Celtic Invasion Vacation: Wales-Part Two

AS MY TRIP CONTINUES TO unfold on these pages, I am having fun reminiscing and looking through all of the photos I managed to accumulate. Rather daunting, actually. You are only seeing a small fraction of the shots I took. At some point, I will be putting most of them (at least the ones I deem ‘sharable’) onto my Flickr page for you to peruse. Until then, you must be satisfied with the smattering I include in the blogs (fewer, this time—I’m afraid the last one was way too photo-heavy).

Snowdonia—and Wales in general pull at my heart-strings, for sure. There’s something quieting about the natural beauty of this area. I’m sure my blood pressure was down quite a bit. It’s the ‘woody-ness’ of the region, I think. Have you ever heard of Forest Bathing (also known as Shinrin-yoku)? Sounds a bit weird—I know, but really, there are scientific facts behind it. Here’s a link if you want to check it out.

So, now—onward with my adventure…

Day Five (honestly, the days were starting to blur, so

Confusion

Confused? Which way did we go?

chronological order may not be precise) was mostly spent wandering around the town of Caernarfon, to see the beautiful castle and town, but we also managed to get out into the country to wander around the rolling hills and bluffs of Ysgol Poithy Felin.

Beautiful Vista

Hills and dales, where the sea meets land…

Three brave (or perhaps fool- hardy?) souls managed to somehow negotiate the cliffs to poke around in the rocky beach below. I was content to stay above, drinking in the beauty of the area. It was amazing. Our evening was the highpoint of the day—first, a BBQ’d dinner, then a concert by Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan. They’d planned on

Jonny and Vicki

The melodic duo, Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan sang and played for us

leaving around 8pm, but stayed well beyond that, playing the most magnificent music (I purchased a few of their CDs—insert huge grin) until around ten or so. After bidding them safe travels, we all went to bed very happy, indeed.

Day Six involved lots of driving. We met up with Jonny and Vicki in Llanberis for a boat ride out to an island to try to spy some puffin…I didn’t see any. But it was

Boat Ride to Puffin Refuge

A puffin refuge, but not a puffin to be found

a nice ride. Back at the docks, we said goodbye to our musical friends and continued our adventure, after wandering the town for a bit. From there, we went back into Holyhead, to Winefried’s Well (loved the architecture), and…well, like I said, it’s all a bit of a blur. We did get back to the cottage relatively early, figuring we’d walk to the local pub for dinner. Plans changed and we ended up going into Holyhead for dinner at a lovely pubby-restaurant, The Old Boathouse at Red Wharf Bay (I think). Delicious food.

Day Seven was pretty much spent driving to our final destination (with a tiny bit of sightseeing on the way)

River In Town

This river flows through town, with businesses on both sides. Don’t remember the town name —sorry.

—a beautiful, old hotel in Mold (in Flintshire Wales), where we spent our last night as a group. We took in the sights as we drove, but it was mostly pre-departure day preparation day for the majority of the Invaders. We had one final ‘house concert’ in one of the Invaders rooms, then we retired for the night.  Then next morning—very early, we all drove into Manchester. Marc dropped a few at the airport so they could catch their flights and the remainder of us were deposited at the

Manchester

Last look around Manchester before heading back on the train to Bewely Hotel

Bewley Airport Hotel. I would continue on my trip the next morning, Nicholas took the train down to Cardiff (spent the night and back the next day) so he could go to the Dr. Who Experience, and Jan and Jim would head out for home the next day. We had breakfast together and said our goodbyes. It was lovely, but I was exhausted and looking forward to getting on to my next stop so I could recover from all the fun I had in the last seven days. I needed a vacation from my vacation…so I could continue my vacation.

If there is one thing I’ve learned—especially on this trip, going into any vacation, you must know your limits. Thankfully, I do know mine, but still, I have a tendency to stretch those limits on occasion—sometimes finding that little extra I need, but other times, finding myself completely spent at the end of the day. I have decided, no matter which way things go, I choose to see every experience I have as a rich one, filled with lessons for me to learn. I have found that I never regret the things I’ve done, though, perhaps I shake my head at some of my choices. And laugh.

Next year, Marc’s plan is to go back to Ireland to explore the northwest corner and the Giant Causeway, and possibly a trip to Isle of Man. If it’s at all financially feasible, I’m going to attempt to make the trip (I usually travel every other year, but there have been exceptions made in the past). Marc has already opened up the reservation doors and space is limited. If you are interested, make sure you check it out. Remember, this is not your typical “tour”. It’s a vacation for like-minded people who want to enjoy a bit of history, beautiful scenery and Celtic music.

