SHOTBlessings for travelersBy Pat Gunter, Ellicott...


May 23, 1999


Blessings for travelers

By Pat Gunter, Ellicott City

While traveling from Paris to Geneva, Switzerland, by train, we had the good fortune to be seated near a well-traveled British "man of the cloth." Because it was our first time in Europe and we were covering eight countries in less than three weeks, this kind soul offered his advice on "not-to-be-missed places" for many of our stops. We are grateful that his chance encounter led us to the monastery in Florence, Italy, where my husband snapped this picture.


We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your memories, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* Give us your recommendations of places to visit. Where are you just back from? Tell us where you've recently visited and what tips you can pass along about your trip to other readers. Or tell us about your favorite destinations. Where is your favorite spot in New York City? Please answer in 50 words or less.

* In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150)

* Give us your best shot -- a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. Include your name and phone number along with the print. (Cash value: $50)

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Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.


Keys to a Welsh castle

By Susan Caro

Special to the Sun

Last spring, my best friend, Rebecca, and I drove through Snowdonia National Park, in the mountainous region of northern Wales. While it is hauntingly beautiful, it's also treacherous to navigate, especially in a tiny European rental car.

Out of hairpin turns, winding slopes and wisps of fog, we came upon peaks of gray slate that contrasted sharply with the reddish vegetation and green hills. Before long, a turret of the ruined Dolwyddelan Castle appeared ahead of us. The Welsh prince Llewelyn the Great built it around 1285 to protect the high passes of Snowdonia. It was mysterious and forbidding, shrouded by mist on the crest of a hill that could only be approached on foot.

I reached an old farmhouse about halfway up and couldn't figure out whom to pay the 1.75 British pounds to see the castle. A man cutting wood nearby told me to ring the doorbell at the farm. When I did, an old woman emerged, holding daffodils in her hands. She took my money and disappeared for a few minutes, returning with the keys to the castle. "Don't forget to lock up when you're finished," she said. And I was off.

I walked up, exhilarated, knowing that I was the only tourist for miles and that I held keys to a castle.

Scrambling up the slippery slate steps to the door, I was intimidated by the frowning walls of the old fortress. The wind was fierce and cold. As I unlocked the door, a great billowy cloud came by and enveloped me in thick, white silence. I stepped inside, taking care to hold the door very wide, lest it slam shut, trapping me. It was a silly notion; yet, it felt like the castle was alive and watchful.

Inside, it was profoundly quiet compared with the wild windiness outside. What a welcome spot it must have been some cold, dark night long ago, a comforting fire to warm the prince as he went to sleep on the roof of Wales. When I climbed the tower and walked outside, I was nearly blown off. All around me, I could see nothing but shrouded mountaintops, green vales dotted with delicate yellow flowers and ribbons of rivers cascading down slopes. Llewelyn stood here 700 years ago, and it had not changed. It gave me chills.

Going down, the stairway was pitch-black and very narrow. There was a rope to hold onto, but the steps were wet slate and slippery. I held on tight and went down one by one in the steep darkness, breathing a sigh of relief when I reached the bottom.

I locked the door and stood gazing at Dolwyddelan as clouds passed over the misty afternoon. Then it was time to return the keys to the castle, and go home.

Susan Caro lives in Towson.



Sari Ani, Baltimore

"While visiting Hannibal, Mo., we camped at Mark Twain State Park on Mark Twain Lane. It was nice to cool off after a full day of sightseeing by going for a swim off Buzzard's Roost. At sunset, the water was still warm and the lake calm. Also within the state park is the two-room cabin where Twain was born. It was hard to imagine how two parents and five kids managed to live there."

North Carolina

Bill Adams Sr., Baltimore

"This March, I joined an R.V. Care-a-Vanner group, an offshoot of Habitat for Humanity; they donate two weeks at a time to building houses for the needy. We were in Siler City, N.C. We made friends and gained confidence in new work skills. When we departed, we left the finishing touches to the next group of caring people. What a great, uplifting feeling!"

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