Cardiff and its Castle...Farewell to Wales...Jim's Deal of the Day
CARDIFF, Wales - I'm gonna miss this place.
I had the better part of six days in Wales in October and not a drop of rain. Okay, maybe two drops. But that was it. No umbrella. No rain gear. I got wet at Celtic Manor but only because I tried to replicate Jean Van de Velde's water shot from the British Open; mostly as a gag but partly because I'm dumb enough to think I can hit a ball when it's resting in four inches of water in a pond next to a green on the 2010 Ryder Cup course.
It's sheer wonderment; you can see the sea from every hole and you navigate along the ocean for the first few holes. There are vicious pot bunkers, great, rumpled greens and more gorse and fescue than you shake a stick at. No tricks, no goofy holes; just wonderful golf. So thanks to Dylan and Peter Williams for a great finish to a fabulous week of golf.
Spent the rest of the day soaking up the atmosphere in downtown Cardiff, which is undergoing some major changes. It's not quite London or Edinburgh, of course, but there are some charming regions and funky shops and a great market where you can buy faggots and peas (meatballs and peas, I think) as well as boiling bacon (not sure about that) and prepared curries, as well as dozens of fruits and vegetables. One caller was shouting out "half price on raspberries. Raspberry happy hour, right here." He was also busy trying to convince a very attractive blonde that she ought to do some modelling, and I admired his persistence.
Cardiff Castle is terrific; right in the heart of downtown. With an old keep, a moat, the remains of an old Roman wall and lots of turrets and tunnels and places to play at being a knight, it's a great spot to spend a couple hours.
It's also close to the superb Goat Major pub, where I finally got to try some Brains SA beer (the locals say the SA stands for skull attack; charming!). Stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel, which has a really good gym and all the modern conveniences in a great location a half block from the shops of Queen Street, which always makes a Torontonian feel at home.
I'll miss long drives on winding country roads listening to BBC 2, which is a great station. And I'll miss the wonderfully entertaining people and the grand scenery; the river valleys and the craggy coastlines and the Snowdonia mountains and the endless hills dotted with sheep and black Welsh cattle. I won't miss trying to pronounce the place names of some of the towns. Why is that if there are two l's together it sounds like "cl" but where two f's are put together it sounds like f? I don't get it.
Anyway, it's a cracking good place and I'm looking forward to another visit. They say you can take a kayak down the Wye river and stop at a pub along the way, and to a Canadian that sounds about as good as you can get.
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY
There’s nothing to say your winter getaway has to involve a big ski lodge. The Bed & Breakfasts of Crested Butte, a local group of B&Bs in Colorado’s Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley, offer accommodation and a hearty breakfast in lodgings ranging from ‘Crested Butte casual’ to historic mountain retreat. And from March 28 – April 24, 2010, the B&Bs have a special rate of $99 (U.S.) per night, per person for a minimum of four nights’ lodging and two days of skiing. Additional nights are available at a discount as well. The three participating properties are The Ruby of Crested Butte, Purple Mountain B&B and the Elizabeth Anne B&B. Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley has just about every winter activity imaginable, from skiing and snowboarding at Crested Butte Mountain Resort to snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice fishing. See www.crestedbuttebedandbreakfasts.com.