Until next week (sorry for the delay in getting this posted—internet problems), may visions of vacations-to-come dance in your head, beckoning you to break out of your every-day life, to explore the world around you, whether just outside of your back yard or across the border somewhere.

Breaking News…

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN–AND KIDS of all ages…I am breaking into the regularly scheduled post about my trip to make an announcement (patience…I’ll continue the story of my trip next week). I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that my second book in the Secrets Beyond Scymaria series is finally available for your reading pleasure. Perfectly timed for a good summer read.

Secrets Beyond Scymaria, is an engaging read for all ages, with many unexpected twists and turns. Second in the MG/YA sci-fi fantasy series, Secrets Beyond Scymaria: Warriors of the Forest continues the adventures of Amy and Ty as more problems crop up with their classmates and the professor returns to add even more grief to their lives. Their new-found friend invites them on an adventure through the portal into his world, but events unfolding could trap them in this new world if they don’t act fast.

Warriors of the Forest

Just released-Secrets Beyond Scymaria: Warriors of the Forest, second in the series

The discoveries unfolding within…

The Series:
Book One: Secrets Beyond Scymaria
Book Two: Warriors of the Forest
Book Three: The Scymarian – coming this Fall/Winter, 2014
Book Four has a working title of “Redemption” and will be released sometime in 2015.

I must say, I am excited that Warriors of the Forest has finally made it through the grueling publishing process. My talented cover artist, Michele Luccketta, created a delightful cover for the book. Soon, she and I will sit down to come up with the cover for book three–and that book is gearing up to begin the publishing process…but what has me über excited is the fact that book four (with a working title of Redemption), which I started in January, 2014 is growing into an amazing addition to the ongoing story that makes up the Secrets Beyond Scymaria series.

Unlike many writers, I do not use an outline, nor do I have any concrete ideas of what the beginning, middle or end will be when I sit down to write. I jokingly call it ‘seat of the pants’ writing. I solely depend–and have faith in whatever God provides. And He has never failed. It makes the story as exciting for me as it does for you, the reader. The only difference is, you can sit down and finish the book within a day or two. I must agonize for weeks or months over what will happen next. What I do know is, it appears that book four will be introducing a few more characters. I was surprised to see them pop up–will they be friend or foe? Honestly, I don’t know yet. I’ll find out as they unfold their story.

Enjoy Secrets Beyond Scymaria and Warriors of the Forest–and be ready for the third one, The Scymarian, to come out before the end of 2014.

Here’s where you can find them (don’t forget, you can always ask your local book store to stock them!). Both books are available as eBook, paperback and hardbound–and can be purchased internationally, for those of you outside of the USA:

(hardbound) ISBN: 978-1-49902-586-6                 (paperback) ISBN: 978-1-49902-587-3                             (eBook) ASIN: B00LF917AK

SquareMarket (my business store-you may place an order after 21July, 2014): http://mkt.com/creations-by-djamesonsmith

Amazon: http://goo.gl/J83ob3

Barnes and Nobles:  http://goo.gl/VZVRpJ

Xlibris:  http://goo.gl/Jw5suD

Please feel free to let your friends know about the new book! I’m lining up dates for book signings and will let you know as soon as they are confirmed.

May your day be filled abundantly with joy and peace.

 

Celtic Invasion Vacation (CIV): Northern Wales-Part One

THIS WAS A FUN TIME FOR ME–exhausting, but super fun and very memorable! I’d not miss any of it–I’d do it all over again…even the ‘vertical’ portions.

Every year, Marc Gunn puts together a trip to one of the seven Celtic Nations. He’s been doing this for quite a few years. In past years, he has taken adventurers to various parts of Ireland, Scotland (I’m so sorry I missed this!), and France to take in both modern and ancient sights. Since Marc is a Celtic musician (born on St. Paddy’s Day), he always includes personal house concerts, both with his playing and singing and with invited musicians bringing in their instruments and voices to play for us in the evenings. In addition, when possible he seeks out Celtic music in local pubs for his Invaders to enjoy whilst feasting and downing a pint.

The troupe of Invaders is usually on the small side (6-14 people, including Marc), which allows for a fair amount of leeway when proceeding through his very loose itinerary. If something doesn’t strike a fancy with the majority, perhaps another venue is more appealing…and so, itinerary might be changed. Going with the flow. I like that. So does everyone else.

