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Caerphilly Castle [PHOTOS]

Day Two in Wales and after an overnight stay in Cardiff, it’s just a 20 minute drive north to the town of Caerphilly.

Our destination today is Caerphilly Castle. The second largest castle in Great Britain and certainly quite an imposing structure.

The castle was constructed by Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century as part of his campaign to conquer Glamorgan, and saw extensive fighting between Gilbert and his descendants and the native Welsh rulers. Surrounded by extensive artificial lakes – considered by historian Allen Brown to be “the most elaborate water defences in all Britain” – it occupies around 30 acres (120,000 m2) and is the second largest castle in Britain. It is famous for having introduced concentric castle defences to Britain and for its large gatehouses. (I copied all of that off Wikipedia)

These days, much of the castle is still intact with plenty of towers to climb and grounds to meander through. Whilst there aren’t loads of interactive exhibits, it is still interesting and lets be honest, what better way is there to discover a castle than to actually wander around it at your own pace.

We visited on a Sunday morning and it took us a good couple of hours to explore what is a large area but did notice that it wasn’t very busy which did surprise us. As such there was plenty of space for kids to run around and explore (because what can be more exciting for little people than exploring a real castle)

 

Tintern Abbey [PHOTOS]

And so we begin.

As discussed just last week, our family quest to explore Great Britain has begun and our first weekend takes deep into Wales.

This is Tintern Abbey. Dating back to 1131AD in the county of Monmouthshire just off the A466 Monmouth to Chepstow road (you really can’t miss it) on the banks of the river Wye. Whilst it is somewhat of a ruin these days, it is still an imposing structure and one can only imagine what it must have been like when it was still intact.

If you are in this part of the world, it really is worth stopping to have a look round and an hour or two is plenty to see all it has to offer. Kids will love it to as there is loads of room for them to run about and let off steam.

My New 2014 BMW 520D SE

As mentioned the other day, my company policy states that I must have a company car to drive on company business. Whilst I am still convinced that my previous Audi A7 was more than suitable for the task, the company policy disagrees so it is with a heavy heart I had to say goodbye to the Audi.

In it’s place, my new company car. A BMW 520D SE in Space Grey

Now normally at this stage, a new BMW owner will go on to list all the various optional extras that they have but in this case, because it is a company vehicle, it has none. I wasn’t even allowed to specify an automatic gearbox.

But looking to find the positive in every negative, the standard spec is actually quite impressive especially for a brand with a reputation for everything being an option.

So we have Heated Electric Leather Seats, Satellite Navigation, Bluetooth, Keyless Start, Xenon Headlamps, Alloy Wheels, DAB Radio, BMW Connected Drive with iDrive all as standard.

This is all pushed along by the rear wheels through a 6 speed manual gearbox linked to a 2 litre diesel engine kicking out 181bhp. To be fair, whilst this falls well short of most cars I have been driving for the last 7 years, it isn’t sluggish.

So as I said the other day, as there are no limits on personal use, this car is going to take us all around the UK and beyond over the next few years so we are going to be spending quite a bit of time in it. Don’t be surprised if you see it in the background of various photos as we travel.

So here are some pictures and I will report back in a few weeks as to what it is like.

Reboot – Blog Update

The planets have aligned and a new chapter seems to be opening up with new opportunities

The arrival of a company car (a first for me) has opened up an opportunity to explore new places both in the UK and into Europe without the worry of putting loads of miles on my own car and the cost that this entails. This alone has seen us make a commitment as a family to get out more. To visit new places and explore the country that we live in. So expect to see more day trips getting blogged about. Our approach is simple. If we see somewhere that looks interesting, we will add it to the list and make a point of going there.

In addition, trips onto the EuroTunnel and beyond are likely to become more common so watch this space.

So if you have read through this blog, you will know my love of photography however on recent trips, I have really struggled to get the shots I wanted which has forced me to rethink my approach to photography and resulted in me upgrading my camera equipment. More on that in a future post.

And finally, I am going to use this blog to tell the world about my travels. Both business and personal. Expect to see a bigger emphasis on travel. Whilst I am not claiming that this will be a full on travel blog, travel and photography will be a big theme but as well as trip reports, I will also post more reviews on the restaurants I eat in and hotels I sleep in. After all I already take the time to post reviews on TripAdvisor so why not include those reviews here.

So notable changes, a slightly different approach and more emphasis on travel and traveling. Enjoy the ride

 

 

The Hilton Hotel Basingstoke

I don’t know what it is about Hilton hotels. They seem reluctant to spend any money on keeping the rooms up to date but are quite happy to lavish large sums on money on the public areas.

So here we are in Basingstoke on a one night business stop over and this one is no exception.

The hotel is on the edge of town and from the outside is drab and uninspiring although there is plenty of free parking and it is just off the motorway.

The welcome was nothing special however the walk to the room seemed to take forever, negotiation corridor after corridor.

The room itself was just drab. Tired, dimly lit and drab. There is no air conditioning and the window opens just 6 inches probably because the hotel room overlooks a very neglected woodland beyond that is very dark at night. Indeed I did not feel safe leaving my windows open when I went out of my rom or when I was sleeping.

The bathroom was poorly maintained and there appeared to be a hole of some kind next to the bath that had just had new lino placed over it. When you stood on it, the whole thing sagged under your feet.

I chose not to eat in the hotel in the evening

Breakfast was OK with polite and friendly staff and checkout again was friendly and efficient.

So just like the last 2 Hilton Hotels I have stayed in recently, this was a disappointment especially when the Hilton brand still carries a cost premium at £108 per night. I certainly would not stay here again by choice. Indeed even a Premier Inn puts this sort of hotel to shame

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