Discovering the “Wonders of Wales” – #adeoOnTheRoad

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend three nights on the small-group Wonders of Wales Tour, a comprehensive tour of the great nation of Wales! Whilst researching itineraries helps us to provide a nice overview of the tour for our guests, nothing beats experiencing first-hand the quality of such trips to help us with our knowledge and expertise. And the with just 14 passengers, it was the ideal group-size for exploring.

We departed from Cardiff in Wales on a bright Sunday morning (the hottest day of the year, only to be beaten by the following day). Heading North to the Big Pit, we were sent far underground for a crash course in Wales’ coal industry, which, of course, helped a boom in the South Wales economy and helped develop cities such as Cardiff, where we at adeo Travel are based. From the Big Pit, we travelled to the open-air museum of Saint Fagans to learn about Welsh culture and life. Hidden away were some great gardens and a tea room. Finally, we headed to our overnight stay in the Bear Hotel, Crickhowell. The Hotel offers great tasting food (massive portions), and has managed to preserve the charm and draw of a country hotel in such a stunning location, largely due to the great characterful features and top hospitality.

Our next day saw us drive to Tintern Abbey, in the heart of the Wye Valley. The Abbey is famed for its connection to Dylan Thomas and J.M.W. Turner. After lunch, we drove further into the Valley and made a stop at the idyllic White Castle Vineyard. Owned by a married couple who dreamt of such an adventure, we learnt about the production of wine, and the difficulties of growing grapes in the rather harsh South Wales climate (hard to believe for our overseas guests when it was 35 degrees!). Having the evening free, we returned to the Bear Hotel to sample more of their great menu, filled with tasty home comfort foods in addition to luxury items.

On day three, my final day, we began our journey to the North Wales base of Conwy. Our first stop was the impressive Powys Castle. Most castles in Wales are historical ruins, whereas Powys Castle showed off Victorian décor with stunning views across Powys and Mid Wales. Next, we drove the short distance to the Llangollen Aqueduct. Seventy metres in the air, and for those less afraid of heights, the attraction serves as a crossing to the other side of the canal, whilst offering spectacular views across the landscape. Before heading to our new hotel, we made a quick stop at the beautiful Tu Hwnt Ir Bont tearoom. This quaint house has retained its charm and offers a great food stop for guests. From there, we checked in to our second hotel, the Castle Hotel, an old coaching inn in Wales, standing on the site of a Cistercian abbey within the UNESCO World Heritage walled town of Conwy. Finally, the balance of the day was spent in the seaside resort of Llandudno, listening an all Welsh choir. A must-see experience!

The Wonders of Wales Tour gave me an in-depth look at the way small groups are run, in addition to valuable knowledge of attractions, destinations and accommodations used. I would recommend the trip to anyone interested in a hands-free experience of Wales. Attractions I missed out on were as follows: Snowdonia, Welsh Slate Museum, Pembrokeshire Coast, St Davids, Welsh language lesson and Caernarfon Castle, to name a few. In summary, I wish I had stayed longer!

For more information on the Wonders of Wales Tour click here.

To enquire or book click here.

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Filming Locations in the UK

You may have wondered around New York City or Monument Valley and felt like you had stepped into the silver screen. Here in Britain, this feeling is frequently felt all around our country. Whether it be from the mesmeric Cornish Coast and the setting of Poldark, to the rolling hills and shimmering lochs of Scotland used as the backdrop for some of the Harry Potter movies’ most famous shots, you are never too far from a piece of movie history.

Here is a top 6 of the best filming locations for you to enjoy:

6) CARDIFF – SHERLOCK, DOCTOR WHO, TORCHWOOD

Nestled on the South Wales coast, Cardiff is home to many iconic moments from the BBC in recent years. Housing one of the major studios for the British Broadcasting Corporation, Cardiff has seen its fair share of moments on the screen. From the beautiful Cardiff University main building being used as a backdrop for London in Sherlock, to the Cardiff Bay homing the Torchwood team in the highly rated Doctor Who spin-off, there’s something for everyone to see in this up-and-coming city receiving a modern upgrade, whilst still retaining the history and culture associated with South Wales. The Bay is also home to the Doctor Who Experience, a must for any fan of the show. If you’re lucky, you may even visit on a filming day. Our Capital City Tour allows you so see the highlights of this fantastic city.

