A reluctant goodbye


Took the Welsh girl to Boerne to visit two of my favorite places; The Nature Store and Bear Moon Bakery Cafe. I bought a squirrel baffle at the Nature store and ogled at the preserved butterfly wing earrings. We spent most of our time in the children’s room.

Lunch was at Bear Moon. Great coffee and lunch was simple and tasty. The Welsh girl was back on the vegetarian wagon with an avocado-mushroom-salad sandwich.

In San Antonio, we wasted time trying to post our Wales-bound postcard at Office Depot. They only do domestic mail. The Welsh girl wanted a Texas postmark and I promised to get them mailed Monday.

So at the airport, I hugged her goodbye, wished her well and missed her as soon as I got back in the car.

We were too busy for her to give me a Welsh lesson or translate the Welsh in a previous post, but I now have a standard Welsh dictionary and a visit to plan for next fall.

Climbing and shopping

The morning was spent in the Hill Country Natural area. This was my first time in the park since they changed from numbered trails to named trails. I always thought the numbers would be easier to remember. That thought was contradicted by a young man who asked if we needed help after we bumbled past his van in the campground. We had retraced our steps three times on what we thought was the trail taking us to the West Peak Overlook. (That added .72 miles to the total hike.) He thought the named trail were easier to remember and less confusing.For him, probably. For me, well, I’ll get used to it.

He redirected us to another trail, which we took and it was more climbing. We only passed one riding group.


The Welsh girl was thrilled with the wildness and the expansive view, so she had to get this.


Me on the trail. I have no idea what I’m pointing at.

Then we arrived at the climb that would take us to the overlook.

to the peak

And we discovered this was only a third of the climb. The trail continued up to the right.

We made it!


The view was worth the climb. After soaking in the view and lots of water, we made our way back to the car and showers.

Then lunch at Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ. A great introduction to Texas bbq for the Welsh girl: coleslaw, sausage, chopped meat and peach cobbler. All delicious and we left full and satisfied.

The Welsh girl had made a request to go to a bookstore. So it was on to Barnes & Noble. After buying two books from the 50 she wanted and a grande coffee frappuccino, I took the Welsh girl to Pier 1 to replace a plate I had broken. She was quite enamored by the place and products.

H.E.B was the next stop. Astound by the choices of the same product, she had to take a phone photo of the number of peanut butter variations: cinnamon, chocolate, hazelnut, etc. and the many brands.

After a stop at Half-Price Books and getting gas it was back to Bandera for leftovers, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and making a blueberry ginger loaf for breakfast.

Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to the Welsh girl.

Finding water and no paddle

The Welsh girl wanted to spend the morning with horses. (We decided not to ride and would hike to the overlook at the Natural Area State Park.) I promised to teach her to do the bladder meridian and Sir was her client.

After I did one side, she took over on the other side. She was thrilled to see Sir respond and release. When she completed the meridian, Sir was quite adamant that he was through by bumping me with his nose. Once released, he trotted out of the corral. I took the Welsh girl out to meet some of the other horses and Sir joined us. (When he found a patch of tender grass, he left us.)


I introduced her to all the horses and we continued on in the pasture starting up a conversation about snakes. We mutually decided to leave the tall grass and get on our way to Tarpley for lunch at Mac and Ernie’s.

The Welsh girl got excited about getting some Snapple for the trip. I asked her later if she could get it in the U.K. She said it was hard to find but some stores carried it in the “exotic” foods aisle.

At Mac and Ernie’s (about 14 miles west of Bandera), the Welsh girl ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. “It was worth it. I’m not back on the vegetarian wagon, yet.” I had the red deer burger, also worth it.

When I asked the woman at the counter if the drink was included in the price, she said, “This isn’t Whataburger.”

“Water burger?” the Welsh girl said.

“No, what-a-burger. It’s like Burger King or McDonalds. It’s a Texas institution.” I answered.

It was iced tea for me and hot coffee that had to be brewed for the Welsh girl.

