Monday, January 29, 2007

Our Next Journey
We returned from our trip up to Manchester and Old Trafford early Sunday morning (update and video can be seen a few posts below), and had a relaxing day here in Swansea after a long day on the road. This week we get ready to go to mainland Europe for a week in Hungary. Angie is visiting a plant in Petfurdo, a town just north of Lake Balaton. We'll be flying into Budapest on Sunday and staying in the scenic town of Vesprem for the week. On Friday we're heading back to Budapest for a long weekend.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Highlights: Cliff Walk/Coastal Pathway, Southeast-South Gower

Mumbles Lighthouse

Mumbles Lighthouse

Bracelet Bay

View of Mumbles Lighthouse from Bracelet Bay

Cliff Path to Langland Bay

Look Back from Langland Bay

Langland Bay and Golf Course

Looking Back at Langland Bay

Walk to Caswell Bay

Walking Partner

Brandy Cove

River to Brandy Cove

Three Cliffs Bay

View East from Three Cliffs Bay

Thursday, January 25, 2007

High Drama
We recently recieved the good news that we'll be having some visitors next month. Our friends "The Jeff's" (a.k.a Jeffray and The Reverend Chou) are coming over to visit us and celebrate an anniversary of sorts. 4 years ago, the 4 of us were in the UK on an amazing whirlwind tour of English football. 5 games in 11 days, a life on trains and hotels all for the love of the game. The trip was amazing but it was missing just one thing: Arsenal FC. Jeffray is a Arsenal supporter, and while Angie (Liverpool FC), The Reverend Chou (Newcastle United) and Robert (Leeds United AFC) all got to see thier favorite teams play, Jeffray missed out on seeing Arsenal altogether.
This trip was meant to be different. Arsenal are playing matches during their stay, one home, one away. But things could turn out just the same as 4 years ago, and it all is being played out on television. This year is Arsenal's first in a new stadium, Emirates Stadium, and match tickets have sold out prior to tickets being available to the general public since the begining of the season and we have little chance of getting in. Our one chance to see Arsenal is when they travel away to Aston Villa, but there's a catch. Arsenal are playing in the Carling Cup semi-finals at the moment against Tottenham Hotspur, the results of which affect our chances to see Arsenal play. If Arsenal win the two-legged match against Tottenham and reach the Final, they will not travel to Aston Villa and the match will have to be rescheduled. If they lose, Jeffray will get to see Arsenal play for the first time. Last night, the first leg of the match ended in a 2-2 draw with the deciding leg being played next Wednesday at the Emirates. Tune in to see if Jeffray will get to watch his favorite team.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back to the Liberty
The Swans have won us over and we're going back to the Liberty Stadium to see them host Gillingham FC this evening in a League 1 clash. We love night matches and can't wait to put our support behind the home team again. The weather has gotten much colder in recent days with temperatures reaching -1°C, so we've unpacked the long underwear and may replace our traditional pre-match pint with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

Swansea City FC 2-0 Gillingham FC
Swansea's Nigerian striker Bayo Akinfenwa scored one and set up another in Swansea City's 2-0 win over a below-average Gillingham side last night. The stadium provided shelter from the wind but the air was freezing. Surprisingly, our pre-match pint was equally as warming as a halftime coffee would have been, but that's pure speculation however, as we decided against the coffee in favor of pint #2. The Swans dominated the match from the start and sent the nearly 10,000 supporters home happy.
Habit Forming
We decided that we need to comment on some of the routines we've managed to slip into since got here. Football aside, we have become a bit regimented and not surprisingly it surrounds food. We love the traditional English breakfast: pork sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, grilled mushroom, hash browns, bacon and fried eggs. Every weekend that we're not out of town we take a walk along the beach toward our traditional English breakfast at The Potters Wheel.
On Thursday nights we have been taking a similar walk out to our newest and most delicious habit: curry. Oh, how we love curry. If Britain has a national dish, this is it. Sound strange? Curry? A national dish? There are curry houses everywhere and they don't disappoint. Our curry habit started at the very place our English breakfast habit started, The Potters Wheel. It started as a Thursday night thing for us but it has evolved into a slight addiction and we don't intend on quitting.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Theatre of Dreams Beckons
Another week, another match. This time we're heading to Manchester to see Manchester United host Portsmouth FC in the 4th Round of the FA Cup. Although we're not particularly the biggest supporters of Manchester United, we know we're in for a treat. Not only are Manchester United the top team in the FA Premier League, but they play at one of the great venues in world football, Old Trafford (a.k.a. The Theatre of Dreams).

