U.K. Castles n Mushy Peas: Harlech, Conwy, Penrith, Ullswater by da-AL


Our visit to the United Kingdom was studded with castles, each well worth a stop. We were on our way to see Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle, and then to overnight in Penrith with a look at Ullswater.

On my way to Harlech Castle.

Our vacation began in London, where we enjoyed the British Museum here and here and here. We left with a rented car and were almost accustomed to driving (my husband) and riding (me) on the ‘wrong’ side only inches from England’s gorgeous stone-walled roads by the time we reached Bath. We admired Avebury, then a little of Wales on the route to Stokesay Castle, and later we would be awed by the Kelpies of Scotland.

Even this black dog admires the sights.

Harlech Castle in Harlech, Wales, a World Heritage Site, is categorized by UNESCO as one of “the finest examples of late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe.” Enormous, it offers grand views…

The panoramic views from Harlech Castle are impressive…
…even on a cloudy day.
The city of Harloch is lovely…
…including when you see it…
…from here with my honey.

It was time for lunch. A short drive further up the coast, we stopped in the city of Conwy for fish and chips fried in beef fat for Khashayar, and mushy peas (marrowfat peas cooked down to mush — a love-it or hate-it staple throughout the U.K.) with vegan gravy for me. Conwy is a walled market town in the north of Wales. After the filling meal, we strolled the nearby river and marveled at the Conwy Castle’s exterior. Writer/TV personality/activist Rick Steves offers a fascinating view of the interior. UNESCO calls Conwy Castle one of “the finest examples of late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe.”

Conwy Castle is worth a visit…
…and so is the region around it.

We spent the night in Penrith, Cumbria, a market town with more sights than we could take in. Exhausted and the evening late, we checked into a beautiful bed and breakfast, glad to find an attractive room with a scenic window. Once settled, we strolled to what must have been a theater at one time. Whatever it was, it’s now the biggest Indian food restaurant I’ve ever seen!

Elaine, Richard, and Dora are terrific hosts.

That following morning, our hosts, Elaine and Richard plus their lovely Dora, charmed us with their kindness. Their extensive English breakfast equally accommodated my meat-lover husband and my veggie self.

Ullswater is a quick twenty-minute drive away, so we enjoyed a nine-mile ride along the lake. It’s the second largest lake in the English Lake District. Here’s a video by someone else of the boat jaunt we took.

Rain or shine, a ride down Ullswater is fun.

What’s your fave region in the U.K.?

Guest Blog Post: Incredible India! by Niks


My idea of India is a place so fascinatingly diverse and vast that a lifetime of studying it can only scratch the surface. A teacher, a blogger and a photographer, Niks is based out of Jaipur, Rajasthan. His site is filled with intelligent posts with memorable photos of India. He also writes personally, such as how his small hometown is faring under the specter of COVID 19. Here are his tips for visiting Incredible India…

Niks blogs about India…

Incredible India by Niks

India is the most beautiful place to visit. It has an amazing history, culture, and heritage that attracts tourists from all over the world. It’s the best place to visit because it is a combination of art, culture, and heritage. There are many tourist places in India. These are historical places like forts, palaces, and also natural places like lakes and gardens.

Earth City Park, Science City at Ahmedabad.

History

In ancient times, India was known as ‘golden bird’ as it was dominant in trading. But, after British rule, it became a poor country in the world. With time, it improved its economy. Now, India’s economy is the fastest-growing in the world.

It was ruled by various rulers. Most were fond of beautiful palaces and forts. They spent a lot of money on their luxury lifestyle. The architecture of palaces that they built is indeed attractive.

Northern India

In northern India, there are forts and palaces that attract tourists. However, some hill-stations are also popular. The famous places to visit in North India are Srinagar, Golden temple at Amritsar, New Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. Golden temple in Punjab is a religious place that is worshipped by the Sikh community.

Srinagar is a town in the Kashmir state of India. It is a hilly area that has snowfall in the winter season. Taj Mahal is located in Uttar Pradesh that is one of the seven wonders of the world.

North-Eastern India

Northeastern India is best for those who love hill stations. Shimla, Manali, and Assam are popular destinations of northeastern India. These places are famous for adventurous activities such as river rafting, paragliding, and more.

