Glastonbury on to Cardiff in Wales

June 14th 2019
Published: June 14th 2019
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For those of you who have never been and planning on booking a tour for your next vacation, understand that vacation and tour are mutually exclusive. Let me explain: a vacation is a time of leisure. You get up when you want, go where and when you want, dine in casual fashion and relax. Touring not so.

Touring is regimented. You will get up early; on one tour I was on there was a wakeup call at 3:30am! Most days the wake up is at 6, breakfast at 7, departure from the hotel by 8. If you are not on time, that will cause trauma and issues for the tour director and your fellow travelers. You will not be popular.

Dining is delicious, unique, and fixed. You will not have a choice of menu items beyond three or four options prepared by the tour director. Breakfast is most often a buffet with a full range of options from simple to exotic. Eat well at breakfast and take some fruit or bars from the buffet. You will be happy you did. Lunch is usually on your own at the locale you are touring for the day. This is about the only time you have a food choice of location and dining choices. Make the most of it and eat local fare; get the real flavor of where you are. Finally, dinner will be sometimes in your hotel, usually not so good, or in a local venue, depending on your tour quality and timing. The menu here will be limited as I said earlier but will well represent local food options. Be flexible. Remember this is not Kansas. Go with the flow. Your tour director will make every effort to accommodate different dietary requirements, so speak up if you have an issue. Do not be shy; you will regret it if you get sick on the coach.

A word about punctuality. Remember you are on tour, not a vacation, and you are not alone. Timing of when the coach leaves in the morning or from each stop is critical to the timing of the next stop. If you have issues with timing, you will be the cause of much anguish for all. Be kind and be on time. All will appreciate it.

Be prepared to spend a great deal of time on the coach. Remember this is a tour, so you will be touring several hours a day. The goal is to see as many sites as possible during the limited time on tour, so you will need to go from place to place each day. The coach will take you in comfort from place to place but be prepared to spend 2 hours at a time on the coach. Comfort stops are available at every stop; use them. Also use the facilities, wherever you can before boarding the coach. There is a bathroom on the coach but this is for emergency only. Don’t be that guy who causes the coach to be fragrant for the next three days.

All in all, touring is fun, but not for everyone. You will see more, learn more and enjoy more if you relax, follow the rules, remain prompt, and most of all, be flexible. Enjoy.

Ok, back to the fun stuff. We arrived at Glastonbury Abbey, the fabled buried place of the famous King Arthur legendary King of the Britons. The founding of the Abbey also has an interesting legend of its founding.

Legend says that Joseph of Arimathea came here in 63 AD, following the crucifixion of Jesus, with the Holy Grail, the cup of the last supper, and Mary Magdalene, consort to Jesus. Joseph was a merchant and trader and was purported to trade in lead, among other goods. Joseph arrived via river and walked into the general area when he struck his staff into the ground. An olive tree sprung from the spot and Joseph declared the spot holy and built a small church which grew and grew into the largest Abbey in all of Britain.

The Abbey was virtually destroyed when King Henry declared the end to the Catholic faith and started the Church of England. Most of the wealth of the Abbey was stolen in the name of the king and the building fell into ruin.

The abbey was home to 40 monks who employed nearly 200 lay people who worked the land and supported the monks allowing the monks to follow the rules of St. Benedict, which in fact were quite strict. This cloister of monks was the beginning of the Benedictine Order.

In the earlier 1100s, some of the monks were digging in the graveyard on the side of the Lady's Chapel and discovered a grave containing the bodies of a large man and dainty woman. They also supposedly found a stone cross with a carving identifying the bodies of those as none other than King Arthur and his love Gwynevere. The two bodies were removed and a monumental tomb was constructed in memorial to the pair and they were reburied in the main hall of the Abbey. There they rested until they were lost during the deconstruction of King Henry. Truly a shame.

The abbey is beautiful even as a ruin. The visitor center has excellent interpretive displays so you can see the Abbey in all its grandeur. Here I met a monk, a member of the Benedictine Order, who gave me a personal presentation on the site. I felt privileged as I received his blessing.

Back on the coach we drove another hour for a special Trafalgar treat, Blackmore Farms. The main house was built in the 1400s by the Tremayle Family. The farm is actually much older and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1085. The home was owned by several Lords over time up until the 1980s when it was purchased by the current Lord of the Manor. The current family and owners were the last family to be tenant farmers on the property. They purchased the home for 350,000 pounds and updated it with an additional 350,000 pounds.

The home is magnificent, filled with period antiques; it must remain in its current style. It seems England wants to preserve its past and ranks their historic buildings by grade. Westminster, Parliament and Buckingham Palace are all grade 1, as is Blackmore Manor. This means the present owner cannot make any changes to the interior or facade, providing a great look at what things looked like in the past.

Our tour of the manor was conducted by a retired school teacher and friend of the current Lord. He was very knowledgeable and quite the joke teller. The tour concluded in time for lunch, cooked by the Lady of the manor.

Lunch was a feast indeed. We began with beef or chicken pie (I had both of course), carrots, broccoli, a cheese and cauliflower casserole and round potatoes, all farm grown. The libations included various wines, hard cider, spiked lemonade, and water. The feast was followed by a choice of desserts. I chose Mars pie and ice cream with a serving of strawberries. The other choices included lemon meringue pudding and a sweet cake. All were delicious.

After lunch, we explored the farm area and stopped in the farm store and purchased a locally made bottle of berry wine. Something for later, of course.

Too soon it was time to go. Now, off to Cardiff and the country of Wales.

Welcome to Wales. And more rain

First stop, Cardiff Castle. There has been some sort of fortification on this site since the Roman’s built a fort here in 50 AD. The Roman’s stayed here until the early 300s when they abandoned the locale. The Norman’s discovered the site and built their fortification on top of the Roman foundations, continuing to build more and more until the current impressive site.

When the time came that the castle was no longer needed for fortification, it was acquired by the Second Marquis of Bute. The Marquis made his fortune in Cardiff coal.

He invested heavily in coal mines and railroads and invested his own money in building the Cardiff docks, allowing him to ship his coal all over the world. After he made his fortune, he next decided to rebuild the Castle in the motif of Medieval Times.

John, the second Marquis, was well traveled and was fascinated with religion, language (he was able to understand approximately 20 languages), literature, and history. In the 1800s he decided to decorate the Manor House to reflect his passions.

Throughout the castle, we see references to religion with various icons in every room. The personal rooms have every single inch of floor, wall, and ceilings covered in decoration, all colorful and all beautiful. Our tour guide, Stewart, gave us a wonderful tour of the private residence. There is so much to see and learn here that I recommend you take the trip yourself and enjoy the tour.

Tonight, we are off to a special event, Wales music, song, and dining. We are assured this will be an awesome evening of entertainment, food, and drink. I am looking forward to a traditional Welsh evening.

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