We wanted to avoid Heathrow Airport London…we love London but we’ve been through Heathrow many times and it’s a long/slow process – even when Tony was on a Diplomatic passport/invited by the Brits to speak + we’re part of the Commonwealth!  It probably has a lot to do with security checks of course.

So on this trip last year (2016) we arrived via Southampton airport, England;  we came via Amsterdam (quite a short flight in a smaller plane…I’ll add to our post on Amsterdam).  In Southampton (a small airport so things flowed reasonably well), we hired a car and drove to Winchester.  After a few days in Winchester (visiting family) we drove onto Oxford and then into Wales.  (Later I’ll do a separate post on the English leg of this trip).

ON THE ROAD TO WALESnot too far from Oxfordnear the border of England and Wales we visited Blenheim Palace in Woodstock.  It was the home of Winston Churchill for much of his life.  There is also a small museum about his life and work within the Palace.  We did a tour of both the interior and the exterior – a huge estate as can be seen from the photo below…

We had the morning at Blenheim Palace (above) followed by a light lunch there and we then drove onto Hay-on-Wye in Wales.  Hay-on-Wye is a quaint village (lots of 2nd hand bookstores), cafes, a few restaurants, a pleasant river walk and an historic castle – in a rather derelict state but worth a look around.  Local guides can be organised at the tourist information office or you can do a self guided tour like we did by reading up on the history – there are also a few signs and if my memory serves me correctly, a couple of information boards on the site.  When I talked with a cafe owner I got the impression that many locals are frustrated with the slow progress being made on restorations to the Hay Castle but of course, it’s the age old problem of lack of funding.

Of particular interest to us was the use of both languages (Welsh and English) on all the signs throughout Wales.  This is only a relatively new law (I’ll look up the Net and note when this was introduced).  So as can be seen in this photo below, the signs look quite new:

Photos below:  More views of Hay-on-Wye, Wales…if we return we would like to stay at Ross-on-Wye (Wye is the river).  We wouldn’t recommend the B&B we stayed at in Hay – it was called “Seven Stars”…it was a tiny, dated room in a poorly built building at the back of a more historic property (where they served breakfast).  It did have a heated pool beneath the rooms which was quite pleasant to swim in after a long drive but we could smell the chlorine in our small room – not pleasant!  However, the village of Hay-on-Wye was enjoyable and interesting to stroll through as can be seen from the photos.  There are lots of 2nd hand bookshops, many small cafes, a couple of pubs and a few restaurants…we went to a tapas bar which was a mistake (food was average…more like bar snacks + a few larger plates on menu) and on reflection we think a pub may have been a better choice.  The Blue Boar (photo below…with autumn colours) had some reasonable reviews on Trip Advisor that didn’t sound like they’d been written by family/friends😉

Back on the road toward Cardiff…53 km from this National Park (photo below) to Cardiff

On our drive from the village of Hay-on-Wye in Wales to Cardiff (the Capital), we stopped for a light lunch at the National Park Information Centre cafe/restaurant (cafeteria style with outside tables/views toward the hills).  It was pleasant and after lunch we took a short walk (a short walk because we wanted to get to Cardiff by mid afternoon).

More on Cardiff in next post…