Celebrating the 4th of July in the UK

I logged into my WordPress account and saw that I had started this blog post right after the 4th. I had completely forgotten about it, but I still wanted to share it, even if it is a bit late.

The week of the 4th of July brought absolutely beautiful weather to us in England. It was glorious! The sun lover in me was in heaven. I actually felt like we were on holiday sitting out in our garden, enjoying juicy watermelon, and taking in the view. It was absolutely wonderful and my mood got a much needed boost from the sun.Abersoch1

With the weather as good as it was, we expected it would carry on through the weekend, so we made plans to go to Abersoch for some family time and to have our own little 4th of July celebration. The weather unfortunately cooled off, which for me was disappointing, but I am sure for the rest of the UK was a dream come true.

However, we still managed to enjoy our weekend by the sea, even if the weather wasn’t as great as we were hoping it would be. We filled our weekend by walking to the village and to the beach, watching our girl explore the beach and collect every seashell she could, and eating delicious burgers and sausages hot off the grill. If we couldn’t be in the U.S., then this was the next best thing, and it was honestly a perfect way to spend the 4th of July. As I told Richard, “It just doesn’t feel like the 4th without a barbecue by the beach or a pool.”

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Oddly, the 4th of July is one of the U.S. holidays I miss the most. I’m not sure if it is because it was always about spending time with friends and family or that it was the one day a year when everyone would come together to celebrate our country no matter their political affiliation. For me, it is a day about being proud of where you come from and celebrating that with those you love the most. Although we didn’t have any U.S. flags waving here in the UK, I definitely felt a sense of pride for my home country. I was glad I shared a relaxing 4th of July weekend with my little family, and I hope that in the not-so-distant future I can show both Richard and our girl what it’s like to celebrate the 4th in the U.S.

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A Day at the Sea

This past weekend, we spent 24 hours in our home away from home, Abersoch in North Wales. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Richard’s family has been visiting Abersoch for years during the summers, so it’s fun to carry on that tradition now that we have a daughter.

Although this was our second time there this summer, this was the first time it was warm enough for us to sit on the beach. That meant that our girl felt sand AND sat in the sea waves for the first time! It was absolutely a huge milestone for us since Richard and I are such big beach fans! She giggled away at the sand, but was slightly unsure about the waves. The wind picked up as the day went on, but it truly was a glorious day on the Welsh coast.

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And what makes a day at the sea even better? Oh, fish and chips or some equally delightful seafood dish! We didn’t indulge this visit as we had a barbecue in the evening, but enjoying fish and chips really does make a trip to the British coast! That being said, Beach Hut Life put together this very cool infographic featuring a range of seaside dishes and where they can be enjoyed. I’ve never mentioned that the beach huts of Abersoch Beach are absolutely iconic, so it’s very fitting that you will see an Abersoch eatery featured on this infographic by BHL. We have yet to try 5 Degrees West, but we plan to in the near future!

Hope you enjoy the infographic and will take a look at BHL as they look to bring more attention to the delights of beach huts and the color and fun they add to the coast!

Fish n Chips: Posh or Nosh – An infographic by the team at Beach Hut Life

I was asked to post on behalf of Beach Hut Life as they grow their website. I obliged as I love gazing at the colorful beach huts of Abersoch. I only wish I would have taken a photo of the huts to share on the blog!

Back to Wales for Celebration #3

The weekend that we went to the races for my second birthday celebration also happened to be a bank holiday weekend meaning Monday was a holiday here. With the extra-long weekend, we decided to head to back to Abersoch for Sunday and Monday.

We were hoping for a true summer day to spend at the beach and on the sea. And luckily, we had fabulous weather on Sunday! Unfortunately, I took zero photos because I was too busy absorbing every ray of sun that came my way, so you’ll have to check out my last three posts on Abersoch to check out the views! I really wish I would have taken some though because the beach was absolutely packed with people trying to enjoy what little summer we have had this year.

The Brit’s mum had packed some treats for us plus some fizz, so we enjoyed a nice little picnic on the beach along with sandwiches and burgers from the little cafe on Abersoch Beach. The sun stayed strong into the early afternoon then it got a little cooler when the wind blew, but it was so enjoyable to be outside.

