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.?

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


in The green 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! Our vacation included London, the British Museum Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3, Bubbly Fun at Bath, Avebury Henge, and 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?…

Bubbly Fun at Bath, England, by da-AL


The city of Bath, England, is famous for — its ancient Roman Baths! First, we’d seen London here, visited the British Museum here and here and here, Avebury henge, Stokesay Castle, Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater, and later saw Scotland’s Kelpies

The Roman Baths at Bath are beautiful, but only to look at.

The Roman baths of Bath are a fantastic bit of time-travel. The green bubbling waters are no longer available for soaking in. Once upon a time, they were said to cure just about anything, but then a young girl died from catching a bug while swimming there in 1978…

Waive hi! The 2nd floor is newer. On the top right is the tea room.

There’s a museum with artifacts and explanations of their glory days. Dioramas show the site in its glory days…

A diorama of how the Roman Baths looked in their heyday, eons ago.

Back in the 1st century AD, this bather sported quite an intricate hair-do, front and back…

Rich ladies like this one must not have done their own hair.
Her hair is even more detailed in the back.

The gods were honored there…

Goddess Sulis Minerva had her own temple at the Roman Baths at Bath, England.
The gods were everything back then.

Some people flung their prayers, or rather their curses, written on lead and pewter to people who stole their stuff while they bathed…

The waters took care of gripes like these ones written on little tablets.

After a sample of safe-to-drink thermal water that’s piped in from nearby, we were ready for high tea there. Far more than a mere snack, the elegantly presented occasion included live classical music…

Tea refreshes mind, body, and spirit — along with delicious food, a storybook setting, and delighfful music.

Our tummies full and our leftovers packed in a doggie bag, we visited Bath Abbey next door…

There’s always something happening at intricate Bath Abbey.

And walked along the river.

Even without the Roman Baths, Bath is wonderful to stroll.

Are there natural baths, water, or mud or otherwise, around where you live?

Part 3 of 3: British Museum, where dwarfism is divine n Video by da-AL


There’s much to learn at the British Museum! (Our trip there began with Part 1 and Part 2, an overall tour of London, plus we visited the Kelpies of Scotland, and later BathAvebury henge, and Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater, and Stokesay Castle.) For instance…

Here lies a favored retainer. Nefer, a.k.a ‘beautiful’! He was buried with extra care alongside First Dynasty kings. He has achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism. Ancient Egyptians regarded dwarfism as the mark of divine favor. Highly esteemed, little people often served as personal attendants to the king, in charge of his clothing and jewelry. Egypt, c. 3150 – c. 2890 BCE

“When you meet someone different, what part of their day do you want to be?” That’s what filmmaker Jonathan Novick asks in, “Don’t Look Down on Me,” his documentary about his experiences in New York City as a little person.

Tang Dynasty tomb figures. Horses and camels weren’t indigenous to 700 BC China.
Yellow-painted jar in the form of an animal, probably 12th-13th century AD, from Soba (former capital of the medieval Nubian kingdom of Alodia).
Goddess? Priestess? Ritual participant? Whatever her duties, she’s covered in Nile Valley elements; a hippo on her belly, symbols probably for water and plants, collared hunting dogs on her back, and jewelry around her wrists, ankles, and neck. Early-Middle Predynastic, before 3900-3300 BC.
The statuette sports even black dogs on her back!
Lookin’ cute for the afterlife — or the beach? Back in the day, these ivory figurines might have sported wigs and lapis lazuli eyes. Egypt, 3900-3300 BC.
Here’s an artifact — a drawing of myself that I did when I was tiny!

Do you have art that depicts you?

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?… 

Part 1 of 3: the British Museum (plus silly video) by da-AL


The British Museum is amazing!!! Join my husband and me for the eye-opening stroll we enjoyed…

The British Museum’s outside isn’t nearly as interesting as its inside.