Mount Abu hill station.

Western India

The states of Rajasthan and Gujarat are located in the west of India. Rajasthan is well known for its forts. There are more than 60 forts in this state. Most were built by Rajput rulers. They show the culture and history of Rajasthan.

Gujarat is a western state of India that is famous for wildlife parks and tasty food. Gir National Park in Gujarat is the largest park of lions. “Statue of Unity” is a monument in Gujarat, which is a statue of Vallabh Bhai Patel, who was a politician of India.

Amber Fort, Jaipur.

South India

Southern India is popular for temples, food, and heritage sites. The architecture of temples in south India is alluring. Alora caves, Mahabaleshwar, and Sun Temple are some of the famous places in South India. Also, the cultural festivals of South India is a great experience.

Tips

  • Plan your journey before the visit.
  • Contact a tour guide to know about the places you want to visit.
  • Book hotels and transportation tickets in advance.
  • Do not talk with strangers.

Along with tourist places, the culture and food of India are amazing to experience. Peoples of India are friendly and respect foreign tourists. You don’t need a lot of money to visit this country as it is quite affordable.

For more of Niks’ writing and photography, visit his blog, and Instagram, and Facebook page.

What comes to mine when you think of India?

Textile Protest, Alt-Reality Animation, Nature Dreams: MOLAA by da-AL


The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, is a great way to spend a rainy day with visiting family!

What a delight to visit MOLAA with Angela!

On display were arpilleras — textiles sewn by the women of MEMCh (Movement for the Emancipation of the Chilean Woman) to protest the 17-year-long fascist regime of Agosto Pinochet. The dictator seized control of Chile with the backing of United States President Nixon in 1973 and further support of later U.S. President Bush’s family. (More about the exhibition here)…

Bullets rain down on seekers of justice in Chile…
Women had to be creative to get word out about the killings…
“Children search trash cans for bread.” “Not everyone has running water.”
Books are burned…
All are forced to worship the dictator…

Dreams, politics, and beauty merge in the art of Argentine artist Matias Duville

Transcendent and political art by Argentine artist Matias Duville…

Award-winning animation was also on display — the alternative worlds created by Quique Rivera, a Puerto Rican animation artist, sculptor, photographer, and film director. His sculptures such as these…

Quique Rivera sees things differently…
His underwater world is like no other…

…created videos such as these! Also, more about the Museum of Latin American Art is here and here and here.

Where’s your favorite place to take visitors?…

Inspiration at the Getty Museum Los Angeles by da-AL


My honey, me, Angela, and Kim took a tram up to see the Getty Center.

Having family over to visit is an opportunity to see my own city through new eyes. It’s the best kind of stay-cation! We took them to visit the Getty Center (which shouldn’t be confused with the Getty Villa)…

The Getty Center offers amazing views.

The first area we visited was their gardens…

Getty Center gardens with the Getty’s amazing travertine architecture.

What could be better than art featuring a cat lover?…

Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, 1747.

And what’s more manly than manly royalty showing off his 64-year-old dancer legs in tights?…

Portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701.

Which is happier do you think — horse or rider?…

Angel of the Citadel by Marino Marini, 1950.

Mercury is a god of things good and bad and everything in between, so it stands to reason that his shadow would be as interesting as he is…

Mercury by Johan Gregor van der Schardt, 1575.

All this art was made me hungry…

Still Life: Tea Set by Jean-Étienne Liotard, 1782.

The sun began to cast long shadows across this Getty fountain — we were inspired to make our own art!…

Our great day at the Getty made us want to dance!…
so we danced…
and danced…
and danced!

It was a perfect way to end the day!…

Sunset at the Getty is spectacular!

What inspires you?

A castle by any other name… Stokesay plus a glimpse of Wales by da-AL


The lush moat and land around Stokesay Castle make me smile!

Oh, England, your castles are fabulous living museums, each unique and wonderful, let me count the ways of them… Wait — never mind — according to this list, there are over 2,500 of them if one counts ‘fortified manor houses,’ a.k.a. castles too! After London, where we visited the British Museum here and here and here, then Bath, and Avebury, a little of Wales with Stokesay Castle, then Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater, as well as later the Kelpies of Scotland

(L-R) Stokesay Castle gatehouse, courtyard, manor, church, and graveyard.

