St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace, Wales

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St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace, Wales

Interview with Amanda Canby-Lewis, Lead Custodian

Wales, a wild and mysterious place. My first travels through the country was back in my university days. I remember some amazing mountains and terrain, very strange signs, and people with a fun, odd sense of humor I enjoyed. In doing research for historic sites interviews, I started looking back into Welsh sites and found that they certainly weren’t lacking. There are so many castles, ruins and grounds to clamber around, not to mention lovely villages and sign posts with Welsh on them to try to learn how to pronounce.

St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace is a ruin that is quite spectacular, in Pembrokeshire. It’s a family friendly place with plenty of climbs for you. The grounds offer a lot to see and just relax. Soak in some history. It’s not just a place to hang out, in the summer there are a series of events. Hopefully if you can, catch a performance.

St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace

Opening hours can vary so please contact the site for up to date information on 01437 720517. Last admissions 30 minutes before closing.

Hours of operation: Daily 9.30am – 5.00pm , July and August until 6 pm

STDavidsBishopsPalace@wales.gsi.gov.uk

To learn a little bit more about the site, I asked Amanda Canby-Lewis, Lead Custodian

To let us know a bit more about the site. Here is her interview below.

How long has this historic site been in operation and how did it get it’s start?

The site has been open to the public and charging an admission fee since at least the early 1960’s. It was put in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1932 who did basic consolidation, conservation and excavation. As Pembrokeshire developed into a tourist area in the 1960’s it was opened as an historic tourist attraction by the Department of the Environment although I believe that prior to that visitors could just come in and walk around. Since 1984 it has been in the care of Cadw.

Due to some recent film work and television series, some of the historic sites have seen a huge increase in visits. How has this been beneficial and challenging to the heritage site?

Very little impact has been felt here as it has been only minimally used – the BBC series ‘Antiques Roadshow’ was filmed here and then the BBC series of ‘Hollow Crown’ (the Shakespeare histories) filmed parts of ‘Richard II’. I believe that any filming and publicity for the built historic environment is mainly beneficial as it raises their profile and may attract visitors who may not otherwise visit. It is also a good revenue stream.

With revenue increase, will you be able to expand upon some projects for the site?

As Cadw is currently part of the Welsh Government we have to work within given budgets. However, Cadw are continually looking to improve both interpretation and facilities at all their sites to improve the visitor experience and meet and exceed their targets.

What is the biggest challenge that you have in running a site like this?

The maintenance and conservation of the  building is paramount as it is a scheduled ancient monument. Therefore when work needs doing we have to shut areas which may impact on the public. To combat this we have found ways to make it part of the visitor experience through explanation and interpretation of what we’re doing, how and why. This has had an impact on repeat visits as people very often return to see what we’ve done and what the next phase is. There is also the competition for the tourist £ which is ever increasing with more and more attractions opening up. Looking at ways to increase our profits is also a challenge. Health and Safety presents a challenge as we aim to keep as much of the monument open to the public as possible – to do this we have to assess issues such as warning signage and look at ways of making visitors aware of potential issues.

Do you have interpreters and reenactments at your site and what is involved in running some of these programs?

We occasionally use re-enactors. This is never an issue to run as we use companies/groups who are used to working in an environment such as this and have researched fully. They are also responsible for their own risk assessments etc. The main impact is that it can draw larger visitor numbers in a small period of time so staffing has to be in place to deal with this. I have done costumed interpretation training and this is something we aim to increase over the coming year.

Does your site have exhibits or host special exhibits on occasion?

Due to the nature of the building it is difficult to house special exhibits for the following reasons: it is difficult to secure the site so any exhibits are vulnerable overnight when the site isn’t staffed. Also the covered areas of the building are damp so this impacts some kinds of special exhibits. The site however has interpretation through the building in various formats. In the past we have had exhibitions of local sculptors work throughout the building and this adds another dimension to the site and attracts visitors who may not usually visit – or encourages a repeat visit.

If you get hired by a film company, how do you manage the site and what gets changed around? Because it is heritage, things must be maintained and safe, how do the film companies work around it?

On occasion it is necessary to close the site or close areas of it. However, we do try to stay open – it is good publicity for both us and the film company. We will always look to work with the company so that we have a complete plan in place long before filming takes place. It is up to the companies to put their risk assessments in place taking into account the nature of the building.

Do you have any funny behind the scenes stories?

There is nothing more unpredictable than working in tourism and most days see something unusual! We deal with people from all over the world (the most unusual visitor I’ve had here was a Sherpa from Nepal), we deal with an historic building and we deal with wildlife which uses the building as it’s habitat – badgers stuck down holes, bees nests, bats! We also deal with people who can ask very strange questions – my personal favourite was a visitor who arrived and asked me why we’d moved the building as they were convinced that the last time they visited the site it was on an island! I tried various sites that I thought they had maybe got it confused with but they were not to be persuaded – they were right and I was wrong!

In 1995 Queen Elizabeth visited the site which obviously necessitated a high level of security with security personnel on site throughout the night before the visit. I arrived on site very early to find a sniffer dog handler sitting on a wall alone – his dog had disappeared to go chasing rabbits! Something funny happens nearly every day!!

Curry: The Spice of Life

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Since my Uni days I have been a big fan of curry and Indian restaurants. Now Indian foods is not the only flavor of curry, many Asian countries have their style of curry. Japanese and Chinese come to mind. But classic Indian curry houses are quite special. And I am very excited that I will be going back to some cities that boast some damn fine curry establishments. Too bad as you get older you can’t withstand the Vindaloo as you used to. Here in America, we do have an Indian population and plenty of restaurants. However they do not compare with curry houses in the UK and Ireland. Curry and the former empire have long gone hand-in-hand in delectable delights. And especially so in port towns. So I am very excited to go and taste more curry when I return to Glasgow, for I barely touched the surface of restaurants like this.

What’s so great about curry and Indian food in general? The variety, the fact that for example a college student can fill up for flat rate at some, great buffets, clearing your sinuses, the list goes on. Oh, yeah, the taste! How do you find a good restaurant, there can be many choices? Things to look for? See how many Indian or other Asians may be eating there. Because really, here in America for example, many restaurants try to “localize” or mix the cuisine to Americanize it a bit. We want authentic dishes from all over India for example, not just one, watered down place.

So check out some of these local curry houses in Glasgow courtesy of GlasgowLive.com. I plan on checking a couple of these restaurants out, seeing if they clean my clock taste buds wize. Maybe if you are traveling there you can too. Let us know what you think when you try some of them out. Leave some comments if you have a favorite curry house in one of these towns.

Glasgows Best Kept Curry Secrets

And in Edinburgh Best Indian Restaurants

Dublin Best Curry Restaurants

Around Ireland

London is huge and filled with curry options, so how to pick amongst the restaurants in the  Brick Lane District? Check out below.

Best Curry Houses and Take Away

Belfast

Fantastic Curries

Glasgow: Finding a Good Japanese Restaurant Off the Atlantic Ocean?

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Sushi and other fish dishes rely on getting very fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean. We here on the Pacific Rim are quite spoiled. Japanese restaurants are quite fantastic here. So what do you do when traveling in the UK and Ireland and your fav cuisine is a bit elusive? Keep trying. Most Japanese restaurants have adapted to working off the Atlantic Ocean, using fish found there for the sushi and traditional fish stews, after all, dashi is usually shaved bonito which is freeze dried and easy to transport.  But you won’t see Yellowtail (Hamachi) or other fish from the Pacific. Or if you do, it’s not fresh, it’s frozen and you can taste that difference. So when you are in the UK, you may just have to settle for chicken or beef dishes.

My second day in Glasgow and I wanted Japanese. I looked up a restaurant on Yelp and hoped for the best. The sushi Nigiri list had much to be desired, so I tried a traditional dinner instead, more comfort food, Nanakusa was pretty good overall. But then I was on a quest. Well, what happens when you get an unsatisfactory taste sensation? You seek out better choices. The next Japanese I tried was off the Buchanan Mall area and up some stairs, Ichiban. Out of the way a bit, but their Japanese curry was good. I lamented with the Japanese wait staff over finding good Nigiri in Scotland. I then chatted with them about getting a menu to catered to the Atlantic v. Pacific fish market. There was a degree of sadness felt, a commiseration. But if you look you can still find some good Japanese if not great fusion, if you are willing to seek it out.

Top Glasgow Sushi and Japanese

In Edinburgh I tried out a Japanese that was a fusion restaurant. Eh, it left a bit to be desired and well, I had to really get attention to get attention. Oh, when ordering Sake, make sure you tell them hot. Don’t assume they will know. Restaurants in the UK tend to default to room temp or cold. Also, their flasks aren’t as large as in the US. Just a tip.

Top Edinburgh Sushi

Dublin Japanese

Belfast Japanese

Travel in the Age of Terrorism

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In light of recent terror attack in London yesterday, I started thinking about the way in which we think about travel to other countries and our safety. My first experience with terror and travel was when I was very young and had my first official tour of the UK. A terrorist attack had happened in Europe while I was there, a few days prior to my hitting London. My mom was in a panic of course. The obligatory phone call happened. The “ Yes, I am okay, talking with people about it, reading papers”. I continued on with my tour, tried to still take in sights and experience things with people. I was of course concerned. What if more happen, what if it happens in the country and city I am in? And of course, the great sadness that innocent people were harmed because of the attack. How could someone do this? Being very young I did spend down time reflecting on the tragedy. But, life must go on, and the people of the city affected by the loss will go on and be strong, to continue life and do what they can to not let it happen again. But does this make you think that travel is not safe?

When traveling, there are a great many things you should be safe about. We are used to fear of mugging, being robbed of your cash. Wear a money belt. Things of that nature. Not to mention you really must be aware to look to the right when in a left-hand drive country. You should know this. But tourists get hit by cars because of it still. These are small safety issues compared to a massive safety issue like a bombing. So how do you cope?

Such is the state of London after the attack on March 22, 2017 at the walls of Parliament and on the Westminster Bridge. Londoners pay tribute but press on with life, you can’t let them win. Be strong and Carry On. A Police Constable was stabbed to death, and a US Citizen was killed. A College worker was killed. Others were injured. So much life lost, but Londoners determined to make life happen.

London Attack: What We Know So Far on BBC

London Attack Guardian UK

If you are touring London right now, you have probably gone to this London Vigil. You should. Don’t sit in the hotel room and live in fear. You came to tour a country and experience it. This is a terrible experience, but go out and live with it’s people. Give group love, it’ the only way that we can conquer the fear of terrorism is to live. Be strong with others.

Should you not go to a country because of terrorism? The US spends huge amounts of time and money on the War on Terrorism, a war that has no end in sight. Are there countries you should avoid? Yes, indeed, there are countries with great conflict going on causing the refugee crisis in Europe. You should always check the papers and decide if a country is safe to travel to. And with terrorism, you don’t know if something will happen. The intelligence community knows probability and possibility, but still are caught unawares. You have to think about if you are going to let a fear keep you from experiencing a place or a people. Are you going to allow yourself to live? Travel if you can, experience the world. I am going to a city that saw great troubles in the past, Belfast. I remember reading about them when I was growing up. But the city has turned itself around. There is still that probability that relations can go sour again, the underlying issues are still there. I am going because I want to see how this city has recovered and grown since the troubling times. Travel is about celebrating people and places, make it a stance for what is right in the world.

The Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum, Dublin

IRRME_logo_PRIMARYAll port towns have music going on. It’s traditional. It’s where everything comes in to the people and from hundreds of years of history into the land, you gotta have the music for the masses, played  usually in pubs and taverns. Of course that would hold true for Dublin. Dublin has had a very long music tradition, and Rock ‘n’ Roll is at the heart of it. Many Irish bands start playing pubs and small venues. And many bands that tour Europe know to hit up this town. Anywhere a band can get heard, it will happen. College campus, festivals, roofs, anywhere. I have it on good authority, (Coleman), that the best places to catch the new up and coming bands are The Button Factory, The Academy, and Whelans. And why not, it’s in the Temple Bar district where it’s hot and happening.

IRRME-springtime-fc-coverbAlso, check out the latest sensation band the Strypes. They will have an exhibit coming up at the museum.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum Tour on YouTube

Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum Experience

8 Cecelia St

Temple Bar

Dublin 2

Hours : Open between 11:00 am to 5:30 pm 7 days a week. But check the website.

To help you get ready for your music education, meet Ed Coleman, General Manager for Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum Experience and The National Wax Museum Plus.

How did your museum get it’s start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

The company director Paddy Dunning set up the Irish Rock n Roll Museum in summer 2015 after realising there was nowhere else celebrating the huge amount of talent Ireland has produced over the last 50+ years.

Has there been anything surprising that happened that you just ran with in an opportunity to create an exhibit?

Not that I am aware of.

What do you consider the most challenging part of running a museum of your kind?

Like any new venture the main challenge is getting the word out there. We know we have a great product that people love and have slowly but surely been climbing the tripadvisor ranks as word spreads.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

We listen very carefully to our customers when deciding what our next exhibit should be. For example, we were hearing Cruachan being mentioned time and time again by our German and Nordic customers. We hadn’t realised the impact they have had around the world pioneering folk metal and so we decided they should be our next addition. We approached them and they were happy to donate some amazing items to the museum, including the keyboard most of the early albums were written on. Our fault for not asking them sooner but lesson learned.

