Saturday, May 12, 2012

Walking the Pembrokeshire Coast

With no passports in hand, Keenan and I opted for a quiet country retreat on the Pembrokeshire Coast in South Wales over the May Day bank holiday weekend. It was a much needed break as both of us have been putting in crazy hours at work.

We stayed at the charming Cliff House B&B in Saunderfoot, the next village over from the popular resort town of Tenby. The proprietors, Michael and Anne, were wonderful hosts and very knowledgeable of the area, having holidayed here every summer for the past twenty years. They love Pembrokeshire so much that they sold their house and recently took over the operation of the Cliff House B&B. Situated close to the beach, the B&B has wonderful sea views across Carmarthen Bay and has easy access to the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, one of fifteen National Trails in Britain.

We didn’t do much during our time in Wales; it was meant to be a mini-break from the hustle and bustle of city life. We went on two walks over the weekend. The first was an easy 2.5 mile walk out and back to Amroth. Enroute there is a nice little pub called the Wiseman right on the beach where you can stop for a pint of bitter or a cold lager. The weather was a bit chilly and wet, which is no surprise for Wales, but not to worry, we bought our waterproof hiking boots and Hunter wellies.

The second walk from Saunderfoot to Tenby was my favourite hike but we had to time our hike carefully as part of the trail starts along the beach. We were warned by our B&B owners not to return too late should we decide to hike back to Saunderfoot as the tides may too high and we may be left stranded on the cliffs, in which case, they will have to call in the boat rescue crew. To avoid making headlines in the local newspaper, ‘Two Americans Stranded while Walking the Pembrokeshire,’ we arranged for a cab to take us back to Sauderfoot.

We waited until the late morning when the tide receded far enough for us to walk along the beach. Then it was all uphill along the coastal cliffs through the woodlands and muddy patches of farmland. The route was more challenging than we anticipated, leaving our poor legs feeling like jelly, but it was well worth it. Voted by National Geographic as one of the best coastal destinations, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path did not disappoint. We enjoyed the fresh country air, the sound of crashing waves, and beautiful scenery.

Surrounded by three Blue Flag sandy beaches, Tenby is a lovely seaside town with its medieval walls, picturesque harbour, and hilltop castle. The pastel-clad houses and cobblestone streets were adorable, as were the numerous candy and ice cream shops. We spent the afternoon exploring the narrow lanes of this charming little town, enjoyed a leisurely pub lunch, and watched Swansea FC lose to Manchester United. That weekend we also witnessed the ‘Super Moon’ – the biggest and brightest moon of the year when it is closer to Earth than usual, which also caused bigger tidal force. That night we slept peacefully listening to the waves crash across the harbour. It was insane how large the waves were the next morning!

As with all bank holidays, the three weekend came and went too quickly. We came back on to London on a four hour train journey via Swansea feeling refreshed, energised, and relaxed. Another UK nation checked off our list; just Northern Ireland left to visit. I wonder if the new Titantic is worthy of a trip to Belfast? I just might start planning a trip for the fall.

Friday, May 04, 2012

10 Years of Travel...

When asked what are my most prized possessions, three things come to mind: my wedding rings, photo albums, and my passport. Yes, my passport -- I love my passport. It has taken to some 50 countries in five continents over the last ten years. Not bad considering I never stepped foot outside the U.S. until the age of 20. My 52- page passport has over 200 entry and exit stamps, 6 full-page tourist visas, 1 UK 5-year work visa, and probably some dust and dirt from all over the world. This little 3.5x4.9 book contains so much memory of our travels together; it’s really priceless, which is why I was a bit nostalgic when we had to turn in our passports to the US Embassy for renewal two weeks ago. To get me through the six to eight weeks of no international travel, here’s a look back at ten years of travel….
2002/2003: My very first international trip was to Tokyo, Japan to visit Keenan’s Japanese host family. Four years after his first trip where he stayed 2 months with the Satoh family through a youth exchange programme, Keenan was itching to go back to the Land of the Rising Sun. The Satoh family holds a special place in our hearts -- such wonderful and loving people.  When Keenan puts on his leather Burberry gloves during the frigid winter months in the UK, a gift from the Satoh family on Keenan’s 21st birthday, we always think fondly them, especially Papa Satoh who passed away last year. 

