And so, to Wales

Mirinda declared that we were leaving Haslemere at 1pm so we did! An easy run across to Farnham saw our first stop for provisions. Lunch was purchased as well as some fruit from the Castle Street stall. We then drove up to the cricket/golf club carpark and sat under the shade of one of the many Farnham Park trees to eat in peace. We had travelled 12 miles in one hour. Our stats were NOT looking good.

Farnham Park

Our next section saw us zip up to Basingstoke, avoiding the centre like the plague because it feels like the sort of place which is probably good for breeding the plague, and on to Newbury. We had a short coffee/wake the driver stop at Chievelier services and then hit the M4.

Our time was going a good deal better than 10mph until we hit The Accident. The traffic ground to a halt. Ambulances (three at least) and police cars went screaming up the hard shoulder, three lanes of traffic crawled along. I was expecting a massive accident involving at least two big trucks, 15 cars and a helicopter as we crawled mile after mile, passing electronic signs warning us of an ACCIDENT and that we should keep our speed down to at least 50mph – we were doing about 3 at the time.

As we approached the flashing lights of a police car you can imagine my astonishment when all that was apparent were two small cars, one with a dent in its bumper and two young drivers getting a ticking off from two young coppers. One ambulance was standing on the hard shoulder as if uncertain what to do but the others had vanished into some sort of motorway Bermuda Triangle.

Of course, the second we passed, the traffic freed up and we scooted along to the Severn Bridge and crossed into Wales after paying the visa fee disguised as a bridge toll of £5.10!! This was the original Severn Bridge. The last time I was in Wales, journeying to Ireland with Denise, we travelled across the new bridge. One of the delights of the original bridge is you can see the new one in all of its glory. A lovely sight.

In Wales we were but 7 miles from Tintern, our bed for the night and it didn’t take long. When I booked the hotel, I was told the hotel is opposite the Abbey. They were not kidding – it is DIRECTLY opposite the Abbey – you could hit it with a stone. A great spot – although due to the million guests staying for the wedding at the hotel our room has a lovely view of the carpark with poor little Sidney in the furthest corner.

Having managed to find the room following the complicated directions from the front desk, Mirinda settled down for a rest while I went for a brief pint of the splendid local Black Bach then a wander round to get my bearings.

Abbey Hotel, Tintern

An hour later, completely at home in Tintern, I was back and we prepared for dinner – naturally I dressed. Seeing as there was a wedding in the hotel I didn’t want to get mistaken for a young buck of a bridegroom. Actually, although we saw a lot of the bride, the groom was nowhere to be seen. The hotel was decorated in pink and green which, coincidentally, were the colours of the wedding.

We had a pregnant Schumanian waitress, who was excellent – the waiter was a Borg and didn’t pour our wine for us. The food was excellent and the Welsh wine, surprisingly crisp and dry, though it tasted younger than its 2003 date stated – it was a delightful coincidence that this was Welsh Wine Week. After dinner it was a short stroll around the Abbey and Mill and then back to our room to sleep. The band from the wedding reception was directly below our window and we could hear every ear splitting note…but we were asleep very, very quickly.

A holiday report wouldn’t be a holiday report without a moan about the shower. The Abbey Hotel has one of the worst showers I think I’ve experienced. Firstly I stood and waited for ten minutes for it to warm up before realising I had to actually flick a switch, outside the bathroom, to turn the hot water on first! To be more accurate, ‘hot’ isn’t exactly the right word as the temperature never climbed above tepid and that was on full without any added cold! The pressure was about the same as you’d expect from an uphill waterfall and the whole experience was best forgotten. The bath was a good size so I assume the other guests in the hotel just laid in their own filth for a while.

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