Celtic Manor Resort and Golf in Wales...Leeks and Daffodils...Jim's Deal of day
CELTIC MANOR RESORT, Coldra Woods, The Usk Valley, South Wales, United Kingdom -
Okay, don't blame me. That's how the Celtic Manor (that's Keltic for all you Boston NBA fans, not Seltic) Resort here lists its address on those tiny little notepads; you know, the ones you - certainly I - end up taking home by the bushelful at the end of a business trip. It's a real mouthful of an address; far more complicated than 1 Yonge St., Toronto, Ontario, M5E 1E6. But there you go.
The minute I opened my mouth on the first tee of the Montgomerie course here at Celtic Manor
today (it's a par 69 but a brute, by the way), one of my three English playing partners looked me over and replied, drily, "not from this side of the pond, are ya?"
They ended up being great guys, which is the same experience I had playing Bethpage Black in New York last month with three crazy Long Island residents. These guys, Simon, Ian and Richard, weren't crazy. But it was fun to hear them razz each other on the course over missed shots or mistaking the ball that was on the green for their ball when, in fact, it was the other guys' ball and their little golf ball was lying in a pot bunker 20 yards away.
There's nothing quite so supportive as a group of guys on a regular golf outing. "Hey, the fairway's over THERE you idiot," they'll say to one another. "Great four-putt," another will offer. "That's a really nice triple bogey." General support group stuff.
My wife used to comment - still does, actually - on how our boys would mercilessly tease each other on the way to and from hockey games or practices in our crowded minivan. I'd have disagreed with her, but they did. Then again, I always thought it was in good fun. Girls tend not to tease one another, but, as I like to say to my wife, instead they talk about each other behind their backs until one of them develops an eating disorder. I think I prefer the up-front approach.
Anyway, this seems like a splendid part of the world based on a few hours experience.
I asked my playing partners if the Welsh make good whisky, and they made funny faces. So I said, hey, I don't ever remember hearing about great English whisky.
"We don't bother," one of the guys said. "That's why God created the Scots."
Before I forget, my congratulations for a good flight from British Airways. I got to fly Club World (business) class, and there was lots of nice perqs. The beef was overcooked, but they had plenty of entertainment options and the seat laid down flat so I could sleep three hours and they had a small locker near the floor that held my shoes, headphones and a paperback book. So not a bad way to fly.
As I said, the Montgomerie course here isn't nearly as easy as it might seem. With a couple exceptions, the holes aren't particularly long. But there are some tough par five's and long par three's and the greens look like something you'd see at Canada's Wonderland. Hardly a flat spot on any of them. And when there was one, I sure couldn't find it.
Friday I play the 2010 course, where they'll play the Ryder Cup next year. Looking forward to that.
I haven't had much of a chance to scout out the Celtic Manor Resort itself, but I'll attest to the fact they have a fabulous indoor pool. It's much bigger and longer than most, so you actually can do laps. And if you do the backstroke you can look up at the ceiling, which is painted to look like the night sky. They also have an enormous hot tub with views of the garden; big enough (the hot tub, that is) to seat 40 or 50 people. Nice gym, too, with plastic bags you can put your swimming costume into when you're finished.
Never find that in Toronto; they'd have to charge you a nickel for the bag.
LEEKS AND DAFFODILS
Whilst perusing one of the many tourist brochures someone kindly dropped off in my room today, I discovered that both daffodils and leeks are national emblems of Wales. I don't know why that's the case with the daffodil, but one brochure said the leek became a symbol after St. David advised the British warriors on his side to go into battle with leeks on their caps so people could tell they weren't invading Saxons. Why not? As for daffodils, apparently the Welsh word for leek is cenhinen, while the word for daffodil is cenhinen pedr.
So now you know.
The chap who drove me to Wales from Heathrow this morning (seems like a week ago, actually) says there's a real surge in Welsh pride these days and that more and more kids are learning it in school. Good to hear.
I didn't get any leeks with my coffee at lunch, but my small pot did arrive with four cookies. A nice touch. Mind you, it was $8 for the coffee so I guess a couple cookies thrown in only makes sense.
As I munched away on my lunch of Usk Valley chicken and a side salad of arugula and rocket, I kept thinking back to my old Toronto Star north (and east) bureau chief, Warren Potter. Warren was a Welshman who moved to Canada and spent many fine years at the Star, some of them helping me learn to be a reporter. He used to say things like, "The world is divided into two types of people. The Welsh, and those who wish they were."
Warren died just a couple weeks ago, and I'm sad to say my first trip to his country began today. Not sad that I came here, just wistful that it would've been nice to chat with him about it. I hadn't seen him for probably 20 years when I got the news of his passing. I wished we could've talked about his beloved Wales.
It didn't happen. But in his honour, I think I'll salute Warren at dinner tonight with a glass of whisky. The best Welsh brand I can find.
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY: Cayman Islands
Prices in the Cayman Islands are Free Fallin’ all the way through mid-December, with special rates on everything from accommodation and attractions to dining and scuba diving. The highlight of the Free Fallin’ promotion are the hotel deals. Most participating properties are offering four nights for the price of three, plus upgrades in some cases. You can choose from big name hotels like Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort or The Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa, or opt for a more intimate property on one of the Caymans’ smaller islands, like the new, 29-room Alexander Hotel on Cayman Brac or the recently renovated, 40-room Little Cayman Beach Resort. See www.caymanislands.ky/freefallin.