Monthly Archives: August 2013

Self Portrait: ‘Summer End’

“You don’t need to be perfect to inspire others. 
Let people get inspired 
by how you deal with your imperfection.” 
Wilson Kanadi
Self Portrait: ‘Summer End’ by Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved | 
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*Belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved | 

Barmouth Beach Pt. I

Since so many of you enjoyed the post about our evening at the coastal town of Barmouth in Wales, I thought it only fitting that I follow up with a couple more beach themed posts in the town.  We spent sunset at the nearly empty beach on this particular evening and it inspired a follow up beach day later that week.  During this occasion it was quite windy and tiny sand particles stung our face as our hair flew about in the wind.  The tall grasses seemed to dance and the sand was textured by the ribbed pattern the wind created like art.  In our exploration of the beach we found an Easter Island type statue watching out towards the ocean in solitude.  My hawaiian raised boys had fun playing in the sand and running up and down the dunes.  With the setting sun and the picturesque town views behind us, I walked away to the car leaving my regular glasses (I was wearing my prescription sunglasses) and my hair clip in the sand.  Luckily once in the car I realised it was not on my person and we made a mad dash to locate the items.  Needless to say the area had a way of capturing my heart and keeping my attention away from worldly matters and onto the details of simple beauty and the wishes that the ocean holds. 

Q: Do you have a place that can put you perfectly at ease or capture your heart, mind, and/or soul?

* Photography belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved |

Travel: Barmouth, Wales

Yesterday I took you to Corris, Wales to the King Arthur’s Labyrinth.  After our memorable day there we headed into the coastal town of Barmouth for dinner.  Our lovely hosts at the Penycoed Hall Guest House recommended we try The Mermaid for their infamous fish & chips.  My sister Zoë had arrived a few days later than the group and had yet to eat this British delicacy on this trip back…and was craving it!  I have had some delicious fish & chips and some i-regret-ordering-this-meal fish & chips during my time living in the UK.  I can definitely say that our experience at the Mermaid was wonderful, the service was fast, and the food was eaten before we knew it. We were able to snag a two tables for our party inside, but it ended up getting quite the que of people waiting to make their orders. It must be a very popular spot in Barmouth.
Afterwards we walked around the town, found a grocery store to stock up our kitchen back at the B&B, and took a stroll along the beach.  The beach photographs to follow soon as I recap our lovely 10th Anniversary adventure in Wales.  It was a lovely evening and a perfect end to another beautiful day leading up to our Vow Renewal. 
 Q: What are some of your favourite aspects or memories from visiting seaside and coastal towns?
* Photography belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved |

King Arthur’s Labyrinth – Corris, Wales

Our third day in Wales we decided to take everyone to one of the visitor attractions in the area that would interest both the kids and adults a like.  Since there is a lot of Arthur legend found in Wales, we opted to visit the King Arthur’s Labyrinth in Corris.  We arrived with the typical UK weather of not knowing if it would rain or not.  Luckily spending a day at King Arthur’s Labyrinth means there are plenty of places to duck in side if does start to pour. Luckily for us we did not have to deal with the rain during our stay. We started off by going to the cafe for lunch to feed our group.  They have a nice picnic area outside where you can sit and the kids can later play on the playground equipment in an enclosed area.  We then ventured around the nine different craft shops that boasted local goods like the wooden Welsh love spoons, candles, and leather goods.  
When our group was ready we went on the Cave tour which involved donning a hard hat and following our hooded tour guide of very few words. What followed was a dramatized boat ride into the old abandoned slate caverns where we followed on foot underground in the dark and winding labyrinth.  Every so often we would stop to hear more of the legends. The atmosphere down there is quite interesting as it is very cold (so remember to bundle up), quite dark, and many low ceilings where even tall children would have to duck their heads.  When we finished we let the children play at the park again until we were ready to leave for the day.  Overall it was a very nice visitor attraction for families and groups. There was also a tour of the abandoned mines where you can see the remains of the miners that sounded really interesting. Due to the iffy weather it was not available to us but something for a sequential visit for sure. 

Q: What do you think of King Arthur’s Labyrinth? Would you go into the caves?

