Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Heath for Health

They both led tramping lives, and this woman in Gerrard Street here had been married very young, over the broomstick (as we say), to a tramping man, and was a perfect fury in point of jealousy. The murdered woman,—more a match for the man, certainly, in point of years—was found dead in a barn near Hounslow Heath.                     [Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Ch XLVIII]
                                                                                                                  That our B&B was in Hounslow was exciting enough but when I discovered Hounslow Heath just ten minutes away from the rented property we moved into, literature came alive for me. In 1860, when Dickens wrote Great Expectations, or from 1812-1840 in which the novel is set, Hounslow Heath may have been an avoidable part of Greater London, but not any more.                                                                                                                                                                                               Now The Heath is a haven for the health conscious. And home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, apart from hosting the children's Fun Fair every two months. The walk from 32, Cranbrook to Hounslow Heath     is not without its visual delight. One comes across the eco- friendly construction on the Staines Road and the early sightings of spring in the neighbourhood houses. 
                                          The snowy light pink flowers crown the trees depriving them of their usual green foliage. That nobody minds the deprivation only adds to the glory.                                                                                             

When you've had your feast of castles, bridges and superstores, take a leisurely walk to the Hounslow Heath. You'll come back 
rejuvenated and tanned. And having seen more colours than the dreary winter allowed you to. Don't forget to carry water and your shades. And remember the sunscreen.

            The dryness of the winter gradually gives birth to colour and you see a harmonious co-existence of both. Life unfolds as the dry & shrivelled gives way to the fresh and tender.


                That white can seem so colourful can only be in this English spring! The majesty of white leaves one awe-struck. Giving the serene white stiff competition is the royal red with its grape- like bunches.
What is it about flowers that we don't seem to remember beyond a rose, marigold and lotus? Stretch your limits, says Nature. Learn hibernia, petunia and daffodils. Forget after you've admired my Beauty but call me by name.  

The vast expanse of the Heath beckons you like there is no tomorrow. You can spend one whole day exploring its nooks and capturing its beauty. The bright sun after the cold winter months is like a mother's love after a dismal hostel stint. Warm, caressing, unconditional.    

                                                                                              Avoid the golf course inside the heath, for your own safety. Walk along the water, whistle to the ducks, admire the skylarks, try clicking that elusive rabbit if you can and soak in the smell of earth. But not the golf course. Unless you've gone there to play. There is enough to do on a meaningful Sunday than putting balls in holes.   



                                Come summer, you can do your Nature trail on an empty stomach. There are 

enough apples, berries and other fruit to keep your tummy from growling. And don't, by any means, tell 'em I told you this!
Quite unlike the Indian summer is the English. The flowers here will grow richer in hue, the sun will be           scorching and the natives will want to wear the bronze look. We don't want to. We are born with it! 

The acorn lies safely in its cradle; adventurers look for designer leaves and exotic plants; the cuckoo sings invisible to the human eye; God smiles in Heaven and all is well with the world. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A Wale of a Time

Groupon is all about deals. From teeth whitening to laser hair removal to exotic getaways, you name it, they do it! Snowdonia happened to us when Brussels didn't. There was this delectable offer of £79 for two to Ambassador Hotel in Snowdonia. Too good to miss, we thought. Two nights stay, breakfast included, a tea thrown in. The Great Orme view room with provisions for tea/coffee cookies provided. What more can one ask for! 

The train from London Euston takes you to Warrington from where one changes to reach Llandudno(Klan-did-no). . Llandudno, "Queen of the Welsh Resorts", is the largest seaside resort in Snowdonia,Wales, and lies on a flat land between the Welsh mainland and the Great Orme peninsula.                                                            

The journey by rail gets you into a relaxed trance that air travel doesn't quite. The landscape is scenic, the weather pleasant & as the train chugs forward you can either doze or breathe in the beauty outside the glass window. There are interesting sights & unique features on the way. Don't miss them by sleeping during the journey! 

                                                                          In four hours, we are at our destination. The old-world charm of Llandudno welcomes us. Our hotel is barely 10 minutes from the station, we walk it down. The shop names make us smile. What strikes us is the presence of colour, after the staid black & brown of London.

The Ambassodor Hotel is in the corner of the road, just across the sea. The locale takes our breathe away. The staff is courteous, the room cosy & you have half the day to go to the Pier & walk around in  the market place.

The Pier boasts a variety of stalls, some games & others artifacts & food. The choice is vast, you either stand at the end of the pier, stare at the sea & wonder at Nature's immensity or get into the game stalls & try to win prizes. Of course, with time on your side, you could do both!
There are rowers who wave out to you as you look down the pier. The easy, laid-back life is like a whiff of fresh air.  The gaming  room, apart from making you rich or poor, can give you a sketch for life. It has a Van Gogh's workroom!  What better memorabilia do we want to take back! Keep around two hours for this site if you are a Nature lover. In front is the green sea, look sideways and one sees the colourful houses against the Great Orme. This time of the year, you need enough warm to guard against the cold. Go prepared. 

Adventure lovers can enjoy Llandudno any time of the year. If you'd rather travel in trams & cable cars, visit between April- October. As backpacking travellers, the next day we followed the cable car route & hiked up to the Great Orme. If you are able-bodied & willing, go hiking. Nothing to beat the climb & the great sense of achievement that comes with it.

Admire the daffodils on the way, look back every five minutes & gasp at the beauty that surrounds you. What are those twisted horn animals, are those sheep dotting the hill in the distance, what species of bird are these. So many questions, such curiosity!

The Great Orme historical trail, from Happy Valley to the Orme summit, takes half a day if you are hiking. Enroute you stop to see the Copper Mines & read the signages that tell you the story. 

The six miles walk gives you panoramic views of the estuary, the pier, the cliff & all the flora & fauna that you crave for in your routine city life. The wind vanes in the distance dutifully go about their business, the cemetery houses the departed close to the sea. Life comes a full circle.  
The food options in this little Welsh town are plenty. In the Palladium, we were welcomed with a loud cheering on our first evening. Blushingly, we entered to realize there was a England vs Wales rugby match in progress! The interior was more an arena than a restaurant; there were huge screens all over the circular hall & the weekend joviality was infectious. The 'fiery dragon' chicken dish that you have for dinner will show its potency only the next morning. Beware! 

Evenings are good for a walk along the Marine Drive & some window shopping. Most shops close by 6pm on weekends.

We kept the next morning for the spiritual trail. Llandudno has a number of Churches and chapels that are major tourist attractions. The Holy Trinity Church(below),The Methodist Church(below right), The Emmanuel Church (below The Trinity), to name a few. 
The bowing to The Almighty done, walking along the water & picking unusual stones was the next best thing. As was taking in the colourful houses with their signature touch.
Two nights is ideal for an idyllic break to Llandudno, Snowdonia. Thank you, Groupon. Please gift us our next getaway :)