Monday, April 30, 2007

Great Day for a Walk
A beautiful spring weekend here in Swansea made for a good opportunity to walk on the Gower. We walked about 6 miles from Mumbles and Bracelet Bay through Langland to Caswell and back. Songbirds and surfers were out in their numbers under the blue skies and swift winds.

Friday, April 27, 2007

We're Not Done Yet
We caved, our love of football could not end while Swansea City are in a race for the playoffs and we're set to cheer them on in their last home match of the season against Blackpool FC on May 5th. The Swans, led by new coach Roberto Martinez, lay outside of the 6th and final playoff spot only on goal difference with two matches remaining. Their next match is away to Carlisle United who themselves are only a point back and keen to make the playoffs as well. League 1 is down to the wire and we're not going to miss it!


Carlisle United 1-2 Swansea City
The Swans took another step towards the League 1 playoffs today with a last minute win away to Carlisle. Lee Trundle (pictured above) opened the scoring inside the first minute, and after Carlisle equalized right after halftime the Swans pushed the match into extra time where Darryl Duffy scored the winner. Their main rivals for the 6th and final playoff spot, Oldham, won as well and with one match to go Swansea and Oldham sit even on points. A Swans victory or draw coupled with an Oldham loss would see the Swans through, but a draw by both sides would see Oldham through on a goal difference of 2. If the two teams were to lose, Oldham would have to lose by more than 2 goals compared to the difference in the Swansea loss. At least it's not complicated!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Its Not All Roses and Lollipops
It's been easy bringing to you the best of Wales and chronicling all of the great experiences and memories we'll take back with us, we love it here. But what we keep from you are the negatives, some of the things that bring us down. We've written about the bad weather; the high winds and constant rain of this past winter were at times oppressive and dampened our spirits. Stepping in vomit on Wind Street has its negatives, too. But nothing, nothing can compare to our refrigerator. The kitchen is a bit of a negative in and of itself measuring little more than 6x6, but....wanna hear the most annoying sound in the whole world? Click on the video below to hear the noise that, for 24 hours a day, comes from the fridge.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spring On the Swansea Bay Marine Walk

Sunday, April 22, 2007

If You Don't Know, Now You Know
Wales can be stunningly beautiful, and Snowdonia National Park certain qualifies as stunning. We spent the weekend in the Glyder Mountains and the lakes of Llyn Idwal and Llyn Ogwen. We left Swansea for North Wales on a 5-hour evening/night drive that was, to say the least, thrilling. The lanes were very tight and the drivers were intense. Angie did a phenomenal job getting us there and over the last 4 months has become a champion driver on the 'wrong' side of the road and on tight roadways.
Once we got to the Idwal Cottage hostel it was time for bed, and when we woke up we finally got to see the mountains and lakes in daylight. Our hike for the day was around Llyn Idwal and around the surrounding mountains: Devil's Kitchen, Cwm Cneifion (The Nameless Mountain) and Y'Garn. The trekking was difficult but the views were rewarding. From the top of our hike we could see the full extent of the glaciers that crept across the area long ago. Both Llyn Idwal, Llyn Ogwen and the Nant Ffrancon (the u-shaped valley left behind) were in full view. We ended our day a the Rhaeadr Ogwen waterfall, where we rested after the morning hike.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What to Do Now?
Our days in Wales are numbered. Even with a slight extension to Angie's stay, we're here for less than a month now. And with recent trips to continental Europe and the States we haven't seen much of Wales for some time. With so few weekends to spend together before we head home we don't know how best to spend our time. This weekend we're driving to North Wales to Snowdonia for a weekend of hiking. But what to do next? Our beloved Swansea Swans are on the brink of qualification for the promotion playoffs and Robert's Leeds United are in need of support as they face the prospect of relegation. Should football get in the way of seeing more of this beautiful country? Probably not.
Having traced Robert's family as far back as 1755 and learning of his Welsh roots has put a new perspective on our time here. We'll miss this place dearly and will with no doubt return again. Whatever we do and wherever we do it we will cherish every moment we have left here. Swansea feels like home now and to leave is going to be bittersweet.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Highlights: Barcelona