*Photography belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved | 

B&B: Dolgellau, Wales

The whole idea of going away to celebrate our vow renewal was based on my husband’s idea of renting a cottage. After deciding on the location of Wales for our 10th Wedding Anniversary it was time to find a place to stay.  We contacted our family and friends, added up our final head count of adults and children, and used Holiday Lettings online to search our options.  In the end we decided on Penycoed Hall Guest House located in the town of Dolgellau in the Snowdonia region of Wales.  While researching the Penycoed Hall Guest House had won us over due to its perfect location, the ability to fit the number of guests in our party, and its eye catching grand staircase.  
From a photographer’s standpoint I wanted a bit of elegance and I could immediately imagine walking down those stairs in my wedding gown.  To be honest I was not really all that blown away by the the photographs pictured online of the bedrooms and common area.  However, upon arriving to Penycoed Hall Guest House I realised the photographs on their website were outdated and the rooms went above and beyond my expectations.  The huge common area, where our entire party spent most of our time while inside, had been recently redone.  With a statement colour of hot pink and a wallpaper that was definitely a conversation starter, our decision on the location was confirmed as perfect.  I admit pink is my favourite colour and so every time I entered the room it just put me in a really good mood.  
It was raining in Dolgellau when we arrived and so it was one of those mad dashes from the car into the building.  As soon as we stepped through the door we were greeted by the charming hosts, Nigel and Madge with their two adorable dogs, who won over our entire party through out our stay.   Madge gave us the tour of the rooms and Nigel gave us plenty of information about places to visit and see during the week.  I have not stayed at that many B&Bs, but am certain that any stay after this trip will be judged by our our experience at the family run business, Penycoed Hall Guest House.  I was ready to rebook before we even checked out. 
Technically we were not staying at the Bed & Breakfast portion of Penycoed Hall Guest House, but renting the Victoria and the Penthouse apartments for a week.  This encompassed two floors of the traditional Welsh mansion with four bedrooms, a common room on the top floor, and a kitchen and bathroom located on both floors. This was enough space for all four family groups and so everyone was able to get their meals squared away.  We tended to do our own thing for breakfast and lunch and do dinners together as a group.  

f r o m   o u r   7   d a y   s t a y 
While there are many perks to staying at a bed & breakfast 
I came up with my favourite things about staying at the Penycoed Hall Guest House:
Free Wifi.  I know it may say something about me to list this amenity first but it was a big factor in helping the week go smoothly.  Wifi was available in the downstairs lobby and sometimes we could get a signal from the rooms upstairs in the Penthouse Apartment.  Which was lovely as I could keep up the blog maintenance, we could research our day to day activities, and others could work on projects for work requirements with needed internet access.  The plus side of having it mainly accessible from the lobby was that it was much easier to go ‘unplugged’ to social media sites and really be on vacation.
Kid Friendly.  Between our four family units we had five children with us. Let me clarify. We had five boys between the ages of two and eight with us in our group.  There was enough space to accommodate family needs as well as an amazing garden to help the boys run out all their energy.  The perk of the garden was the large trampoline and the rope swing.  I should also mention that the dogs were really good around the boys, who loved playing with them any chance they could get. 

Space & Comfort. Staying in an apartment like setting at the B&B was perfect for a family on vacation.  Everyone was split up into rooms and each had their own ‘space’.  Perfect for bringing the comforts from home while feeling treated to the vacation stay.  There were places to go inside and out when you needed solitude, a big enough kitchen to bake a wedding cake, and even satellite television.  While I cannot speak for the rest of our party, my husband and I really enjoyed our room.  As with most of the other upstairs rooms, it had an amazing skylight window which really brightened the room up during the day.  Between a five drawer dresser, a wardrobe, and two bed side tables with drawers we had plenty of room to unpack our belongings.  Our bed was very comfortable and the room was an inviting place to escape after a long day.  The entire guest house was able to bring about modern necessities while keeping to the character and charm of the mansion’s original features. 

