232 – Fire

It had been a long hot and dry summer. I always keep alert and if I think I can smell smoke I immediately check it out by going outside and having a sniff around. This time we could see a plume of smoke rising over the mountain, Monte Marano, that sits behind Tre Cancelle. Paul always contacts the Vigili Forestale to ensure that they are aware of the fire and its exact position.

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The Vigili soon sent our two Canadair water-bombing planes and one helicopter. It is common to see and hear them during the summer months.  We are very fortunate that we live near to some large lakes in Fondi and this is where the yellow amphibious planes skilfully dive down and scoop up water into their bellies, and where the helicopters can hover and fill their buckets.

In some cases the planes fly over the sea and scoop up water there, however as this water is salty it is not good for putting fires out in olive groves as it can damage the vegetation.

Soon we could hear the familiar drone of their engines as they got to work on halting the path of the fire and extinguishing the hungry flames. These are amazing pilots who are so skilful at manoeuvering and diving down close to the site of the fire. It quite a spectacle to watch.

I managed to get a few good shots that I thought I would share here.

Thanks once again to these brave pilots who work so hard to keep us safe from fire.

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All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#fire #wildfires #canadair #plane #airplane #itri #italy

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

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231 – The Highlights of Summer 2016

In July I flew back solo to the UK on a very special mission. I am not confident about flying on my own, but this time there was a strong incentive for me to do so. We had invited our grandson Aneurin to spend his summer holidays with us in Italy.

I was to stay in Wales for just under a week. My friend Ellen very kindly picked me up from the airport and it was lovely to spend some special time with her in Caldicot, where we used to live before moving to Italy.

I then visited family in Chepstow.  Vicki and Tommy took me out to see the Bristol Harbour Festival which was a fun day out.

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I then moved on to Cardiff where I stayed with Emma, Aneurin’s mum, for a few days looking after Aneurin and I was also able to catch up with some friends.

On my return flight I was to have company, and very good company Aneurin was too. He loved the flight and after we waited for the majority of the passengers to disembark Aneurin went up to the captain as he wanted to know how planes manage to fly.  The Captain was so impressed by his enquiry that he invited Aneurin into the cockpit to sit in his seat so he could see all the controls.

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We had a really busy summer with guests and our friends the White family from Northern Ireland staying with us. Aneurin enjoyed their company and playing with the girls in the pool.

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Melinda in Minturno kindly organised a cookery lesson for Aneurin and Bethan to learn how to cook American pancakes. Aneurin especially liked the maple syrup.

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The stunning view from Pat and Melinda’s apartment.

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A pizza evening up on Pat and Melinda’s roof terrace in Minturno.

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My cousins from London arrived to spend a week with us. It was so lovely to catch up with them as we all get on so well together.

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Later in mid August Emma and Kay also came to visit.

There were fun days at the beach.

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Nightime paddles.

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Endless games of Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and Connect Four.

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Cuddling of dogs.

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Washing of dogs.

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Pizza of course.

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and Gelato

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Many meals “al fresco” with family and friends.

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 Celebrating Niamh’s A Level results.

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Another wonderful meal at La Casareccia.

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An evening out with the girls.

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As you can see we all had a fantastic summer.

Thank you. Sending love and hugs to all xxx

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

230 – Paul’s Dad and Sister Annie Come and Visit

Paul’s sister decided to take early retirement last year from her job as Head Teacher at her school in Warrington.   She had started teaching at the school over 25 years ago and had progressively worked her way up. Anne was hoping to have more time to relax and unwind after the last stressful years of her job.  She also wanted to be able to spend some more time with Dad Shap in his later years. He still lives in Bristol, and Anne visits him whenever possible.

It was also lovely that she could organise a trip for her and Dad to visit us in Itri, since in the past he has loved to come, but at the age of 87 really finds travelling on his own too much these days. It was lovely for him to be able to catch up with us at Tre Cancelle and meet up with some of our Italian friends who he has come to know well over the years.

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Paul and Dad Shap – photo by Anne Bright

During their visit we had a very pleasant lunch at a little restaurant by the beach called the Miramare, the weather being beautiful at this time of year, sunny but not overbearingly hot as it can be for northern Europeans during the summer.

