Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 success!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.

As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

August 18, 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken by Peter in Coronado, California. Peter and Mattie went for a bicycle ride and Mattie posed for a picture with the famous Hotel Del Coronado behind him. I happen to love this picture, since I am fan of historic hotels, and I am so glad Peter captured that moment in time.

Fact about Glasgow:  Glasgow (pronounced as Glasgo) is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the population and economy of Glasgow and the surrounding region expanded exponentially to become one of the world's pre-eminent centres of heavy engineering; most notably in the shipbuilding and marine engineering industry, which produced many innovative and famous vessels. Glasgow was known as the "Second City of the British Empire" for much of the Victorian era and Edwardian period. Today it is one of Europe's top ten financial centres and is home to many of Scotland's leading businesses. Glasgow is ranked as the 57th most livable city in the world.

Glasgow was Scotland's great industrial center during the 19th century. Today, the city remains the commercial and cultural capital of the Lowlands. Lying on the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow boasts some of the finest Victorian architecture in the entire United Kingdom, including the stately City Chambers. Scotland is a member of the United Kingdom and there are around 5 million people living here, whereas there are 11 million sheep!

We did not take a tour today of the city of Glasgow, which may mean that we are destined to return to Scotland again in the future. The first and last time Peter and I were in Scotland, was for our honeymoon. We both loved Scotland, and today was no different. In my perspective Scotland is a very special Country, filled with tradition, culture, and absolutely incredible and memorable lush landscapes. In the words of Tussy (our bus driver during our honeymoon), “Scotland is God’s own Country!” There may be some truth to this, because touring through the Highlands of Scotland helps you find yourself and become in one with nature.

Since we started our cruise on Monday, we have toured a different port each day. Most of our tours are about 4 hours or so, but today’s tour was 8 hours long. We started our journey on a bus, which took us to a car ferry. The bus literally drove right onto a ferry that transported us across the River Clyde. The River Clyde is the 9th longest river in the United Kingdom, and the third longest in Scotland. The river flows through the city of Glasgow, and was an important river for shipbuilding and trade in the British Empire. Today’s trip across the River enabled us to get from the lowlands to the highlands of Scotland. As the names imply, these two different regions are easy to distinguish, since the lowlands literally have rolling and low hills and plains, and the highlands are truly mountainous. The day began looking ominous, with foggy, rain, and a very damp chill. I think you can see aspects of this in our River Clyde photos.
A picture crossing the River Clyde in the fog.
In the 1840’s, the local minister, Rev. Mackay, thought that Loch Eck was one of the grandest scenes to be met within the Highlands of Scotland. The Loch is home to a fresh water type of herring, known as a “powan.” Its existence is proof of the fact that Loch Eck was once a sea loch, flooded when the glaciers melted at the end of the ice age. But once the great weight of ice, up to 6000 feet thick, was removed from Scotland, the land began to rise again, raised beaches were created around the shorelines of Argyll, and Loch Eck’s herrings had to learn to survive in fresh water.

I am sharing several pictures with you tonight of Scotland's natural beauty. Greenery and colors like you just can't imagine!

Inveraray Castle provides one of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival and Scots Baronial architecture. The castle, which dates from 1770, is the seat of the Duke of Argyll, head of the Campbell clan. Highlights within the Castle (photos weren’t allowed) include the collection of family portraits, tapestries, and the Armory Hall, which alone contains 1,300 pieces of art, and finely appointed rooms boasting an exquisite collection of French 18th-century furniture, English china, family artifacts and objects d'art. Inveraray castle is first and foremost a family home, a home that has been passed down through the generations within the Campbell Clan. Currently, the 13th Duke of Argyll lives in half of the Castle with his wife and three children. The remaining part of the Castle is a Museum, and the cost of the entrance fees to the Museum help to maintain the Castle and its grounds. This Duke grew up in this Castle, and though he is only 42 years old, he holds this distinguished title. His father died when he was 32 years old, and he was next in line to carry on the title and maintain the estate. The Castle’s very existence reflects the part played by the Campbells in the very rich tapestry of Scottish and British history.

A close up of Inveraray Castle.