That evening, we had a reservation at the Venetia for a nice meal. This is the same place where we had a meal and we stayed for the Brit’s sister’s birthday in summer 2011, so we were excited to go back with the Brit’s parents. Whilst we were sat in the bar checking out the menu and enjoying a drink, the lovely owner asked if I was the one who wrote the blog post about them the summer before! I think I blushed a little, but it was so neat that she said something — so thank you if you are reading this! 🙂

This is the lone photo we have from the weekend showing us happy and sun-kissed:

Our meal and entire dining experience was fabulous once more (and I’m not just saying this knowing the owners might be reading this post!). I wish I could remember what I had, and I should have written it down knowing I wouldn’t be writing a post about the meal until after I finished my dissertation, but I did not. It was all delicious — from starter to dessert, we enjoyed it all! It was so nice to celebrate my 30th for the 3rd time in such a great place!

We had a fairly early night and awoke to blowing wind and pounding rain, so we set off for home in the morning as soon as we realized we wouldn’t have another beach day. It truly was a great bank holiday weekend!

{Road Trip} The Sunny, but Chilly Welsh Coast

This past weekend, the Brit and I decided we needed a little break from home and just some down time for life, so we escaped to Abersoch for an overnight stay. As you all know, it has been terribly dreary here this summer, so we had our fingers crossed for sunny days. Luckily, we got just that!

We arrived early on Saturday morning and settled in then decided to stroll into the village via the beach. This was a recurring theme throughout our 36 hours in Abersoch, as we managed to cover 10 miles walking on Saturday and 5 miles running and 3 miles walking on Sunday. It was so nice to stretch our legs and to not have to drive anywhere. There are some absolutely beautiful views in Abersoch. This visit, I mainly took photos of the coast in all its glory.

The other theme that ran through this trip was good food. So, I’d like to share with you what we enjoyed and where it was from should you ever find yourself in lovely little Abersoch. First, try the baguettes at Abersoch Deli. They are the perfect lunch and we made sure we had them both days. I really enjoyed the turkey cranberry and the Brit enjoyed the coronation chicken, and, yes, we both ordered the same thing both days – they were that good! The baguettes are perfectly baked and the toppings are added in just the right amount. As the Brit said, “I don’t think most people realize how important the bread is to the sandwich.” So, so true. On Saturday, we were lucky enough to grab a table outside, but as there are only 3 tables, we didn’t have the same luck on Sunday which was not a big deal to us at all.

After you finish your lunch, take a quick stroll across the street to the ice cream shack at The Vaynol for some Cadwalader’s ice cream. Yes, this was enjoyed both days as well! I highly recommend the vanilla with sprinkles (hundreds and thousands in the UK, but it was actually listed as ‘sprinkles’ on the menu here!) in a cone (or a wafer in the UK). This ice cream took me back to my childhood as it is a favorite combination of mine, that I obviously still enjoy as I approach 30. (No shame here, folks!) You won’t regret having this ice cream after lunch!

For dinner, we weren’t sure if we wanted a takeaway or to sit in at a restaurant. We wanted to try Zinc, but we didn’t act quickly enough and they were already booked up. (This is a good time to mention that Abersoch is very small, so if you want to eat out, it would be a wise idea to book in well in advance.) While we decided on our plan of action for dinner, we sat on the covered terrace at St Tudwals and enjoyed a couple of drinks…me on the Strongbow and the Brit on the lager shandy.

We settled on Thai takeaway from The Coconut Kitchen. (Because it is also a sit down restaurants, they get very busy and will stop taking takeaway orders if they are swamped, so plan ahead for this as well.) We ordered two curries – green chicken curry and red king prawn curry – and shared. Both of these were delicious! I can honestly say it was the best Thai food I have ever had. So, check out The Coconut Kitchen.

We ended our night with another walk back into the village for drinks. (I obviously wasn’t thinking as I wore wedges and nearly twisted my ankle jumping over puddles on the way…nice one.) We first went back to St Tudwals for one drink before heading to Zinc to split a bottle of wine. If you are looking for somewhere a little more upscale than a pub, then I recommend checking out Zinc. They have a great back deck which was full of people even though it had come fairly cool outside. We nabbed two bar stools along the railing and talked the night away over some Sauvignon Blanc. It was just a perfect weekend for us to relax with some sun and good food and drink mixed in!

