Paddle harder

Love many, trust few, and paddle your own canoe.

“You have to sign this release and watch the safety video, and then will be on our way, and make sure you check the box that says ‘no guide’.”  I looked at my friend Greg, and said ‘No guide?’ and he said ‘Yep, no guide.’  I wasn’t so sure.  I probably needed a guide, and extra time with that safety video, if I’m being honest.

nantahala-river-4

I always feel apprehension and anxiety before any new adventure because let’s be honest, I’m not the most graceful person in the world.  There’s always the chance that the boat I’m in will capsize, the equipment I’m using will malfunction, or I’ll trip, fall, and break something.  Usually once I get started, I’m fine, but those moments before, I’m a giant scared-y cat.

nantahala-river-2
Although floating down the river is nothing to be afraid of.

I took some solace in the fact that the Nantahala is one of the easier whitewater rivers  to raft in the eastern US.  It’s great for beginners [like me!].   The run is 8 miles of Class II rapids with one tiny little bit of Class III rapids right at the end.nantahala-river-3

The water was fast and mostly flat. I am not a good front boat paddler. I’d probably be a worse rear paddler. I got yelled at several times… “paddle harder, paddle harder”. I paddled harder; I paddled my little heart out. I don’t think anything I did mattered. We made it 8 miles down the river without anyone falling out.

I suck at paddling a raft. I’m decent in a kayak, but rafting, I completely suck. But every adventure isn’t always about experiencing the biggest adrenaline rush or taking it to the edge. I don’t have to be the best at everything or have the greatest story to tell. Sometimes doing something I’ve never done before allows me to challenge myself. It allows me to let go a fear… Fear that plagues everyone at some point in life. Sometimes it allow me a chance to be humble and reconnect with my inner self.

Life isn’t always a contest.

nantahala-river-1

The case for traveling and the counterpoint

I am only passionate about a few things:  traveling definitely makes the shortlist, but just because I love it doesn’t mean I’m not aware of its faults. As with many other things in life, there are ups and downs when it comes to traveling.

Escapism.

South Carolina is awesome, but there are no beaches like this near my home.

At is simplest, travel allows you to escape. Whether it’s from a bad relationship [been there, done that one, or maybe no relationship at all],  job you hate, or simply a boring, sedentary life [also done that], sometimes you feel like you just need to get away. Travel is the perfect form of escapism – far better than reading a book or watching a movie – because it actually means you get to leave your current situation. You can trade in whatever is making you unhappy for something different, even if it’s just for a little while. A change of scenery is sometimes just what you need to get over boredom or the blues, and being far removed from a problem or stressor often allows you to look at it through new eyes.

Travel is a learning experience.

Before visiting Prague, I never knew St. Wencelces was the patron saint of the city. I only knew him as the good king in the Christmas song.

Seeing other parts of the world and immersing yourself in foreign cultures opens up completely new avenues of discovery. Travel in itself can be educational, and can it open your eyes in ways you never thought possible. Through travel, you can become more aware – both of yourself, and the larger world around you. A traveler has the unique ability to be a citizen of not only his/her own country, but also of the world.

Ability for self-discovery and reinvention. 

I took my very first yoga class on a beach in Ecuador. I followed it up by taking regular yoga classes on the beach in Peru. I’m still not great at it, but it’s something I probably never would have tried at home.

When you are out on the road meeting new people and opening yourself up to new experiences, you may find that you are also slowly reinventing yourself. Or perhaps letting the self you would like to be finally emerge. Travel can be liberating in many ways, but especially when it comes to self-discovery. Being thrown into a foreign culture [or even into a not-so-foreign culture] without all the comforts of home can be challenging, but it’s often those truly tough, personal challenges that will help you grow as an independent individual.

Opportunity for adventure and spontaneity. 

Travel can open up so many doors and provide for so many adventures, both planned and spontaneous. If you are in the mood to make a lasting memory [and really, who isn’t?], get out and see the world. Let life happen, both to you and around you, and just go with it. Who knows where it could lead?