5) PORTMEIRION – THE PRISONER

Hidden away between Mount Snowdon and the Welsh coast, Portmeirion is a gem that should not be missed. Multi-coloured buildings once played host to the filming of the Prisoner, an flagship show during the late 1960s. The series follows a British former secret agent who is held captive on a mysterious, albiet tranquill coastal village resort. Starring Patrick McGoohan, this classic should be watched in association with a trip to the resort, conveniently located for anyone visiting North Wales on one of our Welsh self-drive experiences.

4) PORT ISAAC – DOC MARTIN

Martin Clunes’ fantastic portrayal of a surgeon who has developed haemophobia is matched only by the incredibly stunning seaside town of Port Isaac, the filming location for this hit BBC show. In Port Isaac enjoy authentic Cornish Clotted Cream, scones, and traditional British fish and chips. The food and scenery go hand in hand. As the sun sets over the coast, watch as the fisherman descend on the port walls to catch their evening meal fresh. With our fully customisable trips to Cornwall/Devon, make sure to include Port Isaac as one of your top stops along the way.

3) NOTTINGHAMSHIRE – THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY

The Nolan Batman trilogy re-energised DC Comics from 2005-2012.  A short drive away from Nottingham you will find Wollaton Hall. The historic Elizabethan mansion is a popular attraction, hosting many scenes during the Dark Knight Rises, including the opening garden party scene in which Gary Oldman delivers a eulogy of Harvey Dent, some 8 years after his death. A visit today will see you looking around a constructed gravesite, in which Michael Caine delivers one of the more heart-warming scenes from the final movie. At Wollaton Park, also find the resident herd of red deer, which roam around the magnificent gardens and parkland.

2) CAMBRIDGE – THEORY OF EVERYTHING

At number two, we feature the recent Academy Award nominated film, the Theory of Everything. Starring British talents Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as Mr and Mrs Steven Hawking, the film centres around the couple’s early years in amongst the early stages of ALS. Set in the stunningly gorgeous university city of Cambridge, the film utilises the stunning buildings (such as King’s College Chapel) in its backdrop. Local areas to visit range from the Roman fort of Duroliponte on Castle Hill, to St Bene’t’s Church, the oldest standing building in Cambridgeshire. When on one of our many fully-customisable self-drive tours of England, be sure to check out Cambridge, conveniently located between York and London. A perfect stop on the final day of a perfect trip to the UK.

1) SCOTLAND – HARRY POTTER

Iconic and magical, the filming locations for Harry Potter are primarily located in among the Scottish lochs and highlands. The standout, to begin, must be the Glenfinnan Viaduct, used in the filming of the famous Hogwarts Express vs flying car

Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West highland Rail Line.
Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West highland Rail Line.

scene from the Chamber of Secrets. If the earlier films are more to your taste, then how about a visit to Loch Shiel, where Buckbeak dips a toe into the water whilst Harry soars around the sky on his back. Departing Scotland, in the North of England find Alnwick Castle, the location for Harry’s first broom flight under the guidance of Madam Hooch. Visit Scotland and these locations today on one of our Scotland tours, booking now for 2017!

If the above filming locations have piqued your interest, enquire today either online or by phone regarding a trip to England, Scotland or Wales!

Christmas in the UK

It’s that wonderful time of year again. The temperatures are colder (especially in Scotland, the North of England and Wales), the food tastes better, and relatives bombard you with gifts of deodorant/after-shave sets and socks. Whilst clear similarities are there between the UK and the US, our Christmases differ on several obvious, but also a number of lesser-known traditions. For this blog, we will focus solely on these differences and traditions that are unique to Britain!

