Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Great meal at the Boar's Head Hotel Carmarthen

Boar’s Head Hotel, 120 Lammas Street, Carmarthen SA31 3AE

If you are in centre of Carmarthen, for shopping or the cinema, visit the Boar’s Head Hotel for a superb lunch or evening meal. It is the first time we have had a meal here, so a wet, cold Saturday afternoon seemed like a good time to try out their menu. And we were not disappointed.

There are specials available, but we went for the main menu as a steak is usually a good indicator of the quality of food. An 8oz rump steak with the usual trimmings was £10.95, all presented and cooked really well, very tasty. As I am not good with bread, the 6oz burger with cheese and no bun was a worth a try. I have to say this is the best bun-less burger I have ever had! Still very moist and with an excellent rich cheesy sauce, this was an excellent choice and at £8.95 is very good value. Add the two glasses of house red wine at less than £4 each, and this was worth the total £27.80 bill.

It is a beautiful old building, lots of wooden panelling and separate little dining areas, with traditional hunting and riding scenes around the walls plus fascinating military memorabilia dotted about. They also provide accommodation, so the next time we are thinking of staying overnight in Carmarthen, this will be our first choice.

January’s Monday Wine Tasting at the Harbourmaster, Aberaeron, Ceredigion

This month’s wine tasting experience at the Harbourmaster in Aberaeron was as popular as ever, everyone eager to sample the selection of 6 wines with fascinating little canapes to accompany each one.

This month, Paul and Andrew from CPA’s Wine took us on A Mediterranean Wine Cruise with a selection from Italy, France, Greece and Lebanon, all available to buy from them as individuals or as a business. We started with one of the most popular wines in UK at the moment, Prosecco. This award-winning 11.5% Dollci Colline from Veneto, Italy is not as acid as some, made up with minimum 85% Glera grape, a pale straw colour with constant tiny bubbles rising and a delicate scent – very easy drinking (though takes a few swigs after drinking a rich red wine earlier!) and good value at £8.70 a bottle.

Another popular wine, Sauvignon Blanc from the Pays d’Oc region in France, the St Martin Reserve is similar to New World styles, but not such a strong taste as some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Hints of grapefruit and lemon, with just a suggestion of acid on the back and side of the tongue. Still very nice, 12.5% and around £7.00 a bottle so a good one to keep in stock.

Domaine Papagiannakos is 3rd generation wine-maker from Athens area trying out contemporary versions of traditional wines from the region including this Savatiano, scathingly compared with “that deep-yellow harsh Retsina we all remember!” Actually, we still like Retsina and buy the same one we always did (Kourtaki - only found it available in some Sainsbury stores), although it may well be a little less harsh now than it originally was? Should be drunk with goat’s cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and olives of course.

Back to the Savatiano. Aromatic, slight hint of the pine we associate with Retsina, and a golden yellow colour. Definitely a good choice with the sushi canape.

The St Martin Reserve Pinot Noir is quite strong at 13.5%, but light and refreshing with typical cherries and cassis flavours. Easy drinking especially with red meats, and excellent value at around £7.00 a bottle from CPA’s Wine. A similar strength, Ca di Ponti is from Sicily using Nero d’Avola grape – a smooth drink a bit like a light Shiraz but with a hint of a bite as it goes down. This one is also a good price and very palatable after savoury food.

Our final option is a lesser-known Bekaa Valley wine from Lebanon (even though the producer has been making wine in the region since 1868), 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah blends. More noticeable tannin in the mouth, but much smoother with the savoury sausage canape.

As you can see, this was an interesting mix of wines from the Mediterranean region, all offering something new and at very reasonable prices. As the firm is based in Swansea area and they deliver to the Harbourmaster here in mid-Wales, orders of 4 dozen or more are delivered free. The monthly wine-tastings continue to grow in popularity and are exceptional value at £10 per person. They certainly make a cold winter’s Monday evening pass quickly, educational (more or less!) and in very pleasant company.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Member NFAA and AFW

Now excited to be member of international NFAA - Non Fiction Author's Association - and Association of Freelance Writers!

Visit earlier blogs on travel and events 2017

See earlier blogs on India, Thessaloniki and other events earlier in 2017 - go to

Part 4 of Reports on "Explore" trip Hyderabad to Goa, India

India - Tombs and Temples and wonderful sights to see

Of course, what you really want to see on this tour of the real India is the tombs and temples, the splendour of the architecture and carvings celebrating kings and gods. And we certainly weren’t disappointed.

You can see Golconda Fort from Hyderabad, so a tour is a must. It is an impressive structure, and I loved the notion of great wooden gates with huge rounded metal spikes at around 12-15 foot height “to repel elephants”. Oh yes, and the moat where crocodiles would repel foot soldiers – naturally.

Nearby are the Qutb Shahi tombs, an excellent example of the basic structure of tombs and mausoleums and superb craftsmanship. Many of the mausoleums were built up to 100 years before the Taj Mahal. The Tombs of the Bahamani Kings were beautiful with exceptional carvings that tell a story of gods and the trials they endured – art lovers could spend days just studying the tombs in this region of India!

Bidar Fort is another splendid fortified structure, this time with a winding path up to the top plus 168 shallow steps, each marked  

with orange and yellow stripe at the edge to show you are being led to a Hindu Temple. At the Ibrahim Rosa mausoleum, Bijapur, there is a great example of the “walking tree” – a banyan tree that puts down aerial roots so that it appears to travel long distances over time.