Location & Atmosphere.  These were the top selling points for my husband when asked about his stay at Penycoed Hall Guest House.  With its location nestled in its own secluded gardens, located above the town of Dolgellau, it felt like we were hidden away.  This perfect location for a holiday was coupled with a very short walk of mere minutes into town.  The nearby grocery store was easy to get to without a car and there were plenty of places to eat and shops in the town.  As far as places to go to during the day for activities there is no shortage of options.  We enjoyed the beach, the Cadair Idris mountain, a ride on a steam train, a King Arthur activity park, abbey ruins, and the town of Portmeirion. 
Price. We ended up having seven adults between the four different families in our party.  We divided the cost between us by the number of heads in each family group and gave the bigger room to the biggest family group.  For a week at the end of July, the two apartment areas came out to be £799.   To give you an example of what that was per person, when broken down per night  my sister was essentially only paying £11.42 ($17.78) a night.  Honestly if we go back to Dolgellau again I would not think twice about staying anywhere else.  
Any Downsides?  No not really.  For my family the place went above and beyond our expectations when we booked the reservation. Our party only ran into one hiccup during our stay which affected about half our group.  The holiday lettings website we booked the rooms from stated there was a washing machine available.  One of the families had been traveling for a week already and had planned on this information to do laundry.  With no clean clothes, we were told of a launderette in town and headed that way with all the laundry in tow.  Unfortunately we found out the launderette was closed due the owners of it having moved.  I have since checked the guest house’s personal website (different from the vacation rental’s listing) and there is no mention of a washer being available there.  It looks to be a case of a slight slip up between the congruity of the guest house’s website and the holiday rental’s website. 

My recommendation? Go to Dolgellau when planning your next trip to Northern Wales.  I believe whether you choose Penycoede Hall Guest House for a conventional bed & breakfast or a self catering holiday, it will not disappoint. For our family and friends it was the perfect location for the week of making memories that will last a lifetime.

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My Vow Renewal Dress

Today is a three day weekend in England as it is a Bank Holiday Monday.  A perk of living the expat life in the UK.  While my husband and I take it easy today (really worked our muscles yesterday on a 5 hour kayaking trip on the canals and rivers in Bath, England) I wanted to surprise you all with a sneak from our Vow Renewal in Wales.  I did end up wearing my original wedding gown for my 10th Wedding Anniversary.  I took out the zipper in the back, sewed in loops, and laced the dress up with ribbon.
 My head piece is something I bought while living in Hawaii for one of my fashion concept photo shoots.  I snagged a whole bunch of props before we left for Wales not sure what we would use or not. I put this on just to play around with the look and everyone really loved it, so it stayed on.  It was nice having a bit of home in Hawaii with us on our Vow Renwal day.  I am pictured here at Portmeirion, Wales by my photographer husband who took a few shots while we were waiting for our party.  It was so rewarding being able to wear the same dress again, ten years later, to say new vows to my husband.  Even more special to do so with our intimate group of family and friends. 

Photographed by Ryan Aherin and Edited by Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved |
Q: Would you wear your gown again?

* Photography belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved |

My Favourite Things to do in Wales

I have been having so much fun recapping our time in Wales and going through all the photographs that were taken from our trip.  It has made me realize all the things, big and small, that I have loved about being in Wales.

People have asked me why we decided on renewing our vows in Wales and if the place held any personal significance for us.  To be honest upon planning our trip, my husband and kids had never been to Wales before.  We had a list of dream locations to renew our vows that included: Italy where I had grown up as girl; on a mountain top in Austria, a place that held a  lot memories with my dad; and in France, where we had friends that lived.  When it came down to finally choosing a place we knew we needed to stay within the UK, but wanted to choose a place we had never been to before.  Ryan had heard about renting cabins in Wales and we had started looking at places last Christmas with my mum.  It looked doable for us as well as providing a fantastic new location to explore.  That is how it all began.

We did not have a schedule written in stone before drove up to Wales. Partly because one of our friends coming was 8 months pregnant and Ryan and I like to be more spontaneous.  We had a list of ideas and went ahead knowing we would just have to return to do the things we did not get ticked off our list.  While I can foresee going to Wales many more times during our time in England, there were so many that became my favourite things to do in Wales.

My Favourite Things 
T O   D O   I N   W A L E S 

Drive Around the Countryside.  When choosing which way to get to Dolgellau from Bath, England we knew it had to be the scenic route with rolling green hills of sheep, quaint little villages to drive through, and passing by a castle or two would not hurt either.  Aside from a few cases of getting car sick, driving through Wales was definitely one of the highlights.

Seeing the Castles.  I love seeing castles in the UK and they are a favourite destination for my family.  We had attempted to renew our vows at a castle nearby. We parked and got ready to go in when we realised the walk from the car to the entrance was not going to be feasible in my gown and for my friend who was expecting.  So while we did not go to a castle this trip, seeing them at least was still a perk!

Being Outside in all Types of Weather.  When we told friends and acquaintances in England that we chose Wales for our 10th Wedding Anniversary we were imminently met with a response about the weather.  Wales is known for having a lot of rain. While we had a heat wave this summer, it ended the week we went to Wales. Go Figure. However it did not stop us from being outside.  We had lovely sunny days, perfectly overcast days for photos, and even enjoyed walks and a train ride in the rain showers.