Here are seven examples:

1) Christmas Eve – More recently, Christmas Eve has primarily been adopted as a day of celebration away from your family. Whilst our transatlantic cousins have Thanksgiving to catch up with friends who have perhaps moved away, Brits use the day before Christmas to meet with friends and reminisce over a drink or two. Furthermore, and to the point a lot more traditionally, adults frequent their local pub in the late morning of Christmas Day to celebrate with local friends/patrons, not too dissimilar to New Year’s Eve.

2) Christmas Crackers – For those unaware, and perhaps hard to explain the popularity of such an item, a Christmas cracker is like a Thanksgiving wishbone. Two people hold onto one side each of a soft cardboard tube, and with a quick pull, one person will take more of the cracker than the other, along with hearing a loud bang. Inside the victor’s majority is a joke (undeniably terrible, e.g. What do they sing at a snowman’s birthday party? Freeze a jolly good fellow); along with a coloured hat in the form of a crown. Even grandparents must wear them throughout Christmas dinner if not all of Christmas day. Tradition is tradition after-all.

3) Christmas Lunch/Dinner – Whilst Brits frequently refer to the main meal as “dinner”, the general eating time is usually around 1-2pm. This difference means a different Christmas Day to that in the US. In Britain, relatives generally spend Christmas Morning in the comfort of their own homes, before immediately preparing the feast or driving on the empty roads to friends and family’s houses. Once there, the food differs to that in the US. One example, Brits roast their potatoes, whereas in the US mashed potatoes are preferred. We also include various other British traditional Christmas foods, these include: Yorkshire puddings (not actually puddings), chutney, pork crackling and pigs in blankets (sausage wrapped in bacon). Most importantly though, whereas Americans prefer a Christmas ham, Brits do not celebrate Thanksgiving, therefore choose Christmas Day as the day for turkey, or if desired goose.

4) Elongated Festivities – Without Thanksgiving, the British Christmas starts earlier than in the US. Supermarkets begin digging out the Christmas playlists from as early as the beginning of November, Christmas cards and wrapping paper hit the stores even earlier, and Santa’s grottos begin popping up in shopping precincts. If proof is required of our desire to extend the festive period for as long as possible, in Love Actually (2003), the Christmas countdown starts six weeks prior to the 25th December, which is a very accurate portrayal of life in London during the hectic festive period.

5) Christmas Sales – Similarly to the last point, more recently, aside from the 12 Days of Christmas, the festivities have extended well into the new year with the January Sales. Adapted to start from Boxing Day (December 26th) more recently, our sales mirror Black Friday in the States. Shoppers descend on retail stores with their Christmas money/vouchers in hand in search of a winter bargain. Holiday seekers also take this time of year, with the multitude of public bank holidays, to plan and book their trips in anticipation of the new year, looking forward in a much more positive manner on what hopefully will be many relaxing breaks.

6) TV Scheduling – Whilst American football fixtures sometimes fall on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the UK gets a day off sport (soccer in particular resumes on Boxing Day and bank holiday fixtures). Instead, once the lunch has been eaten, a countrywide broadcast of the Queen’s Speech begins around 3pm (almost compulsory viewing in Britain!). In the evening, following many Christmas or animated films shown on the BBC, there is an annual Doctor Who Christmas special. This year, Brits are being treated to a Great British Bake Off special, along with the eagerly awaited return of Sherlock, over the Christmas/New Year period.

7) Christmas Markets – adopted from Europe’s finest cities, many British cities/towns are now opening markets in the same vein. From our very own market in the capital of Wales Cardiff, to cities including Bath and York to the fabulous Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London, there’s truly something for everyone. The mulled wine/hard cider, craft huts and ice-skating are just several popular attractions of such events, and let’s not forget the Rockefeller Center-esque illuminations and celebrations throughout the country.

If the above differences have piqued your interest in experiencing Christmas in the UK, then follow this link to our uniquely special tour, Christmas in Scotland, booking soon for 2017. Also, our other tours offer similar destinations and experiences, so if Christmas in the UK has been lingering on your bucket list, do not hesitate to enquire online or by phone today (toll-free from the US/Canada 1-866-209-4554) for a quotation and tailor-made quotation – we look forward to hearing from you!