Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Sneem, a knot in the Ring of Kerry

Of the four days I spent in Ireland in June with two friends, the little village of Sneem, situated on the Ring of Kerry on the west coast of Ireland, left the deepest impression in my mind. The word “Sneem” means “knot” in Irish. On that rather grey day, Sneem was a dash of colour in the mist. We stopped for a short break during the long drive around the Ring of Kerry, spending perhaps no more than two hours in Sneem, yet its modest charm was what made it such a unique part of the Irish experience!

It was a rainy morning as we drove on the Ring of Kerry but as we approached Sneem, the rain subsided! The welcoming colours of the village invited us to stop, park our car, and get off for a walk around.

The village was very quiet when we arrived at 11am. We spotted a church not far from where we parked and promptly headed in its direction. It was a Sunday morning and that was when we realized that most, if not all, of the villagers were attending worship service at the church, which would end at 11:30am.

We walked to the area behind the church to the main attraction of Sneem – some mysterious structures of pyramids! There was a block of stone with the words “The Way the Fairies Went” inscribed on it, so this must be…the home of the fairies?! I quite liked this place. It was serene and the fairy bit added a touch of mysticism to the entire surrounding.

Walking past the pyramids…

…keep going to reach this tranquil place where we stayed awhile.

Back in the village, we stopped by the bridge with rapids running under it.

At around 11:30 we returned to the place where we parked, which was right outside of an information centre/gift shop that we had intended to enter but was closed until 11:30. We figured that the villagers probably all went to church and would be back at 11:30, and we were right! The little shop opened and in we went.

The people you unexpected meet along the road often leave the deepest impressions. Here we met John, the shop owner. Upon hearing him speak French with some ladies, I asked, “D’òu venez-vous?” (“Where are you from?”) He told us that he was born in Normandy in France and moved to Sneem many years ago with his Austrian wife. He is a deacon at the village church and is now studying Greek because he wants to better understand the Bible, and he finds much peace in running this small shop in this quiet village. We chatted for around 10 minutes before I bought something and left, but not before we took a photo with him! It’s always so interesting to listen to a local share his stories, and if there was one part of our visit that would make me remember Sneem, it was John. Such a short conversation but so delightful!

And that ended our visit to the little village of Sneem, the knot in the Ring of Kerry, my favourite place in the Ring! ❤

Llanfairpwll…you know, that village with the really long name

The place with the longest name in the UK (in Europe as well, I believe) is a small village on the island of Anglesey in northwest Wales, named Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch. There was actually nothing there to see other than signs near the train station with the long name written, but as I was taking the train from Conwy to Holyhead and Llanfairpwll (the name of the village known to locals, but some call it LlanfairPG) was on the way, I thought I’d stop by for a short while to see this village and its claim to fame…

First impression of Llanfairpwll: just like any other small, quiet village. There was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, the long name was created as a publicity stunt to attract visitors – and it worked! I was a walking example of the power of the success of this ploy.

Walking down the main street I was rather surprised to see…a Chinese take-out place?! Then again, where there is a community, you’re bound to find one or two Chinese restaurants. Whether it is run by Chinese people is another story.

My favourite thing about Llanfairpwll would have to be this huge red dragon on the wall. The Welsh love their dragon, which appears on their national flag, almost every Welsh souvenir or paraphernalia, and decorations here and there. I gotta say that it’s quite a badass-looking symbol!

And here we come to the real thing…one of the many times I’d see the name that has tested many brave ones who dared to try to spell or pronounce it, and of course I was one of them.

Another appearance of the name, and this time it was kind enough to tell us what it meant! So Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch is not just one word, but a group of words with the following meaning: The Church Of St. Mary In The Hollow Of White Hazel Trees Near The Rapid Whirlpool By St. Tysilio’s Of The Red Cave”…phew, that was a mouthful! Not sure if I’d rather say this or Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch…

Here it is again, in case you missed the last one. I’m actually quite curious where this Church of St. Mary is and the red cave are.

Sooooooooooooooooooo long that I probably wouldn’t even be able to take a selfie with the sign that would fit the entire thing.

Final one on the platform at the train station – and finally here it teaches you how to pronounce the name! Now I can say it fluently…or not! Maybe this, this, or this would help if you’d like to give it a try. I think I’ll just stick with good ol’ names like Glasgow or Toronto, thank you very much!

Swallows, fairies, and a misty summit in Snowdonia

When I first heard the name Snowdonia, I thought it sounded like a place in Narnia or Harry Potter or some magical fictional location. Well I might have been right because I now do wonder if Snowdonia is the portal to a magical realm. Of course, this national park in the north of Wales is too big to be properly explored in two days, which was all I had. So as a lover of waterfalls, I went to see the Swallow Falls, and who could resist a place with a name like Fairy Glen Gorge? Finally I went to the summit of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales at 1085 metres. No, I didn’t walk it. I took the train on the Snowdon Mountain Railway as I simply wouldn’t have had the time to walk it. Yes, I took the train and I’m shameless to say it, even though one particular walker gave us a thumbs-down near the summit – well BITE ME 😀

As someone who loves waterfalls, there was no way that I’d NOT go see Swallow Falls when I was in Snowdonia. I love how the sound of the roaring water gets louder and louder the closer I get to the falls. As I watch the water flow so freely downstream I couldn’t help but ask…where does it come from, and where is it going?

As I hopped off the bus at the entrance to the Fairy Glen path, the bus driver remarked, “Off to see the fairies, are you?” I responded, “Yes, I’d hope so!” A short walk led me to a secluded gorge that could only be reached by walking down some steep, rocky steps, and you really couldn’t see the gorge until you walked down the final step. It was such a serene place, and again I loved hearing the water flow. I might have caught a glimpse of a fairy dancing here and there too…I wonder if the fairies here are related to the ones at the Fairy Glen on Skye in Scotland – cousins, maybe? 😉

And Snowdon. Oh Snowdon. According to a survey, the best view in the UK is from the summit of Snowdon. I might have agreed…if I could have been able to see it! Moments ago the scene in front of me was completely covered by the white mist, but the monster wind was rather helpful with clearing the clouds, so I did get the periodic lucky breaks and saw parts of the view from time to time. Still, the mountains of Snowdonia looked like a realm of heaven from here.

Oh Wales, what other secrets do you hold?

Walking to the edge of the Earth

North Wales was beautiful. Snowdon and the surrounding natural sites of the Snowdonia National Park are probably what attract most people to this part of Wales, but for me, what captured my heart was Anglesey. It is an island off the northwest coast of Wales and it was filled with so much serenity and beauty. South Stack was the most anticipated part of my trip to Wales and indeed the most memorable. The South Stack Lighthouse stood there alone on that windy morning, so humble yet so pristine and majestic.

“I walk to the edge of the Earth while you stand half a world away…”

…was all I thought of as I stared into the vast blue. Though Dublin is just on the other side, as I approached I felt with every step closer and closer to the edge of the Earth. It was as if this place held the end of time. I could have stayed there forever.

Something I don’t want to forget

In the blink of an eye, St. Andrews was 6 months ago. I’ve begun and stopped writing this post many times and always hesitated finishing it because I always feel very emotional when I remember that trip. The photos remind me of that weekend, such a short one but one that made me nothing more than content because of my companion. And perhaps I’ll leave it at that.

The ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral left behind signs of age and a glorious past. This would be the “touristy” part of St. Andrews, but it was a calm and quiet November morning. I felt like we could have been all alone in the world.

We took a short walk by the pier with the bluest sky, the bluest water, and a very blue me. The cathedral can be seen in the background.

St. Andrews is known as the birthplace of golf. We didn’t get to play, but at least we saw some people (who seemed to know what they were doing) take a few swings. I was just there to enjoy the nice weather, really.

The East Sands of St. Andrews (or was it the West Sands?) hid a wonderful surprise at sunset. It must have been raining the night before, and the sand at the beach formed an amazing ripple pattern, a scene made perfect by the fading light of dusk. I could have stayed in that moment forever.

Then red clouds covered the sky as if devouring it, and I could still remember how it felt, when my heart might have skipped a beat then and there, though it was not for the clouds.

Walking around the University of St. Andrews we passed by a grand courtyard, and wondering about the surrounding buildings, we asked the students what they were, to which they replied that they were residences for undergrads. We marveled at the luxury and wondered how much it would cost to live there.

The trip ended with a walk through the Lade Braes, a trail through the outskirts of St. Andrews. I didn’t hesitate to add a photo to my “Food and the Hills” series, although this was by no means a hill. Who would have known that such a serene place could be found here?

Then I had to leave. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to leave. And say goodbye. The air, the sand, the sunset, the company – thanks for everything.

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