It was about 34 miles to Garner State Park. We had hoped to rent a paddle boat to take out into the Frio River, but the contract service was not open. It’s a busy park and they were expecting to fill up by evening for the weekend. It’s a beautiful park, but we had no desire to stay there to see it fill up.


These blow-up rafts looked like fun.

Frio River

As I said it was beautiful and the water was clear.

clear water

As I said clear water. And well-established cypress. This one was still living despite the huge hole.


We decided to try one of the shorter trails, but found out it was “shorter” because it went up.

looking back trail

We had already climbed a bit and then stared at the rest of the trail.

ohno path

There was no end in sight AND we would have to come back down. With plans to make the scenic overlook as the Hill Country State Natural Area, we decided to just take photos and make our way back to Bandera.

The Welsh girl needed batteries for her camera and when we entered the grocery store, she exclaimed, “What are they? Watermelon? They’re HUGE!”

“Well, they do say, ‘super-sized’ ” They were huge. More gourd shaped and larger than any watermelon I have seen, but I just had to say, “It is Texas afterall.”

Welsh girl here: Byth yn fy mywyd rwdi i wedi gweld lle mor anferth a Texas. Mae o’n jest mynd ymlaen, ac ymlaen, am byth. Rwyf wrth fy modd yma, ac wedi gweld llawer o beth sydd ar gael yn yr ardal. Mae fy amser yma yn mynd yn gymflymach nac oni eisio, ond mae o yn barod wedi bod yn amser diddorol iawn. Byddai edrych ymlaen at dod yn ôl yn y dyfodol. 

And I’m looking forward to having you back again, if you’re not willing to just stay in Texas.

Addendum: The Welsh girl was chopping leeks for our dinner and I commented on how chunky they were. She replied, “It’s gung-ho style cooking.” In honor of her mum…

Enchanted Rock

After a breakfast of egg and cheese burritos (using the tortillas brought from Rosarios), we took Sassy for a walk.


That was followed up with a visit with my horse Sir and then we headed out to Enchanted Rock, a huge dome of granite. (You can read about its formation and structure here.)

While trying to get on the right trail to reach the top of the main dome we came across this little guy who closely matched the granite rock and would waggle his tail showing the black and white underside. (ID: Texas Greater Earless lizard wagging its tail to distract its pursuers — us.)


The Welsh girl commented on how hot it was and I would say she is lucky. Weather this time in September is usually much, much hotter. We made it to the top (and I swear the dome was higher than the last time I climbed it) a bit out of breath and sweating. The view was spectacular.

enchanted rock

See the little specks at the top? That’s people and where we planned to be.

After a few catch-our-breath-and-water breaks we made it to the top and were awed by the views.

enchanted rock 2

enchanted rock3

The red roofed building in the distance is where we started our walk. Getting back down we made our way to Fredericksburg and a late lunch at a place called Culture. The Welsh girl had a strawberry daquiri and we both had a veggie chicken wrap. The vegetarian broke her meat fast. And may do it again.

After lunch, we went back to Kerrville and then to Ingram with the idea of going to a farmer’s market art festival. We didn’t stay long at the festival and moved on to find this in Ingram.


Stonehenge II (Story here) It has 90 percent of the width and 60 percent of the height. It’s made of concrete with metal supporting wires. The Easter island figure was made by the same man and are displayed on the grounds of the Ingram arts buildings.

altar welsh

The inside has an altar stone.

So on back to Bandera to relax, shower and eat. (I had laundry to do.)

The night’s meal was a quick tomato pizza meal with Vouvray wine. (“Simple, good food,” says the Welsh girl. And she’s back on the vegetarian wagon.)


The Welsh girl and Rosarios

*This revival of the blog is for the Welsh girl’s mother and my friend, to let her know I am taking good care of her daughter while I show her my little area of Texas.


