Thursday, November 27, 2014

Conwy visit + half marathon


Bodnant Gardens, overlooking Snowdonia national park, Wales

Have you been to Wales? Before our weekend away, I hadn't realised how beautiful it is. I spent much of the time we were there breathing in the views and feeling grateful for the clear weather. We had rain when driving across on Saturday, but Sunday and Monday were beautiful days, cool but sunny (in contrast, it rained so much in London that a local road floaded!).

Our baby hire car (a Toyota Aygo)

There was a lot I enjoyed about the trip. We hired a car, which was itself exciting after 6 months without driving. On the drive up, we stopped in Solihull, where Mr Bite grew up and I enjoyed visiting for the first time in 2012. On this visit the town was crowded with early Christmas shoppers, but even so remained attractive.

Take away lunch (cous cous with dried fruit and pecans, and a festive latte)

Then, of course, there was Conwy itself. Sitting on the north coast of Wales, it is a waterside market town that retains its castle and town walls. We arrived too late to see much on Saturday, but even in the darkness the castle was imposing. By sunlight the next day, it was magnificent.

Views from Conwy castle

The one disadvantage to Conwy is a lack of evening eating options. I had focused on the local Italian, Alfredo's, which has good reviews and appropriate pre-running fare. Alas, all the other runners had the same idea and the restaurant was fully booked. They were able to make us take away pizza so we enjoyed that in our hotel room, but a few more restaurant choices would have been nice. 

Alfredo's vegetarian pizza - minus cheese for my tastes

I signed up for the Conwy half marathon because of its scenic course, and the route was as beautiful as I'd hoped. There was an enormous hill in the middle, known appropriately as the Great Orme, but even that was offset by the views on the way up and (even nicer!) the way down. Starting and finishing by the castle was great, with the view on the final stretch being good enough to mask some of the late run exhaustion.

Race finish area

I went into the run with no time goals, and this was just as well as my watch died before the race started. It was really odd running without any sense of pace or time, but in the end I finished in roughly the time I'd expected - slower than my runs to date, but not too terrible given my relaxed approach and the Great Orme half way through.



After recovering from the run, we spent Saturday afternoon wandering Conwy castle and the town walls. There were slightly more steps in the castle than my post-run legs liked, but other than that, it was a great few hours with semi-ruined rooms and turrets to explore.

Conwy
On Monday morning, we visited Bodnant Garden, 15 minutes out of Conwy. Run by the National Trust, the gardens incorporate formal flower beds, open expanses of grass, lots of trees, and plenty of water features. It was beautiful, and all the more so for pretty much having the gardens to ourself (a Monday out of season will do that). I took a ridiculous number of photos, so have summarised highlights in collage form rather than trying to share lots of separate images.


From the gardens, it was back to driving and back to London - but with a really great weekend behind us, and the benefit of a short working week ahead.

Have you been to Wales? Or taken a mini break recently?

17 comments:

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    1. Thanks Dannii - it definitely was.

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  2. my goodness that is all just perfect!!! What beautiful surroundings. Congrats on the race!

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  3. That castle is stunning - what a great place for a run. I had a couple of very different visits to wales - both driving holidays - one with strangers I had recently met and one with my parents - I loved the scenery in both visits and remember hearing about snowdonia and being keen to visit that region of wales. Maybe one day I will get to conwy.

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    1. Definitely, Johanna - a good reason to come back to the UK ;) I want to get back to see more of Snowdonia NP too.

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  4. Congratulations on the half marathon before, and for getting to feast your eyes on that scenery!

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    1. It was definitely a good reward, the scenery!

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  5. What a beautiful setting for a half marathon ♥ I've never been to Conwy before, but a few years ago I did a project where I had to profile 26 Welsh communities living near historic monuments, and Conwy was one that I profiled. Even though the profiles were full of facts, images, feedback of publication consultation, etc, I never actually visited a single one! It was all completed via the internet & phone calls! I said that one day I'd love to do a tour and actually see the communities. Conwy looks a good place to start!
    p.s. so glad the weather was good for you. Every time I've visited Wales it's been dark, rainy & pretty gloomy ;)

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    1. Oh, how funny! You will have to go Sharon! Hopefully with some of our weather too ;)

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  6. Great post, Kari. How long did the drive home from Wales take? Conwy is so beautiful and scenic and just like a picture postcard. I believe the best way to see a city is on foot as you're not whizzing by at high speeds so you have the chance to take more in. So doing marathons in places you haven't seen before is a really good idea. (Although I have a friend who did a full marathon near Uluru and she said, 'never again' as the scenery never changed and she found the race very mentally challenging). What a shame you couldn't dine at the restaurant but it looks like they made you a great vegetarian pizza. I have a vegan recipe coming up on my blog later today that you might like! Congrats on your run and how lovely to have another medal xx

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    1. The drive was in theory under 5 hours, but London traffic on the way out and the way in extended that a bit! It still wasn't too bad though.

      I can imagine a marathon at Uluru would be particularly challenging and as you say, not a lot of variation in scenery! For other places running is a great way to see the sights in slow motion though, and far better than zooming through towns as so often time pressures make necessary.

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  7. Congrats on your run. I have been to Wales (the place with the big name starting with L) and it is lovely.

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    1. It also has very hard to remember and pronounce names! ;)

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  8. What a great idea kari to run in such amazing scenery. I went to wales years ago but still remember the coast line and the incredibly beautiful views. Congratulations on finishing in the time you wanted

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  9. Running in new places is a lot of fun, especially when it involves castles, and adding a race to a trip makes it more exciting. What a pretty place to run! I'd like to visit Wales someday!

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  10. Never been to Wales - looks so pretty. Have been to Scotland though.
    We have been enjoying quite a few mini breaks lately - it's always nice to get away hey :-)
    Oh man I love cheeseless pizza soooooo much & we haven't had it in sooooooo long (been avoiding flours) and now looking at that picture makes me want one sooooooooooooooooooo bad!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol
    Congrats on your great run!

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