Monday, 18 June 2018

I guess there were teenage girls reading Smash Hits in the 16th Century too

A definite highlight of our holiday in garden terms was Powis Castle. 

Not too pretty really but it was a fortress originally.
And they made up for it with the gardens and interior.

This is a medieval castle and fortress which, unlike most medieval castles, is not only still standing but in pretty good shape. It was owned by the Herbert family from the 1500s, but by the late 18th Century it was running out of cash (they'd spent a ridiculous amount getting it ready for a royal visit that never happened). 

The Herbert who inherited it decided, pretty cannily, not to marry, because his sister happened to have married the eldest son of the richest self-made man in Europe, Clive of India, and this allowed the estate to pass to her son. The Herberts (and therefore Powis) got the Clive money, and the Clives got the Herbert name, so everyone was happy. 

The castle is still owned by the Clive family but run by the National Trust. There's a Clive Museum, displaying a lot of his stuff, much of it amassed illicitly in India apparently.

The Clive Museum

The gardens are absolutely gorgeous. I'm a sucker for a terrace, and Wales, being hilly, is full of them. I lost count of the terraces at Powis, and they all have fantastic planting.

I can see three here but there were more

The Orangery

This guy seems pretty relaxed considering he's accidentally come out in the nip.

 There's a great view and more formal gardens down at the bottom, to the left.

The large lawn used to be three huge pools but has now been restored to its original function - hosting Space Hopper Jousting.

This statue is all that remains of the pools

Last year's trip was all about the roses. By going a few weeks earlier, this year was all about the wisteria. It was stunning and I want to smother my house in it.

There were some roses too

As you wind your way down the terraces there are long avenues and naturalistically pruned hedges.

And then a series of formal gardens at the bottom with orchards, a bee garden, herbaceous borders and fountains.

Usually I'm all about the outdoors, but the inside of the house is no less spectacular. Everything's so valuable they have to keep the curtains closed to protect it so it was hard to take photos. 

They were big into ceiling painting.

And wall painting. And everything painting.

The kitchens were less than luxurious

OK, what is it with rich people and stuffed dead things? There was a room that was wall to wall in glass cases FULL of stuffed birds, organised by size. Most disturbing thing I've ever seen but I bravely took photos because otherwise no one would believe me.

Again... why?

They were having an exhibition of their portraits (by people even I have heard of, including Joshua Reynolds, John Singer Sargent and Thomas Gainsborough). 

She's the one who married Clive of India's son.
This is by Joshua Reynolds.

Their star portrait is this miniature of Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, painted by royal painter Isaac Oliver in the late 16th Century and fully worthy of a Smash Hits centrefold. Herbert was a politician, poet, musician and knight but I don't imagine he would have got as much done if he'd had a phone capable of taking selfies. 

This is him lounging in the woods after a joust.

Status: Feeling Handsome...

Some of Herb's poetry.

Meanwhile, we were in less luxurious surroundings but with fewer dead things so I was happy enough. The only downside to camping is school holidays. We always avoid the summer hols, but there's still weekends to consider and we managed to hit a bank holiday too. On bank holidays campsites go from this:

To this:

This one did have a pub next door though so that was nice on a rainy day. I had a Glamorgan sausage, which it turns out is just potato and leek like you get in a Maggies Veggie Fry! Who knew?

Mmmm... Maggies. 

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Cardiff, with extra cheese

So Cardiff is quite big! And has the biggest shopping centre I've ever seen. I escaped with my life, but barely. 

We also had the most awesome lunch ever at Madame Fromage in the very cute Castle Arcade. 

The Welsh for cheese is 'Caws'.
But Madame Caws doesn't have the same ring.

Then we went to the actual Castle. Cardiff Castle. Which is even older than Gerda. It was built by Norman invaders in the 11th Century, but even that was on top of a Roman fort from the 3rd Century. 

In the mid 18th Century it was taken on by the Bute family, who owned a fairly significant chunk of Wales at the time. They turned it into a Georgian mansion and they must have run out of things spend their money on because they seemed pretty keen on ornate ceilings and throwing gold leaf at stuff.

Actually I quite like this


Then we went to a huge cinema and saw Solo, yet another Star Wars movie. It was OK, and Daenerys from GOT was in it, but Han was altogether too cheeky chappy if you ask me.

Our own little Millennium Falcon threw a wiper blade during the jump to hyperspace on the way home so we had to stop and tie it on with string again. 

We carry a lot of string.