Sagrada Familia

La Rambla

The Cascade

Waiting to see the Museu Picasso

Santa Maria del Mar

Street Guitarist Near Museu Picasso and Santa Maria del Mar

Castell Montjuic

Overlooking Barcelona from Castell Montjuic

Sant Pau del Camp

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

Camp Nou

Street Art, Calle Marina

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Barçelona Shows its Colors, Eventually
We've returned from Spain having seen another incredible city. Unfortunately, the weatherman wasn't wrong and it rained on us for most of the time. However, in spite of Angie being ill for most of the trip and weather not being suitable for walking around or taking good pictures, when it wasn't raining we were hustling through this beautiful port city and eating some great food.
After Angie's finished her work commitments, we hit the streets on Friday and went to Gaudi's Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, with its 100m high spires and stunning Gothic architecture. A wet walk through the Parc Zoologic to the Arc de Triomf. The walk home took us by Barceloneta, the marina area of Barcelona, where we had a memorable dinner of paella, asparagus, fresh sardines and anchovies.
Saturday was another day of rain and getting over a sickness, mostly spent in or very near to the hotel. We did
take a walk down La Rambla, the central walkway of Barcelona, past the Monument a Colom (Monument of Columbus) and walked along the marina to the Museu d'Historia de Catalunya where we learned the fascinating and turbulent history of the area of Catalunya. We turned in early and took the opportunity to plan our next day.
Sunday we were in front of the queue for the Museu Picasso, a line that we had seen the previous day reaching extraordinary lengths, and we were rewarded. The museum, situated in a row of medieval mansions, was a true highlight of our time in Europe. A very engaging look inside the development and maturation of one of the world's great creative minds, the Museu Picasso shows off sketches from Pablo Picasso's childhood through his cubist works. The collection includes the complete series of 57 works based on Diego Velazquez's famous Las Meninas painting. After the morning at the museum we went to the nearby Santa Maria del Mar, a 14th century basilica with beautiful interiors with stained glass and arched ceilings. We weren't allowed much viewing time as it was during Sunday mass, but it was well worth the short glimpse we did get. From there it was on to the other side of town to see the Parc de Montjuic, an area full of gardens that was perfect for a walk now that the sun was at last shining through the clouds. Montjuic is also home to many structures used in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, including the Estadi Olimpic. Home to the 1992 games' opening ceremony, the Estadi Olimpic is also the home to the football club RCD Espanyol de Barcelona of the Spain's La Liga. Our walk in the park took us up a sizable hill to the Castell de Montjuic, from which we could see breathtaking views of Barcelona. The long day of walking came to an end at Camp Nou, home to FC Barcelona for their match against RCD Mallorca (see match report below).
Monday was a travel day but we had some time to spare in the morning and went to the 10th century church of Sant Pau de Camp and to the Parc de l'Estacio del Nord, home to a few bits of land art such as the Cel Caigut (Fallen Sky, pictured above). We then walked to the bus station and were on our way home. Barcelona is a beautiful place in sunshine, and as with any place in rain can be a bit dreary. Thankfully we got a bit of sun and got to see this great city the way it was meant to be seen.

FC Barçelona 1-0 RCD Mallorca
The Camp Nou is a must for any football fan. This huge stadium in the middle of the city does not look imposing from the outside because its sunken into the ground giving the illusion of any old stadium. From the streets it rather looks like Old Trafford in size, big to be sure. Once inside you get the scale of this massive building; it seats just short of 98,000 people.
The match itself was a classic match of one team playing not to lose (Mallorca) and one team frustrated by playing against a team playing not to lose (Barcelona). A stingy Mallorca played well enough to get out of the first half without conceding and even were awarded a penalty when Barca 'keeper Victor Valdes fouled Mallorca striker Jonas Gutierrez in the box on 28 minutes. Gutierrez made it easy for Valdez on the ensuing penalty kick and his weak effort was saved much to the delight of the home crowd. The second half saw more of the same with Mallorca keeping Barca at bay for the entire second half. A draw seemed a fair result until an unfortunate bounce came off of Mallorca's Fernando Navarro and into his own net in added time. The crowd went berserk but we couldn't help but feel that the result wasn't what the game deserved. Nonetheless, Barcelona got their 3 points and are on course for a third successive La Liga title.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Vamos a Barcelona
No rest for the weary. A fortnight ago we were in London on a trans-Atlantic flight to Houston. Three days later we were on the flight back to London. Five days ago we were on a flight from Wales to France with a return two days ago, not to mention the trains and time spent on motorways in-between.
Today we're again leaving Wales, this time on a trip to Spain. Angie has meetings in Barcelona this week and we're staying over for the weekend. We hope to see a good deal of the city in spite of the forecasts of rain and have plans to go to the Camp Nou, home of 2006 UEFA Champions League and Spanish La Liga Champions Barcelona FC, to see Barcalona host RCD Mallorca.
This stretch of our trip reminds us of our good friends Sunny and Mel. If you haven't checked out the travel blog they kept during their awe-inspiring trip around the world, its well worth a look. You can see it here and via the link on the right side of this page.
Highlights: Easter in Paris

