13 Apr Wandering through Wales, Part 2

[caption id="attachment_2352" align="alignnone" width="660"] Time to revisit the magic of Wales.[/caption] Ready to resume the trip through Wales? Having regained the energy lost exploring castles and the Caerleon Amphitheatre, it’s time to hit the road and explore the wilderness, both above and below ground. You’re off to Brecon Beacon National Park, the Big Pit National Coal Museum (located inside the mines themselves), and finally, Tintern Abbey, a gorgeous palate cleanser after the claustrophobic tunnels below the earth. Known for its rolling plains and scattered collections of waterfalls, Brecon Beacon National Park will have you mesmerized as you blaze along the trail. Appropriately, Brecon Beacons takes it’s name from the fires formerly lit atop the mountain range's peaks to warn villages and cities of invading enemies. This scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King visualizes the process perfectly. Driving through the National Park, you’ll find flocks of mountain sheep dotting the plains, as well as a few mountain ponies; proof that these lands are still as wild as in the past, preserved from industrialization. The Black Forest (Fforest Fawr in Welsh) sprawls across the path you’ll follow, and Black Mountain looms to the West. After braving the forest, you’ll briefly get a comforting view of the fields and pastures once again. Relish these plains because soon, you’ll be deep within them. It’s time to hit the mines. Upon arriving at Big Pit National Coal Museum, you’ll receive some training in proper...

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07 Dec Wandering Through Wales, Part 1

[caption id="attachment_2330" align="alignnone" width="660"] Fancy a hike?[/caption] For a country represented by a red dragon, Wales is decidedly green. With rolling hills dotted with lochs stretching hundreds of acres, you’d think the dragon would be easily seen. Of course, while the myth of the red dragon may be an inspirational allegory for the Britons victory over the Saxons, the symbol may take its origin from the Romans. It may seem unlikely, but evidence of Roman activity is evident in Britain. Travel the land of the red dragon for a weekend, stopping at Caerleon Amphitheater. You’ll see where Romans congregated for entertainment, as well as a few bathhouse ruins (Romans took pride in their skin). The Caerleon ruins are integral to Arthurian legend: it’s allegedly the place of Camelot. Furthermore, the “round table” featured prominently in the myths may have been inspired by the shape of the Amphitheatre. So you’ll get a taste of medieval history in addition to the Romans. Next stop, Caerphilly Castle, the second largest castle in Britain (after Windsor), and the first to both use water as a defense (think enormous moat) and be built using concentric design. While it may seem insignificant, this concentric design made it easier to access all parts of the castle, in addition to rendering siege machinery useless. What’s more impressive is the architecture: the last remodeling took place in 1322-6, and even then, it was only to make the dining halls grander. As a result, Caerphilly...

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