Friday, April 20, 2018

Stories from Wales, Ireland, and Santa Fe

This post has some stories from travels in Wales, Ireland, and Santa Fe, along with photos from the areas. 

Don’t Let Me Get Like This
Aberystwyth, Wales

Caerphilly Castle, South Wales

With its lovely bay, fascinating Telford Bridge, and impressive castle and city walls, Conwy was a great introduction to Wales.  We wandered the castle and city wall, strolled the shopping district, then popped into the Tourist Information Centre to try to wheedle a lunch recommendation out of the attendant.  They are supposed to remain neutral and not give specific recommendations, but it’s not too difficult to get ideas out of most of them.  In this case, we heard on the sly that Anna’s Victorian Tearoom above a mountain equipment store was a pleasant place for a bowl of soup and a sandwich. 
Pwllheli Village, Wales

Typical Welsh pub--Just try to pronounce the name.

We’d seen the mountain shop a couple of blocks back, so thought we’d go for lunch.  We thanked the little clerk and said we’d never tell--oops, that’s one promise broken.
In Anna’s Victorian Tearoom we got a window table which overlooked the busy shopping street.  We had just ordered our soup and sandwich when a large tour group of very senior citizens was herded in and occupied the other side of the room.  Their tour guide brought everyone in and told them, “This is what we’re eating and the toilets are in the back.  Be sure to go!”  
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas' writing room in Laugharne, Wales.

St David's City, Wales. Our timeshare apt. was half way down on the right, across from the light blue building on the left.

The waitress put a large platter of sandwiches on each of the tables for the group.  We watched a man at one table start grabbing sandwiches in both hands and stuffing them into his mouth without passing the plate to the rest of his table. The guide finally saw this and quickly took the sandwich plate from the gentleman and passed it to others.  We decided that on this tour you had to fight for your sandwiches: survival of the fastest.  
I’m certainly glad we can still travel on our own.   
Harlech Castle, North Wales. The photo was taken from the golf course below the castle, Royal St David's GC.

It’s Blarney
Blarney Castle, Ireland

One of the premier attractions in Ireland is also one of the worst in our opinion.  Blarney Castle is the quintessential Irish tourist attraction.  Everybody knows about the castle, built in 1446, and the famous Blarney Stone at the top which supposedly imparts the “gift of gab” to those who kiss it.  The fame of Blarney goes back to a story about its Lord, Dermott Laidhir McCarthy.  When the Lord of Blarney was quizzed by Queen Elizabeth I’s emissary, the Lord waxed loquacious without ever answering directly (sounds like today’s politicians). The Queen is reported to have said, “This is just more Blarney!”  What tourists don’t realize until they get there is that the stone is up seven flights of uneven castle stairs, and that to kiss the stone you must lie on your back with an attendant holding your legs as you hang over a seven story drop so you can kiss the bottom of the stone.  The tourist information also doesn’t tell you what an Irish friend of ours who grew up in the area told us--at night young Irish lads sneak up to the top of the castle and urinate on the stone.  I wonder who’s full of blarney?  
Cliffs of Moher

Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara (near Galway), which puts on an entertaining Medieval banquet in the evenings. it's a tourist program we'd recommend.

When we visited Blarney Castle we discovered that the grounds surrounding the castle are lovely and interesting, containing a Druidic rock garden, a sacrificial stone, a wishing staircase, a rock with a witch’s face, and two dolmens (burial chambers). The grounds are well worth the time to visit.  The castle is not.  The castle is an empty shell with graffiti on the walls as you climb to the top.  Be warned as well that the way down is by way of the servants’ staircase--narrow and winding.  The day we were there a large lady got stuck on the servants’ stairs (not literally stuck between the walls, but so frightened by the steep stairs that she couldn’t move down)to the point that they had to bring everyone following her back up and take her down the up staircase (sounds like a movie in there somewhere) after clearing it of people trying to go up.  
I must say the views from the top are fine, but not so fine that I’d ever climb it again.

Irish Time

Time is different in Ireland.  I don’t mean that the Irish are in a special time zone, although it may seem that way.  I don’t refer to time seeming to go more quickly or more slowly when you vacation in Ireland.  I mean that the Irish people have their own sense of time.
Corcomroe Abbey, near Galway

One of the elves at the Waterford Crystal factory...Ireland was playing in the World Cup.

A well-known Irish saying is, “When God made time, he made lots of it.”  The Irish live by this saying.  Except for the high powered business district of Dublin, they don’t hurry.  It’s not the slow down you see in the southern states of the US where everything moves at a snail’s pace because of the heat and the humidity.  The Irish pace is just unhurried.
Kilmacduagh Monastery near Gort

Gallarus Oratory, a small stone chapel which used no mortar and has been dry inside for 1100 years. 

We’ve seen examples of the Irish pace in the grocery stores.  As a customer comes through the check out line, the clerk and customer have a conversation.  It makes no matter that there are no other clerks working or that the line behind the clerk is five deep.  The conversation goes on until the conversation is over.  On a single-track road in the west one year we waited for five minutes as the mail carrier blocked the road  in both directions as she had a conversation with the resident.  We could begin to understand Irish Time as we sat in the car on a pleasant day with beautiful scenery around us.  Why hurry, indeed.
Dingle Peninsula

Special whiskey tasting at Milton Distillery (Jameson). Six small drams comparing Irish, Scottish, and American whiskies. Of course, they wanted you to say the best was the Jamisons.

Irish Time can be frustrating though.  In Donegal’s tourist office Anne wanted to buy a small book.  She was second in line behind a lady arranging a B&B for the night.  The clerk, a sweet young thing, gave full attention to the lady’s booking, as well she should.  When the girl had to wait for a callback on a lodging, she still gave her attention to the lodgee.  After ten minutes of waiting in line to pay for a two euro book, we decided Irish Time has its drawbacks. 
Enjoy Ireland on Irish Time and try not to get frustrated.   

Kokopelli on the Golf Course
Kokopelli petroglyphs outside Santa Fe.

Kokopelli is the anscestral Pueblo people’s (Anazasi) humpbacked flute player, a native American fertility deity presiding over childbirth and agriculture. He is a trickster and the spirit of music. Kokopelli is the symbol of the American southwest seen everywhere. We’ve played golf at Kokopelli GC and eaten at the Kokopelli Cafe. A quick search on Amazon turned up Kokopelli home decor items, coffee mugs, jewelry, door mats, wind chimes, tee 

Commercial Kokopelli art.

shirts, window stickers (we have them on both our cars), shower curtains, key rings, and I even found I could buy a  bronze Kokopelli cremation urn. When we hunt Rock Art (Native American petroglyphs and pictographs), Kokopelli representations are one of the prized finds. This description of the humpbacked flute player is background for the meeting we had with the elusive spirit in Santa Fe a couple of years ago.
As we played Santa Fe Country Club, one of our favorite courses in the area, we had an interesting encounter with Kokopelli. 
Santa Fe Country Club

We played the course in a golf cart—it was vacation golf. The day was quite windy as it often is in the southwest. As we played down the third hole I heard flute music, very faint, but distinct. In the middle of the golf course that was strange because we could see no one who could be playing the flute and there was nobody else around who could have a radio playing. Aside from a few birds, The only other living soul we’d met on the course was a horned toad, 

and he wasn’t talking. We heard the music again going down the next hole and the next. Then a pattern emerged; we heard the music as we were driving the cart. Finally, I listened closely enough to discover the source of our flute music. The wind blowing through some holes in the golf cart windscreen was making a distinctly flute-like whistling sound. Mystery solved—we were carrying Kokopelli with us as we made our way around the course.