Aberaeron: Wales Best Place

Seaside resort located on the West coast, Aberaeron, elected Best Place in Wales, is definitely charming and colorful!

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The contest, ran by the Royal Town Planning Institute Cymru, is meant to celebrate Wales most protected, carefully planned or improved places. The cute village of Aberaeron came in first position, followed by the picturesque Tenby and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is Gower.

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Visiting Aberystwyth last weekend with a friend, we decided out of curiosity to stop by Aberaeron to check what made the place so special. We took the bus T1 at destination of Carmarthen. After a 40 minutes ride in the Welsh countryside, we arrived in the charming village.

Tiny, is probably the first adjective that came to my mind when looking around. In this season, a day is definitely enough to enjoy the town and see all the main landmarks. My second observations was that almost all the houses around us were painted in bright colors, giving the town an interesting vibe.

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Heading first to the harbour, we enjoyed a nice view of the church connected to the port by a woody bridge. Few sailing boats were patiently waiting for a chance to get back to the sea and the sun was just high enough to give the scene a perfect lighting.

Crossing the bridge and heading to the church, we ended up in the Craft Centre. There, we found a patchwork of different shops (which unfortunately were mostly closed on Mondays). An antique shop, neighbouring a tattoo studio, was filled with tick tocking noises and exhibited amazing  clocks.

Despite my deep hatred for any ticking sounds, I have to say that I always enjoy watching old clocks. In one corner of the room laid a beautiful one, called the Skeleton Clock, its mechanism fully exposed to the public eye hanging in all its beauty.

Continuing our bucolic wander, we reached the river and a hiking path leading to Lampeter. Probably busy during the summer, the path was then pretty quiet. After visiting the Tourist Information Centre and wondering in front of the local artists’ paintings and photographies, we decided to go have a walk along the coast.

Curious about the possibility to spot marine wildlife, I asked the receptionist before leaving if dolphin sightings were common around Aberaeron. She explained that dolphins could often be seen in the nearby town of New Quay but rarely around the village. I guess that provides me with a good reason to come back explore this region of Wales next summer!

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Hungry?
Located right in front of the T1 and T5 bus stops, the Ambassadors cafe is based on the first floor of a souvenir shop. From sandwiches to panini and even crepes, the large choice of lunch items will make everyone happy.  Deliciously fresh smoothies and incredibly big slice of cakes are also on the menu, making the Ambassadors Cafe a perfect place for tea time as well.

How to get there? 
T1 from Aberystwyth, Lampeter, and Carmarthen
T5 from Aberystwyth, New Quay, Cardigan, Fishguard and Haverfordwest

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Discovering Pembrokeshire by bus

After living in the Welsh capital for almost a year, I decided last August that it was finally time to explore this coast I had heard so much about: Pembrokeshire. After weeks of reflexion and price comparisons I came to the conclusion that the best (and cheapest) way to explore this part of Wales was to do it by bus.

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Day 1: Cardiff-Fishguard 

As we say in French “le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt” [the world belongs to those who wake up early] and what better reason to wake up early than to go on an adventure, right? Full of energy and impatient to reach our destination, my sister and I jumped  on a train to Haverfordwest in the early morning.

In addition of being Pembrokeshire’s administrative centre, this small town also used to be the second largest port in Wales. Located at more than 2h30 from Cardiff, Haverfordwest is one of the rare town in the county to offer both bus and train connections to the rest of the region.

Once arrived at the tiny train station, we ran to the bus stop on the side to catch our ride: the T5. After 40 minutes of countryside roads and beautiful sceneries, we stopped at Fishguard Square. Small market town, Fishguard is located above the Fishguard Bay and is close to both the Coast Path and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

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Fishguard Bay

Hiking was the reason we were here so we decided to head straight away to our accommodation to ask if we could drop our bags earlier than expected. One square and a tortuous street later, we reached the Hamilton Lodge.

Entering inside felt like going home. Welcomed by a friendly dog, we walked in a corridor giving on a comfy patio with various couches and  further away on a bright, fully equipped kitchen. Q, the owner, gave us our room key and asked us what our plans were for the afternoon. When we explained that we were in Fishguard only for a day, he convinced us to go explore Dinas Island instead of the Coast Path and gave us all the information we needed to go there by bus.

