devout Star Wars fans were outraged and have accused George Lucas as being a sell out and turning the force over to the Dark Side. Mockery/anger call it what you will is still bounding around the social network sites with one image depicting the Death Star with Mickey Mouse ears. Some fans though are looking forward to the fact that there has been a promise of three more Star Wars films (these are probably the people who liked the Phantom Menace) coming out every two years. But will they be starring Mickey Mouse as Han Solo, Goofy as Darth Vader?  It’s a scary thought that this film, loved by so many could well end up going the way of the Death Star.

It looks like it’s all too late and judging by George Lucas’s expression he’s realised that he just lost Lucas Films in a poker game the night before. He does no doubt have a look of regret. Which makes you wonder, why did he sell it?