Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Milford Haven and St. Davids Peninsula, Wales - Day 7

With so many gloomy days behind us I think we finally hit the jackpot. Our arrival in Milford Haven, Wales was greeted with brilliant blue skies and the impending warmth of the sun.

Pilot Boat
We stood out on the balcony and watched the beautiful sunrise while the Ocean Princess reached its anchor position.

As this is a tender port, the crew were busy getting the boats ready to go ashore.

Anchored off Milford Haven, Wales
Breakfast was a treat as we sat near the outside terrace. I had already cut into the Eggs Benedict when I remembered to take a photo. I did my best to clean it up and make it presentable.

I am very happy I don't have to be the tour guide today as we have a Princess sponsored shore excursion for later this morning. We will be doing Princess tour MH2210A: St. David's Peninsula. This tour starts at 10:30 am and ends at 2:30 pm. The cost per person is $59.00 which seems very cheap. I am not sure why the tour starts so late since we anchored early this morning. I would have preferred to get an earlier start.

As the tour is not for several hours we decided to request meeting the group on shore instead of in the Cabaret Lounge. We spoke with the shorex staff who at first didn't seem so keen on this idea. However, once I mentioned that other cruise lines allow this practice they relented. They seemed mostly concerned that we would not show up for the tour on time and everyone would be waiting for us. I promised we would be punctual.

We heard the announcement that the tenders were ready and went down to the gangway to board.

It was a very smooth tendering process to Milford Haven. The tender was just about half full. During the ride over we met a young couple who planned to do a kayak or wind sailing trip today. It sounded like fun. They said they always plan 1 fun / strenuous athletic activity during a cruise. They were both VERY fit!

Once ashore we were each personally greeted with a smile and handshake by the Town Councillor  / "Governor" of Milford Haven. Few cruise ships stop here preferring Holyhead on the northwest coast instead. In all of 2013 they expect about 5000 cruise ship passengers here. The Councillor and his wife seemed were very happy to see all of us.

Councillor of Milford Haven with his wife standing on the right
On the dock a group of adorable girls entertained with Welsh dancing and singing.

Adorable Welsh Welcome
Inside the visitor tent they had lots of tourist info on attractions and places to see in the local area. Some of the reading materials were in both English and Welsh. I picked up a few brochures on St. Davids and also an area guide explaining "The Secret Waterway". The guide which is in English and Welsh, explains the history of the Milford Haven Waterway. In the 19th century shipbuilding, fishing and coalmining dominated the employment opportunities here. About 60 sailing vessels were built here in the early 19th century. In 1908 over 300 fishing boats were using the port with 40,000 tons of fish sold yearly.

Below is an except form the area guide. The Welsh version is incomprehensible to me. Thank goodness for the English translation beside it.  The Welsh seem to love double consonants and especially the letter "D".

Milford Haven has a current population of 12,830 making it the second largest in Pembrokeshire county. Valero has a large oil refinery and pipeline here for fuel and natural gas. It is one of the largest and most complex refineries in Europe and employs over 1000 people.

The harbor area is very pretty but it was apparent that there isn't much to do around the dock. What small shops they have weren't open yet. They did offer a free shuttle service to go around the town. There is a Tesco and a £ (pound) store which is very popular with the crew. We opted to take the shuttle tour roundtrip without getting off. The trip took about 15 minutes!

We first passed the little museum, then a few shops before returning to port.

Milford Haven
The town has some small businesses but it wasn't worth exploring further. I am glad we are doing an excursion in a few hours. Clearly the nicest aspect of Milford Haven besides its lovely people and its beautiful harbor and marina. We went on a leisurely walk around the marina taking photos of the very pretty boats.


Boaters enjoying breakfast
The harbor area has restored brick buildings with bright blue trim. They also have high railings along the dock and it appears very safe. However, we noticed this sign that perhaps you need to be careful while boating.

This was just the first of several signs we spotted throughout the day. It appears the Welsh love their signs.

The Welsh also love dogs as we saw tons today. George pictured below, is a Brindle Collie. He looks a lot like an Australian Shepherd but with a big tail. He was very cute and friendly too!

Handsome George
The shops along the dock were average but as they don't get that many visitors the offerings are limited.