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Dad, Paul and Louise – photo my Anne Bright

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Dad, Anne and Louise – photo by Anne Bright

Also during their visit we chose to go to one of our favourite eateries – “La Casareccia” in the nearby little town of Campodimele. You may well have read some of my previous posts about this wonderful little gem of a Taverna.

Here we organised to met up with our friends Pat and Melinda and their visitors Bobby, PJ and Luke from the USA, also Pat and David, also from the US – who like Pat and Melinda, have recently purchased a property in Minturno, and finally Karen and Stewart from Nottingham who have a holiday home in Sperlonga.  We were celebrating Melinda’s birthday and Dad and Anne’s visit.

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Stewart, Pat, PJ, Luke, Bobby, Paul, Anne and Dad

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Melinda and Stewart

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PJ and Luke

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Bobby and Anne

Once again we were not to be disappointed by the wonderful spread prepared by Maria the c0-owner and cook of the Casareccia. Plate after plate came our way of truly delectable food.

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Maria, David and Pat

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Stewart and Karen

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Happy Birthday Melinda !!!

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Very seductive pose Ms Melinda !

Here are some photos of a previous visit to “La Casareccia”.

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Pat and David, Melinda and Pat

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Paul, Pat, David and Melinda

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Pat, his brother Mike and sister-in-law Jeanne

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Pat and David

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Highly Recommended !!!

Please note that during the winter months La Casareccia is only open at weekends.

A previous post about La Casareccia

Trattoria La Casareccia in Campodimele

The Casareccia reviewed on TripAdvisor

Bar Trattoria La Casareccia
Stazione di servizio Repsol, 04020 Campodimele, Italy
Tel:  07715980207

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#LaCasareccia #campodimele #italy #Traditional  #typical #ItalianFood #restaurant #trattoria #SouthLazio

Read more about Campodimele The Village of Longevity here

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments

229 – Florisa’s Garden

My wonderful Italian friend Florisa is always busy, whether it be cooking, cleaning, working, harvesting olives or helping people, friends and family. She has such a very kind and generous nature.

However the thing that she loves the most is her garden. She really does have green fingers, or as they call it here in Italy “pollice verdi” which curiously translates as “green thumbs”. She really does knows how to make her garden grow. It is a delight to wander through it.

This will be just a photo blog, as I believe the pictures will speak for themselves.

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Isn’t it just amazing !!!

Florisa with some of her home grown strawberries.

Grazie Carissima  Florisa xxx

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All  photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#garden #gardening #italy #italian #recipes #italian

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy

 

 

228 – Cooking With Florisa

In the Spring Paul’s sister Anne came to visit us for a few days. During her stay our friend Florisa invited us to lunch, together with our American friends Pat and Melinda. We girls went over to Florisa’s house around mid morning as Florisa was to give us a cookery lesson.

She was going to show us how to cook: Pumkin Risotto, Fried Anchovies, Fritters of Spring Greens and Fish Poached in White Wine With Potatoes.

Florisa preparing the pumkin.

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Florisa found an enormous pan into which she added olive oil, chopped garlic and freshly chopped chilli pepper which were fried gently.  Then she added the diced pieces of squash and cooked it all on a gentle heat for about an hour until it broke down and became really soft.

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Risotto rice was added to the mixture together with a little stock. The risotto needed to be constantly stirred adding more stock as needed from time to time.

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Anne dutifully stirring the risotto.

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The risotto was served topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

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In a smaller pan Florisa once again added the main staple starter ingredients, olive oil, chopped garlic and freshly chopped chilli pepper which she gently fried. To this she added some fresh chopped tomatoes which were left to simmer until they softened down.

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Meanwhile Florisa had prepared some spring greens which she had previously cooked in boiling water. These were then chopped and added to the pan.

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She stirred the ingredients and left them to cook for a couple of minutes. She then took the pan off of the heat to allow the contents to cool down. When cool she mixed the spring greens mixture with some flour and added some salt, pepper and paprika and formed the mix into little patties. These were fried in oil on both sides until golden brown.

