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Thursday, October 19, 2017

South West Wales Valley Tour

Dear Family and Friends,

We took a day tour outside of Cardiff.  We went with a small tour group operated by  We used them for three days of touring.  The first tour we took was the South West Wales Valley Tour. I highly recommend them if you are in Cardiff.  

If we have ever seen a castle that looks like Rapunzel's castle, this is it. This is Castell Coch.  It was originally built in the 13th century by a Norman Baron. It was later destroyed by a Welch man in the 15th century.  It was rebuilt by a Scots man in the 19th century.   

We only saw the castle from the outside, but it was quite impressive.  

We then went to Caerphilly town to visit Wales' largest fortress, Caerphilly Castle.

Here is Chuck on the bridge over the moat in front of the castle.

Inside the castle gate was a sculpture of a red dragon coming out of the ground.  The dragon is the symbol of Wales.

It is now a museum, empty but beautiful.

This is the castle fortress from across the moat.

The Queen came to the castle in 1977 and unveiled this plaque marking her Silver Jubilee.

Geese enjoying the moat surrounding the fortress.

We then headed into highlands.  We stopped because our driver, a lover of animals, has befriended this sheep.  He has named her Gladys.  When we pulled up to the view point (which was fogged in by the way) out of a hundred sheep grazing, she came running toward him.

He fed her apples and carrots.  Why she is the only sheep that is comfortable around him and us strangers I do not know.  It was so much fun to watch her interact with him.

Here is Gladys.

We went to the Brecon Beacons National Park on the eastern region by the Black Mountains.  Even though the day was overcast and threatening rain, the scenery was fantastic.

This is an ancient stone erected before Stonehenge.

More incredible views.

Wales is a beautiful country.

More tours to share in future posts.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cardiff, Wales

Dear Family and Friends,

Getting off the cruise ship was very easy. Since we only had carry-on luggage, we did not have to wait until we were called to get off the ship.  Another thing, we did not have to put our luggage outside our stateroom the night before and when we got off the ship we did not have to search for luggage in the luggage hall.

We took a taxi from the pier to the bus terminal in Southampton.  We had about a three hour trip from there to Cardiff, Wales.  It was very nice just enjoying the countryside on the way.  

We arrived in Cardiff, checked in to our hotel room and headed out for an early afternoon lunch and some exploring.

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales.  Below are some nicely preserved Victorian houses that were very close to where we were staying. 

Cardiff has blocked off many streets to cars making exploring the shopping district very pleasant.  

Here is a little market we visited.

I checked.  Nope they are not Ecuadorian bananas.  Even though the sign says "Best Bananas," we knew that couldn't be true.

The next day, Sunday, we toured the Cardiff Castle.  This castle is located in the middle of the city.  The first thing you notice before entering the castle walls is the beautiful clock tower.

Inside the walls, on the left, is the palace.

And in the center is the Norman castle, built on top of Roman ruins, it is called the castle keep.  A castle keep is a building of refuge. It was surrounded by a moat and it was a place where the nobles could go as a last resort if they were invaded.

We toured inside the palace and photography was permitted.  This fortress complex is owned by Wales and is a museum now.  No one lives here.

Quite an impressive ceiling.

I am always amazed that people could stand the weight of armor and still have enough stamina to do battle.  

This room was totally awesome. It is called the Arab Room.  

The ceiling of the Arab Room was so beautiful.

Large hall.

We had a fantastic, self guided (using an audioguide) tour.  

As we left, we exited out the gate and presto, we were back to current time in the middle of a modern city.  

For the next three days, we took tours outside of Cardiff.  What a beautiful country Wales is.  I will share about these tours in future posts.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Isle of Guernsey

Dear Family and Friends,

Our final stop on our cruise was in St Peter Port, Guernsey.  Guernsey is part of the Channel Islands, located just north of Normandy, France.  The Channel Islands are a part of Britain.

It was a heavily overcast, rainy day when we were there.  According to our experience this type of weather is common at this time of year all over the U.K.
On the bright side, it was never HOT.

There were tons of boats at the dock.  It looked like everyone in the town owned one. 

The city of St Peters Port is not large.  We walked around the city center in about an hour. 

Here is a statue of Prince Albert. 

We went into the local library where we saw this very creative bench.  It looks like an open soft bound book.

We decided to take a local bus and get off if the stop looked interesting.  We rode awhile and I saw a thrift store.  That hooked me, we hopped off the bus and started exploring.  It turned out to be an area having several thrift stores.

In the U.K. these stores are called Charity Shops.  It helps to know the local lingo. When we were in New Zealand, they were called Op Shops.

I love exploring these stores when we are in other countries because it gives me a look inside the lives of the locals.

I remember when I was small that some little boys in the U.S. had these toy soldiers.  I haven't seen them in 50 or 60 years in the U.S.  I saw bins of these soldiers in more than one charity shop.

World Wars I & II were tragic for Britain.  Seeing these toys just now being tossed away tells me that the British children were playing "army," a generation or two after the U.S. children.

Do you remember these?

While looking around in the charity shops, we asked if they could recommend a near by place for lunch.  They recommended a restaurant in the next block.

It was a terrific place for lunch.  It was a "Mom and Pop" restaurant with good local food.

Here is a picture inside.

Chuck waiting patiently for his lunch.

Here is Chuck's lunch of roast lamb.

My lunch of a meat pie.

After lunch, we looked around the area a bit then went to the bus stop to get back to the port.

We had a nice relaxing day.

We boarded the ship for the last time.

After the ship returned to Southampton, we took a bus to Cardiff, Wales.

I will share about our adventures in Wales in future posts.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Edinburgh - Friends and Sightseeing

Dear Family and Friends,

The most exciting thing on our Edinburgh stop was meeting up with our friends. Many of you Cuenca folks know Karen and Larry Schunk.  They moved back to Iowa from Cuenca a couple of years ago.  We have kept in touch with them through Facebook. When we learned they were going to be in Scotland at the same time we were, we figured out a way to meet up.

The Schunks were on their last day in Scotland before returning back to the U.S., but they made time to meet us for lunch just outside the Edinburgh castle.

I am happy to report they are doing fantastic. Believe it or not, they travel more than we do and they are still doing it all on their own (no tours or cruises). We love following the pictures they post to Facebook of their travels.

We spent lunch catching up with each other over the past two years and before we departed we made tentative plans to have a reunion two years from now somewhere in the world, maybe New Zealand.

Thank you Karen and Larry, being with you made our day.

After lunch, Chuck and I made out way to Edinburgh castle.  On the way we were amused at how clever street artists are to make money from the tourists.

This is the main gate that leads into the castle.

Edinburgh castle is an historic fortress and dominates the skyline of the city.

Here is a picture that I made when we were in Edinburgh a couple of months ago. It is not a good picture because it was made through the glass window of a tour bus, but you can get an idea of the size.

We did not have time to tour it last time, so we made sure we did it on this trip.

The complex was huge and the day was beautiful.  We enjoyed our self guided tour very much but unfortunately, I did not get many pictures.

An example of the historic homes of Edinburgh, just outside the castle.

There is a very touristic road that runs from the hilltop castle down to the Holyrood Palace that is called the Royal Mile.  Here are some tourists enjoying that street.

We connected up with our tour bus and went back to the ship.

Between the Royal Yacht, lunch with Karen and Larry, and the Edinburgh Castle it was a wonderful day.

Our next stop was the Isle of Guernsey, I will share about our visit there on the next post.