Store Sign
As we still had more time before our tour we took a look at the antique cars on display. They were very nice but I didn't see any info providing more detail on the year, make and model. Perhaps it and MG and from 1931 according to the license plate?

They also had this car with two fronts facing in opposite directions.

In addition to the antique cars, they offered a Bird of Prey encounter which included an adorable little owl who only wanted to get back inside the van. She was precious. The other larger owl was very sweet and not so shy.

Bird's of Prey
"I want to go home"
With not much offered in town it was nice the local government provided some other distractions.

We took another short walk around the harbor to see the craft tent that was setup a little further away. Here you could purchase some local handmade items. We took a quick look but didn't find anything to bring home. As we were waiting for over 2 hours for our tour to begin, I wondered if we should have taken the local bus to St. Davids instead. I noticed online that The Puffin Shuttle provides transportation a few time a day to St. Davids. However, the Princess tour was so cheap, escorted and roundtrip that it didn't seem worth looking into the local bus. St. Davids is also pretty far away so if you miss the bus for any reason you may also miss the ship.

We noticed this woman walking toward town. She was not an eliminated "Miss Milford Haven" contestant but one of the town's volunteers for the cruise ship welcoming.

Town Welcome

I was surprised to see the "Martha's Vineyard" restaurant! Apparently many of the Welsh fishermen spent time in New England in the prime fishing grounds.

Around 10:00 am we noticed our tour bus had arrived and decided to see if we could take our seats. Helen, the tour leader and Christine, the driver were very kind and welcomed us to join them. Just as we did yesterday, we selected the first seats on the left side. We did notice a "reserved" seat sign in the first row on the right for one of the passengers. I didn't know you could do that.

It was definitely warm out and the a/c on the bus was turned on. Little by little the other passengers showed up and boarded the bus. After one last straggler we were on our way to St. Davids. It is supposed to be in the high 70's to low 80's today.

Departing Milford Haven, Wales
The drive to St. Davids would take about 45 - 50 minutes.

St. Davids Peninsula

St. Davids Peninsula which in Welsh is known as "Tyddewi" is considered one of the most enchanting spots in Britain. St. Davids has the designation as a city due to the presence of the cathedral. It is more accurately a large village which sits on the very western most point of Wales. In addition to some lovely beaches in this area, there are lots of water fowl and beautiful scenery to enjoy. Most people though make the trek to St. Davids for its magnificent purple and gold flecked cathedral.

Heading to St. David's, Wales
The drive along the beautifully paved and twisting roads was spectacular. We passed pretty fields and went through various towns, the first being Haverfordwest which is the main seat of government. The town hall was pointed out as we continued on the highway toward Newgale.

Entering Newgale
We were now driving mostly along the coast. We arrived in Newgale which is a picturesque little beach town with surfers and boaters. Due to the warm weather there were lots of people near the beach. Our current location along the Pembrokeshire coast is very popular with those wanting to enjoy the scenery.

Newgale campground and beach
Apparently you need to be a good swimmer here
Christine stopped the bus and pulled over to the curbside so everyone could jump off and take a closer look. The area is very pretty and the weather was terrific.

I am not sure what amenity this sign is referring to. I did notice a little bench further up from the sign. Perhaps that what the sign is indicating.

The view with a bench
They also had this sign on the roadside.

This area is especially captivating with the deep blue water, lush meadows and short cliffs. Back on the bus we had about another 15 minutes until we reached St. Davids.

Nice Drive
We passed through this little town with pastel colored buildings.

Cute buildings

We then drove along a coastal waterway before pulling up to our final destination.

Here is a map to show where we started from in Milford Haven and our current location on the Pembrokeshire coast.

Pembrokeshire Coast Map
We rolled into St. Davids which is a very attractive town. There were lots of cute little shops and restaurants.

St. Davids, Wales
We exited the bus and followed Helen, our guide toward the Tower Gate. There were lots of tourists here today enjoying the sites in the glorious weather.

Heading toward the Cathedral
The main street runs under the 13th century Tower Gate.  Once through we walked down to the cathedral.

Tower Gate Entrance
The sign on the tower lists the hours in both Welsh and English.

Sign for cathedral in Welsh and English
On the other side of the gate we had our first glimpse of St. Davids Cathedral from above. It was even more impressive than I imagined.

