Posts Tagged With: Castle

When You Have Money To Burn

I absolutely love castles and all the fairy-tale romance they stand for.  When booking the tour, one of the highlights for me was checking out Hohenzollern Castle on Christmas Day – Merry Christmas Sharen!  Again, as life (yes, I’m absolutely referring to the demands of work yet again) was hectic, I didn’t actually Google Hohenzollern Castle prior to the trip to find out what I could before making my way out there.  The location of this castle is absolutely stunning as its built on top of a mountain 855m high and provides spectacular views.  As we drove up as close as the tour bus could get to the castle, my heart was all a flutter.  It looked magnificent and I couldn’t wait to find out the story behind why it was perched on a mountain.

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Since we decided (aka were told by our tour leader to not take the shuttle bus reserved for seniors) to walk up to the top, I started to feel my legs turn to jelly as we made it from one staircase to the next and I started to feel like I was back in Australia trying to conquer heart attack hill once again.  It dawned on me that they perched this castle in this location to ensure that nobody would invade it.  Sadly, once we reached the gates and entered, the winding uphill walk just continued on.  I’m a trooper so slightly out of breath, I soldiered on and  started thinking maybe the castle belonged to a recluse weirdo who thought of pouring his money into a stunning castle instead of a remote cabin hidden in the woods as that was the thing to do at the time.  Ahh, that would have been a fabulous story if it wasn’t all just make-believe in my head.

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Turns out that my instincts have led me astray on this trip once again as none of my conclusions were remotely close to the truth.  As the tour commenced and I had my slippers and cape in place listening to a pony-tailed and rather odd man drown on and on about the family who owned the castle.  I soon realized that this was the 3rd version of the castle and it was built as a family memorial and no one had actually ever lived in it.  The closest it ever came to being occupied was the current owner threw his 30th birthday party in the castle which lasted for days.  There were people in designer shoes, dancing all night, and all that jazz but it was the furthest thing from the Downton Abbey scandal that I was hoping for – boo!  There were no stories of love and heartbreak as the castle was passed from one generation to the next.  There was only rooms that were never lived in and staged for suckers like me to come and visit.

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One of the things that I remember the pony-tailed man saying before I tuned him out completed was that you should buy a castle when you have money to burn.  He then droned on and on about the maintenance costs and keeping the staff in place and such.  Sadly, I feel the same why about visiting a castle without any great history behind it as well.  You win some, you lose some and at the end of the day, I walked away with some great photos but not as excited and dying to know more as I usually am when I visit a castle.

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Categories: GERMANY, germany: baden-baden | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Touring the Land Of Myth and Legend

My first trip into Wales would not have been complete without spending some time exploring the capital but what was obvious from the get-go is that this IS NOT a city built for tourists.  On first impression, I felt as though I had landed in suburbia instead of the city center where all the action should be.  Granted, a little thing called the internet had told me that this was a small city but the hype it gave about areas such as Cardiff Bay had left me utterly disappointed as everything seemed more spaced out and disjointed than I had expected. Thankfully, my long-lost Welsh friend soon came to the rescue as she zipped us around in her little car and showed off her city with pride and gusto as we guzzled down gallons and gallons of tea.

Castell Coch From A Distance

It was a privilege not only to have a local escort us around town for the weekend but also to help us plan what we should see.  Before departing for this trip, there was no game plan but before long one started to vaguely form as we drank more tea and plotted were we’d be getting our food-on for the rest of the weekend.  I could go into boring detail of tea rooms, outdoor museums, shopping, Welsh cakes, assorted pub food, and the typical things people do in Cardiff but one of the things that I enjoyed the most was taking some time out from eating our faces off and visiting the fairy-tale castle known as Castell Coch aka Red Castle.

Castell Coch

Close Up View Before We Entered

We were all under the impression that this castle was one that the Victorians built to resemble a Medieval castle but we soon found out that we were all mistaken as this was a restoration project undertaken in the Victorian era.  From the outside, this looked like a Medieval castle but from the inside it was clear that the Victorian stamp of approval could be seen everywhere.  Going from room to room, the Victorian opulence was evident and it was weird seeing the Victorian take and fascination with the Middle Ages.  But it was this opulence that had us hooked as we tried to figure out what was actually medieval versus what the Victorian’s believed it to be.

Castell Coch

Interior Walls of the Castle

Another Interior View of Castle Coch

It didn’t take us very long to make our way through the entire castle and before long we were buckled up and eating a little treat in the car as we made our way to our next stop of the day.  In true Welsh weather form, we were hit with rain, sun, and everything else in-between as we toured the castle and beyond but I thought that Castell Coch was a nice place to hit up that got us out of the hustle and bustle they call city life in Cardiff and showed me a side of Wales that I was more than delighted to explore.

Categories: WALES, wales: cardiff | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stuff Of Fairytales

As our tour bus worked its way around a twisty turny road in a haze of fog and rain, the driver began telling the story of Kylemore Abbey.  Despite my front of hardheaded realism and steadfast belief that prince charming is a lie made up by Disney, it’s a well-known fact that I’m somewhat of a romantic at heart and this story is one that wooed me before I even laid eyes on the castle itself.  It’s a story that dates back to 1850 when a lady named Margaret was on her honeymoon in Connemara with her husband Mitchell Henry.  The couple decided to stop for a picnic at the hunting lodge and Margaret became so enchanted by the area that Mitchell purchased the land and built them a home there.

Kylemore Castle

This romantic gift was set on 15,000 acres and the castle was built around the original hunting lodge and came complete with gardens, walks, and woodlands.  The couple had 9 children and enjoyed a happy life at Kylemore until tragedy struck.  One of their children took ill and the family was advised to go to a warmer climate.  The Henrys took their family to Egypt when Margaret fell ill and passed away at the age of 45.  Mitchell was so grief-stricken that he had his wife’s body embalmed and brought back to Kylemore and laid to rest on the grounds.  Tragedy struck again, when one of the Henry daughters was thrown off a horse and thus, Mitchell abandoned Kylemore.  At the age of 84, Mitchell Henry died penniless in Leamington, England but still had his last wish to be reunited with his wife granted.   Her body and his ashes are in the mausoleum on the grounds of Kylemore to this day.

Walled Gardens

When visiting Kylemore Abbey and Gardens, the iconic castle oozes romance.  I’m not clear if I felt this way because I heard the story of the Henrys prior to my visit or if I’ve watched too many episodes of Downton Abbey along with reading too many Jane Austin books but there was something about a castle nestled at the base of the mountains that made me regard this as one of the most romantic buildings that I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tourist hoopla that surrounds this site but what I enjoyed the most was the beauty of the castle and strolling the grounds of the Kylemore to the Walled Garden and in and around some of the woodlands areas.  I did it all in the rain and can only imagine the beauty of the area if it were a sunny day.

 

Categories: IRELAND, ireland: connemara | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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