The Welsh girl arrived on time at the airport and after a fast conversation, I sent her downtown to explore the Alamo, the River Center Mall and River Walk while I finished up my work at the newspaper.

I had promised her a real Mexican meal after serving her family a taco party based on a limited availability of  Mexican food products while I was in Wales in April. And I think I delivered. Or rather Rosarios delivered: Flautas especiales and potato enchilades.

“Quite lush,” the Welsh girl says.

Back to my home, which she considered “cozy” and “lovely,” to get ready for a day of exploration.

Saying goodbye

Dolbadarn from a different angle

Today I left Llanberis for Dublin on my way back to San Antonio. I’m already homesick. Except that I kept dropping things and left my debit/credit card in the reader (I got it back), the trip back was uneventful.

In Dublin, the Holiday Inn Express has nice rooms (my only complaint . . . no outlet in the bathroom), and it’s a fairly new hotel near a large park. So, I took a nice long walk. With a free shuttle to the airport it meant my one night needs.

I have a few things I’ve learned this trip:

* Never schedule a vacation over a holiday, in this case, Easter (unless you like crowds,   fighting traffic on narrow village streets and hunting for scarce parking.)

* I simply cannot pronounce Rhiw unless I here someone say it and I repeat it 10 times. And I still make people laugh with my pronunciations. (I do a decent job at the ll and ch sounds — at least I don’t get laughed at. Pwllheli was quite difficult. “W” is sort of an “oo” sound and when combined with “ll” near impossible.)

* I’ve become quite competent handling one-track roads, roundabouts and understanding the traffic signage.

* It’s worth the extra cost getting a car with automatic rather than standard driving.

* 4-lane highways are 70 unless other wise designated. There are no signs to tell you this.

* Lighted streets are 40 unless designated as 30, or 20 for a school zone. Usually there is one sign indicating the change, rarely any more warnings.

* There may be a lighted warning of the speed camera reminding you to slow down. (On the pavement is huge 2 line letters “ARAF SLOW” just before the reduced speed sign.)

* Two-lane/country roads are 60. Except where designated slower. This is also not posted.

* For traffic speed violations you may be stopped by a patrol, but more than likely it will show up on your rental charges without you knowing is was caught on camera.

* Coming across a traffic sign warning me there were “No more cats eyes.” Had me stumped. So I looked it up once I quite driving and had a WiFi connection: Cats eyes are the lighted reflectors on the dividing line in the road.

* Clamping (a sign near a parking lot) is locking the wheels for a parking violation.

There’s more, but they slip my mind.

Inside Snowdonia

Slept in today. Didn’t realized I was so exhausted (two cider half pints weren’t helpful).

At 11 I was up and looking for a place to have breakfast since I missed the Inn’s. Every place was packed with hikers who weren’t hiking because of the rain. I walked the length of High Street and decided to just take a longer walk.

Dolbadarn Castle still guards the pass.

I went by my castle. It was rainy and overcast, but the gorse (the yellow flowering bush) was blooming and everything was so green.

The slate fence was for the park’s aesthetic. It wasn’t meant to keep anything in or out.

You can walk the entire perimeter of Llyn (lake) Padarn. I didn’t, but I enjoyed the bit I walked even as it drizzled.

I ended the walk at the craft center cafe near the Inn where I was staying. I grabbed a snack — tea, Welsh cakes and a slice of bara brith. The cafe had few patrons, probably because it was a bit more expensive.

I had not made any specific travel plans, so I decided to go to Rachub to see if Sally was home. She was and we had tea (of course) and talk. We talked some about her daughter Catherine’s plans to come to Bandera in September for a couple of days. I’m looking forward to playing tour guide.

When we parted, I had to figure out what to do with my last day in Wales. Beddgelert was where I had initially wanted to go yesterday, so to Beddgelert, deep in Snowdonia, I went.

Even with the overcast, rainy weather, the colors were bright on the way to Beddgelert

It was a beautiful drive even if I didn’t get to visit the town except to drive through. Again, no parking. Even though I was hungry, I did not want to park a mile out of town and walk back.

