After our tight squeeze and our failure to reach Rhyd, we were back to debating whether or not to keep Hank. The weight of opinion was for returning to retrieve Brunhilde but that would mean that our final week would involve a lot of very long days. We continued to discuss what to do throughout the day and well into the evening.
I was very jumpy about routes and did some checking. Just as well that I did - there was an arch in the walls at Conwy that we could not pass through without removing our mirrors. We took a detour! I was glad that we were prepared and did not suffer another surprise like yesterday's.
It was a beautiful sunny day and really quite warm. We stopped at Caernarfon to stock up the larder.
We parked easily in the "Buses only" car park behind Tesco. There was plenty of room and we happily stumped up the £3 bus parking fee.
We treated Nell to a good long walk on the footpath beside the Menai Strait.
Then took our detour to a destination that we were very excited about. A Britstop outside Conwy, the Groes Inn is an historic pub with a good reputation for food. It was time for us to scrub up and to have a really good meal.
It was to be the highlight of our trip.
We parked by the Petanque square and considered digging out our Boules later in the evening.
We popped in to the bar say that we had arrived, to book a table for dinner and had a swift afternoon pint whilst we were about it. I liked the Inn. It was rather posh (for us) but not at all stuffy or fussy and the young hospitality team were very friendly and helpful.
We could not waste the glorious weather and asked about footpaths for dog walking. There were none! We had to walk along narrow lanes with high hedges and no verge. Not ideal.
After showering and getting changed, I checked out the Inn's Facebook page in the hope of finding a menu. What I found was a post made that very day, saying that they had vacancies for kitchen staff. Perhaps I should have paused to think on that.
Dinner was to put it politely, a disappointment. Mr Snail's starter of black pudding, bacon and poached egg was excellent indeed, freshly made, beautifully presented and quite delicious. I did not fare quite so well with my grilled aubergine and feta salad. We had picked the same main course, slow-cooked Belly Pork, and as soon as it came to the table I could tell at a glance that the meal was not hot - it was dull, congealed and giving off no steam. I was correct; it was not at all hot and I had to return mine to the kitchen, where it was nuked and re-plated rather less attractively. Tasty enough but the skin was entirely wet and gelatinous, making the whole dish somewhat revolting.
Not to go into too much detail, the service was patchy. The arrival of the wine was very late and the veg were brought to the table some time after the meat plate.
Dessert was massively disappointing, all the more so because we had lashed out on a bottle of our favourite dessert wine, Elysium. Both of our chosen desserts were very tired-looking, as though they had been plated up on Sunday and left out uncovered. Executed initially well enough, they would have been good if fresh, but they tasted as dull as they looked.
It was not all bad, my request to have my chocolate tart served with a scoop of their cinnamon ice cream on the side instead of whipped cream was cheerfully met and the ice cream was delicious indeed.
We passed on the coffee as they could only offer Nespresso and not real coffee - so we went back to the van and fired up the Espresso pot.What kind of upmarket establishment fails to serve freshly ground coffee!
After supping a whole bottle of Elysium between us on top of sherry and the main course wine, I was no longer hankering for a game of Petanque.
We discussed the meal and how underwhelming it had been despite how well the menu read and the Inn's reputation. I concluded, given the earlier post regarding kitchen staff, that they were suffering a kitchen staffing crisis and had been fire-fighting. Everything added up to the suggestion that they were short of chefs and that the chef staff that they did have on hand were addressing just those dishes that had to have immediate attention - such as Mr Snail's Black Pudding and Poached Egg, which was faultless. Everything else looked as though it had been plated up in advance to be dealt with by lesser-skilled hands.
Overall we decided not to damn the restaurant out of hand and would give it a second chance some other time. It still left a foul taste in the mouth as we had pushed the boat out after looking forward to this for weeks and had spent a great deal of money on a less than distinguished meal. The high point of our break turned out to be quite a slump. At least the view from Hank's window was a good one.
It was decision time, the crunch point. Would we go get Brunhilde back or would we hang on to Hank and go straight home. In the end we elected to retain Hank for a while longer, perhaps up to two years. It was really the idea of the extra mileage and very long days that it would take to get home again if we returned now to Cheltenham. Tomorrow we would be leaving Wales and returning to Yorkshire but we were still not in love with Hank.
As we drove away from Borth, continuing along the road in the direction that we had arrived the day before, it became clear that there were better wild parking opportunities up ahead that we had missed out on. They do however involve proximity to golfers and we are both naturally reserved about golf balls, so perhaps we were better at the side of the road after all.
Mr Snail had factored into our plans a stop in Dolgellau, where we could pick up some supplies. He had been there before and knew that there was a car park we could fit into and it was on the edge of town, saving us driving through the centre.
Unfortunately his memory was not sufficient to enable solo navigation and he turned the GPS on, which of course sent us right through the middle of the town on a twisty turny one-way route of very narrow streets. Extremely narrow ones, we squeaked our mirrors through without disaster but it was very necessary to keep an eye on the height of any pedestrians in our vicinity.
We were quite early and there was plenty of space when we arrived. It was a beautifully sunny and crisp day, the schools were still on holiday and families were rolling up in cars with bike racks on all the time that we were there. The car park was filling rapidly.
