Visit Wales and its 641 castles – a mixture of gothic, medieval, and Victorian styles

With its rolling hills and numerous royal conquests, there’s no place where history comes alive in such a lush setting as it does in Wales. Everywhere you look, the evidence of kings, queens, conflict and empire call to you. There are more than 600 castles – 641 to be precise – so even without trying you’ll come across a few. Even the country’s young capital has one – right in the heart of the city. Cardiff Castle mixes medieval and Victorian gothic architectural styles to thrilling effect.

These proud battlements are a historical legacy that is testament to a tumultuous past, and to the indomitable spirit of the fighting Welsh – these castles were built for a reason.

When the Romans withdrew, the separate Welsh kingdoms were left to squabble and spar for centuries until the Normans landed in the 11th century. But the Welsh proved unwilling subjects even then. It was not until Edward I – the famous subduer of William “Braveheart” Wallace – launched his war of subjugation two centuries later that Wales finally fell to England’s boot.

Edward consolidated his victory with the impressive castles you can still visit today. Most are in excellent repair, with walls as solid now as when their first stones went in the ground.

Beaumaris – the biggest castle Edward built and a truly imposing military fortress. It is located on the island of Anglesey, separated from mainland Wales by the Menai Strait, which is home to Prince William in his duties as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot.

William is most intimately connected to the most majestic of the Unesco castles, the stunningly preserved Caernarfon Castle. This is where his father, Prince Charles, was invested as the Prince of Wales – and where, one day, William is likely to follow suit.

 

Keep reading: The Guardian – Discover the proud history of Wales

 

 

Continue reading Visit Wales and its 641 castles – a mixture of gothic, medieval, and Victorian styles

Rick Steves episode diary – filming in Venice – an enchanting behind-the-scenes

We’re nearly finished filming two new TV shows on Venice. Thinking back over a very productive day, I realize how much I love this work. Our scripts are about 3,400 words per half-hour show. They are split between “on-cameras,” with me talking directly to the camera, and “B-roll,” where we “cover the script” with footage that illustrates what we’re describing. While it’s been called “shooting the nouns,” we think of B-roll as more than that.

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We started early, on St. Mark’s Square. While it’s littered with kitschy souvenir carts and jammed with tour groups most of the day, at 7:30, there is no tourism. The square is clean, with just a few well-dressed businesspeople walking to work, the random jogger, and very focused photographers like us marveling at how the history pops with the architecture and without the modern tourism. The Gothic is so lacy, and the Renaissance so capable. We got a few “walk-bys” to establish me in what looks like a pure, computer-generated Venetian cityscape.

 

Venice’s St. Mark’s Square before the crowds hit.

 

At 8:30, we met our local guide, Michael, who has been instrumental in setting things up in advance for us. He is brilliantly navigating the Byzantine bureaucracy of the city and helping us open all the right doors — some of them literally pillaged from Byzantium.

We climbed the Torre dell’Orologio, or Clock Tower. This was built 500 years ago, providing the city with…

keep readingJust Another Workday — in Venice