IMG_1991

USA Holiday 2014 – Part One – Las Vegas

We have just returned from a couple of weeks in the USA. Our 2014 summer vacation.

The holiday was split into 2 parts with 6 nights in Las Vegas and then a few more nights in San Francisco. As you can imagine, my camera was never far from my side so here are a selection of pictures (the full set can be found by following the links to my photo album).

First of all Las Vegas itself.

It’s certainly larger than life, loud, brash and everything you would expect it to be. It’s tacky, it’s cheap (except where the hotels try and charge you for every single thing) and above all else, it was hot.

We stayed right on The Strip in the New York New York Resort but we soon discovered that all the hotels are pretty much the same. Loads to see and do but a couple of days is all it takes

 

DSCF0312

Ironbridge Gorge – June 2014

The wheels keep on turning and this weekend we have headed over to the other side of the country to Telford in Shropshire and to Ironbridge.

This is where the industrial revolution began and what happened in this beautiful corner of the country impacted the world that we live in today in ways that you can only start to imagine. There is a good reason why Ironbridge is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Whilst the main attraction of Ironbridge is the Iron Bridge itself, there are 10 main museums up and down the valley covering Iron making and all that it brought as well as the areas other claim to fame, pottery. The museum that you must visit if you do no others is the Blists Hill Village where a victorian town has been recreated with fully functional banks, butchers, bakers and even candlestick makers. This museum alone can take you a full day and is brought to life by an army of volunteers all in authentic costume. If can feel quite strange walking in through somebodies front door and finding them sitting in front of the fireplace knitting and telling stories about what has been going on in the village that day.

Many of the shops actually sell stuff and you can even change your cash into pounds, shillings and pence at the bank first to spend in the shops. There is a pub where songs are sung around the piano and real ale is served behind the bar. The fish and chip shop is certainly worth a visit and serves up some of the best chips (fried in beef dripping) I have had in a long time.

The other museums vary in scale with some taking literally 20 minutes to cover whilst others taking much longer. We purchased a family annual passport at £68 which covers 2 adults and up to 4 children which works out best value if you intend to visit at least 2 museums during the year. Indeed we may well return within the 12 months as we really did enjoy our weekend here. Full details can be found on the main Ironbridge Gorge website www.ironbridge.org.uk

Whilst best explored on foot there is both a Park & Ride scheme in place as well as a shuttle bus that connects the different museums.

We all found something that we enjoyed is Ironbridge and look forward to returning in the future.

 

 

DSCF0274

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 - © Mark Roddis 2014

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.

DSCF0060

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.

My World : My Travels : My Thoughts : My Life : My Blog

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 491 other followers