Posted by: Team McSlade | July 6, 2010

Is that with one L or three?

We visited Cymru or more commonly Wales after a few days down in Cornwall, with a brief detour to Clovelly on the Atlantic Coast on the way. A small village that’s built into a cliff face that used to use donkeys to take supplies up to the main road and then everything goes back down the cobbled streets via sledges. Cheers Geoff for the nod to this cracker.

As we headed down the steep cobbled lane towards the town, one lady who shall remain nameless (as we don’t know it) fell head-first into the category of ‘A-Grade Boob’ with a tremendous thud. This woman was stopped at an oceanic viewing pullout about fifty yards from the start, complaining that she had a broken toe and couldn’t stretch her foot out on the cobbles. She asked another lady if she had been to the bottom near the sea before, the other lady responded that she lived in Clovelly.
I added my two pence worth by saying perhaps she’d been to the seashore once or twice.

Clovelly - steep cobbles and sledges required

In the village we marvelled at how and why these homes were built into the cliff face, and wondered why anyone would even bother dragging their weekly shopping a few hundred yards over cobbles and then do the same with their couch, clothes and any other gear that was thought nice for the home.
Pasties (sans Cornish as we are now into Devon) were bought and devoured at the seaside. As Jo is already looking like a pastie, this added to the fun in geting back up the hill. A few old ducks were bemused by my dragging Jo while Zach pushed from behind to get her up the hill. Jo blamed the pastie and laughter ensued. Another pregnant woman was wandering down too; we pitied her partner as he didn’t have any hired help to get her back up the hill.

We finally returned the favour to Ryan Freeman for coming and visiting us in Canada and Spain, by heading to his town of Cardiff. With his address written down, yet no map, we were hoping to jag a street sign that meant something to us when arriving in Cardiff. A quick lap of the town centre and a dash into a petrol station had us only one street off the mark.
When we had shaken off the dust from the drive we did a tour of the city, past the castle into the high street and marvelled at the similarities to Adelaide (obviously not the castle, but the rest) and saw a sign to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – the longest single word town name in the world with 51 letters in the name.

Check out the banner in white

The weather has been doing its liberal best to get us acclimatised to an Adelaide winter with cool days and a bit of rain here and there. Still Melbourne has nothing on the schizophrenic climes of Cardiff with its seven seasons in one day.
The Tintern Abbey looked austere without its roof and stained glass; the Black Mountains were dour in the mist and rain; with the Carphilly Castle looking the whole nine yards with its turrets, fortified walls and moat. I love a good moat.

The Maenllwyd Inn in Rudry, a country hotel in a small village was visited on our last night in town. They served up a mean feed of half a chicken, a few steak sangas and lasagne; Jo added a plate of gnocchi to the table and we were all rolled out to the car.
Ryan completed our visit to Cardiff by letting us in on the Welsh secret that is Welshcakes. These little morsels of Welsh gold are best described as pikelets with raisins, a pile of sugar and a few sprinkles of ‘get that in my tummy’. Instead of trying to add anymore to the wonderment that is Welshcakes, I will implore you to hit up your local Welsh food stockist and ask them to give you some Welshcakes.
If they don’t have them, ask then why not.

Welshcakes. Winners.

On to Liverpool we go…

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Posted by: Team McSlade | July 4, 2010

Cornish Coronary

Prior to leaving Sweden we decided to partake in an unknown Swedish delicacy that we came across by chance – their interpretation of the Balfour’s Frog Cake! 
However, the BFC’s of Adelaide are nice happy little frogs (think Kermit’s nephew Robin) where as these Swedish frogs were more Queensland cane toads. We should have whacked these with golf clubs rather than devour them but decadence overtook our violent tendencies for these ugly amphibians.
Little did we know that this was the pre-amble to an over-indulgence of many British treats we would devour in the coming 24 hours.

Before our gastronomic adventure began we made a couple of stops on our way to Cornwall. 
First port of call was Hertfordshire, the house Jo’s mum grew up in before migrating to Australia.  We all stood out the front while Zach informed us that the most mischief she caused was in the bedroom at the top right of the house.  Part two in Chiswell Green was the Three Hammers pub – still standing and serving ales – where feeding deers in the 1950’s was a pastime, now it has a car park out the back.

Stonehenge was next on the McSlade map – no family lived there – but druids and shepherds did a good job of making a boring field an interesting place to visit. Stones were dragged from Cardiff (a lazy 345 clicks away from the site) and then stacked fairly well. People have used the stones to re-lay roads and build houses; others have wondered why the site was used for 1500 years then jettison the keys to the city leaving several question marks over the site. 

Stonehenge

Trowbridge was the former home of GD Slade and thus a point of interest for the McSlade bandwagon. We found the home (and birthplace) of Geoff, with Jo asking a lad out the front if she could photograph it. He said ‘Not my house’, so she knocked on the door only to be told, ‘Go away!’
The lady of the house, once realising Jo was not one of her sons, said sure you can take a few snaps and we were on our way to St James’ church where Geoff was a choirboy. 