Is there a committee that decides to feature something or a finding that becomes available and you build around that? Or does the planning involve a specific structure?

It varies. Sometimes we plan long and hard around a project. Sometimes they just fall into our lap.

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

Our next exhibit will be Flogging Molly, the famous celtic-punk band who recorded in Grouse Lodge in Westmeath late last year. And of course it’s a big year for U2 with their tour and 30 year anniversary of The Joshua Tree. So there will be more U2 later in the year.

Do your exhibitions centre on the local only or do you have art and future or contemporary issues come into play occasionally?

The only criteria is that there has to be an Irish connection. An artist might be Irish, of Irish descent, lived in Ireland or maybe recorded or gigged at our venues.  

 

EPIC Ireland: Immigrants Made America

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The Irish have been one of the largest contributors to American emigration in history. My ancestors came from this formidable force of people who came out of an amazing native land to our shores to find a better life. Countless Americans feel the pull to get in touch with their Irish ancestors and find out about their stories. Not everything was kept in parish records, making it hard on these shores to often find the truth of your family. There are family stories, and yes the Irish love their stories, and well, a grandiose telling is what’s needed, right? Don’t be surprised if the story you grew up on was not what really happened. Things get handed down and changed up in the telling, the story of your Great Great Gran may have had a harsh reality that was either embellished or downplayed, you never know.

Tracing your family roots can be fun, and yes when you actually get to the ancestral country, the native nod and go, “another seeker of the family soil”. That’s right, you are spotted coming in with that glazed over, “on the hunt for the ancestral home turf” look. You don’t need to start the convo you have with anyone with the, “ I researching my ancestors…”, they knew that before you walked up, saw you getting off the bus or out of the rail station. Depending on the country, and how you go about it and say it, they may embrace the fact you have come home, or not. The Irish always being a patient and loving people for the most part will be quite friendly, and if you just stand back and actually talk to people first, the easy conversation begins and is so much more enjoyable. Then you can make that connection you have been seeking for so long.

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Of course if you really want to get the story of the massive immigrations over the last 150 years or so, I can think of no better place to start than EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin, Ireland. This museum is fully immersive and interactive, filled with themed galleries on the history of immigration from Ireland. Just think, over 10 million Irish have ventured into the world to help change it. Find out how all of it started. Check out our interview below to get some insight to this marvelous venue.

Opening Times

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum

10:00 am – 6.45 pm
Last entry is 5.00 pm
Open 7 days a week

Check out some of the stories of Ireland’s Immigrants

When you are done with your EPIC journey, check out these nearby attractions:

Science Gallery Dublin

National Gallery of Dublin

Below is an interview with Nathan Mannion, Museum Curator

How did your museum get its start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

The need for an Irish diaspora museum was confirmed following a state sponsored feasibility study conducted in 2013. However state funding for the project was axed in 2015 so the resultant museum would have to be a privately funded initiative. Neville Isdell, the former CEO of Coca Cola, himself a member of the Irish diaspora then stepped in and funded the project. The result was EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum which first opened on May 7th 2016. Since the time the museum has grown steadily both in terms of profile and visitor numbers.

Has there been anything surprising that happened that you just ran with in an opportunity to create an exhibit?

Yes, while attending the launch of a temporary exhibition on the Grey Nuns of Toronto and the Famine Irish at the Canadian embassy I began discussing the poignancy of the exhibit with its curators and the connections between parts of our own exhibition. They mentioned they were looking for a venue to exhibit in next and after a discussion with the museum’s board we agreed to host it. It is due to go on display in the next two months to commemorate the 170th anniversary of 1847.

What do you consider the most challenging part of running a museum of your kind?

EPIC isn’t your typical museum. Firstly we’re based entirely underground in a nearly 200 year old historic structure which presents its own challenges. Secondly we are a state-of-the-art digital museum, which means our narrative focuses on the stories of people rather than objects. The majority of our content is interactive so our visitors experience is very different than that of a traditional museum.  Getting people to reimagine what a museum is or can be is definitely one of our greatest challenges.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

The museum has a very visitor focused approach to exhibiting. Currently we’re documenting and recording stories of emigration which have been donated to us with the intention of rotating our existing exhibitions in 2018. Visitors and stakeholders have been forwarding us biographies, interview transcripts and associated documentation relating to their own, their families or famous individuals’ stories of emigration over the last 10 months and the response has been fantastic.  All of this material will be proofed, researched and verified before we can shortlist material for our future exhibits but everything is currently being archived and may find additional uses as part of our education programme, temporary or travelling exhibits or as content for our online blog.

