With four children too many to qualify for a 'dirty weekend', we occasionally get the next best thing, a mildly grubby night away. In fact, a whole 24 hours to the minute from leaving home to arriving home. It's days like this that confirm to me that my baby days are through. My friends are all having late babies but the little tastes of freedom that I'm getting, reminiscent of the early days with Mr G (pre children) have reignited something in me.
So, at 12.22 pm we left. We took the scenic route, planning to stop in Llangollen quickly to pick an anniversary gift up for each other. Mr G muttered something about not drinking in the afternoon and I do believe he uttered a very camp 'I'll have a skinny latte or something'...
In Llangollen, we were, according to the sat nav, about 6 or 7 miles away. This was about half past two. Result. I could almost taste the wine, and Mr G was salivating over his... coffee. So off we go down this winding country lane. As we are about to turn...
Road ahead closed.
We look at each other. I laugh. When I say 'laugh' I mean something bordering on manic hysteria. Decide to follow the original road, maybe we could pick up the lane further on.
No. Because we own the worlds crappest sat nav. Not only is her Received Pronunciation grating, but she doesn't even make an effort to pronounce the Welsh names right, and the worst thing of all? In situations like this? Where you can't go up a road? Does she give you an alternate route? No. She sends you round, in circles, back to where you came from, to face the same challenge. We could be 100 yards from our destination, but she will send you back to complete it her way. So, off we go, following our instincts. Sat nag decides that to put us back on our original, untakeable route, she's sending us up a hill called Methodist Hill. It was not far off vertical, and our car was built in 1993. How it is still on the road is enough of a miracle, nevertheless. I prayed all the way up, and at the top, we were barked at (literally barked at) to make a right turn that defied logic. We finally managed to do a 74 point turn, and get the car facing said road, and we continue. We see a gentleman walking, so Mr G decides to stop.
Mr G: Excuse me. We're trying to get to a place called Llanarmon, The Hand Hotel, but the road we needed to take is closed. Do you have any idea in which direction we need to head?
Stranger: stares at Mr G: No. There's no pubs up here...
Mr G: Yes I know, the sat nav has brought us up here to put us back on our original route. But the road is blocked. Do you know how to get to Llanarmon?
Stranger: stares vacantly at Mr G.
(I won't lie, thoughts of Royston Vasey play on my mind to an accompanying soundtrack of 'Duelling Ukuleles'. Are you local? Special sausages etc. Three minutes of uncomfortable silence pass between us, and...)
Stranger: Well, I know there's no pub up here.
Mr G: Llanarmon? Any idea?
Stranger: No. But then, I'm a stranger to these parts myself.
Ten years later.
The Northern accent was a giveaway, I was about to burst out laughing/into tears, undecided, and Mr G's face was a picture. He thanked the gentleman and wound the window up before bursting into a foul mouthed tirade. Including the gem 'f***ing Northerners' which, given that he's from Wigan, is a bit rich. So we discuss heading towards Chirk. Because one of us thinks we remember Chirk mentioned on the website. At this point, sat nag is going nuts, still trying to send us back to Llangollen, and to punish us for our lack of compliance has put every turn about twenty metres out. Which means we miss each and every turn because if we did actually turn on zero, at the point she tells us to turn? We would be in someone's living room/a park/a supermarket or a stream.
An hour and a half or so later, we complete our seven mile journey. As we turn into the village, The Hand faces us and it looks idyllic.
We grab our overnight bag and check in. I ask if the receptionist has a hammer I can borrow to smash the devil's tool to smithereens. She laughed. But I wasn't joking. We were shown to our room, I took the obligatory 'pre messing it up with your crap' photos...
Mr G turned from a latte drinker into Father Jack, announced 'Drink' and dragged me downstairs to the bar.
We had a game of darts... My first three darts, I hit - the wall, treble 20 and outside bull. Still a long way off a nine dart finish but the look on hubby dearest's face was priceless. I realised that I throw darts like a girl. It's not as easy as it looks. And Mr G is probably right not to let me near ours until he can reinforce the walls. We played pool and I was beaten twice, because I also play pool like a girl. I pot two of my balls, the cue ball, and nine times out of ten, the black. As standard.
We went to the bar and grabbed a bench by a blazing log fire, then spent about an hour chatting with a lovely couple who were friends of the owners.
We had a dinner reservation and had a lovely meal. Mr G had locally made burgers smothered with Welsh cheddar on a brioche bun with home made chips and salad, and I had the biggest Chicken and Gammon pie, which had a creamy sauce over it. Mr G had Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert, he ate it before I could get a pic.
We had a few more drinks in our spot by the fire before retiring to our room. I won't tell you what we did there...
Ok. Truth be told? We watched Match of The Day, had a coffee, took an antacid and fell asleep before midnight #hardcore
In the morning, Mr G asked what the weather was like. 'We're snowed in' I told him. Jokingly. He went to the bathroom, glanced out of the frosted window and came back to our room, opening the blinds quickly.
Not quite 'snowed in' but more snow than we see at home!
We had a lovely breakfast, I even tried black pudding for the first time in about thirty years, took advice from staff as to which way to return home, scraped the snow and ice off the car, before setting off very tentatively down country lanes.
We decided to head for Wrexham to pick up the A55, and give coming back through Llangollen and Betws y Coed a wide berth, just in case it was snowy and icy all the way home!
So all in all, a very enjoyable break away, touched only slightly by the usual lunacy that follows us. We highly recommend The Hand, the owners and staff were all lovely, and so helpful. The food was outstanding. The room is probably the nicest we've stayed in, and the bath was massive! Nice touches were a cafetiere and proper coffee in the rooms (as well as instant) and decent biscuits. Not a custard cream in sight. It was a nice way to take our minds off what's happening tomorrow, I can't believe that another year sees yet another operation, it's getting beyond a joke now. Fingers crossed that this op will do the trick for Mr G and he can get back to his happy, pain free self.