North Wales Family Holiday

Day 1 – The drive

Ruthin, where we’re staying was a four hour drive from us. We left at around 10am and headed to McDonald’s Royston for some breakfast. The staff were rude, so we’re glad we got Rishi’s (as Dad likes to call it) Eat Out To Help Out Deal meaning breakfast was only £20 for the 5 of us. We then filled up with diesel and set off. The hours ticked by and motorway slowly turned into A roads which slowly turned into country lanes as we entered Wales.

We arrived in Ruthin and struggled with the one-way system for a little on the roads. We eventually pulled into Ruthin Castle Hotel & Spa and thought that it looked far too posh for us. Alas, it was. We headed back out and to The Castle Hotel, Wetherspoons. We checked in and went to our rooms, which were lovely and big. Chelsea was happy because our room came with a sort-of bay window. She’s yet to use it.

We all reconvened for dinner outside. Me and Chelsea shared 3 pizzas. I had 2 coronas as they’re 2 for £5 and Chelsea had a cider. Mum had 3 deli deals and a cider, Josh had some chicken nuggets, with a coke and shared Mum’s nachos. Dad had a deluxe burger and coke.

A wasp decided to join us but I trapped him in a glass. Chelsea was both happy and sad as she didn’t want the wasp to suffocate.

We then all went for a walk around the town. We dropped Dad off back at the hotel and continued with a man down. We found a park and stream and went on a zip wire.

We then parted ways and went to our own rooms. Chelsea was full of beans and wanted some pudding so I took her down to the restaurant to get a brownie ice cream. I was a bit hungry too but not in the mood for something sweet so I got a bowl of chicken strips. We got caught by Dad who was outside having a fag. We got the keys off him and got the waters and crisps from the car to take back to our room so that we had something to drink in the night and something for midnight snacks.

Day 2 – Caernarfon Castle

We woke up at 8 and met downstairs for breakfast at half past. Dad had told Mum and Josh about mine and Chelsea’s late night escapade and they were very jealous. Dad had read a book on the history of Ruthin and Mum and Josh went to sleep. I had a breakfast wrap but the bacon tasted a bit weird which put me off the whole thing. I also had an orange juice. Josh and Chelsea had an apple juice but for some reason it came with lime in it. Josh had a bacon sandwich and Chelsea had a Freedom Breakfast and Mum had a traditional breakfast.

It was an hours drive to Caernarfon Castle and we got to go along the A55, the main road in North Wales which goes along the coast for some of it and through some tunnels to get through mountains. It is a gorgeous road. We even got to see multiple rainbows and even drove directly through one. We came from the Conwy side and so had to go all the way passed Caernarfon and then back again in order to get to the castle.

We passed the Welsh Highland Railway as we parked up at the castle. The car park was a bit expensive at £5.50 but we got the tickets for the castle free on Tesco Clubcard so that made up for it.

We arrived dead on 11 and made our way to the entrance. The man thought we were a party of 7 because we had booked for one family and two adults, he kept asking if we were sure there were only 5 of us. We walked around the castle grounds and up and down about 10,000 steps to get to the top of the castle towers. There were some amazing views. I liked the slate rooftops. We could see the sea from the castle and we took lots of photos. There was some building work going on so we couldn’t see all of the castle, but we did do a lot of walking so I don’t think we could have even managed. The weather got progressively worse as we wandered around the castle, and made some of the steps quite treacherous. Chelsea and Dad both bought a dragon and Josh got a TY dragon as when in Wales.

By the time we got back to the car, the heavens had opened and it was raining extremely heavily. As an added bonus the car windscreen was steaming up. We carefully drove to Burger King for lunch. We were planning on skipping lunch as we had a big breakfast, but I got hungry. It was a really small service station and there was a massive queue. We also had to share chairs when we finally did get our food. So lucky it was cheap with Rishi’s deal.

After our quick pit stop, we drove to Conwy, as we’d booked that castle for 3:00 pm. I took us the scenic route and we drove along the A55 right on the edge of the cliff, and then on a bridge leading into the castle. We paid only £2 for parking this time and made our way to the castle, only to be informed by passers-by that it had shut due to the high winds. Gutted! We drove home soaked.

We played Exploding Kittens over dinner and saw some more rainbows.

Day 3 – Talyllyn Railway, Tywyn beach, Dolgoch Falls

As usual, we went down for breakfast, this time a bit later as me and Mum had booked the train at the Talyllyn Railway for 2:05 pm. For breakfast me and Chelsea had sausage sandwiches, Dad had a large breakfast, mum a traditional and Josh a bacon sandwich.