It can be affordable.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a millionaire or have a large trust fund in order to travel. Saving a little here and there can go a long way over time. Being a deal hunter and staying in hostels can pay off. And, if you choose destinations where the cost of living is low, a little can go a long way. For example, a month of your U.S. salary could easily last you two, three, maybe even four months in Southeast Asia or parts of Central America. Basically, if you really have the desire to travel, then you can make it happen.

Cons

Escapism. 

Yes, travel allows you to escape. But sometimes escaping can take the form of running away. Whether it’s that bad breakup or loss of a job, sometimes you just want to leave it all behind and do something crazy, like move 10,000 miles away for a while. [I’ve done this so I am not judging]  But if you truly run away and never look back or never confront the initial problem that sent you fleeing, travel may do more harm than good. Escaping a bad situation is fine, but hiding behind the guise of travel in order to avoid dealing with that bad situation is not quite as advisable. Eventually, you have to face your demons.  They will come find you.

Being homesick.

Even if you are not close to your family, it’s likely you will still feel some semblance of homesickness at some point during your travels. Maybe you miss your significant other. Maybe you miss a sibling or cousin. Hell, maybe you really miss your cat.[I inquired about mine more often than the well beings of other humans] Being away from home can be stimulating and wonderful, but it’s not unnatural to fall into a funk every now and then when you pine for “home.” The good news is that the world has gotten a lot smaller with things like Skype, Facebook and e-mail making it  incredibly easy to keep in touch [should you feel the desire.]

Yep, when I call home, I am asking about my boy.

Missing family milestones/emergencies back home.

Maybe your best friend gets engaged, or has a baby. Maybe a friend or relative dies.  You’d love to be there for all of these important milestones and tragedies; you want to be able to offer your love and support in person, and not through a computer screen or telephone signal. But, it’s likely to happen if you’re traveling for any length of time. Life at home will go on without you, and it’s one thing you just have to come to terms with.  I had friends get married, have babies, and had relatives die all while I was out of the country.  I may not have been there at the moment, but I was when I got back, and I am now.  True friends will understand.

It can be costly. 

Just as travel can be affordable, it can also be extremely expensive. Many European countries [hello, Sweden and England, I am talking to you], as well as Australia and New Zealand,  have incredibly high costs of living. If you’re dead-set on staying in any of these places for any length of time, for example, that $10,000 you saved up over the past two years  isn’t going to get you very far. The same goes for hard-to-reach destinations like Antarctica and Easter Island. If you’re dreaming of the ultimate budget travel adventure, you may have to edit your list and cut many places -– like the South Pole–out.

The addictive-ness of travel.

They don’t call it the “travel bug” for nothing. Once it bites, it can infect you with an insatiable desire to travel that never really goes away. Once is often never enough, as evidenced by the scores of travelers out there who are on the road indefinitely. Especially if you’re prone to becoming addicted to things that give you a good high, don’t expect one trip to ever be the end of it. This can easily turn into an incurable sense of restlessness that no amount of movement can satisfy.

With any great adventure or endeavor in life, there are going to be risks, and there are going to be sacrifices.

Some people might put “the dangers of travel” on the cons list, but, really, just getting in your car and driving to work each day is dangerous. Sure, there are risks to travel, especially long-term travel. But life itself is a risk.

The sacrifices, though, are real, and do exist when it comes to travel.

But if I have to sacrifice some family time to better understand myself, I think it’s worth it. If I have to substitute one destination for another because of finances, then I’ll do it. And, honestly, travel is just about the best thing a person could become addicted to, as far as I’m concerned.

If traveling could mean that I’ll never want to stop… well, that’s another post for another day.

Chichen Itza

I have always kept a record of my travels.  It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film.  Now it’s all digital. Occasionally I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.

Chichen Itza is located in the Yucatan region of Mexico not too far from the Gulf.  It was a major economic and political power from 600 to 1000 A.D. Chichen  Itza is a mix of many of Maya and (Central Mexican) Toltec styles; who influenced whom? so much of pre-Columbian history is still being debated.  But I’ll do my best to summarize.

The Castillo (or castle in English) is the monument that most people think of when they think of Chichén Itzá. It is mostly Toltec construction, and it probably dates to the period of the first combination of cultures in the 9th century AD at Chichén. El Castillo is centrally located on the south edge of the Great Plaza. The pyramid is 30 meters high and 55 meters on a side, and it was built with nine succeeding platforms with four staircases. The staircases have balustrades with carved feathered serpents, the open-jawed head at the foot and the rattle held high at the top. The last remodel of this monument included one of the fanciest jaguar thrones known from such sites, with red paint and jade insets for eyes and spots on the coat, and flaked chert fangs. The principal stairway and entrance is on the north side, and the central sanctuary is surrounded by a gallery with the main portico.

Kukulkan, or feathered serpent, is the name of a Maya snake deity that also serves to designate historical persons. The cult of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl was the first Mesoamerican religion to transcend the old Classic Period linguistic and ethnic divisions and facilitated communication and peaceful trade among peoples of many different social and ethnic backgrounds. Although the cult was originally centered in the ancient city of Chichén Itzá, it spread as far as the Guatemalan highlands so you’ll see this guy as far south as Tikal.

The Mayans loved sport and were quite serious about the games played. They built huge ball courts to contest these matches. It’s often said that the captain of the losing team would offer his head as payment for losing while the captain of the winning team would be allowed to ascend directly into heaven. The Great Ball court of Chichen Itza is 225 feet wide and 545 feet long overall. It has no top, no discontinuity between the walls and is totally open to the blue sky. Each end has a raised to the temple area.
One of the mysteries of Chichen Itza, is the acoustic dynamics of the great ball court. A whisper from end can be heard clearly enough at the other end 500 feet far away and through the length and breath of the court. The sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day and also night. To this day, no one has been able to figure why or how the Mayans achieved this feat.

The goal was to get a ball through this ring. The rings are about 25 feet off of the ground.

The particular sport is not like any one sport being contested today. It has elements of soccer, but the ball used is much more like a weighted basketball. Of the hundreds of images of the game, very few show that the ball was touched with the hands, so archaeologists have deduced that the ball could not be caught. The ball itself was a little larger than a basketball and was made of solid rubber, so it was quite heavy. Players wore protective padding around their hips and were richly dressed and decorated during play.  Personally I think JK Rowling saw images of the ball court and had this in mind when she developed Quidditch.

Information about the solar, Toltec, and Maya calendars is carefully built into el Castillo. Each stairway has exactly 91 steps, times four is 364 plus the top platform equals 365, the days in the solar calendar. The pyramid has 52 panels in the nine terraces; 52 is the number of years in the Toltec cycle. Each of the nine terraced steps are divided in two: 18 for the months in the yearly Maya calendar. Most impressively, though, is not the numbers game, but the fact that on the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, the sun shining on the platform edges forms shadows on the balustrades of the north face that look like a writhing rattle snake.

But Chichen Itza is more, a whole lot more.  Some plazas have thousands of columns. Some have observatories. There are several temples at each site, each serving a different purpose.

That time I went to the Galapagos Islands

I don’t know if I ever mentioned that time I went to the Galapaos Islands.  I think going to the Galapagos Islands are one of those things that are on nearly everyone’s [ok maybe not everyone, but every traveler, animal lover, and science nerd I know] bucket list.  My own adventure to the islands involved a bit of serendipity and a lot of  meclizine.