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Next the fresh anchovies. The heads and the insides of the fish were removed and the remaining flesh was thoroughly rinsed. The anchovies were then coated in seasoned flour. These were then fried in oil until they were golden brown and crispy.

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In a large deep frying pan Florisa coloured some chopped garlic. She then added the fish steaks and some white wine. Slices of potato were placed over the top. This was left to simmer on a gentle heat for quite some time.

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Melinda

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Here we all are about to tuck into the wonderful tasty fayre that we had helped to prepare.

Buon Appettito !!!

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It was all absolutely delicious !!!

Pat doesn’t eat vegetables especially if they are green, but he enjoyed the risotto and the fish nonetheless.

A huge thank you to Florisa for spending some of her precious time with us

and to both Florisa and Franco for inviting us to eat at their lovely country home.

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All  photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#pumkinrisotto #anchovies #alici #cooking #recipes #italian

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy

227 – Visit to Pastena

At the end of April we welcomed two lovely ladies, Lissa and Debra, from the USA.  This was to be their first trip to this area of Italy and Lissa was keen to visit her ancestral home of her family, namely Pastena.  Pastena is a small but picturesque medieval village which is in the province of Frosinone and belongs to the ancient region of Ciociaria.

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As Lissa and Debra didn’t have a car we offered to drive them to Pastena, which is along an interesting route, passing through Fondi and then heading inland towards Lenola and beyond. Finally we reached the verdant plain of Pastena surrounded by  hills and mountains. Here the soil is rich and fertile thus agriculture has always been the mainstay of the economy in these parts.

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As we approached Pastena we saw a hill which at its peak has modern sculptures representing the patron saints of the town, Sant’Elena and San Sinforo.

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Lissa first wanted to call in at Pastena’s Register Office or Anagrafe in the Town Hall.

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We were received by the registrar who seemed to be rather flustered and busy, and he insisted that he did not have time to look through the records to try and find out more about Lissa’s ancestors. However he did take details from her and promised to look for them during the next few days.  Feeling slightly deflated we went for a stroll around the old town.

Close to the Town Hall is a museum – “Il Museo della Civiltà Contadina e dell’Ulivo” or Museum of Country Life and Olive Cultivation.This is  housed in a palazzo which was once the home and an ancient olive m of the Trani family.  Among the interesting exhibits are the original old mill-stone and press, tools related to olive farming, tilling the soil, animal husbandry, wine making, cheese making, basket making, spinning and weaving of linen.  Also there are examples of traditional clothes, musical instruments and general domestic items of everyday Pastena life in times gone by.

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Lissa also wanted the visit Pastena’s cemetery which was situated a little way out of town. She was hoping to find some of her ancestors’ graves.

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We went back into Pastena to wander through the characteristic Medieval centre. At the highest point of the village is the main square and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. On the facade are two niches which house images of the patron saints of the town.

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We noticed that there were festive lights mounted throughout the town. We learned that the following day was the Feast of “Il Maggio” or “la Festa del’Albero della Cuccagna” -a festival to celebrate the coming of Spring.  We soon made plans to return the following day, with our friends Pat and Melinda, to see the celebrations for ourselves.

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On the 15th April the local men go out into the woods to choose the best tall straight cypress tree. Once this has been selected a cross is carved out of the bark mark it.  At sunrise on the morning of 30th April many of the local men folk will gather around the chosen tree for a traditional ceremony where the parish priest recites prayers.  The master of ceremonies takes the axe and makes the first cuts into the tree, in the presence of the calf, with each of the participants taking their turn to wield the axe. The actual felling of the tree is marked by gun shots and a drum roll. The tree is then cleaned of the bark and branches etc.

There follows a ritual “funeral” procession for “the tree of sacrifice” that has been taken from the “sacred forest”.  Slowly but surely it is hauled up to the village with the help of a numerous pairs of strong oxen, lead by the sacred calf.

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During the long procession loud firework were periodically set off, and  unnervingly groups of hunters shot rounds from their rifles and shotguns into the air.