Manchester United 2-1 Portsmouth FC. We got on a bus here in Swansea and traveled a beautiful route through east Wales to Manchester and to Old Trafford, and lucky for us we got to see the Premiership's greatest fans...Portsmouth FC's "Blue Army". Never before have we seen a home side's fans, much less 71,000+ fans, that were so useless as Manchester United's fans were. Portsmouth supporters were loud before, during and after the match. We were in awe. The match itself was very good and up until the 70th minute could have gone either way, but some Wayne Rooney magic put the game beyond reach for Portsmouth. On the plus side for Old Trafford, it is an amazing place to see a match, packed to the rafters with people and a with a great team to watch. The only thing that's missing is real fans. We made this video after the match, take a listen to the Portsmouth support:

Friday, January 19, 2007

European Champions Come to Town
Nottingham Forest FC visits Swansea City FC this weekend at the Liberty Stadium and we, of course, will be there. Between 1978 and 1980 Nottingham Forest won the European Cup, now known as the European Champions League, 2 consecutive times. Recent years have seen a fall from such heights, yet currently they're in second place in League 1 and in line for a promotion to the League Championship. A victory for the 8th placed Swans will improve their own hopes of promoton by putting them back into the playoff positions.

Swansea City FC 0-0 Nottingham Forest FC
A great atmosphere was the highlight of this match that was a competitive draw. Chants such as "You're not famous anymore" and "Same old English, always cheating" were amusing, the Welsh/English rivalry was very much a central theme. Swansea City did their promotion hopes little harm by taking a point.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oystermouth, Mumbles
As you’ll see, some blue skies came and I went. The nice weather was too good to pass up, so I went to Mumbles to see Oystermouth Castle and Oystermouth Cemetery, both rich in history and beautiful under blue skies.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Highlights: Rhossili, Gower.
We got a little tired of waiting around for the weather, and with every conversation with locals ending up about Gower we just decided to throw caution to the wind, very high wind. We're not sure what the difference between 70, 80, 90mph winds feels like, but we came close to finding out. But not even the weather could get in the way of what is a visually spectacular and awe-inspiring place to see. Rhossili is on the western most tip of the Gower Peninsula and a half-hours drive from Swansea.

Ospreys 22-22 Stade Francais
One of the most beautiful days since we arrived in Swansea culminated with a walk to the Liberty Stadium to see our first rugby match. We had open minds going in, and had the same opinion of the sport when we left: what this sport needs is Reggie Bush. What it has, however, is James Hook. James Hook is an Ospreys player, a Wales International and Angie's new crush. Move over Michael Owen.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Home Away from Home
We've been in the United Kingdom one month now and it truly feels like home; we've come to really love Swansea. We know you come here to the blog to check in on us and see what we're up to, so a tour of our home is long overdue. But since YouTube limits the size of our uploads, the tour is very short. Come on in.

Same Story, New Sport
We love sports...on Sunday we're going back to the Liberty Stadium here in Swansea, where our sporting adventure began last month, to watch our first-ever match of rugby. Ospreys, a regional rugby club that represents the cities Neath and Swansea of West Glamorgan, play host to Stade Francais of Paris. We're very anxious to familiarize ourselves with rugby, arguably the national sport of Wales.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sleepless in Swansea
As the break in the rain came yesterday at sunrise, we enjoyed almost an entire day of sun and light wind perfect for a jog on the beach and a day out. But as the sun set on the day, some real problems began. Winds of up to 70mph whipping through the marina have persisted now for over 12 hours and we've managed to get very little sleep. You'd be surprised at the amount of noise sailboat masts can make given these high wind speeds. The weekend outlook is thankfully more mild.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Recent Phenomenon
In recent days, Robert has developed some new habits and revealed a new passion. Ever since moving here he has found ways of entertaining himself that, to some, might come as a surprise. To others, like long-time friend Varge Gardner, these are right in line with the oddity of Robert’s personality.
Upon landing in Wales, Robert has been eating exclusively with his left hand, that is to say the fork no longer is utilized by his dominant right hand. Varge, who during the time in which he lived in San Francisco would go weeks at a time testing the limits of his weaker left hand, would find this interesting. But if you think it’s just kind of weird, that’s to be expected.
Varge and Robert's friendship goes back some time, and during that time they have both taken interest in various sports and pseudo-sports featured on late-night television like hurling and table tennis. But Robert has found a new sport that has peaked his interest. Darts. Very competitive, world-class darts. If I’ve lost you, it’s the sport you play in bars, but this version is played in front of hundreds, if not thousands of screaming fans. Quite simply it’s a spectacle. The “Lakeside World Darts Championship” has been featured on television recently and has proved that is worth a look.
To give you a visual: Men with an amount of gold somewhere in the range of…lets just say ‘a lot’ of gold, mostly in ears and on fingers (not on the fingers of the throwing hand of course), are dressed in bowling-type shirts bearing their names or nicknames like “The Matchstick,” “The Viking” (pictured, above), “The Power,” and “Bravedart.” They take to the stage in front of drunken, adoring fans to battle it out in games of 501. There are even mullets and plenty of tattoos as well. Not very exciting, you say? If you know the dart board, imagine these players throwing 3 darts and all of them hitting the very small triple-20 area on the board. Amazing! The broadcasts include an announcer adding up each round of throws, who in the event of the aforementioned 3 triple-20’s, screams “one hundred and eighty!!!,” along with color commentary analysis and a crowd going wild under a flood of strobe lights. Sometimes you’ll even see a “nine-darter” (see the video of Raymond “Barney” von Barneveld's below) where the player scores a 501 with only nine darts!