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Pwllgwaeod Beach

Despite getting off the bus at the wrong stop and being lost for a little while, we did not regret following his advice for a second. The path starting at Pwllgwaeod Beach -great spot to stop for a picnic- goes all the way around Dinas peninsula until the Cwm Yr Eglwys.

Under a not-so-cloudy sky, we walked up and down for two hours stopping frequently to take pictures of the amazing views on Fishguard Bay. Sheep and dogs are both present on the island but if you are a wildlife seeker, take a look down the cliffs to spot seabirds. If you are lucky you might even spot some playful seals!

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Day 2: Fishguard-St Davids-Broad Haven

After a nice breakfast (included in the price) at the Hamilton lodge, we went back to Fishguard Square to take the bus 413 heading to St Davids. Beautiful countryside landscapes and amazing views on the Pembrokeshire Coast convinced me again that traveling by bus is one of the best way to explore new places. It’s a magic you can’t really experience if you are driving because you need to be focused on the road and that you won’t be able to experience by train here.

After 45 minutes, the bus driver dropped us in St Davids, renowned for its cathedral, spectacular coastal sceneries and wildlife.  Its proximity to Ramsey Island, an RSPB reserve, makes it an easy place to find boat tours.

Seeing that one of the boat operator, Voyages of Discovery, still had two spots available in the morning, we decided to book our trip. We then headed by bus to the departure point in St Justinian’s and patiently waited for our names to be called, in the middle of a crowd of people awaiting for various tour operators.

Embarking on an orange boat, we were then taken on an hour-long trip around Ramsey Island with a friendly guide providing us with details about the place. With its cliffs up to 120 m high, the island offers dramatic landscapes and great nesting sites for seabirds such as guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, and razorbills.

Taking us to a cave, the guide explained us that seals love staying there especially when they are with their pups. Talking about seals, our boat was quickly surrounded by many of them few minutes later. While some of them were resting and sunbathing, others were playfully following the boat allowing me to take some closeup photos.

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After the trip, we decided to follow the coastal path from St Justinian’s to St Davids’ Head. Unfortunately we quickly realised that the estimations of Google Maps were far from the reality and that we wouldn’t have enough time to go there and come back before our bus’ departure time. Stopping at the beach of Whitesands Bay, we headed back to St Davids to see the cathedral before leaving.

It’s funny how I had read everywhere that it was THE thing to see in St Davids but somehow I was far from imagining how impressive it was. Quite hidden in the city, it took my breath away when it finally appeared in front of me. Immense, majestic, beautiful!

Built on St David’s 6th century monastery, St Davids Cathedral has been raided by vikings across the 10th and 11th centuries. It’s finally in 1180 than the rebuilding of the nave and west of the church began under the bishop Peter de Leia.

This cathedral is definitely worth stopping for and if the sun is out it becomes a perfect spot to sit on the grass and rest for a while.

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Content with our day, we headed back to town to take the bus 400, poetically named the Puffin Shuttle. Longing the coast until Marloes (port to reach Skomer Island), this shuttle allows you to have a great view, through panoramic windows, of the cliffs and hills of the coastline.

Good thing to know: if you are hiking around this area, you can just stop the 400 in whatever place you want and then explain to the driver where you want to be dropped off.

We arrived in Broad Haven, our final destination for the day, welcomed by the rain and quickly took refuge in our hostel for the night.

 

Day 3: Broad Haven – St Brides – Cardiff

After a night spent at the familial YHA hostel of Broad Haven, we decided to do some serious hiking and headed toward St Brides. Broad Haven is a small village with a tiny supermarket, a café and a large beach loved by surfers. Not really attracted by the place, we quickly walked up and down the hill by the road to reach a much picturesque place: Small Haven.

Charming tiny houses full of characters are built on the cliff, facing the sea. The beach is smaller and quieter. It looks like a perfect tiny village, the kind you want to send a postcard of to your friends to show how beautiful Pembrokeshire is.

