Day 708: Cardiff Castle

Now that Laetitia was back in United Kingdom, she decided it was time to return to Wales. When she first toured the UK, Wales had received “short shrift,” but having been there recently with her grandmother, she was ready to go back. She decided to start by arranging an underground tour of a former Welsh coal mine, now a mining museum called “Big Pit.” Welsh coal is high grade and close to the surface, and coal exports were an important segment of the economy of Wales for many years.

Afterward Laetitia’s group went to Cardiff, the capital and largest city in Wales, to Cardiff Castle. Located on the site of previous Roman and Norman defensive edifices, the present neo-Gothic structure was built during the Victrian era as a vacation home for John Stuart, Third Marquess of Bute. The Stuarts of Bute became wealthy developing the Welsh coal industry, and the Third Marquess lavished a significant portion of the family fortune on embellishing the castle with animal statuary and other fanciful decorations. The castle inspired the limerick of the day.

‘Tis said of the Marquess of Bute
That his fortune he soon did dilute
When he would with great relish
Cardiff Castle embellish
With creatures and other things cute.

Day 707: Shetland

Like the Faroe Islands, Shetland was once Viking territory. Located 50 miles northeast of Orkney, the Shetlands became part of Scotland in the sixteenth century as the unpaid surety for the dowry of Scandinavian princess Margaret, who married Scottish King, James III. Laetitia brought her group to Mainland, the largest isle of a sixteen-island archipelago. They visited Jarlshof, an archeological site occupied once by a variety of cultures from the Bronze Age through the nineteenth century. In 1897 a severe storm caused a cliff to collapse, washing away  sand and sod and exposing remains of buildings and artifacts in layers representing thousands of years of human habitation. After Jarlshof, the group visited the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick, Shetland’s capital city.

Shetland is known for its miniature ponies, once work animals well adapted for the harsh terrain and climate of the islands, now used mostly for pleasure riding. Late that afternoon, Laetitia arranged a pony trek for her group with a local riding stable. A story told by one of the staff became the limerick of the day. A middle-aged man named Jeff, on a second honeymoon, made an unsuccessful attempt to relive his first teenage sexual experience—one that occurred on the back of a pony.

When Jeff tried to relive his lost youth
After way too much gin and vermouth
On a small Shetland pony
He found it quite bony
And his wife found it simply uncouth.

Day 706: Faroe Islands

Tórshavn is the capital and largest city in the Faroe Islands, which lie between Iceland and Norway. The small boats in the harbor exemplify the Norse heritage of the islands. The hulls are built using the lapped board and nail construction of the Viking ancestors. Laetitia arranged with a local guide for a tour of Streymoy, the largest lsland in the archipelago. The tour included a cliff where puffins were nesting. Laetitia’s group enjoyed watching the small, clown-like birds diving into the waters beneath the cliff and returning to their nesting burrows with small fish. Puffins pair-bond, but infidelity is common, leading to Laetitia’s limerick of the day.

They form pairs, but they shun perpetuity
And they seem to prefer promiscuity
Those cute little puffins
Are really stud muffins
That pair-bond with discontinuity.

Day 705: Westmann Islands

Vestmannaeyjar was the day’s destination. The town is on the only inhabited island of the Westmann Islands archipelago, a short distance south of Iceland. Laetitia engaged a local guide for the day. Like Iceland, the islands are geothermally active. The tour included views of houses partly covered with lava from a 1973 eruption. The soil temperature just below the surface is such that bread dough placed in a covered tin will bake overnight. The guide had a story about a local politician who planned to impress a visiting dignitary by unearthing and serving bread so prepared. When the politician awoke on the appointed day, he realized that he had forgotten to bury the dough, so he called his not-so-bright assistant and asked him to buy bread from a bakery and bury it in the designated spot. All went as planned and the dignitary was impressed and surprised. The bread emerged not only baked, but sliced.

That evening Laetitia took her group to a folk music festival. The audience was seated on the ground in a caldera that served as a natural amphitheater. She was surprised that many of the songs had Icelandic words set to familiar tunes like Home on the Range. She wondered if the tunes came from the GIs who occupied Iceland during World War II. Laetitia had a glass of aquavit after the festival. It inspired the day’s limerick.

In Norse lands they love aquavit
It’s flavored, but usually not sweet
And although vodka-based
Not to everyone’s taste
Its adherents think it can’t be beat.