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We then walked uphill back towards the town. As we entered the square in front of the town hall we were spotted by the register who eagerly tried to flag us down.  He told Lissa he had looked in the registers and had found several more generations of Lissa’s family. He lead us into his office where he handed over the paperwork.  Lissa was happy and we were so pleased for her.  We took a photo of the Registrar, Lissa and Debra to remember this very special day.

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Debra and Lissa

A little more about the “Il Maggio” festivities ….

On the 1st May the tree is cleaned in the main square, in front of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.  The top of the tall tree trunk is adorned with May flowers of broom.  A hole is prepared and then the men work together using ropes to gradually winch the tree trunk into an upright position.

On the 3rd May, on the feast day of the Santissima Santa Croce, when the statue of Sant’ Elena on her throne is taken from the church and carried around all the districts of the town followed by a solemn procession.

Typically the womenfolk  have previously prepared a type of sweet bread / doughnut in the shape of a decorated ring called a Ciambellone, these are carried during the procession as a symbol of religious devotion.  The procession is accompanied by ceremonial gunfire.

Later in the day the tree trunk is raised into position in the main square, having been covered in grease. This is known as the “albero della cuccagna”. Then there is a competition amongst the young men of the village, when they attempt to scale the slippery pole. At the top there are prizes for the successful climbers. In the evening there are more celebrations of musical entertainment and fireworks.

The tree trunk remains in place in the square until September, when it is cut down and distributed as firewood to the local inhabitants of Pastena.

All  photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#pastena #festival #ilmaggio #familyhistory #spring #italy

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy

226 – Part 9 – Exploring Barry Island and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast / Louise and Melinda’s Wales Holiday

One calm evening we took a stroll along the beach at Barry Island.

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Once upon a time Barry was a quiet little rural backwater with an island situated just off shore.  However all this was to suddenly change during the industrial revolution.

Tons of coal were being mined in the South Wales Valleys, and the docks that had been built by the Marquess of Bute in Cardiff were soon found to be struggling to keep up with the amount of coal being produced.

Some of the mine owners, including a wealthy businessman named David Davies, the owner of  the Ocean Collieries company, got their heads together and came up with an ambitious plan to build a new dock in Barry, to rival that of Cardiff. Work on the first new dock at Barry began in 1884 and was completed in 1889. In the first year of trade alone, one million tons of coal was shipped.  More dock basins were subsequently added to accommodate yet more ships, until by 1913 Barry had become the largest coal exporting port in the world.

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 The flourishing town of Barry had expanded rapidly and the island was by now connected to the mainland by a causeway.

Not only did the railway transport coal, but it also brought miners and their families for day trips to the sea and consequently Barry developed into a seaside resort. In the 1930’s the miners were allowed time off work during the last week in July and the first week in August. During this, Barry’s hey day, thousands of miners’ families would flock to the beach during the “Miners Fortnight”.

Yet with the decline in the trade of coal and the eventual closing of the mines the docks and holiday resort suffered badly and the town fell into a deep depression.

In recent years Welsh government money had been reinvested into the town and the resort has seen something of a revival. The pleasure park has been taken under new ownership. The popular  BBC comedy television series “Gavin and Stacey” also helped to promote the town.

Whitmore Bay has a wide sandy beach which stretches between two rocky headlands, Nell’s Point to the east and Friars Point to the west. Around the corner of Nell’s Point is a second sandy beach named  Jackson’s Bay.

You can see right across the Bristol Channel to the coast of Somerset and Devon and the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm. The Bristol channel has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world which can reach in excess of 15 metres.

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The promenade with its brightly coloured beach huts.

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Barry Island’s new climbing wall.

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Aneurin loved the beach and of course he promised not to get wet.

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Whoops !!! Boys will be boys !!!

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Marco’s Café.

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A “Barrybados” sunset.

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The following day we set off to explore some more of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. We were heading for Southerndown.  On our way we stopped off in the village of Ogmore where there is a beautiful ruined Norman castle dating from 1106.

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Legend has it that the castle is haunted by a Woman in White who is protecting her buried treasure.