Stokesay Castle of Shropshire, England, is a manor (an important house owned by important people) with enough fortification to deem it a castle even though it was more of a house than a… Well, dear reader, hopefully by now you get the idea…

Stokesay Castle gatehouse features interesting wood carvings.

Built mostly in the 13th century by leading wool merchant Laurence de Ludlow over another castle that continues to partially survive, it’s regarded as the finest survivor of its type. It’s so impressive that there’s a sort of replica of it in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Stokesay Castle is amazingly well preserved.

There’s the gatehouse with fabulous carvings featured on Wikipedia, the courtyard with a well, and the main part that includes a couple of towers, and a hall.

If I woke to these beautiful views each morning, I’d wonder if I were still dreaming.

The views are marvelous from any angle. I love promoting fellow WordPress bloggers — there are more photos of Stokesay Castle at this blog and at this one.

Green as far as the eye can see surrounds Stokesay Castle.

There’s a charming graveyard at a church alongside the manor.

Fortunately, my honey and I were only visiting the graveyard next to the church.

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” my upcoming novels, feature romance between an older woman and a younger man, so this gravestone especially intrigued me. Violet Enid Grace Dawson nee Richard, (18th April 1899 – 14th September 1991) was 18 1/2 years older than George Frederick Dawson (25th September 1917 – 27th October 2010)! So sweetly were they buried together that surely they were happy together…

Hoping the couple buried here enjoyed a good times together…

On our way to the rest of our U.K. adventure, we spent a night in Wales. Who knew that in the market town of Dolgellau we’d eat delicious Indian food and homemade bread at a pub near the 200-plus-year-old bed and breakfast where we slept. Ty Seren is Welsh for Star House. Our following morning began among hikers and cyclists, all of us chatting over our mouth-watering hot Welsh breakfasts thanks to our charming hostess/cook, Sharon Watkins…

If we had more time, we’d have delightedly stayed longer in Dolgellau, at Ty Seren with Sharon Watkins.

What’s the oldest place you’ve ever slept in?…

Avebury — the other henge — and the biggest! by da-AL


Some of Avebury henge’s residents.

Stone circles — when it comes to henges (prehistoric wood or stone earthworks ringed by a bank and a ditch) — Stonehenge comes to mind. Our visit to the United Kingdom included London, the British Museum Part 1Part 2 – and Part 3, Bath, and the Kelpies of Scotland. Stonehenge, unfortunately, didn’t fit with our self-drive itinerary…

Welcome to g-r-e-e-n Avebury henge and village!

News to me, the U.K. is home to many stone circles! Archeologist Aubrey Burl cites 1,303 in Britain, Ireland, and Brittany. Theories abound as to why henges came to be erected.

Henges are regarded as sacred sites and living temples by some.

Visiting the henge at Avebury village proved a stroke of good fortune — it’s the largest in the world.

Wikipedia: The postulated original layout of Avebury, published in a late 19th-century edition of the Swedish encyclopaedia Nordisk familjebok. Original illustration by John Martin, based on an illustration by John Britton

Moreover, it’s comprised of t-h-r-e-e rings surrounding the southwest English village.

Avebury henge now. Wikipedia by Detmar Owen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

It took hundreds of years to construct Avebury henge. One of its stones weighs over 100 tons!

Inside the round dovecote are cubbies for birds to nest.

The immediate area includes the only pub enclosed by a henge, a dovecote (where domesticated pigeons and doves nest), a church, a manor, a beekeeper (an affable French man who taught us much as we sipped afternoon tea with locally baked scones)… and assorted sheep.

The community of Avebury features impressive historical buildings.