This year, I drove up from Holyhead (spent the night in Llanfairfetchan–I even know how to say it right–before proceeding), and (after a few wrong turns–remember, no fine-tuned GPS yet in the UK), turned in my car and met up with the Invaders at the Bewely Hotel very near the Manchester Airport the night before the actual tour began. Since we had to wait for the last two to arrive (the morning our group was to head out),

Trekking in Manchester UK

The six of us trekking back to the train station in Manchester

the rest of us (was there really only six of us?) took the train down into Manchester and,

Manchester UK

A glimpse of Manchester, on the way back to the train station.

ill-prepared for the rain that fell, we ignored the rain and did some walking around, sightseeing, made a few strategic purchases and had our

Dinner in Manchester UK

Drying out, enjoying a lovely Italian dinner

dinner (which allowed for us to dry out our sopping pants and jackets a wee bit–it’s only water, right?)…

After picking up our last two Invaders and retrieving the van, we headed out, traversing back down the way I’d traveled, down into Wales–actually, pretty close to where I spent the night when I first came over on the ferry. I could have checked with Marc about the details before I made reservations for accommodations and my car rental to save on the extra travel and expenses…but I did have fun with the group the night before we headed out, so I’m happy with how it went.

Marc usually rents a cottage of some sort for his Invaders and uses it at ‘base camp’, coming back at the end of each day to relax, have dinner (did I mention Marc is an excellent cook and prepares most of the breakfasts and dinners that we had at the cottage for us?) and, at least two or three (or maybe four) nights enjoy our own little personal house concert, whether Marc or one of the guest musician.

This was a delightful little cottage in Bryngwran, with an open floor plan–the front patio had a BBQ and picnic table,

Room at Watermill Cottage

My room, Marc’s bed on left, mine in right.

Patio at Watermill Cottage

Looking through the skylight down to the patio

Watermill Cottage

The partially hidden watermill at our cottage

Patio at Watermill Cottage

Delightful location for a meal…used the BBQ (not seen) for our dinner

the front entry lead into a large kitchen flowing into a dining and living room area, with an en suite bedroom (for two) stashed off on the side from the entry, plus a bathroom. Upstairs had a loft with two beds and two bedrooms (one was en suite), each accommodating two, which was perfect for us. (Sshhh–don’t tell anyone…Marc and I shared a room. Giggle…he was a perfect gentleman–he offered to sleep on the couch, but I said no way, and offered the second twin bed–no reason for him to sleep on the couch where there was a perfectly good, empty bed. Like I said, he was a perfect gentleman.) There was a washer off of the kitchen area…and solar drying (clothesline) on the beautifully landscaped garden patio…I should have done my laundry when we first arrived to allow time for items to dry (but we had off and on rain and couldn’t see things actually drying with the weather we were having), instead, I chose to wait till I left the Invaders and settled into the hostel before doing laundry.

Day One, Saturday, included the scenic drive through the countryside and along the coast from Manchester Airport down to the cottage. (I won’t mention who left their drivers license back in the states…teehee…two of us with licenses did some of the driving.) Our first adventure took us into Conwy (pronounced Conwee) to see their beautiful castle. From atop the turrets I could see the walls encapsulating

Overview of Conwy Castle

High atop one of the turrets, a shot into the castle grounds

Conwy Castle Grounds

From the turrets, looking into the castle grounds

Conwy City from Castle

View of Conwy from the Castle

the entire town. It was breathtaking to see the little hamlet with the great protective ‘arms’ wrapped around it. After touring the castle, we were free to wander the town for several hours before meeting back up. I ended up making my first purchases (a tea towel with wild flower of Wales printed on it, plus some tea and scones) in a little shop, then stumbled upon a local art exhibition, with some very nice works: photography needlework scenery, penwork…all lovely. I ended up with a few items: a bag with an owl (of course, since I’m such an owl fanatic) and a small water colour and/or pen drawn dragon for my daughter…and a bookmark, which I’ll use as a prize/giveaway one of these days. Definitely a town to revisit…

From there, we worked our way to our cottage where everyone claimed their bed/room, unpacked and Marc and one other brave soul went out to shop for our food supplies. I think Marc entertained us with music, but we were all so tired, I honestly don’t remember. Our poor last two CIVers

Marc Gunn, Personal Concert

Marc played many of his tunes for us over the course of the week.

were working on well over 24 hours of travel by the time we all headed to our respective beds…

Day Two and Three (Sunday and Monday) were a blur of activities. For a few days, I failed to note all of the places we visited–I was having entirely too much fun to take the time…I’ve looked at dates on photos and my posts on Facebook to figure out what we did…and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right–lol–think I’ve missed one or two castles and towns…oops–I’ll include them in next weeks blog.

Cemetry Grounds on Church Island

Picturesque shot of cemetery

Snowdon Mountain

A view of Snowdon Mountain

Church Island at Low Tide

Church on the little island between Menai and Britannia Bridges surrounded by Menai Strait (in a portion called The Swellies because of dangerous whirlpools)

WWII Bunker

Cute little seaside town had a bunker nestled into a hillside.