We left just before 11 and made our way south towards Tywyn where we would get on the train. We were lucky enough to drive through the Mach Loop, but unfortunately, nothing was flying. I’m glad we didn’t make a day of it waiting around in the cold on top of a mountain. We also drove past Bala lake which was very picturesque. The roads were very narrow and we learnt that Araf meant Slow, so we kept shouting it at Dad.

We arrived half an hour early and the car park was free which was great. We had a look in the shop first and I bought a magnet and Chelsea bought a keyring. We then got on our carriage and began our journey through the beautiful Welsh countryside. We had pre-ordered a hamper which contained cheese sandwiches, a sausage roll, a quiche, a bottle of water, a salad, and welsh crisps. We shared all the snacks on the way. We passed Dolgoch Falls and decided to go back there in the car. We stopped at a station with a cafe and had some cake.

When we arrived back at the beginning we watched the engines go into their engine shed.

We then drove to Tywyn beach and we climbed on some rocks and Chelsea collected some pebbles to create a fairy house. It was really flat so the waves were really big and long.

Dolgoch falls was on our way back to Ruthin which was nice. We stopped and thought we’d only be there for a few minutes, but we were actualyl there for 2 hours! Me and Chelsea both took loads of photos, and I brought my tripod so I could do some long-exposure ones. There were some skimpy models in the waterfall on a professional photoshoot. We had great fun walking up through the forest and then above the falls. Josh, Dad, and Chelsea both put their feet in and had an explore in the stream, they all got freezing feet.

By the time we got back to Ruthin it was 9 o’clock. We changed out of our wet clothes and met downstairs for dinner. I had a burger and corona. Chelsea, Josh, and Dad all had Chicken Tikka Misala and mum had a 3 plate deli deal consisting of loaded chips, nachos, and king prawns. For some reason, they’d sold out of pizza! We’d started playing a card game as dinner arrived, so that was a bit embarrassing. We were all shattered so ate our dinner quickly and then retired for the night.

Day 4 – Colwyn Bay, Great Orme Mines

We met downstairs for breakfast at 10. I decided to have a wrap again, Josh and Dad had bacon sandwiches, Chelsea had the traditional breakfast and mum had beans on toast. Mum had to send her beans on toast back because they were cold.

I directed Dad to a Morrisons’ petrol station and then we got underway to Colwyn Bay. We parked up and Chelsea collected some shells on the beach. We met back up and continued on to Rhos-on-sea where we found a few antique shops. Mum even found a Cornishware bowl which put her in a good mood for the rest of the day. We then drove to Old Colwyn in search of a model and record shop. The record shop didn’t exist and neither did a lot of the charity shops Google was showing us. The model shop did but was closed for lunch so we drove to the mine instead.

The Great Orme Mine is situated at the top of a mountain just passed Llandudno. We had to drive up a very steep road, which was single-track by the way, to get there. An exhilarating experience to say the least. First, we watched a video on the mine and learnt that it was used in the 19th and 20th century’s and was originally going to be turned into a car park in 1987, but surveyors found evidence of a bronze-age civilization. It turns out that all previous knowledge of the bronze-age in Britain was wrong, there were people that mined and had access to copper nearly 4,000 years ago, not when the Romans came in 43AD as originally thought. We went on a self-guided tour around the mine. We could only explore 2 levels, but that was enough. It was very tight and there were a lot of very deep holes. The tunnels were so small because children used to work in there, and the average height of people 4,000 years ago was a lot less than it is today.

Dad then drove us up to the top of the mountain so Josh could have a frolic. Me and Chelsea took some pictures of the nice view. We then drove back down the mountain but Dad went a different way which went right along the edge of the cliff, much to Mum’s delight. We drove back to the model shop, which was small and sweet.

When we returned back to Ruthin we got a Co-Op meal deal and ate it in our rooms before having an afternoon sleep. We met back downstairs and finally got our hands on a Wetherspoons Warm Cookie Dough and Icecream.

Day 5 – Driving Home

We all got a cuddle with the pub cat before we left, which was nice.

Being in the North of Wales we were relatively close to Liverpool (about 50 minutes) so I wanted to go to Hattons, one of the biggest train stores in the country. Google assured me they were open and we drove all the way there to find they were shut because of the damn virus. We then had another 5 hours in the car to get home. Google let us down a fair bit on this holiday.

