Sunday, May 21, 2017

At land's end, the islands, rocks, exposed reefs, and pinnacles off the coast (65FR2821)

Another reason we opted for the southwestern spit of England was to get within spitting distance of Cornwall. After exploring the moors for a day, we headed west toward the region known for its craggy coastline. Most people aim for Lands End, the country's most southwesterly point, or Lizard Point, its most southerly point, but we were content to experience some harbors off the beaten path. TJ steered us toward Porthleven, the country's most southerly port (left). Its harbor was constructed in the early 19th century in response to the shipwreck of the HMS Anson, whose recovered cannon sits on the protective walls (right). 
The fishing town was already decked out for the holidays. We were a little early for its boat light parade (top left), but we saw a little doggie full of Christmas cheer strutting its stuff in one of the downtown shops (top right). It was tight quarters at The Ship Inn, with little room for Sage (bottom), so instead of drinking with the local fisherman, we angled for a spot outside, overlooking the harbor.
Next, we headed inland to Helston, once a river port but now a market town since the waterway silted up. In the past the city was home to 30 ale houses that brewed their own beer, and TJ wanted to visit the oldest one remaining: The Blue Anchor (top left). The inn was once a monk's rest that brewed mead, but now its on-site Spingo Ales Brewery creates four types of ale, all of which are served as blends (top right). The bar is also known for its skittles alley and outdoor music venue, but I personally was drawn more to its cozy interior rooms (bottom).
Just in time for sunset, we skirted the Lizard Heritage Coast until we reached St. Michael's Mount, the site of a church, castle, harbor, and village, all dating from various times (top left). When the tide is low, the outcropping can be reached by walking on a causeway from Marazion, believed to be the oldest town in Great Britain. During high tide, the isle, managed and occupied by the St. Aubyn family, is accessed via a car-boat (top right). By the time we made it to Penzance, the sun was fully faded, and we were ready for a meal (bottom).
The options in Penzance were numerous, but since it worked the previous night, we took the advice of a barman and set out to find some place to eat in Port Isaac, a well-hidden harbor turned holiday village (top). Its cluster of historical buildings makes it a frequent set for film and TV, including the popular period drama series Poldark (bottom left). It happened to be fish and chips Friday at The Slipway, so TJ and I both had the daily special then headed back to our accommodations.
The next morning, we checked out relatively early, so we could make some stops on our way back to London. In bustling Exeter, we grabbed breakfast near Catherine Square, where ruins of an eponymous church remain (left). The city's more famous religious building is Exeter Cathedral, whose claim to fame in the architecture world is having the longest vaulted ceiling in England. Judging from the crowd, it's likely more well-known among laypeople for its annual Christmas Market (right).
Next and last up was Bristol, whose alternative vibe is clearly on display through its abundance of public street art, much of which is created or inspired by native Banksy (top). The mix of history and hipster is also center stage at St. Nicholas Markets (bottom left). Because it was late in the day, most of the food shacks were shuttered, but we managed to get a snack from Pieminister, a UK-wide phenomenon that started in Bristol (bottom right).
Being so close to Wales, Bristol shares some affinity with its capital, as illustrated by the existence of a second Small Bar franchise, which was more spacious and less crowded than its Cardiff counterpart. One local concept I'd like to see go global is The Apple, a converted Dutch barge that serves only cider pints and cheesy fries (left). Luckily, the boat was well-tethered to the banks of the River Avon, so Sage didn't have any problem adjusting to his sealegs (right).

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Nor the moors of England is so sacred in the history of the struggles for human liberty (113Cong.Rec.)

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a moor is "an open area of hills covered with rough grass, especially in Britain." Indeed, there are plenty of grassy open spaces in England, but some of the most famous are within its southern peninsula. So for the long Thanksgiving weekend, TJ and I trained to Bristol, where we rented a car to explore the hills. 

On the way to our accommodations, we skirted the northern coast of the peninsula, cutting through Exmoor National Park. We made a pit stop in Minehead, a coastal town at one end of the South West Coast Path (top left). It is also the start of the West Somerset Railway Station, the longest heritage railway in England. We didn't ride the rails, but we did watch a steam engine rotate on the turntable (top right). We also went all aboard a few of the the old railcars sitting along the tracks (bottom left), as they were home to booths for a Christmas market (bottom right).
From Minehead, we headed south and inland to Exbourne, a small town in Devon just on the edges of Dartmoor National Park and home to Hayes Orchard, a small family farm with holiday rentals. Our apartment, on the ground floor of a renovated barn, looked out over a small sheep pen (top left). One morning, I caught the patriarch herding his flock out to pasture (top right). Sage could only smell the livestock, but he definitely spotted the guineafowl that came tapping on our windows every morning (bottom left). And he certainly couldn't ignore the pony we passed on the way to our car (bottom right).
I was just as excited about the ponies as Sage, so I found us a circular walk that would take us into the heart of the national park, known for its wild herds. The trail started by weaving through the Teign Valley, along the coast-to-coast Two Moors Way and the port-to-port Mariner's Way (left). Within the woodlands we came across Gidleigh Chapel, a 19th-century structure built on the site of a 15th-century Saxon church (right). Within its graveyard is a tombstone belonging to, as some believe, a Crusader knight.
In a field right across from the chapel, Sage got a close look at a more domesticated variety of equine (top left). It was good desensitization for when we finally encountered some wild ponies, which weren't separated from us by a fence (top right). From the middle of the moor, there are supposedly good views of the surrounding rock outcroppings, including Hound Tor, which inspired Doyle's short story "The Hound of the Baskervilles." But the atmospheric mist of the moors kept them a mystery to our eyes (bottom left). Within the fog, we spied the Scorhill stone circle, which dates to the Bronze Age (bottom right). Legend holds that livestock will not be led through the circle, but Sage had no qualms about following TJ into its circumference.
From the circle it was a short walk back to the car, passing the Tolmen Stone, a boulder with a hole resulting from river erosion; some believe the human-size void was, and perhaps is, used for purification rituals. TJ and I cleansed ourselves with some refreshment in Totnes, a town just southeast of the park that promotes a triple ale trail (top left). Our first stop was Albert Inn (as in Einstein), home of Bridgetown Brewery (top right), a reference to how the River Dart, which bisects the city, necessitates numerous spans. As the sun went down, we headed to the city center to Totnes Brewing Company (bottom left), then made one last stop, at New Lion Brewery, before heading out of town (bottom right).
A gentlemen at New Lion recommended a restaurant for our evening repast. We lost cell service -- and therefore GPS guidance -- along the way, but somehow, we managed to find The Cleave in Lustleigh (top left). After we finished our dishes, full of local ingredients (top right), we chatted with a couple living the dream: working as bartender and manager at a gastropub while house sitting in the English countryside. After dinner, we let instinct guide us back to Exbourne; we knew we had navigated correctly when we passed The Red Lion, the pub where we had our "Thanksgiving meal" the night before (bottom).

