I took a couple of days off over the weekend.
There were a couple of reasons for doing so: the first was that I’d finally pressed ‘Publish‘ on No Quarter, the second book in my Ambeth Series. The second was that my husband had booked himself and our daughter in for sessions at Snowdonia Surf, the outdoor surf pool in North Wales.
I may have mentioned this before, but North Wales is one of my absolute favourite places on earth. Something about the landscape, the light, the grey stone and green dreaming mountains speaks to me, connecting to something deep in my bones. Most of my family come from Wales, so perhaps it is my blood calling me home – I don’t know, but whatever the case may be, I always feel a little bit like it’s Christmas morning when I’m there (and I’m a big fan of Christmas morning).
Friday night we headed out, stopping first at my parents’ house for dinner and an overnight stay, then leaving early the next morning and heading over the border into Wales. We stopped on the outskirts of Wrexham, in the small village where my grandmother was born. We were staying with family there as well, and an afternoon in Llangollen beckoned.
Our afternoon in Llangollen was lovely – the sun shone and we walked along the canal into the town centre, enjoying lunch at an ancient mill on the banks of the River Dee. A party of white water rafters became stuck in the shallows directly in front of the large restaurant terrace and bumbled around for about fifteen minutes trying to get free, to increasingly loud calls and hilarity from the crowds on the riverbank – we all clapped and cheered when they finally worked themselves loose and headed off down the river, no doubt glad to see the back of us.
After lunch we visited Courtyard Books, one of my favourite independent bookstores. After a couple of purchases we headed back along the canal to the car and I snapped a photo of Castle Dinas Bran through the trees. On my post about Rivendell last week, Barbara commented that she thought the ruins of Dinas Bran would make a great Weathertop, and I have to agree – what do you think?
The next day dawned bright and sunny and we headed off early to make our booking time. We took the A5 through Llangollen and into the mountains, driving through leafy tree tunnels opening out into valleys starting to gleam with autumn, looming mountainsides patched with bronze. I’ve driven along a few of the world’s scenic routes – the Sea to Sky Highway in Vancouver, the Great Ocean Road in Australia, the California Coast road through Big Sur and Monterey, and I have to say that I think this drive compares in beauty, especially when the sun is shining. So I was definitely in my happy place as we headed into the Conwy Valley, where the Surf Snowdonia pool is located.
Other than the prototype in Spain, Surf Snowdonia is the first facility of its kind in the world, and is pretty amazing. It’s a large man-made lagoon with a long pier stretching down the middle – this is where the waves are created. A large block moving along a track under the pier pushes the water ahead of it, creating a perfect surf wave. There are zones for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers, and the fact that you have to book a time means the waves are never crowded.
Additionally, and a bonus for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy sitting on beaches for hours on end, there’s a very nice restaurant alongside the pool, so you can sit in comfort and watch the surfers go past. However, I found I spent a lot of time outside – the weather was so glorious and the pool so fascinating to watch I couldn’t resist.
The final verdict was one word: awesome! Both surfers had a great time and, as we headed home under the super moon hanging like a golden lantern in the sky, we took a moment to appreciate the weekend and all we’d experienced.
And now I’m sharing it with you 🙂
What a lovely weekend, Helen 🙂 You can feel your love for the place.
Thank you, Sue – it really was wonderful and just what I needed 🙂
A lovely way to celebrate the new book 🙂
I have never liked water and surfing seems like the ultimate in punishments but what a fantastic place. I can think of a few friends who would be purring reading this and looking at the pictures I can get the thrill. And I’m with you on the beauty of north Wales… in the sunshine!
I love the water but don’t like to be out in the open sea (after years living in Australia) so I’ve only tried surfing once. But I considered trying it again when I saw this place – it really was that good. I don’t know that my photos did it justice, to be honest.
Despite a deep seated antipathy to deep water – the bath gives me the creeps – I did manage a white water rafting experience last year that had me going over a 9 metre waterfall. So I suppose I might just give surfing a go….
Wow, that’s pretty intense! And I’m the same – I really don’t like deep water, but as this was a pool it felt as though it might be OK. At least you don’t have to worry about something swimming underneath you!
This is the post that followed my rafting…
http://geofflepard.com/2014/12/02/kia-ora-day-eight-and-there-shall-be-a-day-of-rest/ You might enjoy it.
Cool! Thanks, Geoff 🙂
Looks fabulous, and what gorgeous pics! I lived in North Wales for a couple of years, on Anglesey, it really is a beautiful part of the world. That surf pool looks fantastic, my boys would love it.
Thanks Ali – it was amazing. I think most people would love it as it was such a great environment and so well set up 🙂 And lucky you, living in Anglesey for a while – I am envious. Perhaps if I sell enough books one day we’ll be able to get a little place there.
Looking back, I feel like I never really made the most of it at the time. I was only 20. Shame…
Looks absolutely amazing Helen! 🙂
It was a fabulous place, and set in such lovely scenery. I found it fascinating to watch as well, the way the moving block created such a perfect wave.
What an amazing place! Much safer than the learning to surf in the ocean, like our youngsters do here. What a delightful way to celebrate publishing your new book! x
It was really cool and I agree, a great place to learn how to surf. Being married to a surfer, I had numerous opportunities to learn when I lived in Australia, but I just don’t feel comfortable out in open water. However this felt so different and I said that next time we go there I might give it a try! It was a nice way to celebrate and unwind, that’s for sure 🙂
Congrats on the book, Helen. And the trip looks lovely. I love North Wales, too, although for me it’s the mountain walking especially. I have white water rafted, but not in this country. T’was great fun!
Thanks Mick! It was a great trip, and a nice way to unwind after a busy few weeks. I love walking in the mountains too, the scenery in North Wales is just beautiful. I haven’t tried white water rafting but I might give it a go one day – it does look like fun 🙂
Sounds and looks wonderful. All we did over the weekend was a bit of gardening!
It was great, Suzanne – though I always enjoy a spot of gardening too 🙂
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