What’s your theory as to why stone circles exist?…

Part 2 of 3: Strolling the British Museum by da-AL


There’s so much at the British Museum! I don’t recommend trying to see it all in one go — nor all in one blog post. Here’s Part 1 of our visit, here’s Part 3, here’s our overall visit to London, to Bath, Avebury henge, Stokesay Castle, Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater, and to see the Kelpies of Scotland. Let’s start with the Parthenon for the second leg of our walk through the British Museum…

This chariot horse is worn out from carrying moon-goddess Selene to the Parthenon. 435 BC.
Does the Parthenon look inviting to you?…
At the Parthenon, who’s stronger — a centaur or a Lampith?
This maenad, two satyrs, and panther are followers of Dionysos, a.k.a. Bacchus, the god of wine. Roman, about 100 AD.
These Assyrians are hunting through a garden. About 645-635 BC.
“I’m looking at you.” This King Ramesses II was carved from one block that was quarried almost 200 kilometers south of the king’s mortuary temple!
General Horemheb has rather pronounced breasts — yet his wife’s are concave… Hmmm… 18th Dynasty, probably reign of Ay (about 1327-1323 BC), Horemheb’s tomb.
An ancestral figure from Easter Island, Chile, about AD 1000-1200.
The flames of Hindu god Shiva, here as Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance, demonstrate how one cycle gives over to another. He creates and then he destroys. About 1100, south India.
Only one flap of Garuda’s wings is needed to orbit the cosmos while he protects followers from serpent spirits. 1800s, Tibet.

Is there an era’s art that you prefer?… 

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL


Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Rousing Rotorua, NZ by da-AL


We landed at Auckland Airport early, rented a car — and learned how to drive on the ‘wrong’ (har-har-har) side of the road. A quick look around and lunch later, we headed south for Rotorua (after that we had a great time at the Redwoods and Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Rotorua is lovely, including its historic district.

Breath in! That rousing scent, which is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e (even where no water is visible), is that of healing minerals permeating the air! In unscientific terms, New Zealand is the result of volcanic activity. Hence, the region teams with gurgling springs from where steam plumes and billows. Some are pleasingly warm to soak one’s body in, others are hot enough to cook in.

During the late 1800s, officials saw tourism money in those spas. They erected buildings, planted gardens, smoothed out sports greens, and more — all with the intent of creating a resort destination.

Here’s the historic district built in the late 1800s/early 1900s, which still attracts busloads of visitors…

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Part of the historic area pays respect to the indigenous Māori (who, by the way, fought valiantly in World War II)…

Elsewhere in Rotorua is a marae, a Māori meeting grounds complex set within a residential neighborhood. If you ever find yourself at one, remember that visitors must be formally invited inside.

A Māori meeting house in Rotorua.

Rotorua’s current mayor is Steve Chadwick, a long-time politician born Stephanie Anne Frizzell, was into her 60s when she was elected into office.

Who are the indigenous people where you live?

Part 4: Do Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Cats Pray? VIDEO by da-AL


It's magical how Wifi stands and waves his paws!... It’s magical how WiFi stands and waves his paws!

The marvels of Spain, too numerous to count (after all, my soon-to-be self-published novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) — were rendered all the more marvelous thanks to our kind hostess Henrietta Fielden (henriettafielden@gmail.com).

Her flat in Madrid is located within a theater building that’s over a hundred years old. Everything there is gorgeous, starting with the stairwell…

Madrid, Spain, stairwell skylight. Going up is lovely…
Madrid, Spain, stairwell. And so is going down…

…and ending with dear Henrietta herself! Starting each day at her table was a delight not merely because her breakfast spreads were feasts both eyes and tummy — she’s also fun and interesting to chat with, no matter how our sleepy bodies protested at waking early for more sighseeing …

Breakfast with hostess Henrietta Fielden and da-AL's husband.

…moreover, her little Wifi kitty could easily be a professional stand-er! According to Henrietta, he’s merited quite a few Japanese YouTube viewers since she hosted guests from there.

My husband and I are fortunate to have met WiFi’s equally handsome and charming brother. Alas, WiFi’s performance made me forget to photograph his brother who has since passed away, his life far too short.

When I uploaded this short video of WiFi to my YouTube channel, Henrietta contributed this enlightening note, “There’s my WiFi! To potential fans, I should let you know he lacks discrimination. He will do this to a bare wall sometimes, too. So perhaps it is a kind of praying…”

Both of them humored my taking many pictures of them to share with you…

Henrietta and Wifi cuddling.

In the end, it’s the kindness of the people I meet on a trip that most touch my heart.

Our trip included:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz, France

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid — Part 1Part 2Part 3 — this  post (Part 4)

What magic have you experienced on a vacation?