Alongside the castle runs a tidal river that leads to the estuary.

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There is a series of stepping stones where the river can be traversed on foot at low tide.

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Nearby is a farm and stables where you can hire a horse to ride. Groups of riders can be seen gently trotting through the river and heading on down towards the estuary and the sandy dunes of Merthyr Mawr.

We continued our drive passing through Ogmore-by-Sea, then the village of Southerndown and on to Dunraven Bay.  This is my favourite spot along this stretch of Welsh coastline. When we arrived the tide was out.  This is the perfect time to explore the exposed rocks and rock pools which are full of molluscs and sea anemones.

The pebbly foreshore, then the rocks and sandy beach beyond.

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Nonna and Aneurin exploring.

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The sedimentary rocks contain many fossils.

In years gone by, during storms along this stretch of rocky coastline, men known as wreckers would lure unsuspecting ships in the direction of the dangerous shoreline with lights and cause them to flounder so that their cargoes could be plundered.

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Nearby are the ruins of Dunraven Castle, an old demolished mansion. You can walk around the beautifully planted walled gardens and enjoy the magnificent views of the Heritage Coast.  You can also visit  the Heritage Coast Centre at Dunraven. This is where we chose to stop and have our picnic lunch.

A lovely old thatched cottage at Dunraven Bay.

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We then drove further along the coast to take a quick look at another local seaside resort named Porthcawl.

The pavillion and town beach.

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Here there were yet more rock pools for Aneurin to explore.

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*photos by Melinda Abbott

#public domain photos

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#barryisland #wales #ogmorecastle #dunravenbay #southerndown #valeofglamorgan #barry #porthcawl #beach

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy

225 – Part 8 – Aneurin with All Creatures Great and Small / Louise and Melinda’s Wales Holiday

For most of the second week of our holiday, we had my 5 year old grandson come and stay with us at the cottage. He is full of beans and endless questions, but is just adorable and I love him to bits !!!

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Melinda and Aneurin also seemed to bond very well.  We played lots of games, did jigsaws and read lots of books.

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Aneurin even made some Shaun the Sheep cakes.  Delicious !!!

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In front of our cottage was a gated gravel yard which was perfect for playing football and letting off steam.  All good wholesome fun !!!

The cottage was on a large 260 acre working farm  which breeds beef and sheep. The farmer kindly allowed Aneurin to sit in his tractor.

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Each day of our stay we tried to get out and about and on one occasion we visited another local farm in the rural Vale of Glamorgan.  Warren Mill Farm is a little off the beaten track down country lanes, but well signposted. They keep quite a selection of animals on site all of which seem very tame and enjoy being petted and fed.

I think I am really getting into chickens !!! I’d love to keep some. I just didn’t realise how many diverse breeds there are.

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As well as free-range chickens, there were also some burrowing prairie dogs running free. They are curious little creatures and were really interesting to watch.

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We purchased buy small paper bags of food for the animals.

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A rare breed of sheep.

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Some llamas and alpacas.

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Ouch !!! Watch those fingers !!!

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Miniature ponies and donkeys.

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Water Buffalo – We are used to these in Italy as they produce milk for making delicious mozzarella cheese. They seem to be quite docile animals.

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Some very hairy pigs.

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One of the most beautiful pigs I have ever seen !!!

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The farm also has a coarse fishing lake.  There is a picnic area with a stall selling snacks and cups of tea, and an area where children can play and ride various toy tractors and diggers.

The ground was a bit of a quagmire due to long spells of heavy rain but it didn’t seem to phase Aneurin !!! The muddier the better !!!

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Another day we chose to visit the Welsh Hawking Centre which is situated close to Barry.

This is a small family run business, which keeps a wide range of birds of prey, ranging from small hawks to super sized owls, eagles and vultures.  In fact it contains the largest collection of raptors in Wales. Some of the birds are endangered species and the centre breeds them and hand rears the young chicks. It has earned a worldwide reputation in this field.  These magnificent birds are so photogenic. Here are some beautiful falcons ……

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Buzz is a magnificent European Eagle Owl. It is one of the largest species of owl and has distinctive ear tufts.