Flashback to 2010:

It was September 2010, and I was working for an ecological research/preservation company.  The original plans were for me to split time between the Mindo Cloud Forest, the Lalo Loor Dry Forest, and the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest.  I did all that and more. But the highlight of my conservation internship was when I was asked to spend 10 days on a research boat on the Galapagos Islands tagging turtles.

galapagos islands turtles

These guys are huge and can live up to 175 years in captivity or 100 years in the wild

galapagos iguanas

and checking on these guys

galapagos island marine iguanas

don’t forget about these fellas

galapagos island sea lions 1

and revel in the cuteness of these lovable lions

My home for the 10 days was spent between living on a boat [not ideal for someone who gets motion sickness as easy as I do while on a boat] and spending time at the Charles Darwin Research Center. There were not a whole lot of tourists on the islands. I don’t know if it was due to it being the low season [September] or the fact that back in 2010 there weren’t a whole of of tour groups coming to the island.

galapagos research station

Before he died in 2012, Lonesome George was the center’s most famous resident. He got his nickname because he was the last surviving member of his species. Scientiests tried mating George with several different ladies who were genetically close to George but nothing happened. He died without having reproduced and with his death, his species became extinct. I feel a little bad for him, living his last years in comfort but without the friendship of someone of his own kind.  George was also known for being a little bit of a recluse.  Each time I saw him, he was hiding behind something or behind the trees, but always munching on grass.

The giant tortises like George can weigh up to 800 pounds fully grown.

galapagos island baby turtles

Hard to believe that these little fellas will still be with us in 2180 and will be 800 pounds. I’d be lucky to survive to 2080.

One of the cool things about being a ‘researcher’ is getting to go where is usually off limits to tourists. And when you are in places not often frequented by human, you catch animals, or in this case turtles, having sex. I’ve never thought about tortoises having sex before, but I sure didn’t imagine them doing it ‘doggy-style’.

more turtle sex
Tortoise style

It must have been giant tortoise valentine’s day or something. I found another couple doing the same thing.

even turtles do it

All that tortise sex results in lots of babies, and it was because of the babies that I was there. See that yellow writing on the shells? That’s my handiwork…tagging baby land tortises for future scientific research.

baby land tortises

giant turtle
These guys have such personality. And they are only found on the Galapagos Islands. A lot of the creatures on the islands are like that. Being located over 600 miles from mainland Ecuador equals not a lot of genetic diversity. And that is a good thing especially from an evolutionary point-of-view.

Loving nature in Chiapas

I have always kept a record of my travels.  It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film.  Now it’s all digital. Sometimes  I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.

In 1999, 2000, and 2004, I spent  large chunks of time traveling in Mexico.  Visiting Chiapas was one of these chunks of time.  I was here in 1999 and 2000.

Chiapas is not one of my favorite places in the world. It is one of only a handful of places in the world that I did not feel welcome or safe thanks to the Zapatistas who live in the area, yet not only did I visit the area, I went twice.

zapatistas
In case you were confused as to where you were.

I was also there with my dad– who stood out negatively in every way… speaking English too loudly, making inappropriate eye contact, wearing socks with sandals, you name the infraction, he probably committed it. Needless to say, my stress level was at an all time high, with the constant boarding of the policia searching for who know what, and my dad saying, much too loudly I might add, ‘why do you think the police took those tourist off the bus?’ Not for a guided tour, I can bet you that…

Now will you just pretend to read the magazine and SHUT UP.  I was at my wits ends, and really wanted to ship him back to Cancun, but he really wanted to spend time with me, and I thought it best that we be out in nature rather than try to explain intricacies of Mayan history to him.  And let’s be honest, for anyone not overly fascinated in art and architecture, what I do on a daily basis, it boring… especially when it comes to writing my thesis–who wants to watch someone do that?

