For years and years I haven't liked Wales. Isn't that ridiculous? I think I had very bad memories of a three storey cottage in Dolgellau and the enormous spiders who lived in the loo. There was a small spade in there to kill them with. Also I had the idea that the cottage was haunted and if I wanted to go to the loo in the middle of the night I would wake up my poor husband and make him come downstairs with me.
After that I do remember how beautiful Conway Castle is, one of my favourites and then I have visited friends in the same area but still I persisted. I think it's because one of my best friends went to live in Wales and I was so miffed she had moved that I took up against it.
So when my daughter decided she wanted to go to North Wales for a week and wanted me to come with her all I could think was that I didn't want to go.
For a start it's a helluva long way from Durham and there are all those signs that I don't understand.
So three hours on the train, Saturday, packed, everybody coughing, squashed in before I got to Knutsford so I was already in a bad mood. My daughter and her ever eager labrador picked me up at the station and we set off.
That's when it started to get better. We had lunch at KFC on the way and on the way to Wales from Cheshire is so blindingly beautiful that I was really happy and after that the happiness became a sort of tidal wave falling all over me all week.
I hadn't been to Porthmadog before, couldn't spell it or pronounce it. My daughter had found a cottage in a tiny village on the sea a mile outside the town.
It was a bit like Staithes, you came down this bloody great bank and there it was, perfect and stunningly beautiful. Borth y Gest.
We had had a slight argument about the whole cottage thing. I don't do scrubby. I don't do cheap. You get too old for these things. She said the good places were too expensive but I held out and boy, was I glad. Right on the front, just across the road from the sea was this great big house. We had floors one and two. The rooms were huge and the sitting room took in the whole bay. The kitchen had everything, we had a bathroom with a shower I wanted to bring back home, I had a king sized bed next to the bathroom, Katy had a gorgeous room upstairs. Even the dog had her own room which meant that she slept all night.
Oh boy, that dog found paradise on the beach and we also found Black Rock Sands, fifteen minutes on a coastal path. Long, wide and nobody on it. She swam for the first time.
Borth y Gest has a wonderful cafe called the Sea View Restaurant. First of all we had lunch there, then after a trip to Black Rock Sands, we had breakfast. Later in the week we had take away afternoon tea and twice that week we had dinner. The wine was incredible, the scones too and Izzie was happy sitting outside on the decking, barking at anybody who came near her restaurant.
Porthmadog has a fantastic bookshop called, The Browser's Bookshop. We had a lovely time in there and I bought several history books about the area and could bore for England - well, or Wales now, as I am here. There is the Big Rock cafe where the pastries and the bread make you weep with pleasure. The department store lets labradors inside and it has very good chocolate and the guy on the market sold us gorgeous dresses which we wore to the Sea View restaurant. I haven't bought a red dress in fifteen years.
And I must mention The Australia, where Eddie, the Scottish barman, reigns. They sell local Purple Moose beer and we bought beer from the Purple Moose shop. The story goes that it is called the Australia because a locally built ship went there and the crew didn't come back ( possibly from an Aussie night out ) and Australians crewed it back and went to the pub. Isn't that lovely?
The beer was fantastic and Izzie had her own lunch.
Borth y Gest has become ours. The people there were just great. Everybody we met was kind and friendly and so many big blokes kept coming over and cuddling Izzie.
On our last day we went to Harlech. They began letting dogs into the castle at the beginning of the year. So I sang Men of Harlech and Katy and Izzie peered down at the village below the castle. Perfect.
I have promised that we will go back. Sometimes you need new places to go to so that they become yours and this is definitely ours now.