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Falconry was once the traditional sport of kings. An expert handler gives displays of this ancient art in an open field. Here he is using meat on a lure to exercise the falcon and encourage it to acrobatically swoop and dive to catch the food.

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A Barn Owl – Such a beautiful bird when seen up close.

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The handler asked for volunteers to handle the bird. Aneurin put his hand up straight away !!!

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Aneurin wearing a gauntlet to protect his hand.

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Well done Aneurin !!!

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This was a great morning’s visit – Highly recommended – Ideal for both adults and children alike.

 * photos by Melinda Abbott

All other photos, except where indicated, by me © Louise Shapcott

#valeofglamorgan #bonvilston #wales #warrenmillfarm #welshhawkingcentre

#glamorgan #farm #hawks #owls

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy

224 – Part 7 -Visiting St Fagans in Cardiff / Louise and Melinda’s Wales Holiday

St Fagan’s National History Museum  also known as the Museum of Welsh Life is located just outside of Cardiff to the west of the City.  It is set in the 100 acre grounds of St Fagan’s Castle, an Elizabethan manor house dating from the 16th century.

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It is mainly an open air museum which seeks to preserve traditional historic rural buildings. The museum has over forty such buildings which have been dismantled with great care from their original sites in various parts of Wales, and have been reconstructed stone by stone, brick by brick  within St Fagan’s village.  Each building has then been meticulously decorated and  furnished to show how people lived during certain eras in rural Wales.

Kennixton is a typical farmhouse from Llangennith, the Gower in South Wales, dating from 1610.

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Inside it is furnished with items from the 18th century.

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A conical pigsty

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Melin Bompren Cornmill built in 1853 from Cross Inn, New Quay, Ceredigion (Cardiganshire).

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Hendre’r-ywydd Uchaf Farmhouse built in 1508 from Llangynhafal, Clwyd (Denbighshire).

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Abernodwydd Farmhouse – A timber-framed thatched farmhouse, built in 1678, from Llangadfan, Powys (Montgomeryshire)

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Garreg Fawr Farmhouse was built in 1544 from Waunfawr, Gwynedd (Caernarfonshire).

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A Tollhouse built in 1771 from Aberystwyth that stood on a private or turnpike road.

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Six terraced houses named Rhyd-y-car – dating from 1795, built to accommodate iron ore miners. These have been furnished in the style of various eras: 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955 and 1985.

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A Cockpit, dating from the 17th century, from the Hawk and Buckle Inn, Denbigh.

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A tiny two-roomed building, built of brick in 1936, it is said to have been the smallest free-standing post office in Wales. From Blaen-waun, Whitland, Carmarthenshire.

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A small country school from Maestir, Lampeter, Ceredigion (Cardiganshire). Built in 1880.

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St Teilo’s Church dates from the late 12th century and came from Llandeilo Tal-y-bont, Glamorgan. The interior is decorated with replica medieval paintings.

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Oakdale Workmen’s Institute from Oakdale, Gwent (Monmouthshire)

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Derwin Bakehouse from Aberystwyth. You can buy freshly baked bread here and scones.

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Gwalia Stores from Ogmore Vale, Glamorgan.

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There is also a traditional fairground, which my little grandson Aneurin enjoyed very much.

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Llwyn-yr –Eos is an example of a small working Farm with typical Welsh breeds of livestock. It was lambing season !!! Below are some newborn lambs.

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There are woodland paths to follow and a hide for birdwatching.

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St Fagan’s Elizabethan Manor House and its ornamental gardens and lake. As it was early springtime there were many daffodils in flower.

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Aneurin particularly enjoyed watching the ducks as they dived and dabbled.

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St Fagans is a wonderful place to visit and is suitable for all ages.  There is so much to explore, you could never see it all in just one day. The best thing of all is that entrance is entirely free and parking is just £5 per day. Highly recommended !!!

 * photos by Melinda Abbott

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#stfagans #stfagan’s #cardiff #glamorgan #museum #museumofwelshlife #nationalhistorymuseum #wales

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy