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Images of Wales

North Wales landscape photographer Pierino Algieri peddles Delweddau Algieri Images online to UK and overseas customers. Algieri, whose Italian father was held as a prisoner of war in Llanrwst, prefers slow manual cameras to digital.

His collection of nature and landscape prints consists of numerous shots of Snowdonia and landmarks in North Wales. Most of my favorite prints depict bridges, such as the Beaver Bridge and Pool in Betws y Coed, a bridge over the River Machno, the chapel at Melin-y-Coed, and icicles hanging from a bridge in Cwm Prysor. Among Algieri’s collection are a series of Guinness shots, like Guinness in Snowdonia. Another favorite is Caernarfon Castle at sunset. The prints are available in various sizes; other products include puzzles, cards, calendars, coasters, and free computer wallpaper.

Lusting for Leeks

LeeksFor months, I’ve been craving leeks. No matter what recipe I try, they never taste as good as they should. Granted, cooking is not my forte and the supermarket specimens are often suited for the compost pile—a problem unlikely to improve significantly as winter crops are replaced by spring.

Not long ago, I briefly satisfied the craving with a cup of potato and leek soup at Disney’s Rose & Crown Dining Room. (Were it not for my dairy intolerance, I easily could have devoured a bowl or two.) Seems it’s hard to find leeks on the menu outside the UK, perhaps I can divert my taste buds with a less elusive, though more expensive, treat like lobster. Or there’s always chocolate….

Picton Reopens for Season

Picton Castle has reopened for castle, garden, and gallery tours until September. During Easter week, you’ll find the castle decked out in spring flowers, Easter eggs hidden along the wooded trail, and children marching in an Easter bonnet parade.  

Nestled among 40 acres of woodlands, Picton Castle is located in Pembrokeshire off the A40 east of Haverfordwest. The 13th century castle design fuses a fortified manor house with a medieval castle. The circular library is my favorite room. The grounds feature a walled garden, maze, fountain, and rare rhododendrons. The castle gallery exhibits local artists’ work.

Admission prices range from £2.50 for children’s admission to the garden and gallery to £7.45 for adult’s admission to the castle, garden, and gallery.

Wales and the History of the World

Described as a “series that reveals some extraordinary stories about Wales and the history of the world,” the four-part BBC series, Wales and the History of the World, piqued my interest. The 30-minute episodes, which are hosted by Eddie Butler, cover “Firsts,” “Trade & Industry,” “Conflict,” and “Objects.” All the episodes that originally aired on BBC1 are available online for a few more days. Sadly, I’m unable to view them due to licensing restrictions. Even the clips have banners slapped over them stating that the programs are “not available in your area.” Perhaps the series will eventually be aired for the rest of the world to enjoy….

New University Preps for Fall Enrollment

The University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College are working together to form a new university in South West Wales. University of Wales Trinity Saint David expects to educate its first class this September. The university will “provide a distinctive and unique curriculum with a strong emphasis on Welsh cultural heritage and bilingualism.” The government has invested more than £18 million in the school.

Test Your Rural Skills

Coppicewood College isn’t a traditional school, yet it teaches traditional skills. The college “promotes and supports sustainable woodland management and runs courses using traditional methods and tools.” Courses cover topics like green woodworking, coppice practice, hedge laying, garden structure weaving, round wood timber framing, and sustainability. Students are taught to use axes, bow saws, draw knifes, scythes, billhooks, and pole lathes. Spanning 17 acres, Coppicewood is located in Cym Plysgog Woods, Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire. Individual and family memberships cost less than £20. Volunteer opportunities are available on Wednesdays.

The Welsh Fairy Book

Ever wonder why the red dragon is the emblem of Wales? Or why the robin’s breast is red? Perhaps you need to know how to get rid of fairies…or maybe you’re looking for a curse. The Welsh Fairy Book holds the answers, assuming you believe in fairy tales.

Originally published in 1908 by W. Jenkyn Thomas, the collection of illustrated fairy stories has fallen into the public domain. The book comprises more than 80 stories; most of them, short morality tales or legends. Among the intriguing tales are “Striking a Corpse Candle,” “The Fairy Password,” “The Power of St. Tegla’s Well,” “The Drowning of the Bottom Hundred,” “The Forbidden Fountain,” and “The Devil’s Bridge.”