About three miles out of Beddgelert, I actually found parking at the Red Dragon Holidays, which had a cafe and I ordered this:

Lamb burger with feta cheese and tzatziki sauce, accompanied by crispy chunky fries. The catsup in the tomato container is homemade. And an elderflower drink. Yum!

The coffee chocolate sponge cake slice I took back to Llanberis for later was delicious.

The drive to and from Beddgelert was along the side of the mountains and squeezed to a narrow lane and maybe a half. Driving was a little tense in some areas, but the scenery was incredible. Occasionally there was parking on the side of the road and a few parking areas. Usually these were use daily by hikers to park and hike on the paths indicated by the numerous walking person signs.

This needs to be huge to give the impact of actually being there. I am standing at the head of a trail that goes to the gorse (the yellow) and heads downward. Where the mountain on the left dips down, Beddgelert is at the bottom.

Tomorrow it’s back to the ferry, Dublin and home . . . work.

Chocolate and one-track roads

Gourmet chocolate

First stop after leaving Bryn Moel — CHOCOLATE — and a little lunch in Pentrefoelas at the Chocolate Shop and Tea Room. While I had a simple toasted ham tomato and onion sandwich, I explored my travel options for the day. I had two options and decided to take the one to Beddgelert.

I promptly got lost. The road was well paved, a track and a half and generally in the right direction. So I decided to have an adventure. The scenery was incredible and included traveling over national trust land.

The road to the quaint, coastal towns was a generous two-lane.

In Llan Festiniog and I found the road to the Llyn Pennisula, and took it. And so was everyone else. Passing through some of the quaint, popular seaside villages of Porthmadog, Criccieth, Pwllheli and Abersoch, there was nowhere to park. I had to dodge cars and people in each of the villages, then remembered it was Easter holiday.

In Cricceth, a castle ruin overlooks the village from a large hill that juts out in the sea. Awesome sight. No parking, no photo — just have to depend on my memory.

Narrow, no-shoulder road after Abersoch.

After Abersoch, the roads squeezed to one track most of the way to Rhiw. I lost my way and was heading to the ocean. Got turned around then stopped at a busy pub for a nature break and directions.  I got a half pint of cider and met a delightful young woman who helped me out.

Her English was a bit hard to follow because of her heavy Welsh accent and she told me her first language is Welsh. She’s also fluent in French and learning Spanish.

I made it to Rhiw and knowing my time was short moved to the overlook to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) on more one track roads.

Ynys Enlli is the first site of the early Celtic Christian church. St. Cadfan established Wales first religious house there in the 6th century.

After Ynys Enlli, it was getting to Llanberis so I could check in to  y Gwynedd and have dinner. The room is tiny but comfortable. I went into the pub to have dinner and a man had his friendly dog at the bar and another man in a wheel chair had his non-service dog with him. I had an interesting talk with a pool player. He had been to Austin and related a tale of him being singled out by a drunk at 3 a.m. on 6th Street as an Arab and was told to go home. Said he went up the the guy, introduced himself as Ed Porter from London. The guy backed off after hearing the strong accent. We discussed Mexican food, barbecue, traveling alone (he was with his girlfriend), climbing Snowdon and blogging. He asked why I didn’t choose to visit London and I just said I prefer the country and was drawn to Wales. All this talk started from him wanting to move the chair at my table to make a pool shot. With little juice in my iPad and my cider gone, I left for bed.

Starting back to Llanberis

Stanley cooker

I’m not a vegetarian, but Tim and Janette are. So my evening meal was always vegetarian at Bryn Moel. It’s been quite interesting and surprisingly good food.

Some time ago, Tim decided that he didn’t like the way pigs were slaughtered at the time and decided to eat vegetarian. Janette thought it was a good idea. Laws have changed since then in the U.K. and slaughter follows strict humane guidelines. They remained vegetarians.