Reading the Road Signs. Or should I say trying to pronounce the road signs. Or anything that had the Welsh language on it.  Almost every signage found would have the words written in both English and Welsh.  Since we do not speak Welsh, trying to figure out how to say things was really fun.  The town we stayed in, Dolgellau, has a double L sound which is pronounced by putting your tongue as if you are going to say L and then blowing.  Dolgellau being pronounced like dol-gell-eye.  Course I also heard it pronounced like dol-gethl-eye by locals, so I just tried my best to smile in my attempts.

Seeing the Sheep.  To be fair I love doing this in England too. Although what I have noticed about the sheep in England is that they tend to stay together in groups. In Wales they are just all over the place and usually in groups no larger than three or four.  It was a common sight to see a mountain side literally dotted across it in white dots that were sheep grazing.  Some seemed pretty brave on a steep mountain side, along side the road, or on top of mountain peaks.

Going to the Beach.  After our trip we have decided we could easily come up every year just to spend time at the beach. We got to go twice during our week in Wales and it was perfection for my ocean loving family.   We have almost always lived along the coast wherever in the world we lived and always feel so content with being close to the sea. The sand is lovely, the views are picturesque, and my sons never seem to mind that the water is quite the chill factor.

Riding on the Train. On a rainy day we decided it would be a good idea to take a train ride.  I had not realised there would be so many to choose from when we were looking over all the pamphlets we had taken from the local grocery store.  While the one we went on did not have all that in the way of amazing views, it was more of the experience that caught my fancy.  I loved passing the other steam engines, hearing the whistle blow, and reading the signs along the way.  We even enjoyed tea and snacks which was great, until I spilled tea all down my new white dress.  So maybe next time I will aim to dress practically and not in white every day because its my 10th Wedding Anniversary.

The Hiking. I  asked my husband what his favourite thing to do was and he answered with this one, to which I have to agree.  We got to go on a country walk hiking through the forest area near our B&B and went on an all day hike in the mountains of Cadair Idris.  It is something we love to do weekly in England and became something special for us in Wales.  I grew up going on country walks in England and hiking with my dad in Germany, both while we lived there and when we lived in Italy.  He continued to go on regular hikes where he lived in Tucson, Arizona before he died.  So while we were on the mountain hiking with our sons, it was like having my father there with us.  Ryan even mentioned how much my dad would have loved doing this with us. Thats all I could have asked for…a connection with my dad during a special time in our life.

Trying the local Ales. My husband and I love to try the local drinks when we travel or are out and about in England. So in Wales we continued this tradition with ordering the local ales and ciders.  I really enjoyed the Purple Moose Ale and will have to have it again when we are back in Wales. We ended up going out for drinks with my sister for my husband’s ‘stag night’ and enjoyed meeting new people (and their dogs) at the local pub.

Make Friends with the Wild Life. I love animals. They all seemed so friendly in Wales. I made friends with horses, sheep, geese, and even a lone jelly fish while at the beach. Luckily for me the later quickly disappeared and did not want to be super close friends.

Take My Kids to an Attraction. For this trip we opted for a fun day out for both our families at the King Arthur’s Labyrinth, based on the lore of King Arthur and Welsh history. They had a cave we got to explore, a play area, a cafe, and nine separate craft studios.  It was just enough to entertain the adults while keeping the five children all happy for a few hours. If you are interested in going it is located in the town of Corris.

Exploring the Towns and Villages.  If you are a photographer like me than you love to notice the details and photograph your surroundings.  Being able to walk around and explore the towns by foot is just a perfect way to spend some time.  From the public houses to the beautiful and manicured gardens there is a story for you with each footstep you take. We also took to the coastal village destination of Portmeirion for our actual vow renewal ceremony, which gave us a Mediterranean storybook feel in Wales.

Exploring Ruins. Just near the town of Dolgellau, in the village of Llanelltyd, are the ruins of a Cistercian abbey that was founded in 1158.  The Cymer Abbey is just beautiful and it became a perfect backdrop for family photographs for us while we were in Wales.

Enjoy Every Moment. I am a free spirit and I really just enjoy living in the moment and experiencing it with my family and friends.  I knew that no matter what we did in Wales, keeping true to that would make it an amazing week.  It truly was and a place to where we will have to return.

An outtake of my family from our 10th Wedding Anniversary at our B&B.

*Photo composite made by Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved |