Wales: Surprising and Wonderful...Caribbean Week in Toronto...Deal of the day
CELTIC MANOR RESORT, WALES - I've said it before, but I'll say it again. How you feel about your travels depends so much on your expectations. Build a place up too much before you go, and you're almost certain to be disappointed.
But that wasn't the case for my trip to Wales. I've been distracted with other issues, and I hardly have cracked the Wales book I bought a couple months ago when I booked my golf trip. I've seen pictures of the golf courses I'm playing this week, but I hardly read a word about some of the other attractions that the Visit Wales people said I could check out when my golf was over.
I played the Celtic Manor 2010 course today; the one that Tiger will play next year at the 2010 Ryder Cup.
Different tees of course, but the same layout - all part of the Celtic Manor resort designed by Welshman turned Ottawa resident Terry Matthews. Some thought he was daft to turn the hospital where he was born into a luxury hotel and to build not one but three golf courses in the area and to try to get the Ryder Cup for little old Wales, but he did it.
The 2010 course is terrific. It's not a links course, but you definitely know you're in the United Kingdom. A tough test all around. But you'll have to pick up the Star's 2010 golf magazine to find out more. Sorry!
Anyway, I finished the round (the P.R. Director and I combined for a Commonwealth team and - barely - defeated a pair of fine French journalists, for those of you keeping score at home) and got picked up at the hotel by Rob Jones from Visit Wales.
We drove over to the Wye Valley on an admittedly glorious fall day in south Wales, and I fell in love. The Wye is a lovely river that flows down a protected valley, and the colours on the trees were terrific. We didn't have much time but we managed in an hour to squeeze in both Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle, and I gotta say both are amazing and inpiring sights.
The Abbey, which dates back to the 13th century, take or give, looks tiny in pictures but sprawls all over the valley. You can see finished, complete churches everywhere, but this one has been decaying for years and there's no roof and some of the walls are missing. But it only adds to the mystique.
And to see the waves of colours on the trees dancing in the gaps of what would've been the windows in the main nave of the abbey are as marvelous as any stained glass could be.
Definitely worth checking out, as is the meandering village of Tintern that stretches along the river. Lots of nice-looking pubs and shops and hotels; just made for a nice walk.
From there it was on to the attractive little village of Chepstow, which ought to be FILLED with Americans for the Ryder Cup. A real delight. But the castle was the best part.
I'd read a word or two about it, but I didn't know how big it was and what incredible views it offered of the town and the surrounding countryside.
Like I said, if I HAD known I might have expected too much. But because I didn't think it would be anything extraordinary, I was blown away by it.
A great place, Wales. And still 3 more days to enjoy it.
CARIBBEAN WEEK IN TORONTO
The Caribbean Tourism Organization will put on its second annual Rum and Rhythm event in the Distillery District Oct. 30. A variety of the Caribbean's award-winning rums (yum!) will be available for tasting in addition to rum cocktails served up by the region's top mixologists. The festival will also feature tantalizing cuisine served by Caribbean chefs, and musical performances. You could be the lucky winner of a 7 night all-inclusive vacation to the Caribbean, compliments of Air Canada Vacations and Occidental Hotels and Resorts.
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY: JAMAICA
Jamaica is still getting its fair share of Canadian visitors. In fact, the number of Canadians travelling to the island was up 28 per cent in the first six months of this year. But the U.S. is still Jamaica’s biggest market and to boost those numbers, most resorts are offering special deals. Families get 40 per cent off accommodation Jan. 3 – Feb. 10, 2010 at Franklyn D. Resort & Spa and Pebbles Resort, two properties in the FDR chain. This offer is combinable with the ‘Bring Your Own Grandparent’ (BYOG) promotion where grandparents stay free in January when travelling with their children and grandchildren. See www.fdrfamily.com. Another resort chain, Riu Hotels, has a Kids Stay Free deal at Riu Montego Bay and Riu Ocho Rios for kids ages two to 12, for stays Nov. 1 – Dec. 23, 2009. See www.riu.com.