2004: I went on a 3 week quintessential post-college trip to Europe with a college friend. Had I known then that I would be living in Europe four years later, I probably would have picked just a few cities to visit rather than the 10 that we crammed into 21 days. On that trip, I fell in love with Barcelona, Rome, and Prague. 

2005: While I traveled to several random US cities for work, my big trip for that year was a 2 week holiday to Egypt, visiting Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh, Luxor, and Aswan. This would be my first of many future visits to the Middle East. While Cairo is dusty, chaotic, and noisy, I love the ancient wonders, historic mosque, and Biblical sights. We definitely got the travel bug after this trip!

2006: We went to Honolulu to attend Keenan’s Japanese host sister’s wedding, which was really lovely. We hung out in Wakiki and spent quality time catching up with the family. This was the last time we saw his host parents. 
I also traveled through Asia in December 2006 for both business and pleasure. I attended a work conference in Bangkok, Thailand, then spent four lazy days on the beach on Koh Samui. I wasn't crazy about Koh Samui, plus the weather wasn't great. I'd like to visit the islands on the Andaman Sea side.  Keenan joined me in Hong Kong for my sister’s wedding held at the Intercontinental Hotel. We spent one week in Hong Kong eating our weight in dim sum, browsing through street markets, and cruising around mega shopping malls. 

On our trip to Asia, Keenan and I took a short weekend break to Siem Riep, Cambodia to see the breathtaking temples of Angkor Wat (amazing!) and then flew to Beijing, China for a family trip in the dead of winter. It was a shock to our body going from 98F to 30F temperatures. I didn’t love Beijing as a city but very happy to walk the Great Wall and see Tiananmen Square. 

2007: A big travel year for me. I think I managed to travel once a month in 2007. We met up with Keenan’s Japanese host sister in Las Vegas; traveled to New York City to visit my friend, then a first year lecturer at New York University; went on a Sideways tour through Santa Barbara and the Central Coast; sunbathed on Clearwater Beach, Florida; and Keenan went to Alaska on business, which regrettably, I couldn't join him.
I also wanted to take an international trip before starting grad school in August 2007 and found an amazing deal for RT between San Francisco and Lima, Peru for $550 USD. I couldn’t refuse. I was ready to take my first solo trip if I had to, but Keenan managed to get time off and I am glad he did! In retrospect, Peru has to be one of my favorite trips! Machu Picchu is a must-see as photos do not do it justice. Stunning place.

From Lima, we flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina for five days of shopping, eating Argentine steak, tango, and people watching. Buenos Aires is more European than any South American city I've visited -- a city filled with beautiful architecture, beautiful people, and delicious food.
2007/2008 – Keenan and I took a big 3.5 week trip to India from December 2007 – January 2008. We landed in Mumbai, followed by a tour of Rajasthan: the blue city of Jodhur, home to the impressive Mehrangarh Fort; the fairytale-like lake city of Udaipur; and Jaipur. Poor Keenan ate something dodgy and got violently sick whilst in Jaipur. That Cipro came in handy for sure. Onward bound on an overnight train (don’t get me started about Indian trains!) to Agra to see the magnificent Taj Mahal – amazing piece of architecture, then to New Delhi before flying down to the backwaters of Kerala where we spent some time relaxing over Ayurveda massages. Keenan then flew to Ahmedabad to visit his dad's side of the family, while I spent a few days with my sister in Hong Kong. I definitely needed a vacation after this action-packed adventure trip through India. 

2008 – 2012: Well, this bring us full circle to our transatlantic move to London and the birth of this blog about our travels and life in London. We’ve traveled to some fantastic places outside of Europe since 2008: Morocco, Turkey, South Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. At some point, we'll share our top ten list. 
So here's to many more adventures and travels to come... except I'll need my new passport to do so. Until then, I'll be doing staycations in the U.K.