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Otherwise, we would have been here all day in a rugby scrum (149Cong.Rec.S12159)

The final stop in our circle of Wales was Cardiff, which was all decked out for the holidays. Colorful lights were strung across the pedestrianized streets (top left), and sparkling deer grazed outside the castle walls (top right). The city's Victorian Arcades always have a bit of Dickensenian charm, but they seemed even more festive adorned with wreaths and other evergreens (bottom). The only thing missing was a piped-in recitation of "A Child's Christmas in Wales."
But really, we didn't come for the Christmas spirit. We came mainly for the Welsh culture. So one of our first stops was Cardiff Central Market (top). It was close to closing for the day, so we vowed to return the next morning for breakfast at one of the greasy spoons lining the balcony (bottom left). A lot of diners were opting for faggots and peas, but I chose eggs on toast, and TJ had chipped beef (bottom right). Before we left, we bought a dozen Welsh cakes fresh from the griddle to fuel our exploration of the city.
From our hotel, it was a nice dog walk down to Cardiff Bay, which has been turned into a cultural district whose centerpiece is the Wales Millennium Centre, an unmistakably Welsh structure, considering the saying cut into its facade (top left). Another homage to the arts sits closer to the water in the form of a shrine to Ianto Jones, a character who was killed off Torchwood, a Doctor Who spin-off (top right). I had no idea who Jones was, but I did recognize the namesake of Roald Dahl Plass (bottom left). I followed the Thomas trail for TJ, so he indulged me by visiting an exhibit about Dahl's favored illustrator, Quentin Blake, at the National Museum, where we also saw some animatronic mammoths (bottom right).
A few more stationary mammals spied down us from atop the Animal Wall; Sage was particularly entranced by a stone-cold fox guarding the castle (left). Dogs aren't allowed in Cardiff Castle, so we didn't pay a visit, but truth be told, we were content to gaze across the moat at its walls instead (right).
Keeping up the fauna theme, we supped one night on the famous pies at The Goat Major, named after the caretaker of an ungulate military mascot (top). The pub is an outlet of Wales' well-known fermentor, Brains Brewery. But Cardiff is brimming with beer options, including a tasting room for Tiny Rebel Brewing, where we had a trio of tasters, and then some (bottom left). But perhaps the best discovery was Hopbunker, an under-patronized craft-beer bar recommended to us by a bloke we met in another bar (bottom right).
TJ can't come within 50 miles of a beach without wanting to visit, so we took the train out to the nearby coastal area of Barry Island (top). In the summer I'm sure it's a lovely little getaway, with its beach huts and fun fair, but when we visited, there was a storm brewing over the Vale of Glamorgan (bottom left). When the hail started falling, we abandoned our plan to walk to downtown Barry and headed back to Cardiff instead (bottom right).
Somehow, we managed to steal a table and soothe our chills with a dinner at Locke & Remedy (top). We also had good timing in finding some spots at Small Bar, which lives up to its name (bottom left). Perhaps our favorite little hole-in-the-wall, though, was Elderberry's Cafe, which looked like a school cafeteria but served up delicious breakfast sandwiches -- with both bacon and sausage (bottom right).
We had no idea when we booked our trip that we were heading into town during the weekend of an international rugby match: Wales v. Japan. We were clued in by our rental-car agent, but it became more than apparent when we saw the scrum outside Principality Stadium (top left). On a whim we bought tickets, and after watching the action with many daffodil- and leek-hat-wearing fans, I was a convert (top right). We celebrated the close win by Wales with hundreds of others at the downtown bars, which were so packed that we had to stand outside The Cambrian Tap (bottom left). Considering the massive merriment, we weren't surprised to see few people on the streets when we walked our dog the next morning. We did come across some Japanese players signing autographs (bottom right). One of them even stopped, as he boarded the team bus, to pet Sage. After a short chat, we saw the players off, then headed off to catch our own train back home.