From there, the Coast Path starts again climbing the hills to take you to a perfect view on the entire town. Quickly, the coastal view disappears behind trees and the path becomes darker. 45 minutes later the coast appears again, longing fields filled with sheep and cows, the path continues with breathtaking panoramas.

Looking at the weather, we decided  to stop earlier than we had planned. After 2h30 walking, we found an unoccupied beach and stopped to eat our well-deserved picnic. Walking back to Little Haven, everything suddenly became foggy. A storm was coming. And it was coming fast.

Pouring rain started hitting us but luckily we reached a stone refuge near Little Haven Beach. The coastline completely disappeared, hidden behind a foggy blanket. All we could do was wait for the storm to slow down or hope to cross path with the Puffin shuttle.

dsc_0241After a while, the coast slowly reappeared and the storm went away. It was time for us to walk back to Broad Haven, warm up with a hot chocolate and take the bus back to Haverfordwest.

Back at the tiny train station, we waited for our train to take us back to Cardiff, our heads filled with beautiful landscapes and nice memories. Now I understand why Pembrokeshire is such a touristic attraction in Wales. It truly has a lot to offer for all type of travellers.

My new objective now is to come back one day and hike a longer section of this amazing coastline.

Overall rating: 8/10
Best Surprise: The Hamilton Lodge. Awesome place and super friendly owner!
Only Regret: Not being able to go to Skomer Island (I really wanted to see the puffins!)

 

 

On the search for Sherlock at Ramon’s

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Rumour has it that Benedict Cumberbatch frequently ate lunch at the Ramon’s Cafe when filming in Cardiff. As Sherlock is set once again in Cardiff, I decide to try my luck and head there for lunch.

Ramons“In the UK, you can recognise a good breakfast place by the number of builders inside.” This piece of advice given to me by my British flatmate resonates in me as I arrive in front of Ramon’s. Three builders are standing right in front of the door, chatting. One good point for Ramon’s already.

Gareth Badman owner of Ramon’s tell us a bit more about the place:

As I pass the front door, I quickly notice the mix of people present inside. A group of girls, probably students, are having breakfast. A couple in their thirties is sitting in front of large plates which seem to contain the specials of the day, ‘minted lamb chops’ as the board outside had informed me. Further away, an old lady is sitting with her son chatting cheerfully.

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The radio is playing some hit songs and on top of the conversations I can hear the loud sound of the coffee machine. I turn around and look at the massive menu fixed on the wall. At Ramon’s you’ll never lack of choices. From vegetarian options to burgers, all sound delicious and most are around £4 to £5.

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In term of breakfast, Ramon’s definitely knows what it’s doing. Choices range from American breakfast with pancakes to British breakfast coming in different sizes going all the way to the famous in Cardiff, Mammoth breakfast. And then, there it is. A ‘builders breakfast’. I have no doubt left that this place is definitely a good breakfast place.

Breakfast Cardiff food

My head is buzzing with temptation and I finally fix my mind on the specials of the day. A friend joins me at that moment and orders a vegetarian burger. At Ramon’s you always order at the counter, pay and then get a ticket with a number that would be shouted through the room to locate you when your food is ready.

Our plates arrive few minutes after we sat down and a delicious smell of freshly cooked vegetable and lamb hit my nose. A mix of green peas, mashed potatoes, carrots and lamb is spread on my plate. The portions are as always generous, better to come with an appetite. It’s delicious and filling, every bite is full of taste. I decide to give a try to the vegetarian burger ordered by my friend. Beans and mushrooms are mixed with spices combining together into something really tasty. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

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As I’m taking few photos of the inside of the room, the old lady suddenly calls me.“My son thinks you must be a kind of reporter. Is it true?” I sat down with her for a moment and discover that she has been eating in Ramon’s for the past 25 years! I can’t stop myself of thinking that she is a good representation of the place. Cheerful, convivial, and open to everybody.

Sadly, no trace of Benedict. So I decide to question the owner about the accuracy of the rumours before leaving. “We’ve had Torchwood filming in here and we’ve had Doctor Who. But I’ve never seen Benedict Cumberbatch.” Well, it was worth giving it a try anyway.

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Address:
Ramon’s Breakfast and Burger Bar
64 Salisbury Rd, Cardiff CF24 4

 

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