Overall, we had a much needed break. The weather was nice, for the most part, and when it rained it was atmospheric. We got to do a lot of activities and can all tick Wales off our travel list now.

Amsterdam

Firstly, let me apologize for how late this post is going out. I wrote it whilst I was there (November 2019) but have only just got round to proof-reading it (April 2020).

Thursday

I left at 8:30 am and got to St Pancras for 9:30 am and met Benj. Adam is a Type 1 diabetic and had hypo when he came off his train at Euston, so we walked over to meet him in the First Class Lounge. We had Orange Juice, Tea, Coffee, and Cakes.

We then went to get on the Eurostar and had to rush a little as the lady said the gates had closed. It was much like an airport and we had to put our bags through an x-ray machine and go through a metal detector. We then went up a travellator to the platform and had to run to the front of the train where our seats were. We made it with 15 minutes to spare so we shouldn’t have even rushed.

We shoved our luggage in the overflowing racks and sat at a table. There was a man there but as soon as we started talking he left. There were chargers in the seats and a table that folded out.

We sat in First Class and got a free lunch which consisted of vegetarian quiche or some chicken, and a drink, I had wine, the others had a coke, a salad, and dessert, a chocolate mousse type thing. We were then allowed refills of tea and coffee along with another small bottle of wine or soft drink. We also got a snack box that had BBQ sweetcorn in it and some other treats. Suffice to say I enjoyed travelling in First Class.

We had a small delay in the Netherlands as someone jumped in front of our train. Luckily, they missed and survived. We arrived at Centraal station about an hour later. From there we purchased a single to Haarlem and a 3-day travel card. We got the train to Haarlem station and then a bus to Velserbroek, where our Airbnb was.

The house is in a lovely residential area. There’s a river right at the back of the house with a decking that you can sit on and admire the view. There’s a large living room with Bose speakers which are really good for when we want to chill out listening to music. There’s also a wood stove but we haven’t been brave enough to get that working yet. There are 3 floors, 3 bathrooms, and 5 bedrooms. I’ve got the bedroom on the top floor.

We all got to know each other and chatted until about 12 before heading to bed.

Friday

We set our alarms for 9:30 am but I slept in till 10:30 am because I didn’t think anyone would get up that early, I was wrong. We got the bus and train into central Amsterdam and found a McDonalds for lunch. I ordered loads but surprisingly ate it all. I had a white chocolate and strawberry milkshake, chicken burger meal, and crispy shrimp. You had to pay for the toilet which is just ridiculous, especially for a McDonalds, but we found this to be the norm throughout the city. Lots of places only accepted card too, not great for traditional tourists without access to a card with 0 fees abroad.

Being full from lunch, we walked it off by going to a nearby shopping centre. There wasn’t really anything interesting in there. We then walked to the Anne Frank house and found out that you had to book tickets at least a week in advance. It was also modernised. Schindler’s factory had the same set-up in Krakow.

After that disaster, we bought some tickets for a boat trip. We wanted to go in the evening, so we sat in a café and watched the sun go down. After that we walked to the boat and boarded, it was pretty full up, but we found the last remaining seats. I was feeling very tired, combined with the warmth and slow rocking of the boat, I drifted off a little. The people at the back of the boat were very drunk and tried flirting with the driver which was funny. We saw a few cool buildings, crashed into another boat, and made a full circle.

We then went home and ordered €100 worth of dominos. it made us appreciate the deals they always run back home. I ordered quite a bit so that it would last for a few days; food was hard to come by.

Saturday

It was raining really heavily when we woke up. So bad, that we dare not go out. We watched the Disney Channel instead and were astounded by the far-fetched storylines of many of the shows. At about 12 the rain started to disperse, and we got ready and walked to the bus stop. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a bus but luckily, we were under shelter.

We got off in central Haarlem and found a market to wander around. They had a comic and record stall which I enjoyed. We found some cafes and looked at the menu but decided to not go for the first place we tried. The high street was lovely with lots of different shops that we don’t get back home. It was really full of life too, but not so much so like Amsterdam where it was uncomfortable to walk. There were, however, cycle lanes in the middle of the path which meant you were constantly checking over your shoulder to see whether you were going to get run over or not.

My friends got some chocolate whilst I browsed a record store. The card machine in the chocolate shop didn’t accept UK cards so I had to pay for theirs in cash, using up the last of my reserves. We went in a few more shops and tried to look for somewhere to eat but came up empty-handed; we headed back to the cafes we’d found at the beginning of the day.