I wanted to contribute to an evening meal and made a lentil dish. I cooked on this:

This Stanley is an oil cooker. It serves triple duty for it also heats the house and the hot water

It was a lot of adjusting. The burners really don’t have any controls. First I had to pour boiling water over the rice and lentils (separate pots) then place them on the  burners shown below (both lids had to be open to accommodate the pots). Then everything was mixed in one pot and cooked over the burners.

DSC_0414With Janette’s coaching, I ended up with a decent meal.

Several days later, noting I needed to use an avocado soon and seeing Janette was having a long day, I told her I’d make a nacho casserole. I went shopping for what she didn’t have and made some quacamole. I put Tortilla chips on the bottom, topped with cheese, then topped with kidney beans, chick peas and refried beans. Then I repeated the layers, topped that with salsa and crushed tortillas. Stuck all that in the oven. And just had to wait until the cheese had melted. Came out quite tasty.

I don’t know how she does it, but she bakes pretty tasty cakes in that oven. The oven has some temperature control, but it’s not real precise. I guess it’s all what you get use to.

Last day at Bryn Moel

Security crew at Bryn Moel

I didn’t take my camera to the barn when I went to work in the morning, so nothing to record the six+ wheelbarrows of muck taken from the stalls and dumped, the leftover haylage (fermented hay) I took  from the stalls to a nearby pasture, the sweeping and raking done in the front yard, the setting up the stalls for the evening with haylage and feed, which is what I have been doing in the mornings 8-noon. There are usually two of us and today — my last day — Tim was the second person. Francine, a local young woman, has been the usual second person, but was off. She is getting ready to go to university and was studying to be a veterinarian. She has been riding with Tim for years.

Francine worked chores to pay for her riding time and lessons, Here she is riding Dreamy who has competed successfully in the European western competitions.

I have enjoyed watching Cowboy Tim teach people and horses after the work is done. So for the past five days I’ve not left the place except to make a wine and nacho run, and to attend a concert in Llangollen. The nacho run was to picking up what I needed to make a nacho casserole. More on cooking in a separate entry.

Cowboy Tim doesn’t have his cowboy hat on, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t stopped trying to convince Cath to ride her 17.2 Irish draught cross in a western saddle.

I’ve even ridden a tiny bit, twice. Basically I have gotten on the offered horse and walked, did some turns, tried trotting. Felt like I was back in novice class. (It been awhile since I’ve ridden.) Both horses were light and respond well to leg pressure.

Thursday, Cowboy Tim had Lydia riding her thoroughbred without a bridle. Her horse Inca came in with dangerous horse syndrome: rearing, bucking, coming at people. It’s a long story about what was going on with him, but in short, Inca had back pain from what was diagnosed as a kissing spine. The memory of that pain and his reaction is what Tim has worked him through, to the point that Lydia was riding him at a walk, trot, canter with no bridle. (And Tim has her riding on a western saddle.)

Cowboy Tim with hat helps Lydia with the leg commands on the different stages of opening and closing a gate.

I did some body work on Inca and gave Lydia a lesson on some things she can do and was rewarded with a bottle of pink moscato set on my doorstep 2 days later. It’s not bad for a sweet wine.

Last night I went with Tim to a concert of junior high/high school aged students from four counties. It was a performance of a Cerddorfa Linynnol (string orchestra) and a Cerddorfa Chwyth (wind orchestra). Incredible music and display of talent. Aunt Pam (of the trip to Tywyn and shetlands) was there; it was her grandson performing in the string orchestra. Afterwards I experienced Mr. Toad’s wild ride, when Tim decided to take a different route home on a curvy, one track road running on the side of a high hill. And with it being dark (late evening) I saw the “cats eyes” mid road as we sped by. Cowboy Tim likes to drive fast — very fast. But I’m still in one piece.

So tomorrow, it’s clean the apartment and head out to Pentrefoelas for chocolate.