Eiffel Tower, Parc du Champ de Mars

Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Eylsees

Angie Overlooking the Siene from Pont Alexander III

Pathway in Jardin des Tuileries

Pantheon, home of Foucault's Pendulum and Voltaire

Outside the Louvre

Venus de Milo, Louvre

The Sainte-Chapelle, Ile de la Cite

Stained Glass Interior of Sainte-Chapelle

Notre-Dame, Ile de la Cite

Sacre-Coer, Butte Montmarte

Grande Palais Across Pont Alexander III

Adornment on The Pont Alexander III

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Happy Couple, Angry Feet
Paris in Spring. If you've been there before, you may want to stop reading now, we're about to mention all the things we love. The espresso, the crepes, the pastries, the sights. It began on the flight over Air France gave us great coffee and pastries, laying the foundation for our culinary experience that we'll always remember. When we arrived on Friday morning we took immediately to the streets and had tasted our first Creme Brulee before noon. Within hours we had climbed the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and were looking across the entire city of Paris on the first of a succession of beautiful blue-skied days. Friday night we took a culinary cruise on the Siene River, viewing at night what we were to spend the next few days exploring, the Grande Palais, the Louvre, Notre Dame, etc. A restful night's sleep was a welcome end to the first of a few very busy days.
The following morning we awoke early to get to the Arc de Triomphe and a walk along the breadth of the Champs-Elysees. Along the way we saw an exhibition by artists of New Realism at the National Gallery at the Grand Palais and walked through Jardin des Tuileries, where we stopped for a picnic lunch. After lunch we continued our walk past the beautiful entry to the Louvre and across the islands for some splendid views of Notre Dame and a great time looking at the artists that line the Siene. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Pantheon, home to Foucault's Pendulum and the remains of Voltaire, Marie Curie and Victor Hugo among others. Saturday night began with another picnic of local food from the markets around the neighborhood of our hotel (Villiers) eaten in a park outside the Parc de Princes ahead of the match between Paris Saint Germain and Le Mans (see match summary below).
Sunday morning we again woke early to beat the crowds to the Louvre where we spent the better part of half a day seeing the likes of the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. After being swallowed by the Louvre, we were spit out on the islands where we saw the amazing stained glass of the Saint Chapelle. After a couple of days of walking, crowds and lines, the thought of waiting to see Notre Dame was too much so we decided to give it a miss and go to the North side of town to the Sacre-Coeur. The Sacre Coeur sits atop the Butte Monmarte, one of the highest points in all of Paris and with sloping lawns and towering staircases it is a popular spot for Parisians to relax while having a view of Paris second only tot he view from the Eiffel Tower.
Monday was travel day, but in the morning we had a great breakfast near the Musee d'Orsay which, unfortunately, was closed. In a weekend full of highlights we felt we were owed a letdown and just headed off to the airport. Paris is beautiful, if not a little big for us. Nonetheless, we had a time we'll always remember.

Paris St.Germain 2-1 Le Mans
Saturday night was a truly eye-opening experience for us at the Parc de Princes, for us to see football in France was amazing. To keep a long story short it was the single best footballing experience we have ever had. The football is very different than that we've been seeing in Britain, and that was evident as the ball was played primarily on the ground with players individual skills at a premium. But it was the crowd that stole the show. From the beginning of the match they were in full voice and without a doubt they played a significant part in their team's fightback from a goal down to win the match. The two PSG goals were great ball-to-feet play by the midfield and superb finishing by the strikers. We can't describe the high we felt in Paris that night, it was a night we will never forget.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Easter in Paris
This weekend we're taking advantage of the Easter holiday and heading over to Paris to spend a few days. With such a short journey we'd be foolish not to take some trips to mainland Europe and Paris in particular is a favorite spot of Angie's parents. We can't wait to swap stories of our time in the French capital. Who knows, we may even have time to see Paris Saint-Germain FC host Le Mans at the Parc des Princes on Saturday. We're back on Monday...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cliff Walk/Coastal Pathway: Northwest-North Gower

Path to Rhossili Bay

View of Worms Head from Rhossili Bay

Crossing the Beach at Rhossili Bay

Burry Holmes from Llangenith Burrows

Minor Point from Bluepool Corner

Three Chimneys and Culver Hole from Bluepool Corner

Twlc Point and Broughton Bay from Foxhole Point

Marsh at Cwym-Ivy Tor

Wooded Trail Leading to Whiteford Point

Blue Bell-Shaped Flowers In Llangmadoc

Barn Near Frog Lane Nature Reserve

Snow-Capped Pen y Fan (30+ miles away in the Brecon Beacons)