Is there a committee that decides to feature something or a finding that becomes available and you build around that? Or does the planning involve a specific structure?

The short answer is both. The museum curatorial team usually selects the themes around which we will focus for the coming year, potentially linking them to key anniversaries or commemorations of note in keeping with the museum narrative. However you always need to remain flexible and be able to quickly respond when opportunities present themselves.

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

For 2017 the museum plans to exhibit a number of temporary exhibitions alongside its existing long term exhibition. The first will be the ‘Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns of Toronto’ exhibit which highlights the remarkable stories of these charitable sisters who endangered their own lives to save those fleeing the Great Famine in Ireland. Subsequently EPIC will exhibit a temporary exhibition titled ‘Migrant Memories’. It has been designed by Irish school children as part of a competition run by the museum in a four part magazine series on Irish emigration featured in the Irish Independent.

Do your exhibitions centre on the local only or do you have art and future or contemporary issues come into play occasionally?

EPIC’s exhibitions, as you might imagine, have a global focus. We chart the journey of over 10 million Irish emigrants who left our island shores and highlight the impact they and their descents have had, and are still having, overseas. Emigration is of course a highly topical subject at the moment and the museum displays often sparks lively discussions between our patrons. We feel this is an important part of our role in society and by situating and sharing individual stories within the larger narrative of Irish emigration we help to raise awareness of this often little understood aspect of Irish history and contemporary affairs.

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St. Pat’s Aftermath: Musings on Celebrations and Why the Excess

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I apologize, it’s after the day and I am writing about it. Should have been done before, right? Well I never do things in a way that anyone expects, so why start now? Today I walk the streets of Portland, OR and see the aftermath of trashed pubs and taverns the next day. It’s the Merican St. Pat’s ideal recovery day. Fuzzy heads and yeah, our ever present rain. We’ve had 7 days of sun in 3 months, that’ll get anyone to drink.

Okay, so yes Dublin of course goes nuts for St. Pat’s with celebrations. It’s expected. But Irish traditions are much watered and mashed up here in the States, commercialized and legend-ized. It’s the the way of the great migrations, where many European traditions got mashed-up in Americana. Then commercialized by Hallmark with silly St. Pat’s cards like St. Valentines cards. Funny thing is, many of the people celebrating are Protestant, and some Non-Religious. It’s an excuse for beer carnage, and why do they dye it green? Really? Because people just get nuts for an excuse to party.

I guess we make it fun for the kids too. That silly Leprechaun figure on decorations. It’s a Saints day and while the population here on the west coast of the US is high in the Catholic numbers, everyone celebrates it. Any excuse for a celebration right? My mum has the Irish and Scots on her side. We have Collums/McCollums and Caffees from one of the earliest migrations in the States from the fair green isle. Thing is they were protestant, not Anglican that also recognize the Saint or Catholic so what the heck. Not many records survived, but most of the family is not Catholic, or they quickly converted here in the North Carolinas where many Irish and Scots settled and intermarried. So why celebrate the day? Mum would cook corned beef on the day and boil cabbage. I was confused a bit as a child because well, Saints were not really a thing with the religion we supposedly had. But I always thought anyone who did good deeds deserved recognition, right? So how did the traditions get so mixed in here in the States, and what were they really is what my meandering brain wondered while looking at the party aftermath on the streets?

In Ireland, it is a public holiday. You are encouraged to speak Irish more.  Modern traditions include a drink called “Drowning the Shamrock”, the placing of a Shamrock sprig at the bottom of glass and filling with beer or some whiskey. After it’s wet, it’s either drunk or tossed over shoulder for good luck. Funny, I always thought that the church frowned on such superstitions, but the Irish always seem to mix that little pagan belief in, don’t they? It’s the marking of the day the man died, it’s his feast day. So really it is all about celebration. Also, why would the Irish waste a drop of alcohol?

And food then there’s the food. Many Irish traditional foods are consumed, modernized of course. In the States it’s mostly corned beef and Irish Stew. Some bake soda bread, a particular favorite of mine. Some more modern foods are Guiness Treacle, potato cakes, mussels, lamb, Guinness braised meats pork and beef, colcannon. So if you are not too ingrained in the the yearly massive party downtown, creating a party with friends and having a traditional Irish spread might be more appealing. After talk to anyone on the street that has been here for a few generations and someone is Irish in the family. The migrations happened in the millions over time. So next year plan for a more intimate celebration with friends and family instead. Oh, and don’t forget the cabbage.

 

St. Patricks Parades Around The World