Monthly Archives: February 2019

Lanzarote

It was our 10th wedding anniversary on 28 December 2018 — yes ten years have passed since we got hitched on this mountain in Queenstown!  Doesn’t time fly!

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To celebrate (and because neither of us had even bought each other a card!) I decided we would fly to Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands (just off the coast of Morocco). It ticked many boxes: sun for me, volcanoes for Morgy, and possibly surfing for Aled.

For those of you who aren’t aware of our son’s obsession, Morgan absolutely loves volcanoes and has been “studying” them for about two years now, through books and You tube videos.  He is already set on becoming a volcanologist when he grows up so we thought we might as well take him on holiday and make it an educational experience at the same time.

I had been watching Tui for all-inclusive last minute deals for most of December but in the end we opted for a self-catering villa with just the flights from Tui, an airline which I now highly recommend.  They really seem to think about the whole “customer journey” (pardon the management jargon!), from booking, to check-in, and all the way through to getting you home on time.  Unlike some old school airlines like United or British Airways, Tui seems to realise that their passengers are on holiday and actually want to have a fun and relaxing time.

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Look — they even invited Morgy into the cockpit after the plane had landed in Lanzarote — what a nice crew!

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After settling into our villa near Playa Blanca, we wasted no time in getting out to see the sights.  On day two, we headed straight to Timanfaya National Park to see the volcanoes.

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For our aspiring volcanologist, this was literally a dream come true, with awesome views of volcanic landscapes in every direction.

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On the 40 minute bus ride around the park, Morgan declared it “the best day ever”.

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Just fantastic!

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There were also some great demonstrations by the park staff:

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We then headed to the less frequented National Park visitor center where there were plenty of great volcano exhibits:

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Afterwards, we enjoyed our sandwiches in the middle of a lava field:

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To top this off, we climbed up a small volcano in the afternoon:

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… so Morg could collect rock samples for later study 😉  He was literally jumping up and down every time he found another example of pumice!

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Here he is near the top, taking in the view.

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At Timanfaya National Park we had bought a pass which included 6 main cultural attractions on the island, so on day three we drove up to the north of the island to check them out.  The first one was Cuerva de los Verdes, a lava tube which is about 7km long.

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It had some really amazing shapes on the ceiling:

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Afterwards, we headed over to see Jameos del Agua, a site created in part by nature and by a man named Cesar Manrique, a local artist and architect.  Before coming to Lanzarote, I had never heard of Manrique but since visiting, he has become a recent source of inspiration (much needed in the era of Brexit and Trump!).

It’s hard to describe Jameos del Agua so I consulted Wiki which described it as:

“a series of lava caves, located in the municipality of Haría in northern Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain. It is also an art, culture and tourism center, created by local artist and architect, César Manrique, and managed by the government of Lanzarote. Jameos del Agua consists of a subterranean salt lake, restaurant, gardens, emerald-green pool, museum and auditorium.”

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  This is a view from across the pool in the lava tube:

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On the other side of the pool, there’s a cafe with a series of little dance floors and a ledge for a band.  Apparently there’s even dinners with music (remind me to visit next time sans toddler?!)

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The structure gets progressively awesome as you emerge from the cave to see this pool:

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Honestly I loved it this space!  And could only imagine the fantastic parties that have been thrown here over the years.

But that was just the beginning of our Cesar Manrique tour.  Next we headed up to Mirador del Rio at the very north tip of the island, where we were amazed by this stunning view:

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Manrique had created this cafe at the top which blended in well to the cliff face.  Sorry not a great picture but the vibe here was so cool and trendy and the view was breathtaking.

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And then onto the Cactus Garden, which sounds a little bit hokey until you get there and think: Manrique you genius!

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It was just another oasis of creativity and beauty…

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And a great spot for a coconut ice cream:

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The days in Lanzarote kept on being awesome, with a trip to Playa Papagayo on the southeastern tip of the island on day four:

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A super spot:

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I love this pic:

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The only thing that could have made this day better would have been a sail on this boat (which we will definitely go on next time if we return!)

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On day five, we tasted some delicious Lanzarote wines, the grapes for which are grown in these really quirky vineyards!

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Because Lanzarote can be a little bit windy, the grapes are grown in these little ditches — cool right?

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Here are the boys on a tour of El Grifo, the oldest winery on the island.  If you like sweet wine, we can highly recommend the semi-dulce white wine from El Grifo– yum!

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Well there are lots of other amazing pics from the holiday, but I will end with just a few more.  Here we are at Famara beach which has a spectacular backdrop and is great for surfing.  I hope we will return here for a surfing holiday in the future.

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On our last afternoon we enjoyed a lovely meal at El Golfo…

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… followed by a stroll on the nearby lava fields:

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There are some amazing cliff and waves views on this walk:

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So that’s all folks!  As you can tell I would highly recommend Lanzarote!  We had an amazing time and it was the best anniversary present ever.  Thanks boys for a great trip before I started work again — I love you XOXOXO

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Christmas 2018

Lots has happened since I last wrote…!  I will have to dig deep into the memory banks (and the phone picture gallery!) to recall all the happenings.  Apologies in advance if I miss anything — the past 8 or 9 weeks have been a whirlwind!