A highlight of the trip has to be Gol Gumbaz and the whispering dome. A beautifully proportioned building, it has an impressive unsupported dome and as you enter, there is a particular spot to stand on and clap your hands - a brilliant echo! Climb a steep, uneven set of stone steps within a very narrow spiral in the tall corner tower to reach the dome gallery, elbows rubbing against the walls sometimes.                       

“Just whisper then listen” the guide told us. Wow is appropriate at this point – the quietest whisper echoed clearly around the dome. He then went to the other side of the gallery, rustling a piece of paper against the wall of the dome. Pure magic – we could hear it loud and clear. What an incredible feat of engineering.

Cave temples at Badami are carved out of the rock face, decorative carvings on the walls and pillars depicting stories of Vishnu, Krishna and the Hindu gods. The beautifully-carved temple above the main one was, apparently, a practice run! Many people wanted photographs with us, including two giggly little girls who thought our names were extremely funny for some reason.

A well-known visitor site to witness the sunset is at Hampi. It does involve a bit of a climb to the temple, then a scramble over smooth boulders to find the best spot to see the land below lit by the golden-red rays of the setting sun. An extra attraction was the monkey gods – two men in exotic brightly-coloured costumes.
The final leg of the journey is to Goa by local (6.15am) train, in this case an hour late but a surprisingly comfortable journey, wide seats with sleeper bunks above if you want them. Our packed breakfast from the hotel was “interesting” with cold chips, a boiled egg, 2 small bananas and juice. The chai wallers come along the train regularly offering sweetened milky tea or coffee. We had clear views from the windows, and even better view by hanging out of the doorway to capture a photo of the front of the train as we rounded a bend! 

The old town is an interesting mix of Indian and Portuguese style, architecture and food. Our visit to one of the main beaches of Goa was a bit disappointing, very busy and touristy so not the wide expanses of beach we were all expecting.

As the Explore India outline states, this is an opportunity to experience the real India outside the usual Golden Triangle. It inevitably covers a lot of ground, and every day brings you to a new sight and experience. It is tiring sometimes but never boring, and always lives up to its promise of being memorable, whether you want to explore the food, art and architecture, history and/or culture of this incredibly diverse region.

earlier blog: Zip World Velocity North Wales

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Zip World Velocity at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda, North Wales – we finally did it!

Was it exciting? Of course it was – it was exactly how you thought it would be, an exhilarating whizz down “the fastest zip line in the world” and at 1 mile long, the longest in Europe. You must book in advance and get there before your allotted time to sign in etc. We were a group of 6 – 4 “zippers”, 1 observer plus 1 who was just 2lb over the weight limit (remember this is with all your clothes and boots on) so couldn’t take part. We were kitted up in red boiler suit, hard hat, goggles and harness. .

I expected the boiler suit to be padded, but it is thin nylon so you must wear warm gear underneath. The staff fit you into the harness to make sure everything is safe, then we walked up a bit of a slope to the little zipper, the first shorter zip wire across to the truck which takes you up the steep quarry to the BIG zip wire!

Basically, you lie down on the platform, they attach your harness to zip wire carrier, adjust your straps and you stretch out with your feet on the metal bar. The worst bit then is “let go of the platform now..” which leaves you just suspended while they check straps again. 3-2-1 and off you go! What a fantastic buzz!

The difficult bit is when you stop at the end and they bring the platform up to support you (still lying flat out) as they release the carrier. We were all a bit wobbly as we tried to stand up and you can see why there are weight restrictions. They record your weight on your wrist band so that they can adjust the carrier – add a small ‘sail’ to slow you down a fraction or add weights if you are very light. The heavier you are, the faster you go – on average 1 mile in around 1 minute.

We checked with the doctor before booking for my husband, explaining that there is actually no physical lifting which is what sets off his angina, so he had the go ahead and he has had no ill-effects at all, not even in the days following. If we two oldies can do it, it must be worth a try! Our friend is on a diet so we are all going again when he has lost a few pound – mind you, they are planning the same zip wire attraction in the Bahamas next year. Mmmm…

Friday, 22 December 2017

Yummy Yummy - Known as Jimmy's Place in Marsalforn, Gozo

Yummy Yummy is one of the many restaurants along the sea front at Marsalforn, all with tables spreading across the road near to the harbor wall and each one serving food until very late in the evening. We chose this one as it had a varied menu including Chinese foods. In the end, we chose grilled sea bass, a whole fish perfectly cooked, plus a very pleasant white wine. It is a great location, offering excellent service and very good value. This is what we miss the most in the UK, the opportunity to sit outside on a summer’s evening with good food, company, and a beautiful setting.

There was an interesting mix of customers including a German and Spanish couple, us from the UK, and a table of locals with visiting friends from a tiny island in Northern Germany. So, far-reaching conversation, lots of arm-waving in loose “interpretation”, and laughter especially as we were joined by the owner Jimmy who knew the regulars. We have visited the resort for just a day before, but it is worth staying overnight at Maria’s Guest House nearby.

It is perfect for swimming and snorkeling, especially after a hot summer has warmed up the sea. There is a direct bus back to the ferry at Mgarr to return to mainland Malta, or bus 48 to Valletta.