It was a really nice café and reminded me of being with Grandma and Grandad. It was nice to have a sit-down meal and a proper menu. I had a tuna melt panini and a diet coke, finally! The others had panini’s too, apart from Benj who had the mixed grill, and Liam who had chicken wings.

After we finished lunch we went to another high street and market. I found a toy/cycle/comic/café and got some comics for Josh. The man was really friendly; we must have spent a good 15 minutes talking. We also looked in a few clothes shops, and Hema, the department store.

Shops had started to close, and it had got dark, so we got the bus back. We went to our local supermarket. I got some presents to take back home and we got dinner; chicken and rice, and breakfast; eggs, bacon, and sausages. They had the same card machine as the chocolate shop and we tried every type of card, (MasterCard/Visa, Credit/Debit) in there and none of them worked so we had to leave someone with the shopping and walk around the corner to the cashpoint, which didn’t even do free withdrawals.

After that palaver, we got home and cooked dinner. We watched Bridesmaids and then played never have I ever before bed.

Sunday

On Sunday we all woke up at normal time and Benj very kindly cooked us breakfast: sausages, eggs, toast, and bacon. That meant we didn’t end up leaving the house until about 2.

Once we got to Amsterdam, Me, Hannah, Liam, and Matt went to Lost in Amsterdam. It was a nice atmosphere but they only accepted cash and everyone in there had to have at least one drink, which wasn’t cheap: a cocktail was €15!! So I had to do another run to a cashpoint, which then charges you, very frustrating. Meanwhile, Benj and Adam went off to do some souvenir shopping. Whilst we were chilling in Lost in Amsterdam Liam broke the news that he proposed to Hannah and she said yes!

We wandered around town for the rest of the afternoon before heading home where we played poker. It was like a better game of Monopoly so I was in my element and I won!

Monday

Me, Benj, and Adam rose early and did the last bit of packing before getting the bus and train into Amsterdam.

We then got yet another train which took us to Brussels. We were met off the train by hundreds of beggars and homeless people, very apt for the capital of the EU. We looked around for somewhere to eat but all of the shops were derelict, building works were everywhere and there were a few big shopping centres that were just left unfinished. We also walked down a street with various cafes on and every single shop owner was begging us to come in, however, they served mostly fish dishes, not what we really wanted and the act of begging put us off.

We eventually found a pizza hut and had a buffet. It was slightly different from the one in the UK in that you could only refill your salad plate once. The service was about the same; terrible.

After that terrible experience, we headed off to Lille, however, we got on the wrong train, a TGV, and had to shell out €90 just for the privilege of being on the train, even though it still went to Lille, which was actually lovely. There was a big shopping centre and me and Benj had great fun going around all the shops whilst Adam had a rest at Burger King.

We got the Eurostar and arrived in London safely.

I did take my camera on holiday but didn’t really feel like taking photos, I preferred to just live in the moment and enjoy it, a first for me. We had a lovely house which really made the experience a lot better, even if it was an hour away from town. It was also lovely to be on holiday with friends, another first.

Cornwall Day 1

I met up with my family around lunchtime and took them to Burger King in the pouring rain. We then went to Primark to get Mum some new jeans ready for the holiday. Dad then wanted taking to a new record shop that I had found called Boo Hoo Records. I dragged them to Forbidden Planet to get a Star Trek Christmas Jumper that had just been released but it had suddenly dropped off the website and they didn’t have any in-store: I was gutted.

We got on the road at about 4:30 pm after letting the Caravan Park know our ETA. The rain ceased as we passed city limits and we had a good run to Exeter where we stopped and had Frankie and Benny’s for dinner. I used my student discount too which helped bring the price down.

The views were stunning as we got into Cornwall and the light eventually faded leaving us to navigate the treacherous roads in the blackness of night.

We arrived at the caravan park around 10 pm and me and mum went to the bar to collect the keys. There was a live act on playing some horrendous 80s music which seemed appropriate for the clientele of the Caravan Park.

Mum handed me the information pack to retrieve the key to open the caravan and I couldn’t find it. We had a bit of a panic but turns out mum had dropped it in the car! The caravan was freezing and I slept in my jacket that night.

QNINE 4 Ports PCI SATA Raid Controller Internal Expansion Card Install Process Flashing BIOS of Silicon Image Sil 3114 SoftRaid 5 Controller Chip with Asus M5A78L-M PLUS/USB3 Motherboard

I bought this card from Amazon as I had run out of storage space on my Desktop. I had to remove my soundcard but the motherboard onboard audio worked just fine.