Looking for decidedly Welsh stories? Try “Cadwaladr and his Goat,” “Lyn Cym Llwch,” “Tudor ap Einion,” “Pedws Ffowk and St. Elian’s Well,” “Nansi Llwyd and the Dog of Darkness,” or “The Pwca of the Trwyn.” Don’t worry, the book contains a section on Welsh pronunciation.

Here’s a curse from “Goronwy Tudor and the Witches of Llanddons”:

May he wander for ages many,
And at every step, a stile,
At every stile, a fall;
At every fall, a broken bone,
Not the largest nor the least bone,
But the chief neck bone, every time.

Purple Moose Brewery

Although I’m not a beer drinker, the Purple Moose Brewery and its award-winning beers caught my attention. What’s not to love about a purple moose? With creatively named brews like Stag Light Ale, Dark Wobbly Antlers, and Muddled Moose, I could almost like beer….

Established in 2005, the microbrewery is located in Porthmadog, North Wales. Its four standard offerings consist of Snowdonia Ale (3.6% alcohol)—a pale ale named CAMRA Champion Beer of Wales 2009; Madog’s Ale (3.7%)—a malty bitter; Glaslyn Ale (4.2%)—a fruity bitter, twice named “best bitter”; and Dark Side of the Moose (4.6%)—a dark ale that twice won the “strong mild & old ales” category at the Champion Winter Beer of Britain Competition. These beers are available in bottles or casks.

The Purple Moose Brewery’s seasonal brews include Cadair Idris (4.3%)—one of a series of beers named for local mountain ranges, and Merry X-Moose (5.0%)—a ruby color ale that is brewed with darker malts. The most recent seasonal offering, Easter Ale (3.9%), is described as “an easy drinking chestnut session bitter with a fruity hop finish.” It will be available in pubs starting March 22. With the exception of Merry X-Moose, the seasonal ales are available in casks only.

Window-Shopping for Celtic Merchandise

Today, let’s shop…or at least window-shop.

In Caernarfon, Celtica’s 14,000 square foot store showcases “the best of Wales and Celtic countries.” Celtica carries typical souvenirs such as love spoons, tea towels, coasters, mugs, magnets, note cards, and sheepskin rugs. Additionally, it sells a variety of books, music CDs, DVDs, textiles, clothing, pictures, food items, jewelry, cooking essentials, and gift items.

The store also contains a café that serves local, organic produce. On the menu: various hot and cold sandwiches, soup, salad, sweets, afternoon tea, and assorted drinks. As much as I’d love to pop in for some homemade soup and Welsh cakes, I must settle for browsing through the online store.

Like its brick-and-mortar counterpart, Celtica’s online store carries quality products from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Basques. For example, vanilla sea salt, Welsh heather honey, Scottish toiletries, Irish candles, Welsh-language greeting cards, and 100% Egyptian cotton Corgi socks.  

I’ve been admiring gifts with Gaelic inscriptions, bronze Celtic crosses, stunning landscape prints, and hard-to-find Wales-related books. A particularly interesting find: Necrologies: A Book of Welsh Obituaries.

Upscale Camping

If you enjoy the outdoors but are unwilling to sacrifice all creature comforts, fforest might be the place for you. Located in West Wales outside Cardigan, fforest is billed as “a hotel with woodland corridors and canvas rooms.” Accommodations range from three types of tents to croglofts (small crofter’s cottages that are perfect for winter camping or for those who prefer more traditional amenities). Avid campers can choose from geodesic dome tents, nomad tents, and tepee-like Swedish kåta tents. All tents are perched on wooden platforms with ample deck space and covered outdoor cooking areas. The tents are furnished with mattress pads, reindeer hides or Welsh woolen blankets, lounging sacks, and even woodstoves. The dome tents and croglofts feature luxuries in outdoor living: beds and furniture!

Breakfast typically consists of local produce. For other meals, an open-air, covered kitchen and dining facility is available for use. Other facilities include shower and toilet buildings, a lodge, lounge and bar, covered fire pit and party areas, and a cedar barrel sauna.

For entertainment, various outdoor activities abound; consider walking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking, archery, orienteering and bushcraft. Those looking for something more challenging might tackle abseiling, climbing and high ropes, mountain biking, surfing, rafting, coasteering, or paintballing.

Care to try “sleeping and living under canvas with beauty, birdsong and cold-at-night”?