St. David's Cathedral
St. Davids Cathedral

St. Davids Cathedral is positioned in a hollow rather than up high on an embankment. It is an usual feature for a building of such prominence. Rather than modesty, it was explained that in this location it could be more easily defended from intruders. If the cathedral was visible from the sea on all sides it would have been more vulnerable to attack.

The cathedral site was founded by the Welsh patron himself in 550 AD. It has drawn pilgrims and visitors for over a millennium and half. William the Conqueror being among them. In 1120 Pope Calixtus decreed that two journeys to St. Davids were the spiritual equivalent of one to Rome.

Walking down to the Cathedral
We proceeded to walk down the hill to the South entrance of the cathedral. Helen explained that the 125 ft tower has clocks on only three sides. The people in the northern part of the parish couldn't raise enough money for one facing them.

Helen gave us some last minute instructions before entering the building.

Our guide Helen giving instructions to the group
Once inside I made a beeline for the Bookshop to purchase the photography pass for 2 pounds. It was well worth it as there was lots of opportunities for photos.

Some of our fellow Princess passengers
We entered the twelfth century nave in full view of the latticed oak roof. The nave floor has a noticeable slope. Unlike any other British cathedral, the Queen is an automatic member of the St. Davids Cathedral Chapter.

Helen handed us each a pamphlet explaining a bit about the cathedral. It also contained a map. The cathedral is quite large and we did our best to keep up with the group, that is until we lost them!

The present cathedral was built under the Norman bishop Peter de Leia in 1180. Life was never dull for a monk as the cathedral was sacked by Norse raiders at least 10 times over the next 4 centuries. The current cathedral is believed to be the 4th to stand on the original site.

The Norman architects did their best dealing with the swampy ground. The nave pillars even today lean outwards to an alarming degree. The nave is built of beautiful rose colored sandstone.

Nave Ceiling and arches
The style of the building is Romanesque with rounded pillars and massed shapes. There is also evidence of the Gothic transition with the addition of pointed arches and wide spans. The ceiling of the nave was built in 1472 and carved from Irish oak. Near the high altar is a brass memorial to Edmund Tudor, the father of Henry VII. To the left of the Tudor memorial is the shrine of St. David. Mortuary chests hold the bones of early Welsh saints.

Quire Screen

We  eventually made our way to the Lady Chapel and the Holy Trinity Chapel just past the choir. This area of the chapel was built in the 1500's and has wonderful fan tracery.

"Perpendicular architecture"
The detail and the shapes and textures were fantastic. We entered another room with some tombs and Helen had us take a seat while she provided some explanation.

There are numerous tombs including Lord Rhys, Gerald of Wales, St. Justinian and finally the relics of St. David.

While admiring the ceiling in one of the rooms we seemed to have lost sight of our group.

Beautiful ceiling St. Davids Cathedral
We wandered in a few directions trying to find them. At least we were together. We looked in a few more rooms before finally being reunited!

St. David's Reliquary
We then enjoyed learning about the reliquary and seeing another beautiful ceiling.

Cross ceiling
I particularly liked the detail of all the decorative elements with the ornamental iron embellishments and intricate wood carvings.

Decorative door
I asked Helen about the meaning of this gate but said she wasn't up on her Latin.

Interesting gate
We then started to make our way as a group to front of the cathedral. We really enjoyed our tour and learning about St. Davids.

After a few final glances at some of the beautiful windows, we exited the building in search of something to eat. Our tummies were beginning to rumble.

Once outside Helen told us we had about 35 minutes to get back to the bus. That left very little time for any shopping or eating.

As we walked up the hill we had a clear view of the 14th century Bishops Palace which is now a ruin. The cows seem to enjoy it.

Bishops Palace
We walked up in the opposite direction from where we came. This gave us a bit of a different vantage point of the cathedral.

Beautiful St. Davids Cathedral
The walk back was graduated but very level. Due to mother's bad knees we took the ramps instead of the stairs.She was very appreciative!

Walking back
Once in town we looked at a few shops windows but were eagerly looking for something to eat. Needing something fast we discovered Gianni's Italian ice cream which was delicious. I had the maple walnut. Yummy! It must be a goldmine as they were doing a very brisk business today.

Giannis Ice Cream
We walked with our ice cream cones along the streets looking at a few of the shops.

The town was very easy to get around. It was a shame we did not have more time as we didn't have an opportunity to enjoy the town.

I had read about the Cwtch restaurant online before our visit here. It has very good reviews. There was also this seafood restaurant below.

We saw these beautiful spaniels on the sidewalk. The coloring is striking.

There is actually lots to do in St. David besides the cathedral. During our walk we noticed a company offering boat trips to Ramsay Island. They go out twice a day on 90 minute trips to see the birds and scenery. That would have been fun if we had more time.

With our time up we meandered back to the bus for our trip back to Milford Haven.

Surprisingly everyone came back to the bus on time and we departed for our journey home. We went back the same exact way we came.

We passed this nice building which looked like a church.

The drive back was uneventful and we traveled the same twisting and turning roads.

There were lots cows and fields to see on the drive.

We were told the bushels are not hay but fertilizer for the fields.

We were in Newgale again and then a short time later pulled into the outskirts or Milford Haven.

Helen and Christine seem a bit mystified when 20 minutes later we were arriving back in Milford Haven so soon. It was only 2:00 pm. I overheard them talking and they decided to take us on a detour around town to use up a few minutes.

Return to Milford Haven
Helen had us enjoy the view of our ship, the Ocean Princess from this area of town. She also suggested we have a look at the fisherman statue. In this same area there is also a Valero memorial to the 3 men and 1 woman who died in a horrible explosion several years ago. Christine said she was in town that day and felt the ground move thinking they were having an earthquake.

Fisherman memorial and the Ocean Princess
We had a great view of our ship from here.

Ocean Princess
The town looks very pretty from here. You can also see our tender below.

We then drove the last 5 minutes back to the dock. The tender was waiting and the same couple we met on the trip over was on this tender too. We asked about their excursion and the husband said it was a bit different than he thought. They did this buggy type thing on the beach with a kite. He said it was still fun.

It was now around 2:45 pm and having skipped lunch we were totally famished. We went to the Grill to get a hot dog that would hold us over until dinner. It wasn't busy and we enjoyed sitting on deck enjoying out meal.

We went back to the room and I took some photos as we departed the port. We are leaving early as it will take some time to get to Guernsey in the Channel Islands tomorrow morning.

Leaving Wales
We very much enjoyed our time in Wales. Later we learned that on every visit by other cruise ships this summer it was cold and rainy. We were very lucky today!

Since we had a snack so late were weren't that hungry for dinner. However, we are not ones to turn down a meal so eventually made it to the dining room about 20 minutes late. The room was buzzing and the waiters were briskly running around for the first seating.

We placed our order which consisted of several courses. My mother started with the cheese souffle and I had a salad. We both were served sorbet mid meal and then I had the scallops for my main. I don't remember what mother ordered. Dessert was just okay. It was a mix of 3 different chocolate desserts.




Dinner was fine but it wasn't that memorable. For a change we decided to walk around the shops until the show would begin. Tonight's entertainment is the comedian Tom Briscoe. I have never seen him before and don't know anything about him but thought it might be fun.

Before the show while we were walking by one of the shops, Pat and Ash from our lunch during one of the sea days asked us to come into the shop to join the free raffle. They were doing a Larimar presentation and following that would award a prize. I think Larimar is actually quite pretty but my mother has trouble believing that the mine in the Dominican Republic is completely gone. The guy doing the presentation explained that a deep blue color for Larimar is preferable. At the end of the talk he pulled one of the raffle tickets out of a hat and Pat was the lucky winner! She got a little aquamarine necklace.

It was now time for the show and we took our seats in the crowded room. We were more toward the middle which was sort of a mistake in case we decided not to stay. Mr. Briscoe was fine but it really wasn't my favorite type of humor. It was more in line with Jeff Foxworthy. The most annoying part was a couple who might have been friend's of Mr. Briscoe who were seated directly behind me. The male part of this duo was laughing and hollering very loudly at things that no one else cared for and was rather obnoxious. When I couldn't take it anymore, I finally turned around and stared at him. I guess my "death stare" worked wonders as he soon stopped and was more subdued during the remainder of the performance. Most of Mr. Briscoe's jokes were about family and being married. I may have enjoyed it more if not for my nearby neighbor.

Comedian Tom Briscoe
Once the show ended we went upstairs to our room for our last of 2 nights on the ship. Tomorrow we will arrive in Guernsey and will be touring on our own.

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