Jubilee Weekend in Wales

I’m very behind on my posting and am slowly catching up. Hopefully, my next post will actually be about how we traveled to London for the Diamond Jubilee Flotilla on June 3rd — because we really did go!

After taking the train back up north from London, we hopped in the car and headed to Abersoch, Wales in hopes of finding some sun. (This seems to be the theme of the blog lately — where is the sun?) We arrived late to Abersoch where the Brit’s parents were waiting up for us and then we promptly crashed into bed. Monday morning revealed that it would be another cloudy day, but we were lucky in that we had some really beautiful patches of sun throughout the day. We enjoyed walking along the sea and lunch in a cafe.

Later in the afternoon, I joined the Brit and his dad in a rousing game of boules on the beach. Maybe there is a similar game in the US, but I have never played it if there is. There is a small ball that is thrown first and each round is focused around getting your two larger (and heavier) balls as close as possible to the smaller one. The person with the closest ball gets 1 point, and if you are lucky enough for both of your balls to be the closest, then you receive 2 points. The winner of each round then throws the small ball and it starts again. We played to 11 points, but apparently you can use any number as the winning number. I definitely need to practice this for our future trips to Abersoch as the guys crushed me. I had a few lucky plays, but overall I was in last place (of three, remember!) for the duration of the game.

That evening, we had a barbecue, toasted with champagne, and enjoyed wine/Pimm’s/beer while watching the Diamond Jubilee Concert on telly. Although the weather wasn’t fab, we were happy to have a day of relaxation in Wales before returning to West Yorkshire early on Tuesday morning. I’m really looking forward to a few more weekends in Abersoch this summer…and to some redemption in boules!

{Road Trip} Abersoch, Wales: Part 2

For Part I, go here!

The view of the sea from the back deck of the hotel across the street from the Venetia.

I truthfully was not sure what to expect of the village of Abersoch. I assumed it would be fairly small and perhaps similar to some of the lesser-known beach communities in parts of the northwestern U.S. I was sort of right.

The main street through the village.

Aside from the beach, most people spend time on one main street, which was home to restaurants, pubs, and shops. The Venetia is located on one end of this street making it an easy walk (no more than 5 to 7 minutes) to any of those places.

Because of the weather, the beach was empty on our second day in Abersoch, but we really enjoyed being out there with no one around.

Although the weather was quite gray on our second day, it was still nice to walk around the village browsing the shops and stopping for a pint on the patio of a pub. Even a walk along the sea and the beach were high points of our stroll on this overcast day. I’m always in awe how seas and oceans carry a sense of beauty with them, regardless of weather.

See what I mean? Still beautiful on a cloudy day!

As I mentioned in Part I, we had dinner at the Venetia on our second night. Because it was half birthday dinner for the Brit’s sister and half engagement party for her and her fiancé, we had a quite a group — fifteen of us in total! This is definitely a large party for such a small restaurant, so they split us into two tables next to each other.

One thing I’ve grown to appreciate (and really love) about dining in nicer restaurants in the UK is how the ordering of the meal happens. Most times, you will take a seat in the bar/lounge area of the restaurant where you will order a drink and be handed the menu. While enjoying your drink and your company, you peruse the menu and place your order for your starter and main course before being seated at the table where you will dine. I usually order a fun drink, like a glass of champagne or a mixed drink, and then we order a bottle of wine to go with dinner. The restaurant at the Venetia was the same. So, it was fun to chat and mingle with our group of 15 before we were seated separately.

Sunburned and happy in the bar at the Venetia!

The restaurant focuses on using local foods, especially produce and seafood that is in season. Because this was in early June, I don’t completely remember what I had for dinner. (Oops.) I can tell you though that not one person had a bad meal. Everything from the presentation to the taste was spot on. For dessert, I ordered the crème brûlée, which is one of my favorite desserts. Wow. They gave me two of them and it was great with the crispy sugar top and custardy center! I ate one and the Brit ate the other (along with his dessert). 🙂

Honestly, the food was incredibly delicious and the service was impeccable, especially handling such a large group! I would definitely recommend trying their restaurant if in Abersoch and would suggest making a reservation, particularly during the summer months.