Installing the card was relatively simple physically. The trouble came when I tried to get it to recognize the hard drives. I have an Asus M5A78L-M PLUS/USB3 Motherboard. When I installed the QNINE card the BIOS couldn’t recognize any of the hard drives attached via the motherboard. I wondered whether there wasn’t enough power or whether the card was just defective. 2 hours later after pulling hard drives out and plugging them back in again me and my dad managed to boot the computer and we flashed the BIOS of the Silicon Image Sil 3114 SoftRaid 5 Controller Chip to the latest version, 5.5.00, on the QNINE Card.

To flash the BIOS you can go to Device Manager and find the chip name under Storage Controllers. You will have to leave the card plugged into the computer with no drives attached in order to boot to windows.

The BIOS can be found here: https://www.latticesemi.com/Support/ASSPSoftwareArchive

After the hassle of installing the card, it worked perfectly and I can’t fault it.

Adding this card to my system allowed me to add four 2.5″ hard drives 3 of which were 1 TB in capacity and one 2TB drive. I now have a 7TB backup drive, a 5TB drive to store my photos, videos, downloads, and anything else, and I have my two 240GB SSDs with Windows installed. These are set up in a RAID 0 with the motherboard RAID controller. This was intended to make my system drive slightly faster which I think the read and write speeds are but the response time sometimes runs in the thousands of milliseconds.

The card only supports SATA I which has a 1.5GB/s data rate and my motherboard only supports SATA II with double the data rate but is nowhere near the speeds of SATA III or NVMe drives. Hopefully, I’ll upgrade the PC in the future to take advantage of these new technologies.

My backup and media drives don’t use the RAID controller but rather Windows inbuilt option of Windows Storage Spaces. Again, not the fastest but allows me to have large-sized drives for storing my data. These are set up in the equivalent of RAID 0 so that means there is no redundancy, hence the large backup drive.

Great Yarmouth

Chelsea planned a trip for me and her to go to Great Yarmouth as I’d told her I liked travelling. It would also be a good opportunity for me to practise driving before going back to University in September. Before I knew it the hotel was booked, and then we were on our way.

Day 1 – Travelling

I left Royston around 12 and picked Chelsea up at 12:30. There was quite bad traffic at Duxford and on the M11, but I made good time. It was the first time I’d driven alone.

Our Pancake and Waffle Shack Lunch

Once I picked Chelsea up we got on the road. There was a bit of congestion on the A11, so Google Maps took us on a diversion. We stopped at Thetford for the Pancake and Waffle Shack at lunch. I had some fries and onion rings and Chelsea had Oreo and Chocolate Pancakes.

We finally got to Great Yarmouth at 4 pm where we checked in at the Hotel. The room was quite small, I don’t think we could have managed a whole week there but it was nice enough. We were on the top floor overlooking the car park, not the best view.

After we unpacked we got dressed up to the nines to have a posh dinner. We Googled some places and found that the Hotel was quite far away from the main town so we drove. That was a mistake.

There was hardly anywhere to park, even at 7 o’clock at night, but we finally found a parking space down some sidestreet. We then couldn’t find anywhere nice to eat on the front and we were so hungry by this point we ended up at a fish and chips.

Chelsea had worn heels but took them off once we got to the fish and chip shop because she had already got blisters. She spent the rest of the evening barefoot. To make matters worse, Chelsea then got a bone stuck in her throat!

We went to Tesco to get some drinks for back at the hotel and we were so out of it a lady helped us out by showing us that two small packs of Fanta were cheaper than one large one. Then, we started driving home but forgot to put the directions to the Hotel in the sat nav so we had to pull over.

We went to bed as soon as we got in before something else happened.

Day 2 – Exploring Great Yarmouth

We rose at 8 and got ready before going down to have breakfast. They had a set menu with waitresses coming to take the order and a breakfast bar with toast and cereal and a range of juice. We both got some funny looks being in a hotel in Great Yarmouth and being teenagers. We both ordered a Full English and Chelsea had my beans and mushrooms and I had her bacon, so that was perfect.

From our venture the night before we decided it was a bit far to walk into town, so we drove and this time found somewhere to park a bit further up. It was £7 to park all day which was a bit steep, but we really didn’t fancy driving around for hours trying to find somewhere cheaper.

Full English Breakfast at the hotel