Tag: Hotels

Top Ten Places to See in Wales

Top Ten Places to See in Wales

Why Wales?

I have wanted to go to Wales ever since I saw Hugh Grant’s movie The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain. In fact, the trip that I’ll be taking next month originally started out as an England & Wales combined trip. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented us from doing both, and Hubs was pretty adamant that he wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall.  So Wales is pretty high on the list of future vacations.

I did a lot of research about Wales back when I thought we would be able to do both. Here are the top ten things I can’t wait to see when I go to Wales.

1. Hay-on-Wye.  This tiny village (population 1600) is known as a book town. In fact, it’s the world’s largest second hand & antiquarian book center. You’ll find book stores on every corner and you’ll even see unmanned shelves of books with an honor system for customers. The largest of the “honesty shops” is a row of shelves lining the castle wall.  Castle + books = I could spend days there!

wales top ten hay on why castle bookshop

2. The Straining Tower at Lake Vyrnwy.  It looks much more romantic than it actually is. Its purpose is to filter or strain out material in the water with a fine metal mesh, before the water flows along the aqueduct to Liverpool. The tower rises 104 feet above water, and is topped with a pointed copper-clad roof with a light green patina.

wales top ten straining tower lake vyrnwy

3.  Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.  The town with the longest name in Britain – 58 letters! (Oddly enough, it is not the longest name in the world, though; that honor belongs to a place in New Zealand.) The name, translated from Welsh, means “Saint Mary’s Church in a hollow of white hazel near the swirling whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave.” I just want to go get our picture taken under the name sign and buy a souvenir tee shirt.

wales top ten longest town name

4. Castell Coch.  This Gothic Revival Castle was built in the late 19th century as a country residence.  It is often referred to as a fairy tale castle because of its round towers.  And while the exterior of the castle appears medieval, the interior is high Victorian.

wales top ten castell coch

5. The Doctor Who Experience.  You get to see what it’s like to be inside the TARDIS, for goodness’ sake.  What else could you want?

UPDATE:  The Doctor Who Experience is no longer open. 🙁

wales top ten Doctor Who Experience

6. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  You can ride a boat or walk across the aqueduct, which is the highest and longest in Great Britain.  It is 126 feet high and 336 yards long.  From what I’ve read, the views from there are outstanding.

wales top ten Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

7.  Tintern Abbey.  Thanks to Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Abbey ruins are all over the British Isles.  I’ve seen photos of many different abbey ruins, and I think Tintern has one of the loveliest sites.

wales top ten Tintern Abbey

8. Pembrokeshire.  This area of Wales reminds me so much of Cornwall (my happy place). There are many beautiful beaches and small harbor towns.

wales top ten Pembrokeshire

9. Skomer Island.  It is the world’s largest puffin colony.  And, as if that weren’t enough, there are also stone circles and the remains of prehistoric houses.

wales top ten skomer puffin

10. Gladstone’s Library.  It’s a residential library, possibly the only one in the world. Bibliophiles like me can look at books all day, go to sleep when we can’t hold our eyes open any longer, then wake up and look at books again.  Yay!  As an added plus, the room rates are some of the cheapest I’ve seen in the UK.

wales top ten Gladstone's Libary

So, there you have it: my next European adventure, already planned.  I can’t wait to see these Wales top ten places in person!

 

A Luxurious Getaway in PA

A Luxurious Getaway in PA

Tucked away in the Cumberland Valley area of Pennsylvania is a luxurious resort with a fascinating history.  It’s the Omni Bedford Springs Resort, and it’s worth a visit if you are ever looking for a place to relax and get away from it all.

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There are eight mineral springs on the property which were touted for their curative powers as far back as 1796.  It’s those springs that feed the resorts heated indoor swimming pool — one of the first indoor pools in the country, and undoubtedly one of the loveliest even today.

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Just as appealing as the appearance of the hotel is its history.  There have been ten US Presidents who have visited Bedford Springs, seven while holding the office of President. One of them, James Buchanan, made the resort his “summer White House” in the 1850s.

In 1858, James Buchanan received the very first trans-Atlantic telegraph message in the lobby of the Bedford Springs resort.  It was sent by Queen Victoria.  That message hangs in the resort lobby even today.

The hotel also houses a 39-star American flag — the only one in existence — because there were 36 states when the flag was made in 1865, but the maker of the flag hoped that three more states would join the union, so she added them.

The most charming piece of the resorts history, however, is the story about women who visited the resort as newlyweds.  They would test the authenticity of the diamond in  their new ring by scratching their name upon the window glass.  If it cut into the glass, they knew it was a real diamond.  This practice was called the Truing of the Ring and, wisely, the Omni hotel chain chose not to replace those windows.  Look for the names in the glass when you visit.

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When we visited the resort, it was winter, and not very hospitable weather.  However, that didn’t stop us from going out and seeing a few sights.  There is a building shaped like a coffee pot in nearby Bedford PA, and a dozen or so rustic covered bridges like this one:

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After a chilly day exploring the countryside, we were pleased to return to the hotel and find fire pits and smores kits.  What a fun weekend!

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The Omni Bedford Springs Resort is located at 2138 Business 220, Bedford, Pennsylvania 15522. Telephone 814-623-8100.  I did not receive any compensation or promotional consideration for writing this review.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island, Michigan

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the perfect destination for families, for people who love nature, for history buffs … there is really something for everyone.  The jewel in the crown of the UP is Mackinac Island.  (Pronounced Mackinaw)

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When you first arrive on Mackinac Island by boat, you will notice a conspicuous lack of traffic on the streets, owing to the fact that cars are all but forbidden on the island. Instead, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the primary means of transportation.

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And as if that isn’t romantic enough, there’s the majestic Grand Hotel.  If you ever saw the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, you will recognize it immediately.  If you can afford to stay there, do.  The Grand Hotel has been named one of the top hotels in the country by Conde Nast Traveler, Travel +Leisure, Wine Spectator, Gourmet magazine, and AAA.

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For those who are inspired by nature, make sure you tour enough of the island to see its iconic Arch Rock.  Standing 146 feet above Lake Huron, this is a rare natural limestone arch.

 

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Finally, for those who love history, be sure to check out Fort Mackinac.  The views from there are fantastic, and you will have an opportunity to learn about the fort’s role in the War of 1812.  Canon and rifle-firing demonstrations are held periodically each day, and you can tour many of the fort’s buildings, which are set up with recreations of what they would have looked like in the early 19th century.

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Additionally, if your curiosity veers toward the morbid at times, you might be interested to learn about Dr. William Beaumont, an Army surgeon who was stationed at the fort.  When a French Canadian fur trader named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in the stomach and his open wound would not heal, the good doctor took advantage of the situation to experiment with and observe the physiological process of digestion.  Those experiments lasted over ten years and led to many important discoveries.