Monday, 18 August 2008

Holidaying at home

It must be the fashion this year. At least exmoorjane http://exmoorjane.blogspot.com/ and I are doing it so we will call it a trend! The term "staycation" was hers, or that was where I first came across it - taking a holiday by staying at home.

We decided to pick a week, take time off work but stay mainly at home. No airports, no queues, no being squashed into plane seats by giant people in front and behind. No lugging heavy cases and still finding you have no deodorant or the wrong shoes. No traffic jams, no sunburn, no prickly heat. Of course, this also means no glorious blue sky, no bougainvillea, no warm wind off a turquoise sea, but you can't have everything.

We had promised ourselves that in this week we would not slog away busily on the longest to-do list in the world but would have some days out, even stay away overnight but never to be too far from home.

On Tuesday we went to the Ceiriog valley. Lloyd George called this beautiful and hidden place "a little piece of heaven". It is not too far from Shrewsbury or Wrexham and yet is somehow forgotten, intensely itself and intensely Welsh. The valley pushes deep into the hills with a string of lovely flower filled villages along its narrow road. Up at the head of the valley is a tiny village, Llanarmon, with no mobile phone signal, a churchyard with four yews, two old and two ancient, and two inns. We stayed in "The Hand".

I am always worried that if you recommend somewhere it will be overrun but it seems mean to have liked somewhere so much and not to say so. The Hand was great, a classic country inn with fantastic food. It is one of those places where someone really cares about food, is interested in everything about it, sourcing it (all local), cooking it, what to drink with it. Every course was brilliant and we fell into bed, smiling and happy. Breakfast was even better - not full English of course, full Welsh! It was a friendly place too, good with children and dogs. Don't go if you like lots of things to do as, other than walking and reading, it is not a hot bed of entertainment. Go for peace and birdsong and sheep on the hills and great food and a comfortable bed. Perfect.

On the way home we went to Dibleys nursery http://www.dibleys.com/. Dibleys have been breeding streptocarpus for over thirty years. Every year they win medals at the Chelsea Flower Show. I have known they were not too far away since we came to live here and somehow I have not managed to go.

We were driving towards Ruthin along a narrow A road. It was high and bare moorland and the sudden sign to Dibleys pointing off into nowhere was a surprise. We followed a road which got narrower and narrower and plunged into forest. The occasional sign persuaded us we were still on the right track. After a couple of miles we turned into a gateway. A smallish but stylish shop sat on the edge of the carpark and a sign invited you to look at the glasshouses. These are huge, the glass washed white to keep out direct sun. You slide the door back and gasp: huge tables filled with colour stretch away into the distance. It takes your breath away.

"I suppose you get used to this coming here every day," we said to the man carefully packing up boxes for dispatch.

"Maybe you do," he said, "but it is always good to watch people's faces as they come in. That reminds you how lucky you are."

It's a place clearly driven by passion for the plants. It is quite impossible to go without buying some. I came back with a midnight purple one and a velvety deep red one. They are sitting on the deep windowsill by my desk, perfectly simple and perfectly lovely.

And I think the passion for food or plants was what made those days so satisfying. It is good for the soul to find someone doing something really well, with a real passion and true attention.

And that is just the half of it: the Centre for Alternative Technology and Dolgellau to come.

21 comments:

  1. What a satisfying trip Elizabeth. It's always wonderful to come across people who are passionate, whether about food, plants, or indeed anything at all. It makes everything shine.

    Enjoy your staycation - very now! I may be envying you as we churn through the North Sea, tummy churning too, no doubt.

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  2. Sounds great Elizabeth. We are at home as ever and I think it is the first time I actually could have done with getting away, so poor has the weather been. Never mind, things could be worse eh? xx

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  3. It sounds ideal to me but it does take a bit of discipline to make sure you don't do the same old same old. We are taking Ma to France this year and I had better not say any more!

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  4. Streptocarpus plants remind me so much of my grandad - he grew so many of them and I remember spending hours propagating them in his greenhouse by slicing the leaves and just sticking them straight into little pots of compost! Free plants! Ain't nature grand?

    North Wales takes me down memory lane too - being a scouser it was often a nearish and lovely day out for us. Colwyn Bay was always a favourite. I've added you to my Google reader so I'll be back - many thanks for your visit! Emma x

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  5. Dont forget Aberdyfi if you are up that way ..sigh.
    I'm on staycation next week ..well bullying idle son into coursework part of the week and then look out I'm on the way up to you-hoo!!!!!!

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  6. Sounds just divine. Who needs to go abroad when we have all this beauty surrounding us.

    CJ xx

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  7. Hello Elizabeth,
    Your staycation seems quite wonderful ... relaxing, and inspiring, and easy, easy, easy.

    I have often done exactly the same thing in my NY hometown. Even after all the years I have lived here, the place continues to provide so much to enjoy ... given the time to do so.

    The flower photos on your prior post were so summery. I could feel the sun and the breezes.

    xo

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  8. There is so much to see on our own doorsteps - and we often miss it in our rush towards the exotic.

    Love Streptocarpus - will you be taking cuttings? Hint, hint...

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  10. Hi Elizabeth,I would love to come on your charabang trip to Jo's.
    My email is: pradapixie@hotmail.co.uk
    and if you let me know where you are I can decide whether I can make it in the morning or the night before.
    Sorry about doing it here I'll try and leave a message on purpleco as well.

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  11. That sounds like just my kind of place, Elizabeth - the Ceiriog valley and Dibleys. H has always resisted going to Wales for some reason - it's a shame, because we're not that far from the border - but I intend to persuade him otherwise.

    Another "staycationer" here, and heartily agree with all your reasons!

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  12. I'm doing a staycation this week and it's rapidly turning into Camp Knackered Mom. Today I took mine and extra kids to Chicago's Field museum, yesterday it was Navy Pier, tomorrow we're doing the beach. Yikes. I think it's the impending terrible winter that's driving me to "make the best of the summer".

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  13. We went camping. It was fun butu boy does it make you appreciate your home when you get back!

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  14. Sounds like bliss - comfy beds, good food and home comforts guaranteed. My kind of holiday! Looking forward to seeing you next week.

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  15. We have all the beauty over here, what we really need is better weather. Mind you, I don't like really hot weather. Dry would be good!
    We seem to go for British holidays these days.

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  16. Hi Elizabeth - I always enjoy reading about what you've been up to.

    If you check out my blog, there is something for you there. Jennie xx

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  17. I'm really looking forward to what you think of the Centre for Alternative Technology. I've been meaning to get there for ever. Time is always the problem!
    I'm glad your week's been good.

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  18. Hey, sounds like your staycation was a lot more successful than ours (we ended up working!)....can't take credit for the term either - read it somewhere (forget where). That inn sounds lovely and I must make a note of it.
    I LOVED the CAT when I went - mind you that was in about 1986 or so when I did a course on wild technology...keep meaning to go back. jxxx

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  19. Your staycation sounds like the perfect way to spend some down time. We've been home all summer but took a day away yesterday. It's good to look at one's own neck of the woods with fresh eyes.
    BTW I loved the photos of your flowers - and the idea of splitting packages of seeds with a friend.

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  20. Hello and thanks for visiting my blog. We're having a staycation as well, (just a couple of days camping this year) and we've been to so many local places. t sounds like you're having a good time

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  21. Hello, I found you on Blotanical and came over to read awhile. Stopping for a moment to tell you that I enjoyed this post so much. I enjoyed going right along with you each step of the way. Thank you. Now back to read some more.

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