For Robert, its just ridiculous enough, he only wishes all the broadcasts were in Dutch and that Varge were here to share in the joy. Check it out, whoa!:

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Memories from the Beach

With the outbreak of bad weather since the beginning of the new year, we thought we'd post some pictures of better days enjoyed at the beach. And since the beach is a 5 minute walk away, we can look forward to a break in the weather and a return to the sands of Swansea Bay.

Hello Nasty
For a few days now, the weather in Swansea has been at its worst since we arrived a month ago. As I write, wind gusts of up to 60mph and a light yet consistant rain is pushing people around the marina. It feels as though if the rain drops were any bigger they'd break the windows. At work, Angie continues to face the intimidating task of climbing on towering distilation columns this week. Every time the wind gusts my heart skips, but I know she's safe and ready to make it through the day so we can brave the conditions together and head out this evening to, of course, watch footy. Liverpool FC face off against Arsenal FC in their second match in 4 days, the previous match ending 3-1 in favor of Arsenal. No matter what the weather, it always turns back to football.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cardiff City FC 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
If there is anything to sour ones enthusiasm about football, it's a trip to Cardiff City's Ninian Park. But we enjoyed the trip and saw a uniquely different side of British football.
To start the day we decided to take the train instead of drive, and with great prices and a designated driver included we couldn't resist. The persistent rain played a part in the decision as well. The train ride to Cardiff showed us what was to come, with kids in Cardiff City FC gear pounding bottles of Strongbow at 10.30am. We got into the act ourselves later on, and after we got to Cardiff and after walking around a bit we settled in to a pub to have some lunch and watch the kick-off of Manchester United v. Aston Villa. After lunch we took a cab to the stadium a noticed it wasn't the most picturesque place to see a match, the words 'home field advantage' come to mind. Nonetheless, we knew it wasn't the best ground and had been warned of all that we encountered prior to our trip by multiple people. In the end, the match was another good nil-nil draw and Tottenham now have the chance to play a replay of the match at their home in London, White Hart Lane. We're glad we made the trip, and having been to Anfield and Ninian Park in the same week, we can say we've seen two very different sides to this game.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sheffield United FC 0-3 Swansea City FC
The magic that is the FA Cup hit home right here in Swansea with the local team, the Swansea City Swans, staging one of the biggest upsets in their club's history against Premier League team Sheffield United. The Swans, who sit 7th in the League 1 table, 34 places below Sheffield United in the overall standings of British football. They travelled to Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium (over 5hrs away) along with 5,000 fans from here in Swansea in the hopes of winning, but knew it would be a tall task. They came away the better team on the day, thoroughly outclassing Sheffield United and now await the draw for their FA Cup 4th Round opponent.
Come on you Swans!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Highlights: Liverpool/Birmingham

Goodison Park, Everton, Liverpool.

Holiday spirit on Bond Street, Liverpool.

European Capital of Culture.

Villa Park, Birmingham. Home to Aston Villa FC.

Chinatown, Liverpool.

She's hooked, on the Merseyside Maritime Museum...

View of City Centre from Tate Museum, Albert Dock.

Sundown at Albert Dock

Anfield, home of Liverpool FC.

Visiting...yet right at home.

Anfield just before kickoff...