On the weekends, we were told that the Duke sometimes walks the grounds or even works in the gift shop of the Castle in order to mingle with his visitors. I heard this but I never imagined that I would actually get to meet and take a picture with the Duke! Once I spotted the Duke, I asked our tour guide how I would approach him and ask for a picture. I know how to address a president, a member of Congress, and so forth, but a Duke is out of my comfort zone. Our tour guide told me that I should call him “your grace.” So literally as he was standing behind the cash registered in the gift shop, I asked him if he would take a photo with us. He was very gracious and frankly so down to earth that you may not guess at first you are dealing with one of Scotland’s royalties.  

After our tour of Inveraray Castle, we had the opportunity to walk the town of Inveraray. This was a planned town back in the 1770s, when the Castle was constructed. In the town we were greeted by this bagpiper. We learned today on our tour that men do not wear underwear under their kilts. This isn’t a myth but a reality. There are probably many explanations for this but the two that were provided were: first back in the 1700s no one wore under garments and second the material of a kilt is pure and heavy wool. The material provides so much heat, that for “health” reasons, men have traditionally not worn under garments so that their skin can breathe. You can come to your own conclusions about this.

The town is very charming and some of the wonderful items to purchase in Scotland are sweaters, gloves, blankets, and scarves. Basically all wool products.

Natural beauty in the clouds!
More natural beauty!
Rest and Be Thankful is a scenic overlook of Highland Glens and Mountains, so named for the words inscribed on a nearby stone by soldiers who built the military road in 1753.
This brownish stuff within the greenery, is actually NOT brown at all. It is a beautiful purple. It is Heather! It is breathtaking to see purple throughout the hills.

Incredible beauty!

Around 1500 years ago, the Irish missionary, St, Kessog arrived and brought Christianity to Loch Lomond. Luss was known as Clacan Dhu, the dark village, lying in the shadow of the surrounding hills. The martyered saint’s body was embalmed with herbs which were said to grow to cover his grave, giving rise to the village’s new name from the Gaelic for herb – Lus. 

Luss is a pretty village on the west shore of Loch Lomond. The village in spring and summer is abloom with vibrant roses and wildflowers. Luss is filled with stone cottages with views of Loch Lomond. In fact, each of these home owners plants and maintains beautiful gardens. Our tour guide says that neighbors compete with each other, to see who can grow the best garden.

Luss villagers, like other highlanders, were part of the local clan’s extended family. By the late 18th century the clan chief had become the local laird and many villagers worked for him in the mills and slate quarry. Around 1850, the laird cleared out the old-turf thatched cottages and built and new model village for his workers, the conservation village we saw today.

Loch (Loch in Gaelic means long and narrow body of water) Lomond is famed in legend and song. We remember on our honeymoon, one of the couples on our tour broke out in song, singing…. “O ye’ll take the high road, and ah’ll take the low road and ah’ll be in Scotland afore ye, fir me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks O’Loch Lomond.” Today I unfortunately learned what this song actually means. The song is about a man sent to prison, and the low road means the road to death that he is taking and the high road of his girlfriend symbolizes life. The point of the song is this couple is on different pathways in life and will never meet again by Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond is the second largest freshwater lake in Scotland, this loch's southern end is dotted with islands and its northern end resembles a fjord. I snapped a picture of Peter skipping stones in the Loch as well as checking out the water temperature. Which he reports was cold, maybe in the 50s!

August 17, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007 in Coronado, California. Peter snapped a picture of us in front of the Coronado Bridge. Mattie loved San Diego, for various reasons, such as the water, seeing boats, Sea World, and of course his favorite park............ LEGOLAND!

Fact about Belfast, Ireland: Belfast is derived from the Irish word Béal Feirste, meaning "mouth of the shoal." It is the capital of, and largest city in, Northern Ireland. By population, it is the fourteenth largest city in the United Kingdom. Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the Irish linen industry (earning the nickname "Linenopolis"), tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding: the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, which built the well-known RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast on to the global stage in the early 20th century as the biggest and most productive shipyard in the world.

Yesterday we were in Dublin, which is the capital of the Republic of Ireland, which has its OWN government and flies the tricolored Irish flag (orange, white, and green). Today, we were still in Ireland, but Northern Ireland.