We had a wonderful time in Abersoch, and I was so glad to finally see the place I’d been hearing about for so long. The village is so low-key and just a great place to relax. Abersoch didn’t let me down and I truthfully can’t wait to go back!

{Road Trip} Abersoch, Wales: Part I

Not long after the Brit and I started dating, he sent me a cell phone picture of the coast of the little seaside village of Abersoch. He always spoke fondly of Abersoch as it’s a place he grew up visiting with his family and we talked about visiting during my 5-week stay this summer. So, when it was decided Abersoch was where we would be celebrating his sister’s 30th birthday, I was really excited!

Welcome to Wales...

The roughly 2 1/2 hour drive (or 2 hour drive when the Brit is driving!) was quite beautiful as much of it follows the coast. Soon, we had arrived at the boat yard in Pwllheli (pronounced puth-HEL-ee) and we were off on the boat to meet the rest of the group. We really  enjoyed the boat ride to Pwllheli, even though it only takes about 15 minutes. The weather was surprisingly good (much nicer than expected) and the views are stunning.

My mom asked me if there was snow on that hill. I should probably start speaking better about the weather in the UK (or learn to take better photos)!

Abersoch is just past that cliff....along with 10 million jellyfish.

We dropped anchor off the beach in Abersoch and all I saw were jellyfish. A lot of jellyfish. Keep in mind, we still had to wade in waist-deep water to get to shore. I’m not usually one to shy away from jumping into water (okay, that might be a small white lie…I am terrified of sharks and other random creatures lurking below), but no way was I getting off that boat and risking a jellyfish sting!

So, the Brit waded to shore narrowly avoiding the sting of no less than 1,000 jellyfish. Meanwhile, I’m on the back of the boat waving to everyone. Ha. Finally, I got the courage to jump into the water and another jellyfish floated by right where I had planned to jump. This happened roughly 5 more times before the Brit took pity on me. He waded back to the boat and proceeded to carry me piggy-back style to shore while I yelled about the jellyfish coming right at us from every direction. Real smooth, Yank, real smooth.(I realize I’m not doing a good job of selling Abersoch. I swear the jellyfish are not always there…only once in awhile. In fact, most of them were gone by later in the afternoon!)

Half of the beach in Abersoch is for swimming and the other half is for boats and jet skis to anchor offshore. The boat-friendly half of the beach is also car-friendly, so people actually launch their boats and jet skis from there. It’s quite a neat system they had set up. The weather was absolutely beautiful that day, so we enjoyed time on the boat and sitting on the beach. It was actually quite hot, but the sea breeze kept you at a perfect temperature.

The Brit showing off his mad wake boarding skills!

After our afternoon on the beach, we were all ready for a shower and a rest. We had arrived too early that morning to check into our hotel, so it was perfect timing for us to take the boat back to Pwllheli and head straight to The Venetia. We received a warm welcome from one of the staff members, who was actually an American woman married to a Welsh man! She took us to our room and showed us where everything was and how our keys worked. Of course, once in the room, my eyes went straight to the tray of freshly-cut strawberry slices and homemade chocolate truffles. (The Brit and I finished those off in 0.2 seconds…so yummy!)

Such a cute place...we stayed in Room Due which are the windows on the top left.

The Venetia is a boutique hotel with five charming and amazingly modern rooms. The rooms are impeccably clean as are the bathrooms. After long days out and about, it was so nice to return to such a comfortable space and fall into such a fabulously comfortable bed, too.

The Venetia boasts a fabulous in-house restaurant. Breakfast is included in the room cost and is delicious. (We also had dinner at the restaurant one night, which I’ll talk about in the next installment!) I’m completely blanking on what I ordered on the first morning, but I know for certain I had the lemon and sugar crepes the following morning. Wow. They were perfectly balanced in flavor with sweet and sour. The crepes were perfectly thin, light, yet surprisingly fluffy in texture. For those craving the traditional English-style breakfast, that was an option as well.

We all had a good chuckle when I ordered water for my drink and the waiter thought I had asked for a latte! I said water a few more times before the Brit just said it and then all was cleared up. The waiter even laughed at that point! (I wish I could say this was the first time that has happened as I attempted to order water! Oh well, it goes with the territory! :))

This is getting quite long, so I’ll continue in another post tomorrow!