During this vacation, we visited jam-packed London, Bath, Avebury Henge, Stokesay Castle, Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater, and the Kelpies of Scotland. The British Museum (here’s Part 2 and Part 3 of our trip to see it) is best known for the Rosetta Stone that helped scholars decipher ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphic writing. Here’s the front of it at another site. So dense was the crowd that I could only snap these photos…

Rosetta stone from the back.
Rosetta stone from the side.

There’s much of the relief sculpture from the Parthenon, a Greek temple finished in 438 BC. (Btw, ever visited Tennessee’s Parthenon, from 1897?)…

My fave art at the Parthenon’s frieze is on the left, wearing a llama t-shirt…
The Parthenon frieze is huge! This is only a small portion.

On it, the faces of hunters are differentiated by their postures, rather than by their features…

Galloping around the Parthenon…
Sacrificial animals on the frieze weren’t thrilled about their lot.
Iris, the winged messenger goddess, roomed at the Parthenon.

The British Museum’s collection is overwhelming. We only had time to see a smattering of it…

Clay mastiffs warded off devils and demons in about 645 BC, northern Iraq.
This god has appreciated his mastiff’s protection from evil since 800-700 BC, in southern Iraq.
Lely’s Venus (Aphrodite) does what she can to stay strategically covered. She’s a copy from 1st or 2nd AD.
Compared to lots of other items at the British Museum, these poker-style game cards from Iran, are freshly minted — they’re from 1800-1900.
This protective spirit lost his sheaf of twigs. Palace of Sargon II, Khorsabad, Iraq, 710-705 BC.

After the museum, we meandered across the street — where a gift shop offered a different type of show…

What’s the silliest thing you’ve seen in or around a museum?…

Part 3: Purringly Stunning Sydney, Australia with Video by da-AL


Beaches, cats, tango, and theater — that’s how our extraordinary trip came to a marvelous close.

Relaxing under a rock.

Our last little bit of holiday was spent admiring Sydney’s shore. The weather was gusty and somewhat chilly for us sunny-never-a-cloud Los Angeles folks — so when one of us decided it was time for a siesta, we gathered ourselves under some rocks. The view of the sky was terrific…

Australia’s beaches are stunning.

Bondi Beach is ultra-popular, though I doubt any of Australia’s shoreline isn’t stunning. Did you know that Australia has surf life-saving clubs?…

Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club.

Our bed and breakfast hostess, Belinda Selway (you can reach her at: Belinda at ArtbyDesign dot net dot AU), revealed heroic patience when she tolerated my extreme egg fussiness and made me the b-e-s-t poached egg ever — I’ve yet to risk another even cooked by me! Under her roof, we admired great art and sorted out romances. She offered us useful tips for where and how to enjoy the short remainder of our stay.

Belinda and her cat are the best!

Plus, she shared her charming cat. Don’t be fooled by those sweet feline eyes — pretty kitty is quite the mouser. And her purring is hypnotizing…

We were so busy having fun that we forgot to take more photos…

  1. Many sincere thanks to the supremely likable Tango Embrace Australia dance group for being so kind that they asked one of their members to give us a ride. Oh, how I wish I remember that charitable dancing driver’s name. Better, however, that I admit my bad manners than allow her to think we don’t continue to be grateful for her generosity and that we much enjoyed our chat with her!
  2. At the Sydney Opera House, we bought same-day tickets to their theater and got front row seats to an outstanding show — for less than we’d have paid for a half-decent dinner! We also had a scrumptious splurge meal on their patio that was served by a waiter who was bionic, a great entertainer, and professional. Alas, another Sydneysider who I’d like to thank more personally but whose name eludes me…

This great trip started with New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. In Australia, we met terrific family in Gold Coast / observed these exciting birds — and these too / hiked breathtaking views / enjoyed delicious eats at the beach / saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary / had fun with Rita Rigby / enjoyed a bit of the beauty and beasts of Brisbane / and in Sydney we enjoyed these sights and this art, as well as what you just saw in this post…

How loud does your cat purr?