The Beastie Boys’ Heart Attack Man had the lyrics:
“Heart Attack, Heart Attack Man
Goin’ nowhere, and that’s the master plan…”

It appears that was written with Cornwall, the pasties and cakes in mind. As we love pies and pasties and have not been able to eat them in Spain (they don’t have any), we have gone a little crazy in heading into the home of pasties.
Jess informs us that the crimped pastry at the top was used as a handle by miners with dirty hands to eat the pastie and then they’d throw that bit away. We aren’t miners, thus that piece is eaten and with approximately half a pound of butter per pastie, you can see where the coronary starts to kick in. Adding to this abomination was the ‘new wave’ of pastie fillings – bangers ‘n’ mash, steak and ale and spicy chicken, delicious yet a decent kick in the calorie counter.
We also hit up a cream tea (read two scones, jam and a bucket of clotted cream), chips and gravy with the glorious chip forks, Pringles for a pound and finger buns all added to the artery congestion. 

Home of the Cornish Pastie

As for Cornwall itself, the little hamlet of Mousehole was a cracker; St Ives is an artisan’s paradise (but only a few degrees of tourist chaos away from Amalfi) and Penzance was quite ordinary and Jon English was nowhere to be seen. Land’s End is the end of land for the UK on the south side, it looked like a cliff with a fancy sign, but a ticked was placed in that box anyhow.
The country lanes are amazing to drive on, you can’t see over the 6-8 ft hedges that overhang onto the roads, it’s usually down to single lane with cars travelling in both directions. A few close calls with other cars causing the brakes to be tested out; the cars and hedges becoming friends for a brief moment or two (perhaps I shouldn’t have been eating a ham sandwich while driving these roads). 
The surprise packet was Looe, a seaside town with a central harbour and houses built up into the hillside. We had dinner at the Harbour Moon pub, where we also joined in with the pub quiz. Alas we came in 6th, but we beat the Welsh team and had a few Poms give us a helping hand with some of the more ‘English’ questions.

The Inn-keep at our accommodation, The Sportsman’s Arms, put us on to Looe and the pub was a belter. No beer was drunk, but the room we stayed in was one of the best we have had.

A nice way to see the southernmost county of England and off to Wales we go.

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Posted by: Team McSlade | June 30, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome

Sweden (or Sverige to the locals) is a great way to relax after the hectic nature of Italy (hectic only in the sense that there was so much we wanted to do and that generally required traffic and crowds).
It definitely ehdålgaan’s the östvogt off of the velkgasten.
If you don’t understand that last sentence, that’s OK, as its nonsensical Swedish that I learnt from the Muppet’s Swedish Chef. We have (more to the point Ryan has) been making up our own Swedish words to great effect, these words haven’t been used in any conversation outside of TMS, but they have kept us amused.
While we are deconstructing the Swedish language in a Shakespearean way (he also made up his own words, one such gem being ‘fantastic’), the Swedes have learnt English to great aplumb, so well it’s almost embarrassing.
Add to this they are quite tall, not that this has anything to do with lingual skills just that Jo was amongst contemporaries in Spain, now she’s looking at the navels of Swedes. 6’4” is fairly normal for many here.

The self proclaimed Capital of Scandinavia, Stockholm, oozes that Nörsca fresh feeling. Kate and I were talking about how it just feels like Scandinavia. Yes, none of us had previously been into the home of Vikings and other such pillagers, but it just feels different.
Pine trees and meadows with hay lay in the outskirts (our airport is a lazy 100k’s from the city – a pox on your house, Ryanair, for a second time) with the city built on islands interconnected by bridges and ferries.

An interesting solar effect here is the ‘midnight sun’. The sun has been setting at around 11.30pm and then rising between 12.30-1.30am. By 4am, it’s as good as midday on an Australian summer’s day. So with poor sleep in humid Venice combined with poor blockout curtains in Stockholm, Jo is now feeling hungover without having a drink for over four months.
It smacks you body-clock for six as you don’t feel like you should be going to bed ‘so early’ , yet it’s past midnight when you look at the clock.

1.07am

T-shirts kept telling us that the city was built in 1252, and a royal wedding has just occurred. Think of Charles and Diana back in the early 80’s, but with a brunette and a real Prince Charming (although he’s marrying into the blue blood, not her). Sadly our luggage restrictions would not allow for us to buy garish plates with the happy couple printed on them, nor the postcards, t-shirts, cups, glasses… they even cracked the popular Swedish magazines for front page billing.  

Bikes abound in the city, trees are plentiful and a three day pass on the public transport is awesome. You get to use trains, busses and ferries until you burst, taking you across the city and out into the countryside. The Swedes are even logical in their timetabling with busses and trains connecting with minimal lag time (Adelaide, please take note of this…).
We found some fairly nifty cinnamon buns and chocolate balls in Saluhall, the Swedish Food Hall. Also, Reindeer Mix was bought. Blitzer, Vixen, Donner and Cupid all made the grade with Rudolph being spared due to sensitivity issues for children.
Rye bread was used to scoop up the reindeer dip with great effect. Jo and the kids baulked at eating Santa’s mode of transport, but when in Scandinavia…

A trip out to Sigtuna – the first town in Sweden – dating back to 790AD was visited. The town boasts both the smallest Town Hall in Sweden (‘perhaps even in Europe’ read the tourist brochure) and the most Rune stones in any town in the World. 4 gold stars for you, Sigtuna.
The Rune Stones were basically memorial stones for Swedes, with one placed on a highway before the guy died that read something along the lines of ‘Anund had the stone erected in memory of himself in his lifetime.’ 5 stars and a Rune Stone to you, Anund.

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So remember to elgvaarrt your strögekleft and we are off to the UK…

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