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and it is a part of the United Kingdom, and is ruled by Great Britain. Belfast has experienced a renaissance since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 (in which President Clinton played a key role), that promised an end to the decades-old "Troubles" between Catholics and Protestants. Stretching along both sides of the River Lagan, this graceful city of Victorian and Edwardian buildings has become a cosmopolitan tourist destination. It was once a major industrial center, but now Belfast is a gateway to the rich Irish countryside of Antrim and Down. Belfast was an industrial giant in the 19th century, famed for its linen and its shipyards.

I have to admit that prior to traveling to Ireland, I understood the “Troubles” or conflict (as it is now referred to) on a very superficial level. After two days on this Island, I can say that the conflict was indeed complex, so much so, that even our guides have difficulty trying to express this issue concisely. I believe this is true with any issue that centers on religion, beliefs, and cultural identity. I can’t say that I truly comprehend the “Troubles,” but I definitely have a much better understanding of its complexities.

In Belfast, it is abundantly clear that two cultures live in this region, and they are British and Irish. After decades of unrest and violence, these two cultures are cohabitating and learning to tolerate each other. However, this blending of minds and hearts are not easy to achieve and from my observation tensions and segregation still exist in Belfast today. I will try to show you a couple of example of my observations through photographs. However, any time I see one group of people trying to oppress and change another, I just pause. I pause because it seems so foreign and against my comprehension and temperament. Nonetheless, such atrocities happen, and I got to see firsthand the impact of such political and religious cleansing.

Arriving into Belfast!

As we arrived into Belfast, we saw the old shipyards of Harland and Wolff, who designed and built the Titanic. Here is the dry dock in which Titanic was constructed and launched.

Located within the former shipyard of Harland and Wolff is a striking ultra-modern building resembling the hulls of four ships. This building houses the Titanic Museum. Though we did not go to the Museum, I heard that it offers interactive exhibits that help uncover the story of the Titanic, from her conception, construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and final place in history.

Established under the Government Act of Ireland in 1920, the Stormont Estate was constructed to house the Government of Northern Ireland. Construction began in 1923 and was completed in 1932. For forty years this building served as the seat of Parliament in Northern Ireland until 1972, when under political unrest, Northern Ireland came under direct rule from Westminster parliament. Notice however that on the top of this building (which looks like our US Capitol building to me) there are two flag poles. Neither the British Jack nor the Irish Tricolor flag are blowing in the wind here. This isn’t ONLY happening today, these flag poles remain bare each day. The reason is because neither cultural group is comfortable seeing their flag next to the others. So though this building is used to house Northern Ireland’s political leaders, neither flag is flown above this building. To me this speaks volumes and still shows the unrest and tensions that will take generations to overcome.

The Titanic memorial is a permanent tribute to over 1500 passengers and crew who lost their lives on April 14, 1914. To commemorate the 100 year anniversary, this memorial, remembrance garden, and memorial statues were opened on April 14, 2012.

We were told that unlike other memorials, this memorial lists EVERY person who lost his/her life on the Titanic, regardless of geographic origin, class or stature! Therefore, this memorial acknowledges the loss of each human life.

When we arrived on the campus of Queen’s University, I honestly did not realize what stood before me. At first I thought it was some sort of castle, and was shocked to learn that this was part of their University campus. It was an absolutely beautiful campus.


Housed near the University’s campus are the Botanical gardens which were founded in 1828. The popular gardens are home to music concerts and the historic palm house, one of the first curvilinear cast-iron greenhouses in the world. This stop made quite an impression upon me. The gardens were beautiful, so colorful and full of life. The color of grass in Wales and Ireland is breathtaking, almost too perfectly green to be believed. But considering that it rains everyday in these places, it does explain the lushness. Within the botanical greenhouse, was a beautiful poem framed upon the wall that was written by a man. The poem caught my attention, because he reflected upon his time as a child coming to this space. As a child he found the greenhouse to be magical, as if it transported him away to a foreign land. I related to that glorious words and feelings, because I feel the same way when I enter the botanical gardens in DC on a cold winter’s day.