I liked Dolgellau.
A bakery supplied us with bread rolls and four amazingly large cakes, a trip to the butcher furnished bacon, burgers, sausages and free-range eggs, and the wholefood shop had local cheeses (we bought four.) We wandered around in search of a supermarket type shop for some basics but found none, though we followed a sign for the Co-op, we never found it.
By the time that we were ready to leave the car park was full enough to challenge our manoeuvres. It was a case of sitting and waiting until the right car moved to allow us space. Next time we'll pass through the car park and head for the lorry park beyond.
The Dolgellau album:
We were going to wild overnight in a forest car park at Rhyd. We turned off the A487 at the Oakeley Arms and onto the B4410. I noticed the sign that said that buses are prohibited after 1 mile, Mr Snail did not. I wondered if we were going against the spirit of the thing... what constitutes a "bus" ?
We progressed. It was a narrow road with two-way traffic that was surprisingly (to us) busy. We met a narrower section. There were cars coming down, cars behind, and a very unforgiving-looking stone wall on both sides of the road. (It was somewhere about here, if I remember correctly). It was extremely tight but fortunately the driver of the car squeezing by us clearly had experience and knew exactly how to tackle it. She and I communicated by sign language and everyone came off unscathed. Phew. Another disaster averted.
I swear that I held my breath all the way down that road and did not exhale until it was clear that we were not going to be playing a game of sardines (or chicken!) with any oncoming traffic.
Back on the A road, we found a lay-by and considered parking there overnight. It was less than ideal but there was a footpath on the other side of the road where we might walk the dog. We did however consult the map and found that just a short way down the road was a large lay-by set back from the road with a large verge between and adjacent to a National Trust woodland with several footpaths through it. Ideal!
The weather was good, the dog was eager... we made the most of it and chose the longest route, with the option of an additional leg to a viewpoint. It was quite a climb and as we neared the top we heard a train whistle - we were approaching the line and as I aimed my camera, a steam train went by. The photo came out all blurry as I did not even have time to focus.
We sat at the viewpoint, drinking the view in and thirstily demolishing our bottle of water.
As we apprached the final leg of the walk we heard the train whistling, coming back from the other direction, or so we thought. We decided to walk up to the line and to wait for the train and try to grab some photos.
We had a very long wait.
We crossed the line and waited and waited. Nell was becoming fractious.
Every now and again we would think that we heard the engine again but nothing transpired and we decided that it was a trick of the geography of the line and we had actually heard the sound of the whistle carrying back and up the valley from Porthmadog.
We decided to walk on up the hill, past the little lake and to see if we might get a view of where we originally intended to park. It was when we were surveying the lake that we hear it again. A definite whistle. The train was coming back! And so we legged it back down the hill, certain that we would miss the train rushing by. We didn't. We arrived back at the crossing, out of breath, but without sign of the train. We waited and waited and waited... it was surely coming, the whistle got louder and then fainter. Eventually, of course, it did come puffing by.
I was rewarded for our infinite patience (aka idiocy) by a couple of good shots.
And then we went "home"...
...to a well-earned beer and a less than restful night. We were frequently disturbed by cars driving past at high speed in the night and sounding their horns at us. This fact alone prevents us from recommending this spot to other motorhome campers - the natives in Wales are less than friendly!
On Tuesday morning I went to express my thanks to the Wood Office folks before left. The lady of the establishment was so warm and endearingly charming. I hope that we manage to return to the site one day.
Over breakfast, Mr Snail had backtracked and decided to keep trying Hank out for a little longer, so instead of heading back to Cheltenham we consulted a map and plumped for Borth. Armed with local knowledge we skirted Narberth and, our sense of adventure having gone missing by this stage, drove straight to Borth without stops or detours.
By the time that we arrived in Borth, where we chose to overnight on a rough car park at the far end of the village, it was tipping down. We put the levellers down and made a coffee and sat for ages, just watching the size of the flood on the road outside the golf course growing and contemplating the idea of a fish supper.
The rain lessened around tea-time and so we donned waterproofs, harnessed up the dog, grabbed the camera and a shopping bag and went in search of some bottles of the local brew.
There is one road through Borth, it goes in at one end of the village and comes out at the other. There is a sea wall cum promenade that runs through a large part of the village and makes the walking easier.
As we walked along the prom we were delighted to spot a red kite over the houses that line the single street. I tried to whip a camera out but, alas...
We had to walk the entire length of the village in order to find some, which meant that we had to walk the same distance back again, with bottles clanking.
We chose to walk along the beach coming back and were rewarded by seeing the better weather breaking in front of us.
Having seen the chip shop on our way along to find the beer we had decided to eat something else for supper...
Borth has a largely run-down appearance and there was much evidence of flood damage but the village does not lack charm. There were aspects of the place that put me in mind of Hebden Bridge and so I named it "Hebden by the Sea"
Wednesday dawned brightly, with some evidence of overnight frost.
We were not planning to travel far and I had time to whip out the camera and go in search of a fossilised forest that I had been told was somewhere on the beach. Although there was ample evidence of sodden lumps of old wood lying around all over the place, I failed to find the forest, though I did find some wood...