… Shortly after we saw Nanna and Taidi at the Botanical Gardens in Carmarthen, Hefin, Emma and Elis visited us in Cardiff.  Hefin was here for a university reunion so we didn’t see much of him to be honest!  Still it was great to catch up albeit briefly.   After a nice meal with Paul, Anurag, Hef and Em on Friday, we took the boys to Techniquest on Saturday.

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The following weekend we headed over to William, Claire and boys in Wokingham.  Morgy loves catching up with his cousins and in this household, it’s almost as if he fits in perfectly as the youngest brother, about 2.5 years younger than William and Claire’s youngest (Dylan).  Here’s Alex, Dylan and Morgy at Dylan and Owen’s Sunday morning rugby practice.

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Afterwards we had lunch and a play at a nearby park.  This swing really got going not long after this shot… 

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Shortly after returning from Wokingham we had dinner with Auntie Angela from Bangor who was down in Cardiff for work.  Here we are at Antoni’s, the new best pizza place on Wellfield Road in Penylan.

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As ever, it’s great to catch up with the Evans clan — just wish everyone were closer so we could catch up more frequently.

And then it was time for the famous British Christmas build up!  Starting with the school Christmas play.  This isn’t a great picture but it was the only one I had to help set the scene…

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Morgy was playing the part of a snowflake, however  I didn’t appreciate that the motif was slightly gangster until I saw the play in full.

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What can I say?  Compared with last year’s nursery performance, this one was a marked improvement in that Morgan actually sang the songs required and even did some basic choreography.  That said, I think we have a scientist on our hands — not a future Broadway star 😉  I was really impressed though when I heard him practicing one song at home completely in Welsh.  My last comment will just be to thank the teachers for their amazing patience and determination to pull off a 20 minute play with about 60 5 year olds.  God bless them.

In other Christmas preparations — we joined my friend Becky for wreath-making again this year at the Roath Park Pleasure Gardens bowls pavilion.

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It’s so fun to come home with a handmade wreath!

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I also went on a mission to resurrect an old family recipe — my Mom’s famous apricot-filled cookies.  I have to include a photo of the recipe itself, hand-written by my Mom’s Mom years ago, and then amended by my Mom on the bottom half.  This is a classic Rutkowski recipe.  Read carefully…

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See picture below for actual result.  Luckily my Mom was only a Skype call away to clarify a few details to produce these delicious cookies!

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Now by the second week of December I had largely given up on the job hunt, figuring I might as well enjoy the run up to Christmas and just start applying for jobs again in the new year.  Naturally this is the best way to test Murphy’s Law… and so it happens I was called for a business analyst contract in Gloucester just 8 working days before the Christmas break.  A short telephone interview a few days later and I was offered a 4 month contract starting on 4 January 2019!  What luck!

And so instead of relaxing when my in-laws turned up on the 18th, I was signing contracts, finding a new umbrella company, withdrawing job applications from other organisations, etc.

In and amongst the admin flurry, we took Ann and Steve to the Potted Pig for a fancy lunch as their Christmas present which was enjoyed by all (sorry Ann I only had a picture of Aled and Steve):

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We also had a walk down at Southerndown:

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And then it was time for Santa!  This was our first Christmas in our house here in Cardiff and we were all really excited.  In the UK, they typically leave Santa a mince pie and a beer or a whiskey.  (Frankly I think this is an insane concept — Santa will be driving his sled drunk — how dangerous!)

As we are a very international family we left Santa a small glass of Pendryn (a Welsh whiskey) and a collection of German gingerbread cookies (known as Pfeffernusse or Lebkuchen) which we had picked up at Wally’s in the arcades in Cardiff (best shop in Cardiff – a must if you visit!).

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And then it was Christmas day and Morgan was delighted with his presents!  What a lucky boy with a new bike and various other bits and bobs!

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We celebrated the day with fellow foodies and beloved neighbours, Paul and Anurag.

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Weeks before, we had agreed the menu would be a delicious, but non-traditional Christmas feast.  Thus we started with our Bucks Fizz and an amazing seafood platter, complete with two lobsters:

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The champagne went straight to our heads so by the time we moved onto the lamb leg roast we were all quite merry…

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After dinner we headed out for a walk/scooter in the park nearby:

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It’s hard to get a good pic of Morg on the scooter because he’s going so fast these days:

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Then there were two Aled-created volcano cakes for dessert (one for Morgan and one for adults with whiskey in the chocolate sponge..!).  And then it was time to watch a movie…

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What a wonderful Christmas everyone!  I hope you had a great holiday season wherever you were.  We are so blessed — and I am so grateful XOXOXOX