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.