While we were at the Botanical Gardens, a couple who lived close to Belfast stopped to talk with Peter. They were walking their dog, and they struck up conversation and wanted to welcome us to Ireland. They were a charming couple, very warm and welcoming, and the woman in this couple and I shared something immediately in common. We both don’t like to fly, and unlike me, who will reluctantly do it, she will not!

Our guide reinforced to us that the majority of the “troubles” or conflict between the British and Irish took place amongst the working class. These are some of the last remaining homes of the “working class” in Belfast. The majority of these structures have now been torn down.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) created gardens of remembrance all over Belfast. You may notice a letter D on the gates of this garden. The D signifies the name of the troop based in Belfast, and within the garden are the names of people who lost their lives within the violence of the conflict.

These pillars represent the walls of a typical barrier that was set up in Belfast to separate the British (protestants) from the Irish (Catholics). In many ways, life in Belfast resembled life in an occupied territory.  

Popular art played a prominent role during the "Troubles." The gable ends of houses were painted with vivid murals to proclaim a neighborhood's political affiliations, and remain a much-photographed part of Belfast's past. This “peace wall” is located on Shankill Road, an authentic working-class community. These walls tell the story of Belfast’s violent past and its belief in the future. Belfast came to world attention with the outbreak of the "Troubles" in the 1960s. The Troubles (Irish: Na Trioblóidí) was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement of 1998. However, sporadic violence has continued since then. The principal issues at stake in the Troubles were the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between the mainly Protestant unionist and mainly Catholic nationalist communities in Northern Ireland.

Along our tour we drove through various communities. Notice this community is flying the British Jack and as pictures of Queen Elizabeth 2 everywhere. Though I did not post it, we drove through a similar community that flew only Ireland’s tricolor flag. It is very apparent that the two different cultures of Northern Ireland still live in enclaves, enclaves that value different traditions, political priorities, and religions.

At Cave Hill you can see Belfast Castle, one of the most celebrated landmarks of the city whose presence is ingrained into Belfast's social history and culture. Belfast Castle, on the lower slopes boasts beautiful gardens and an adjoining country park.

It is said that good luck will come to those who visit Belfast Castle as long as the tradition of the cat is kept. The story goes that there has always been a resident white cat at the Castle and the gardens celebrate this tale with nine references made to the cat in paving, structure, and garden furniture.
I am ending tonight’s posting with a picture of Peter and my dad. They rarely make it into the pictures, so I had them stop and pose at Belfast Castle.

August 16, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007 in Coronado, California. Mattie was going in the pool with Peter. This may seem like an ordinary picture, but to me this picture speaks to Mattie's personality. Some people jump into a pool, regardless of temperature, and others have to wade in slowly to get acclimated to their environment. Mattie was like me, we both wade in. Mattie was adventuresome, but was also cautious, and I do think how a person enters a pool provides, unscientific yet none the less interesting, insights into one's character.

Fact about Dublin, Ireland: Dublin is the capital and most populous city of Ireland. The English name for the city is derived from the Irish name Dubhlinn, meaning "black pool." Dublin is situated near the midpoint of Ireland's east coast.

Dublin began as a Viking settlement near the mouth of the Liffey River. They probably called it “Dubh Linn,” meaning “black pool” because of the springs and marshes found near the river’s banks. Dublin is the Capital of the Republic of Ireland, which is a separate country and NOT part of the United Kingdom. Keep in mind that Northern Ireland is a completely separate country from Southern Ireland (where Dublin is located). Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and this great divide between the north and the south, in a nutshell, occurred centuries ago due to religious differences. The Republic of Ireland identified with Catholicism and Northern Ireland aligned with the United Kingdom and the Church of England. In fact, during the 1990s, President Clinton initiated the Good Friday Treaty in hopes of bringing peace to these two nations, living on one geographic island. We were told today that Northern Ireland flies the British Jack, whereas the Republic of Ireland’s flag has three colors: orange, white, and green. This trinity is very symbolic of the unrest that has occurred on this island throughout time. The Green represents Southern Ireland, and the Orange in the flag represents Northern Ireland (orange, because the Northerners are known as “orange men,” a name that originated back in the days of Queen Mary and King William, since William was called William of Orange). The white within the flag (which sits between the green and orange colors) represents PEACE, or striving for peace between the greens and the oranges!