Misol-Ha

Misol-Ha is a spectacular 115 foot waterfall right smack in the middle of the jungle… nature at its best.  At its base is a huge plunge pool surrounded by lush vegetation; it’s perfect for swimming. [Movie note:  It’s the waterfall in the Predator movie, or so I’m told.  I’ve never actually seen the movie].

misol- ha 2

A wet, slippery path leads behind the falls to a cave.  You can pay 10 or so pesos to explore it or wow the gatekeepers with your knowledge that 1. you are an American who happens to speak Mayan and 2. have blonde hair and speak damn-near perfect Spanish in a Castilian accent [at least according to the Mexicans I encounter on a daily basis.]   Either way, I kept my pesos.  At one time, a plank of wood was balanced precariously over the cliff edge.  It looks like it could be a diving board or a lookout spot from which to view the falls, but it’s neither.  It’s just an unsafe piece of wood hanging out over a cliff. If someone hasn’t already toppled off the edge, they will one day. Don’t be that person.

Cascadas de Agua Azul

About 40 or so miles from Palenque, the Cascadas de Agua Azul – exist. They originate in the municipality of Tumbalá, where the Shmulia, Otulun and Tulia rivers meet. And boy are they beautiful.
Agua Azul

The turquoise water gathers in cool natural pools that are perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot day. Some areas are cordoned off and can only be admired from man-made boardwalks and viewing platforms. The swimming areas are clearly marked and easily located thanks to the shrieks of people flinging themselves from rope swings. Only swim in the designated areas and don’t get out of your depth as the currents can be strong and people have drowned.  Don’t be one of those people. Just enjoy their beauty.

 

As a side note:  the nature in Chiapas is raw and beautiful.  Noticed that I used the phrase ‘don’t be that person’ twice.  It’s a place where nature is so beautiful, so wild, you just want to touch everything, be as close as possible, but seriously, be careful.

Are we really this dumb?

With all the ‘news’ out there floating around about the two brothers that are suspects in the Boston marathon bombing, I came across this headline…

Ambassador: Czech Republic and Chechnya two very different places

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/04/22/Ambassador-Czech-Republic-and-Chechnya-two-very-different-places/UPI-60551366677092/#ixzz2RPOlx1HJ

Really?  are we that dumb that we don’t know that the Czech Republic, home of Prague, and several centuries worth of positive history is not the same place a Chechnya–an area that was once part of USSR and has pretty much been fighting someone in its entire history?  If  there is an actual need for a story like this, then it is a sad, sad day for history and geography teachers everywhere.

Prauge’s astronomical clock

 

not Chechyna

My winter visit to the Castle yielded a much better view than in August… when it was 100 degrees and full of people.

 

 

 

 

Monsters and legends in Inverness, Scotland

Let’s get one things straight right off the bat:  Scotland is awesome. The more places I visit in this beautiful country, the more I fall in love with it.  I came to Inverness for two reasons:  to see the monster and to be in the Scottish Highlands.  I was only partially successful. Inverness has about 50,000 people and it is considered the capital of the Highlands.

I searched Loch Ness for the monster [didn’t find her, but the lake is quite pretty]

I heard a plethora of bagpipes. The local college in the town that I grew up in had a mascot that was a ‘Scotsman’, and he played the bagpipes at official college functions. I’m pretty convinced that there is only one song  [+ Amazing Grace] that is ever played on the bagpipes.

Made my way to Culloden Battlefield…It was hauntingly beautiful. In the mid 1700’s a very violent and bloody battle occurred between the Scotsmen and the English…Today it is a beautiful, lush windswept moor

I am horrible at genealogy, but as my ancestors are from the Carolinas [and Carolina was settled mainly by Scots, Irish, and English] for as far back as the USA can count its history, I’d wager that some of my distant relatives died on that battlefield. Either as a Mac-something…

or as an Englishman…

The Inverness footbridge allows for viewing of the River Ness from the town…

and serves to make it postcard pretty.

