Sunday, September 25, 2016

Going to Wales

Sometime toward the end of 2015, I thought it would be a fun thing to go to Swansea, Wales to visit my email friend, Trish. It took me a while to bring this plan up to Trish herself, but by March of 2016 I was making plane reservations. The original trip was to be in May, but due to our dog's knee surgery, I rescheduled for the very end of August.

And so off I went, on August 31st.

It rained a lot. Hence the lack of blue sky in any of these photos. I was only there for 3 full days. The first full day, we went to Mumbles and saw Oystermouth Castle. I spent most of the second day on my own (largely just resting) and we met down the street for dinner. On the third day we took the train to Cardiff and saw Cardiff Castle and did a lot of shopping. Trish does not drive and so we got around on foot or by bus or train.

Here we are in Mumbles, looking at Oystermouth Castle as we approach it.

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Another view of the outside:

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Here's some info about the castle:

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A view from inside, near the altar:

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It was pouring rain while we were there, which may be the reason we had the whole castle to ourselves. This is a view of the Mumbles area from the castle, with the bay to the left.

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I had rented a nice condo in the marina area of Swansea, with the marina itself on one side and the beach on the other. Here are some pictures of the marina area:

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Here's a photo I took while walking on the beach on my solo day. The restaurant we were going to for dinner that night is on the top floor of that tall building.

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They have a very strong tide there, the largest I have seen since we lived near the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Later that afternoon I walked down to the restaurant, seen in the distance here. This is also the way I walked to get to the co-op food store, where I got groceries on two occasions.

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The restaurant was wonderful, I thoroughly enjoyed the food, the company, and the view! The windows are double-paned and the only way to get a picture was to put the camera lens directly on the pane, giving the photo an odd vignette appearance. This is the view from our table, which overlooked the town of Swansea:

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Here is the view from the other side, facing the water:

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The next day we took the train to Cardiff to see the castle and town. I took this while we were waiting at the train station. Seemed well-suited to be a black and white image.

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All of the station signs there were in both English and Welsh.

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Here is a street in Cardiff that we crossed on our way to the castle.

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As we approach, castle wall on the right, Burger King and Subway across the street on the left..

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This castle was built when the area was fairly empty, and then over time the town and then city grew around it, with the castle at the center. Such a mix of different eras.

As we approached the entrance, Trish pointed out the tower. I asked her about what the figures and emblems meant..."I have no idea," she said. She made me laugh quite often on this trip.

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During WWII, this castle was used as a shelter from bombs and other attacks. The windows, such as they were, were boarded up to block all light. We walked through the corridor that was part of the shelter area. There were cots by the walls. They were playing a radio broadcast by Churchill, along with the sounds of planes and bombs falling. There were assorted signs on the walls that were most likely reproductions, but perhaps not.

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I have a great interest in all things related to WWII and so this was a very special place to be for me. We moved on from there to the main part of the castle, which was partially furnished with period pieces and many portraits of the previous owners. This was the very impressive ceiling in a room that seemed to be a small dining room.

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Here are some more interior shots:

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And a photo of the outside of this part of the castle:

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Next it was time to head for the keep, which included a long set of steps...

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A view of the castle from the keep:

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And one of the interesting skyline of Cardiff from the keep, which shows both castle towers and the Marriott hotel and other modern buildings.

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After sitting for awhile in the keep and just absorbing the history, we went back down the steps and across the grass to see the trebuchet. A reproduction, I wonder when it was made?

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Here is the sign that was next to it:

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As we were leaving the castle, Trish told me about this wall of animals that runs down one end of the outside of it, and asked if I wanted to see it. Of course I did! So we headed down there. The idea is that all these animals, which are positioned along the outside wall, are coming out to protect the castle from anyone getting too close. There's the big cat,

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and the scary bear,

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and of course the...seal? I'm not sure how effective this one would be. Must be coming from the moat...

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Then it was time to do some shopping in Cardiff. This is a cute shop, with very friendly proprietors, and the name above the green shop name is in fact the longest location name in the world:

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Another Cardiff street:

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Here is a picture of John Lewis (coincidentally our vet's name when we lived in FL), a very large department store. With a big round thing in front of it.

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And the inevitable Hare Krishna folks. Except when I used to see them, they weren't all busy with their cell phones.

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We had lunch at nice little cafe and we did hit quite a few shops while there. It was a fun day. Then back to Swansea on the train. After we parted ways, I had time to walk across the marina to the Pump House Pub & Grill, where I finally had a local beer and a salad for dinner. Then back to my condo to pack up. I had passed this statue several times while walking through the marina, no idea what it represents since there was nothing about it nearby:

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Trish accompanied me to the bus station the next morning, we said our goodbyes, and I rode the five hours to Heathrow. I then took a motel shuttle to the motel I was staying at that night. The next morning the same shuttle took me back to Heathrow. I checked my bag, got my boarding pass, and then had a great breakfast in one of the airport restaurants. Then back on the plane and back home.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Western Carolina Dock Diving Dogs

We saw a blurb in the paper about a dock diving event in Waynesville, not too far from us. So off we went. After a detour due to a missed turn, we arrived at the facility. I think we were the only spectators that didn't have a dog participating. We missed the agility trials.

We'd never seen dock diving in person, only on TV. So this was fun!

The first dog we saw was Angus, a little black cock-a-poo. The motto "Where dogs fly" was very appropriate for all these dogs!

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Next up was a gorgeous golden retriever, a natural for this event.

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One foot touches down...

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And he's in!

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(only overshooting by a little) (overshooting happens a lot).

Then we had an impressive border collie, who launched herself off the dock.

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Each dog got to have a few practice jumps and then two jumps that were judged for distance. The border collie did very well. The focus and concentration on their faces was really something to see.

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Then came Avery. Avery would run full-out to the edge of the dock and then come to a stop and have to be urged to jump in, which made her jumps, particularly this one, lack a certain finesse (and distance).

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However! She rallied and did go sailing off for her second jump.

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And she nails the landing!

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This little dog was not at all afraid of hurling itself into the water.

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This was the last dog that we saw. For this jump, a young boy tossed the first ball out, a yellow one. The dog, like most of the others, started at the back of the dock and ran full speed to the pool and launched himself. The ball was not launched quite as far and fast....

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The ball was directly above the dog briefly--

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And then the dog was pretty far ahead of the ball and probably starting to wonder where it was...

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Ok, he's SURE he saw the boy throw a ball....

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The event had its official finish, but the dogs were invited to take a few more jumps, so this one got more chances at the yellow ball, with an adult throwing it, and it did very well. Amazing height and distance.

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I got one final one where once again the dog was simply too fast for the ball. Indeed, "where dogs fly."

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It was a fun afternoon!