Dublin has experienced a renaissance. Today, this gracious and cosmopolitan city on the Liffey River is one of Europe's premier destinations. The city is also remarkably well-preserved, every June 16, scholars retrace the paths of James Joyce's characters in the novel "Ulysses," set in Dublin on June 16, 1904. Dublin possesses a storied history. A settlement has existed on the banks of the Liffey River for at least a millennium and a half. Succeeding waves of Gaelic, Viking, Norman and English invaders, all of whom have left their mark on the city.

Thankfully the storm died down and we were able to leave Holyhead, Wales at 6am and headed for Dublin. We arrived at Dublin at 12:30pm. Dublin is West of Wales, and one has to cross the Irish Sea to get there. The seas were choppy this morning, but I am happy the Captain made the decision to wait out the storm in port! As we arrived in Dublin this morning, this was one of the sites we saw. At first it appeared to be a beautiful day outside, with some sun and temperatures in the 60s. However, like Wales, Ireland gets a lot of rain. In fact, our tour guide said that Ireland is known for its rain, and rarely is there a day without it. It explains the beautiful greenery that surrounds us, but the fogginess, grayness, dampness, and rain I would imagine can be challenging to live with at times. Which is why, our guide explained that Dublin families leave the country and head to Spain and other warmer and sunnier climates in Europe for vacations.  

Samuel Beckett Bridge is one of 19 bridges in Dublin and as soon as I saw it, it caught my eye. It is designed to look like a harp, which is the symbol of Dublin. At the end of August, the Tall Ships are coming to Dublin, and the Samuel Beckett Bridge has the capability of opening up (sideways) to allow for the ships to pass through.

Our tour guide stated that Dublin is famous for three things: 1) its monuments, 2) its churches, and 3) its pubs. In fact, she stated that there used to be more pubs in the city at one time, however, she was very well versed at guiding people to establishments that served Guinness beer (one of Dublin’s own products).

In the 1840s, Ireland experienced the Great Potato Famine. The potato is a staple in Ireland’s food supply, and the famine occurred because all the potatoes became infected with a foreign borne disease. Without potatoes, people were unable to feed themselves and their families. This bronze sculpture monument was constructed in memory of the famine and how it changed the lives of those living in Dublin. As you can see the people depicted here were emaciated and walking to find food. It is a very haunting visual statement!

Dublin has 3.5 million inhabitants, the same amount of taxis at New York City (though NYC has more than double Dublin’s population), and very narrow sidewalks and streets. Which is why when you look at the streets, they look completely filled with people. In fact, walking on the sidewalks is challenging, because you feel like you are fighting for space.

St. Patrick's Cathedral was built in honor of Ireland's patron saint in 1190, it is not only the largest church in Ireland, but is also said to be the earliest Christian site in Ireland where St. Patrick baptized converts. The cathedral was damaged during Cromwell's invasion of Ireland in the 17th century and was restored in the 19th century by the Guinness brewery family. Buried inside is Jonathan Swift, author and dean of the cathedral. Today, St. Patrick's is the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland (Anglican). The choir section contains the largest and most powerful organ in Ireland, and Handel’s Messiah received its first performance in Dublin in 1742 within this Cathedral.

The Cathedral is quite beautiful, with incredible details. When St. Patrick’s was first created, it was a Catholic church, however over time and the reformation, it became Anglican.

This is the Alter within the Cathedral.

There are many stained glass windows in the Cathedral. This one is entitled, Tree of life and is just exquisite.

This is a statue of Sir. Benjamin Guinness. The Guinness family is well loved and respected in Dublin. They were known as the first company to provide pension plans for their employees and they care for ALL employees and their families from WOMB to TOMB. Almost unheard of in these days! Guinness helped to restore St. Patrick’s and has contributed many stained glass windows to the church. Ironically many of these windows feature biblical sayings about drinking!

Around 85% of people in Dublin are Catholic. However, she wanted us to know that other religions are represented in the Country. She got that point across by telling us a joke. She had the gift of gab and the art of storytelling. The joke went like this….. A Catholic woman wanted to marry a Jewish man. They had both celebrants officiating the wedding. When the priest entered the wedding reception he was offered a “spot” of whiskey. He thanked his host and drank it. When the rabbi walked into the reception, he too was offered whiskey. The rabbi refused the whiskey and said he rather commit adultery before having to drink whiskey. The priest overheard this dialogue and with that replied, “I didn’t realize we had a choice.”

Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university, and the alma mater of distinguished alumni, including Jonathan Swift of Gulliver's Travels, Oscar Wilde, and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett. This college has 15,000 students enrolled in it today, and it offers free tuition to residents of Ireland. There are international students, but their tuition is quite costly. The college was created by Elizabeth I to educate Dublin’s students, so that they did not have to go to France for an education. It is alleged that Elizabeth I wanted the people of Ireland to learn and appreciate the English culture, history, and heritage, something they wouldn’t get if they studied in France.

Among the greatest treasures of the middle ages is the beautiful Book of Kells, displayed at Trinity College (in the building you see in this photo). The book is an 8th century text of the four gospels, written in Latin and lavishly illustrated with figures of real and fanciful creatures. The monks at the Kells monastery used a style of calligraphy that is itself a work of art. What demands attention is the brilliantly colored parade of humans, animals, and plants that dance through intricate mazes around and through the text. A blend of theology and whimsy, the rich patterns of spirals, geometrics, and interlacings give us an insight to the Irish medieval character.

August 15, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007 in Coronado, California. The beauty of Mattie was he never tired out. You could do a full day of touring, and he still had energy to go and spare at the end of the day. In those moments on vacation, we took Mattie swimming. Mattie wasn't in love with the water, but he grew to love aspects of it and right before he was diagnosed with cancer, he literally learned to dog paddle in the water. That was a momentous occasion.

Fact about Holyhead, Wales: The union of Britain with Ireland in 1800 increased the need to improve the road route from London to Dublin and, by this time, Holyhead had emerged as the primary port for sea access, mainly due to the fact that it is the closest point on the British coast to Ireland.

Last night aboard the Ship, we had a formal night. After a long day of touring, it was hard to find the motivation to dress up and get in the formal dinner mode, but we did it. Our ship has 3100 passengers and 1200 crew members. So in essence we are part of a floating city, which is a mixed blessing. A ship can transport you to many places in a short period of time, distance that would be impossible to cover if attempting to travel it on your own. I therefore appreciate the journey, but the process can sometimes be frustrating. While eating dinner, it was dark outside, and yet out of the corner of my eye, I swore I was seeing something white flying by. The ship’s outside lights make it seem like it is surrounded by a halo. As I stopped eating to get a closer look, I was amazed at what I saw. Hundreds of seagulls were flying alongside the Ship, diving for fish, and circling around the Ship. They followed us for miles. I was so intrigued I even had our waiter and assistant waiter stop what they were doing to see this glorious and unusual sight. They too had never seen such a sighting. This morning, Peter checked out the Ship’s map and deduced that where we saw the seagulls had to be while we were passing Land’s End, England.

Welsh is one of Europe’s oldest languages and around 60% of people who live in Anglesey speak it. Anglesey is known as the “mon man cymru,” the mother of Wales. The saying originates from the 12th century when Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), who was on a famous journey around Wales, said that Anglesey could supply the whole of Wales with corn. As you can see from this welcome sign, Welsh is indeed its own language, and to my ear, it sounds a lot like German. The first line is written in Welsh and the second in English.

Holyhead (pronounced Holly, not Holy), is Britain’s third most important passenger port, with direct ties to Dublin and other Irish cities. Holyhead is part of the Isle of Anglesey, and Anglesey ia an Isle of Wales. Since the time of Elizabeth I, the road running from London to Holyhead has been a vital strategic route, linking England, Wales and the sea route to Ireland. Approaching Holyhead from the sea, your first image is of towering sea cliffs rearing above the waves. Natural beauty abounds on the island of Anglesey, the northernmost part of Wales. Angelsey has a long and turbulent history, it was the last stronghold of Druids resisting the Roman invasion, and it was the last refuge of the Welsh princes who resisted English conquest and dominion. Today, Holyhead and Anglesey are your gateway to Wales, a land with a strong and proud Celtic tradition and with some of the most beautiful countryside in the British Isles.