and no town is complete without a castle

Uxmal and la ruta PUUC

Back when I was 21…

Once upon a time I had crazy dreams of being a cultural anthropologist or historical preservationist or something that would allow me to travel and be the #historynerd that I truly am. But then the reality of these jobs set in. 1. They are few and far between 2. Most require a masters to even get started, and even finding a program that’s available and affordable is not so easy. 3 most are funded on the whim of a government and therefore pay is low and sometimes not at all. In spite of all that, I chose to do my senior thesis/project on Mayan Art and Architecture which 1. required a thoroughly researched and well written thesis [in Spanish] and 2. on-site visits to some of the sites. This was back in the Dark Ages when the internet was a baby, digital camera quality was awful, and blogging was a journal and scrapbook [of which I have both]. So with my SLR… that’s right, there’s no D if front of that SLR and copious quantities of film that I carried in a separate bag and polite instruction to ‘inspeccione por mano, por favor’.  Thankfully they did and my 50+ rolls of film, both black and white and color, in different ISOs, made it safely through airport security and allowed me to photograph all the little quirks of Mayan architecture to my little heart’s content.

A little history of Uxmal

Chichen Itza is the most well know of the ancient Mayan site, but Uxmal should give Chichen Itza a run for its money –at least in terms of its vastness.  It’s not super well known and isn’t directly on a bus route the way Chichen Itza is, but it is relatively well preserved.  If the access was easier, my guess is that it would be more popular than Chichen Itza.

Uxmal_Ruins_Selva
Uxmal rising out of the jungle

The area around Uxmal was occupied as early as 800 BC, but the major building period took place when it was the capital of a Late Classic Mayan state around 850-925 AD.  Somewhere around or after the year 1000, when Toltec invaders took over the Yucatán peninsula [establishing their capital at Chichen Itza], all major construction ceased at Uxmal. However, it continued to be occupied and participated in the political League of Mayapán.  Uxmal later came under the control of the Xiú princes. The site was abandoned around 1450, shortly before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

Mayan legend claims that a dwarf magician, born from a egg, built the city of Uxmal in a single night. In reality, archaeological excavations reveal that the Pyramid of the Magician itself was erected in a series of five successive builds upon existing, lesser pyramids. This was a common Mayan building practice, thought to capture and amplify the power of the underlying structure.

Uxmal_Ruinas_Pelota

Kabah is situated slightly further along the road from Uxmal, and is famed for the Temple to Chaac, the Rain God of the Maya. The structure is filled with the masks of Chaac. Across the road, there is also a Maya Arch, part of a Maya Road system that used to span the entire Yucatan region.

Sayil has a beautiful multi level palace

Sayil-Palace-1024x609

Sayil-Choc-Side-view

At Labna, you can clearly see an example of a Maya Road system, as well as a well-preserved decorative Maya Arch. The palace is also very beautiful.

labna arch
Labna Arch

OK enough with the technical stuff…

The area where Uxmal, Sayil, and Kabah is collectively known as the Ruta Puuc, and it is for lack of better terms, deserted. There are plenty of small temples to see as well as small villages [<50 inhabitants almost all of Mayan descent and who speak only Mayan and are ecstatic to talk to you, you know if you can actually communicate. In honesty, most do speak some Spanish, but if English is your only language, you may be out of luck.  Luckily, everyone I met was really nice], and deserted roads almost covered in vegetation.

The main road down the Ruta Puuc. I saw very, very few cars and lots and lots of lush, green vegetation.  It is easy to see how the area could be reclaimed by Mother Nature.

 A small Mayan town more or less in the middle of nowhere in the Yucatán peninsula.
 Poc chuc, a very traditional Mayan meal. Essentially it’s seasoned pork with peppers, onions, and lime juice, to be wrapped up in tortillas and eaten like tacos. Tomatoes, avocados, and cucumbers on the side.

Labna, and when you are the only one there, it’s both awesome, and a little bit creepy.  Yes, I realize I could have been bitten by a snake or some wild animal, and no one would have ever seen or heard from me again.

Some beautiful ruins at Kabah.

Hundreds of masks representing the gods along the front wall, often with long, protruding noses.

 If you look very closely, you can see all of the masks etched in this wall.

 One last view of Kabah.

Salbutes. It’s a very common meal in the area, and while not my favorite, it is amazingly fresh, so I had this for a couple of my meals.

