left on walnut

Category: Travel

Edinburgh

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After a week in Wales, Tom and David and I flew from Cardiff to Edinburgh. We stayed in New Town. The construction of New Town started in 1767. Expansive streets with names like George and Queen and Princes were built for the large homes of wealthy Scots. Narrower streets behind allowed servants to enter the homes from the back. These narrow streets, now closed to cars, are filled with pubs and shops and restaurants. Our apartment was located on Rose Street, the narrow street just behind Princes. From this central location, we could walk to everything. We walked to the National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. We walked down the Royal Mile and into shops selling shortbread and Scottish cashmere. We walked to the Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle is home to the Stone of Destiny. This stone is a symbol of Scotland and the monarchy, even though it seems rather unremarkable. Our Liberty Bell is unremarkable, too, yet touching it still brings me to tears.

The Scottish National War Memorial feels like a chapel on the Castle grounds. We hush and look up at the names of the fallen soldiers carved on the walls.  Family members find their loved one and reach up to run their hands across the letters.

Overlooking Edinburgh, just beyond the Castle parapets, a little garden is set aside as a cemetery where soldiers, since the time of Queen Victoria, have buried their dogs.

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Wales

In July, Tom and his brother and I flew to London and then took a train to Wales. We rented a car and drove this beautiful country for about a week. The whole of Wales is about the size of New Jersey.

  • Cardiff: We rented a car in Cardiff. David and I programmed the GPS and Tom practiced driving from the right side of the car. We ate porridge for breakfast at the Trade Street Cafe.
  • Swansea: We visited the birthplace and boyhood home of Dylan Thomas. Matthew, the curator, gave us a 3-hour private tour and told Thomas family stories. Florence gave birth to Dylan in the front bedroom. That room was warmer. Her daughter, Nancy, lay sick in the next room with the measles while her husband, David, was drunk at the pub.
  • Fishguard: We visited St. David’s Cathedral and walked the Pembrokeshire Coastal Pathway. We met Michael and Jeanette. They invited us to share their table in the little pub on High Street. Michael taught us about unpastureurized beers and talked about the recent Brexit vote. They like the Great British Baking Show as much as we do. The UK is several seasons ahead of us so Jeanette already knew about Mr. Hollywood running off with someone from the show.
  • Laugharne: Dylan Thomas wrote some of his later works in a boathouse. The coastline is beautiful here.
  • Brecon Beacons: Parts of the castle in Brecon still stand. We stayed in the Castle Hotel. We drank beer on the rooftop and watched the sun set over Brecon Beacons, a national park.
  • Hay-on-Wye: The village of Hay is known for its second hand book shops. Our favorite, down a little side street, was Belle Books. The owner showed us photos of his dog, Belle. She died last year and he mourns her still.
  • Cowbridge: After lunch in Cowbridge, we returned the car and flew to Edinburgh.

The car’s GPS routed us using the shortest possible distance. Sometimes this meant one-lane roads lined with hedges. This seemed not to bother the onlooking sheep as much as it bothered our driver. Tom drew the line at taking the grassy lane, however, so we backtracked a bit.

 

 

 

A sacred rendezvous

WWI cemetery 3 copySome 150 miles northwest of Paris lies an American cemetery. Soldiers from World War I are buried there. Families don’t visit much. Families remember WWII veterans and go to Normandy. If you want to visit digitally, click on Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. When you zoom in, you see the rows and rows of crosses. These hills were once battlefields. Now they are home to boys who never came home.

The inscription on the chapel wall:

This chapel is erected by the United States of America as a sacred rendezvous of a grateful people with its immortal dead. 

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Water is Life

Cambodian WellAs in most developing countries, Cambodians have little access to clean drinking water. We saw grass huts with jugs of cloudy water. Maybe the water was for washing. I suspect it was for drinking, too. With the help of Phal, our guide in Cambodia, Tom and I donated money for a well to be built in a Cambodian village.

Phal sent us a photo of the new well. It’s located in Tanorl Trorng, a village in the Soni Kum district, 25 miles east of Siem Reap, Angkor. Phal thanked us with this note:

We would like to say thank you for all your good heart. 
Your donation make our people life difference.
Water is life.

Python

While we were touring the Cambodian fishing village on the waters of Tanlé Sap, a father and his two kids motored up to our boat. The older boy sat in the front of the sampan. The younger son sat in the middle, with a live python draped around his neck. After everyone shot some photos, we tipped the dad a couple dollars and off they went.

Tonlé Sap Fishing Village

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On New Year’s Day, our biking group took a boat ride through Tonlé Sap, a fresh water lake in Cambodia. The lake is home to a fishing village.

Monkeys at Angkor Wat

Just as we were approaching the ancient temple of Angkor Wat, a monkey stole Cindy’s bottle of water right out of her hand. At the side of the path, he opened it and had a drink. He may be resourceful and smart, but he doesn’t know how to share.

Pink Stripes

These little convenience stores are all over Vietnam. I first noticed the pile of pink striped fabric on the floor of what might be a convenience store in Vietnam.The little open-air factory was abandoned when I was there taking photos. Then, next door, I noticed a little clothing factory behind a chain link fence where the dresses were being made.I've had dresses like this: big, comfy, cotton knit. I've not thought much about where and how they were made. All was quiet in the open-air factory. The women were on a lunch break, I suspect.Sweatshop 2-2In a few minutes, one lady came back to work in the convenience store. Her job was to trim the threads close to the seams.chickenA chicken, tied up outside, wore the same striped fabric, but in green.

The Faces of the Bayon Temple

Some two hundred stone faces gaze down from the walls of the Bayon Temple in Cambodia. Historians say the faces might be the likeness of King Jayavarman VII. He was the Buddhist king responsible for building the temple when he ruled the Khmer Empire. Cambodians love this king. He built “resting houses” which now are hospitals.

Others say the faces are of a Buddhist god of compassion. Either way, the faces seem serene.

The Jungle Temple

Trees grow up through the stones of the temple of Ta Prohm. We arrived just as the sun was setting on this mythical place.

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