The rocky remoteness of Anglesey helps to explain the firmness of the local language and culture. Conquerors have always had trouble penetrating the fastness of the wooded hills. The white dots you see in this picture are sheep. Sheep can be found everywhere. In fact, Anglesey is comprised of 3 million people and 12 million sheep!!! However, what captures your immediate attention in Wales is its LUSHNESS. The grass is a green like I have never seen before. It almost looks like a sea of emeralds.
 Along our journey we passed Llanfair PG, the town with a 56-letter name. This 56 letter name literally translates into "the church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the Red Cave."

Long after the Romans withdrew from Britain, another invader came to Wales. The English Norman kings decided to gain control of Scotland and Wales in the 13th century, and a series of sharp border wars followed. Despite good leadership by the Llywelyns, the Welsh armies were defeated. The vigorous King Edward I set in motion an ambitious plan to construct a chain of castles to control the countryside. Beginning in 1276, 17 castles were built in 20 years, most of which could be supplied from the sea. The greatest military architect of the age supervised the project, Master James of St. George. James was an Italian by origin, and he was also familiar with the formidable walls of Constantinople. He went on to construct fortresses so daunting that most were never attacked. Square towers were vulnerable to undermining, so he built round or polygonal ones. He then surrounded them with concentric rings of walls.

The most technically perfect medieval castle in Britain is named Beaumaris (meaning beautiful marsh). Construction of Beaumaris began in 1295, in reaction to a Welsh rising, and stands commanding the old Ferry Crossing to Anglesey. Work progressed at an astonishing speed but funds and supplies faltered and after 30 years the Castle was still not complete. The magnificent white elephant is the most fascinating of King Edward the First’s Castles to explore. Beaumaris had three layers of protection: a moat (the only castle in Anglesey to have one), an outer wall, and an inner wall.

The entrance into Beaumaris at one time had a draw bridge. If the draw bridge didn’t keep you out, then perhaps getting things thrown at you from the openings by the doorway would do the trick. As our guide informed us, during medieval times such things as decapitated heads, waste products, and other nasty products would be thrown from these square cut outs in the walls at intruders.   

In order to reach the interior of the fortress (sometimes referred to as the killing field), one would have had to first traversed the moat, then the outer wall, and then the inner wall. The main form of protection used by the English was bows and arrows. The killing field lived up to its name, because if you were an intruder and you reached this portion of the castle, you were most likely going to get shot at with arrows from all angles.

Though the Castle was unfinished, we were able to walk through several of the inner hallways. As you can see they are dark and narrow. This hallway led us to the chapel.

The chapel was an amazing structure. The acoustics were beyond beautiful and when our guide began singing, you would have thought she was signing into a microphone. When the chapel was constructed, the right window area above (in which you see someone in blue taking a photograph) was designated for the King. Thereby he could attend mass, and yet be removed from the common people, as he would be seated separated and behind a curtain.

The town and main street of Beaumaris was charming. We stopped for ice cream, despite the fact that it was cool, damp, and pouring. Today’s ice cream flavor was, “death by chocolate.” Along our walk, we passed this flower shop, and I asked Peter to snap a picture of my mom and I in front of it. The flowers and plants in the United Kingdom have been a wonderful treat to see and experience.

This is Brittania Bridge. A bridge that connects Anglesey to the mainland of Wales. This is both a car and train bridge.

It is now 11pm Britain time (five hours ahead of the East Coast of the USA). Our Ship was scheduled to departure Holyhead for Dublin at 7:30pm. However, we aren’t going anywhere. We are experiencing 50 mile per hour winds and with a Ship our size, this could easily make it topple right over. In addition, there are gale force winds in the Irish Sea, and for safety reasons, our Ship is spending the night in Holyhead, Wales, and it is questionable as to when we are leaving Wales, and if we will ever see Dublin at all. In fact, the winds are so intense tonight that a large tug boat is helping to keep our Ship against the dock, rather than blowing back and forth with the wind and injuring the dock and the ship. In addition to the tug boat, the Ship’s thrusters have been on all day, to steady the Ship against the dock. I am very happy the Captain is being conservative with respect to these powerful winds and that we are not on the water and in the midst of this storm.