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.?

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?…

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 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?…

Pirongia, New Zealand: Hospitality and Recipe by da-AL


Vicky Apps (with her kitty) is a wonderful hostess!

We had less than a week to sample beautiful New Zealand. We’d landed in Auckland, spent a night in Rotorua, hiked a few hours in the Redwoods, strolled along Huka Falls, peered into Craters of the Moon and visited the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, and then river rafted in Taupo — then later Hamilton Gardens. (Eventually, in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, 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!

Pirongia was a lovely village (by the way, it was interesting to find that as far as I know, here in the U.S. we only use the term ‘city’, not ‘village’) to spend our final night before returning to Auckland. Short as our visit to Pirongia was, our hostess, Vicky Apps, made it memorable. If you’re ever in the area and need a cozy room at a reasonable price, I highly recommend emailing her at apps@xtra.co.nz

Vicky and her charming kitty, made us feel like family at her gorgeous, spacious home. We so enjoyed sitting in her flower-filled backyard and chatting with her. Moreover, she even washed (and folded!) my clothes at no charge. For breakfast, she shared delicious homemade jams and preserves, including one that was made from a guava type fruit found only in New Zealand. (By the way, New Zealand has its own variation of sweet potato too, which I regret not getting a chance to sample.)

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash.

When I much enjoyed some of Vicky’s Anzac biscuits, an immensely satisfying sort of oatmeal cookie that was devised for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War I, she generously hand-wrote the recipe for me!…

Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 1.
Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 2.

Do you have a biscuit or cookie that’s special to where you live?

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand by da-AL


We’re a long way down in the Waitomo Caves.

Really I’d like to sound official, truly scholarly when I describe these magnificent caves. But I’d be faking it. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in their sockets as I took in all the amazing sights to retain whatever our hard-working guide endeavored to teach us.

A mineral formation can be as delicate as a veil.

Here we were in New Zeand, and everywhere we visited was utterly beautiful and entirely distinctive from the prior site. Auckland wasn’t at all like Rotorua, which resembled neither the Redwoods nor Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon (nor places we’d visit later like Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens) were like any of them. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, 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!

And — New Zealand’s Waitomo Glowworms Caves were all their own too. We walked down, down, down, and then down, down, down some more while trying not to get bugs in our hair or smack our heads on nature’s sculptures along the way made of limestone and fossils.

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“The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago … These cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years,” according to Wikipedia.

This photo might look like nothing — but those pinpricks of light from glowworms! They exist in New Zealand! What you can’t see because without electric light its so dang dark down there, is that the GLOWWORMS give off spiderweb-like strings to ensnare their dinners.

The white dots in the immense darkness are glowworms.

Looking for an adventurous new job? They’re always looking for explorers to map out new tunnels. These are just mannequins, but they give an idea of what’s required…

The explorers who map out the caves are quite heroic.

Have you visited a limestone cave?