12.07.2011 - 28.07.2011 70 °F
This entry will also be short because it's 12:30 and we have an early last day of traveling before we prepare for departure on Thursday morning. We woke up at about 5:30 to depart Dooley's Hotel in Waterford at 7 AM, and we arrived in Rosslare at 8:15--plenty of time to check our bus in to the ferry and settle in for our four hour journey. We pulled out at 8:45 AM from Ireland and left some of the most beautiful country I've seen behind. I truly felt like I was leaving home for a while--I just wanted to go back and spend time there, so I was a bit sad to watch the Irish countryside pull away from our view. But the confluence of the Irish and the Atlantic seas were sailing smoothly (apparently even enough for the dolphins to swim with us), ans we passed our time getting to know the friends that we've just met and will soon part with in just a couple of days.
We had some good belly laughs on this trip over to Wales. We wrote one song for our tour director, Nigel (sung to the tune of "Danny Boy"--will post lyrics later), and sung that at our traditional Killarney dinner a couple of nights ago, so we knew we also had to write a song for Terry, our driver. We spent a good part of the morning drafting our version of "Proud Mary" (ours is called "Proud Terry") and would have sung it today had it not been for our small mishap just after we landed in Pembroke ouside of Carew Castle. Since we took a wrong turn and were never supposed to see Carew Castle in the first place, Terry had to find a place to turn around. He did, but apparently he retaining wall he was trying to avoid did not quite want us to leave. He ended up hooking the front fender on the wall and we required a bit of navigational prowess before we disengaged the bus from the wall, but we thought today was not the best day to sing our tune to Terry since we make light of the car that almost hit us in a head-on and the accidental wrong turn on the one-way in Chester to cause the talk of the town that morning. We've tabled Terry's song for tomorrow.
We did have an absolutely lovely drive in from Pembroke to Cardiff today. The sun was beautiful and the temperature was lovelouty. We drove the highway in to town and thanked our lucky stars that the road closure ahead (a "lorrie," or truck, caught fire in a tunnel a couple of miles south of our exit and shut down the highway indefinitely) did not affect us, got off in front of the Cardiff Castle, and had a grand stroll around the grounds. We saw the ornately beautiful main house of the Marquess Bute (who redesigned the castle in the 18th century) and walked along the inner and upper areas of the castle keep, or the inner castle that was surrounded by a moat and designed for protection. What makes Cardiff Castle unique is that it has an outer wall (built off the old original Roman wall) that could be locked and used as an outer fortress (or a prison), and the actual castle was inside this wall. In order to get to the castle, one had to cross the moat and climb up a steep outer hill to infiltrate, which only happened once (it was an inside job, apparently). The keep was amazing. Once you reached the keep, it was this large (24-meter in diameter) inner courtyard that was surrounded by tall walls that kept the soldiers in order to ward off attackers. Since the typical way to kill a group was to take out its food supply, the members would bring its food supply inside the outer walls and then arm themselves within the keep, and they could resist outside forces quite well for this. Dad and I ascended the stairs to take in the 360 view of Cardiff from the top, and it was astounding. We also toured the outer wall as they had turned it into a World War II bunker...it was haunting and fascinating. We culminated our trip by coming back at 7:30 for our Welsh dinner and show, and the entertainment and views of the Castle at night were well worth the price. We ended our evening by borrowing a bottle of red wine, having a drink in the hotel with Cathie, John, and Alan, and discussing sports (primarily Cricket) before turning in.
Tomorrow is our last day on the tour, and we see Stonehenge and Bath before arriving in London for our final night. Let's hope that the friends we've made and the memories we've kept will last us until the next trip. We're already planning on meeting up to travel the Rhine River in a couple of years--how amazing if it would happen!
See you in London and Heathrow.