Seaside View

Nearing the end of our guided tour, resting in a seaside village

In the midst of a sheep pasture, the view is breathtaking, the history told intriguing.

In the midst of a sheep pasture, the view is breathtaking, the history told intriguing.

Gates and Turnstyles

Lots of livestock to keep contained, so plenty of gates and turnstyles to get through. Note the detail of ironwork.

The Henge Burial Chamber, Wales

Our guide, Willym explained the lore, facts and some of the traditions behind the burial mounds.

A House Concert

Jonny Dyer and Vicki Shaw graciously played for us.

Deep in Snowdonia NP, Wales

A pristine lake (Llyn y Dywarchen) is our reward after a short climb.

Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan Concert

Together, these two harmonized to make fantastic music for us, well past the time they planned to quit. Amazing duo!

We made quite a few stops (photo ops and ooohs and aaahs) on this first day of real exploring of Wales. We wound through the gorgeous, mountainous Snowdonia National Park. Outside of Scotland, it has the tallest peak in the UK…and the views are breathtaking, to say the least (and Day Three held even closer inspection of this magnificent region). The SavNat provided (TomTom) was not working well, so Kevin, the one person that had a smart phone with GPS was giving directions from the middle of the van. There was plenty to see. We ended our day with a bit of music by our fearless leader, Marc Gunn. Wonderful.

Day Three (Monday) was filled with cultural and natural history, with our guide, Willym. In addition to more beautiful sights in Snowdonia, there were hills to climb, gates to go through, and more climbing…all while we heard about the history of the area. Not the dry stuff with someone spouting off facts that fall on deaf ears. Our guide led us out to fields to explore cairns (burial mounds), up trails, into dales, across brooks. (I’d say I easily logged an average of five miles each day.) Delightful. I’m not a history buff, but definitely enjoyed taking in all I heard and saw. That night, we were privileged to hear the harmony of two wonderful musicians: Vicki Shaw and Jonny Dyer. They were fantastic! (I’ll tried to attach a clip.)

Day Four (Tuesday) was ridiculously fun…and exhausting. It started with a mead tasting in Llanberis. It was deliriously

Meadery Owner

The owner of Snowdon Honey Farm and Winery, is wearing one of my book wristbands

Mead Tasting

We tasted many very different (and delicious meads…

fun and took more time than planned. Many of us went away with arms full of goodies (I for one was trying to figure out how my purchases would make it back home unscathed…(they did make it intact, thank you very much…)

We were to meet a storyteller “near” the National Slate Museum and had to rush across the river to get there. Well, we took a few wrong turns (no biggie–it really was a beautiful area), Marc called our storyteller and he gave us directions for us to follow. We traveled a well worn trail up into the hills, passed a hospital (for the slate company back in the day–part of the museum, and beautifully preserved), continued to walk up, and up…down…and up. I think there was more verticality to this walk than I’ve ever seen, and my knee (and very out of shape muscles) protested. I was the ‘weak link’ in our party of eight and I finally got to the point, when they were unsure whether they needed to go up further or turn down, following the river, that I stopped. I begged them to check and see which way we needed to go before I took another step. They were sweet enough to oblige me and forged ahead, down the hill. Yup, the right choice. I slowly followed. And was rewarded with the most beautiful little encampment I’ve ever seen. A little village of quaint, and quite unique buildings.

Thatched Lodge

Here, we are resting from our weary jaunt, but soon, we would settle into the lodge for a wonderfully told story.

Sod-Roofed Cottage

So many of these little cottages are a delight to the eye and mind.

Our Storyteller and Marc

The village in the background as Marc and the Storyteller chat

Carpentry Features with Reflections

The rustic, yet intricate carpentry details were fabulous. Our CIVers (including your truly) are in the reflection of the window.

Storyteller at Cae Mabon

In the large thatched lodge, our storyteller spins his yarn…

Thatched roofs, a Hobbit home, rammed earth building…all nestled amongst beautiful trees, next to a babbling stream. My fatigue melted away. And our storyteller was superb. Well worth the trek.

After our trekking, storytelling and a bit more sightseeing was done and we were munching on snacks in Llanberis, looking back up into the area we’d been traversing, well…I videoed Marc’s reactions, but his comments are not repeatable in this G-rated blog. (I’ve tried to upload another video I did showing the distance we traveled, but it hasn’t worked so far.) All I can say is…

Far Above National Slate Museum

…looking across the river into the town of Llanberis (photo taken from somewhere above and to the north of the Slate Museum Hospital)

Oh! My! Goodness!

I’ll continue with the last half of our trip next week…until then,

Slainté and peace be with you on this fine day.