Amazing Manchester

Serendipity:  the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for…  Merriam-Webster

It’s so strange how I ended up with tickets to a Manchester United game, but hey–whatever, I’ll take them.  It was a regular weekday when I mentioned to Steve that it would be at least another month or so until boyfriend got there.  He mentioned that 1.  He had to go back to New York from July 8-August 13 and the flat would be unavailable [no more free place to stay] and 2.  He had two tickets to Manchester United’s opening match against Southampton and would not be able to go as he would still be in NY. Would I like them?  Um yes, please.  So that is how I ended up spending a month in North England and Scotland and one amazing day [and night] in Manchester.

One of the best ways to see Manchester is from the water.

Manchester’s Chinatown gates are the largest outside mainland China.

Sometimes it’s just better to go on the tour and take the photos there than trying to get a decent shot when the stadium is full of people–unless you have front row seats–which I didn’t…

I love soccer.  I played it until I was in high school.  My high school didn’t have a soccer team [boys or girls] so I stopped playing it, but I kept up with the sport and refereed it while I was in college.  I wasn’t a Man U fan before the match, but after I most definitely was.  To be fair, I’m loyal like that.  I don’t live in an area with a lot of professional teams. My favorite teams are usually the first team I saw in action which is why I am a fan of  University of Tennessee [1st college football game], Miami Dolphins [first NFL game], Baltimore Orioles [first MLB], Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadians [first NHL games],  and Seattle Sounders [first MLS game].  An odd mix to be sure, but it works for me.

So on August 13, 1997, I went to my first English Premier League match.  Up to this point I was a Real Madrid fan mainly because I was a Spanish major in college, and my Spanish professor and I would watch La Liga matches and converse in Spanish [weird I know…]…  Anyway,  Manchester United vs Southampton.  A young whippersnapper by the name of David Beckham came in as a substitute in the second half of the match, and netting the only goal giving Man U a 1-0 win.  I became a Red Devils fan for life [it didn’t hurt that my high school mascot was also the Red Devils].  Manchester United went on finish the 1997-98 season as runners-up to Arsenal.

As I side note:  Nearly 20 years later, I am still a Man U fan, still go for Liverpool as well, but they haven’t been great lately, and have added Arsenal to the mix of my favorite English Premier League teams.  Something I am sure no true English football fan would say.

Wandering about Holyhead

I have always kept a record of my travels.  It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film.  Now it’s all digital. Occasionally, I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.

Holyhead, located on the Island of Anglesey and Irish Sea, is the jumping off point for Ireland and for nearly 4000 years people have been making the journey from the Welsh outpost to Ireland and vice-versa.  The town is the largest town on the Isle of Anglesey with a population of around 11,000.  It’s a mere hour from Bewts-y-Coed that I featured previously in my post about Snowdonia.  Holyhead is a cute little town located on the Irish sea.  It has been continuously occupied for over 1000 years.  The town center is built around St. Cybi’s Church, which is built inside one of Europe’s few three-walled Roman forts (the fourth wall being the sea, which used to come up to the fort).  There are only three remaining three walled cities in all of Europe.

The church of St. Cybi was sacked by the Vikings in the 10th century, damaged by Henry IV’s army in the 15th century in an assault on the holdings of a Welsh prince and much of the interior destroyed by Cromwell’s army in the 17th century. Despite this, most of the church remain intact.

If you’ve ever been to or seen the Cliff of Moher in Ireland, then you might have an idea of what Holyhead Mountain is.  It is not, as I thought, a mountain with subtle gains of elevation.  It is, however, a giant rock formation surround by water.

If rock climbing is your groove, this is the place for you.  We all know that that would be an excellent way for me to injure myself, but I do think it’s an awesome sport.

Today Holyhead and Anglesey are famous as the former home of Prince William and Duchess Kate… they’ve relocated to London with the kids, but for a few years, Anglesey was their home.  I can certainly see why…  It’s beautiful.