Friday, 21 March 2008

08 Easter Break Chornicles - Cheddar

Date of the trip: 18 March 2008

I'm sure all the cheese-lovers out there know the famous cheddar cheese. This is the Cheddar Making Visitor Center situated in none other than the English village of Cheddar, a picturesque village blessed with splendid natural landscapes.

This is one of the fine product maturing in a storage room in the center. It is quite a sight to see rows and rows of richly textured Cheddar sitting side by side, shelf after shelf. This particular one is tagged 18 Feb 2007, marking it a little over 1 year and 1 month old.

A flavored Cheddar is left to mature for 6 months, medium Cheddar for 8 months and mature Cheddar for 10 months. There is also the Cave Matured Cheddar which is left to mature in the natural cavern within the Mendip Hills in whose shadow the village dwell.

This picture is taken within Gough's Cave, a large cave complex in Britain's biggest Gorge. Gough's Cave and Cox's Cave (it's smaller neighbor) are the 2 caves in the Cheddar Gorge open to public access.

Among the many intriguing natural spectacles within the dark damp caverns, these are some of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen.

This is called St Paul's Cathedral. This petrified waterfall with a shimmering surface is aptly named. The intricacies of its formation can easily rival any Gothic altar.

This is a mirror pool sitting right underneath St Paul's. Without the constant gentle ripple, it casts near perfect reflections.

King Solomon's Temple - this is grander in scale compare to St. Paul's. leading up to another of these petrified waterfall complexes far above. It hard not to be awed by how magnificent it is. How great and glorious must the Creator of these be indeed!

This reminds me a lot of the Great Oak of Kuldahar in Forgotten Realm's Icewindale.

These stalactites sparkles like dazzling diamonds under the artificial lightings.

The Frozen River as it is called, with perfectly snow white surfaces looking like a river trapped in time. Parts of it had been damaged in the earthquake that fell the church in Glastonbury.

Besides being an aesthetical feast for the sense, Gough's cave is also a particularly important cultural and archaeological site. Flint tools, cannibalized human bones, and the infamous Cheddar Man, the oldest complete skeleton in Britain (about 9000 years old) were all discovered here.

This is a view of the Cheddar Gorge from the village. Gough's cave is on the right side of the cliff. Looking at the caves are an enriching experience but what I love the most about this place is the very views up in the Mendip Hills.

Shafts of light breaking through the clouds and shining down upon landscape is breathtaking.

Rohan, Shire, Gondor, now I understand how Tolkien was inspired by the unblemished natural beauty of the English country to craft the epics of Middle Earth. Standing here just make me feel like a hobbit - so small, insignificant and infinitely content, happy and free. There is nothing above your head but the vast open sky. Looking up you feel so vulnerable and exposed but it is not uncomfortable.

The view of the village from here is also gorgeous. When the sky is clear enough, you might even see the sea over in Western-Super-Mare. The reflecting pool is the Cheddar Reservoirs, a huge perfect circle from bird's eye view.

Now to introduce some of the other lifeforms up in that altitude. A most brilliant flower in the wind.
A windswept tree near the pinnacle of the hill.

And the ever cautious wild goats roaming freely in the hills and doing their part of conservation by removing vegetations that might otherwise harm the cliffs.

The day is again sealed with watching the sunset, this time up on the Lookout Tower near Jacob's ladder, a 274 steps stairway from the foot of the hill. Despite the numbing winds, I think it is well worth waiting for it.

At last, moon over hills. If I can see a real wild wolf, that'd be a dream fulfilled.

Looking over all these majestic sceneries, perhaps I'm beginning to realize why people of old worshiped the elements, bowed down to celestial bodies and offered sacrifices to fields, soils, rocks and wind. Luke 19:40 is right, even if we fail to praise the Lord, these rocks and trees and hills are already perpetually proclaiming and singing of His excellent glory. Now, if merely beholding these created things seems tempting to worship them, I think it is beyond my capability to imagine what the full splendor of the perfect world will be after the Final Restoration of All Things. When the Day of the Lord come, when creation passes away, when the full righteousness of the Just and Perfect One fully unveils, and when at last, the creature stood before the Creator, how terrible (or wonderful) indeed it will be!

Who can stop singing of the One who is indescribable after seeing a glimpse of these?

P.S. Now, if Tolkien can produce such international epics, taking inspiration from these wonders, why haven't anybody from Malaysia did the same? After all, our land does not lack such marvels, right?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

08 Easter Break Chornicles - Cardiff

Date of the trip: 17 March 2008
(By the way, it is St Patrick's Say in N. Ireland)

The trip to Cardiff begins with a convenient train ride from Bristol Temple Meads station right into the heart of Cardiff Central. These are some of the vistas that greet you on the way.

Besides the train station stood the huge and modern Millennium Stadium.

It is worth noting that there are plenty of sporting facilities or open fields with goal posts ready for use near the city center, particularly in the adjacent Bute Park.

On the southeastern corner of the park stood the Luxurious Cardiff Castle which I do not happen to have too many pictures. After all, we aren't allowed to take photographs in its lavish interior. One of the defining characteristic of the structure is that it was decorated with numerous animals carvings. These sculptures took many forms, from majestic lions down to delicate butterflies, kangaroos and platypus. Even snails have a place of honor. This is because the 3rd Marquis who commissioned the work, was devout Catholic and firm believer that God's glory is seen through the natural created world.

This is the clock tower of castle, even the theme of the rooms within it deals with the motive of time - from seasons, months, days to hours.

This is one of the less prestigious part of the castle enclosure (which really doesn't represent what the rest of the castle looks like). It seems almost out of place compared with the extravagance of the much decorated main building. I suppose a structure for defense and holding prisoners have to be concerned with more practical aspects.

A view from the tower top with the bridge across the moat and a well.

This is the City Hall as viewed from the tower top.

A close up of the City Hall as viewed from its shadow.

Let's take a break from marveling at the ancient architectures and behold something more transient but no less beautiful - the blossoming flowers.

Taking about being different. I wonder what is this lonesome magenta patch doing here among the whites.

In many ways, the simplicity of flowers reminds me of something more modernist in design. This piece of artwork glistered elegantly under the setting sun.

The piece stood outside the Millennium Center, an impressive state of the art theater and a rising star among the World's iconic arts and cultural destinations. I'm definitely planning on a trip to revisit this spectacular landmark and maybe catch a play there too. The very building itself is an inspiration and stimulation to creative minds. (As for its picture, that will have to wait for my next visit.)

This is the Mermaid Quay, a restaurant complex by the Millennium Center.

What better way to seal the perfect day out than to catch the sunset by the coastal wetland?

I definitely look forward to revisiting Cardiff again. Here are a few reasons: I didn't get to visit the gallery and museum because it is closed on Monday. I want to experience a performance in the Millenium Center. Sunsets and wetlands, who can grow tired of them? And above all, there is a 2nd hand bookshop with so much treasures that I can spend a whole day there alone. Just in that claustrophobic palace of books are more comics than I've seen since as far as I've been here. Lastly, who knows if I might get to visit the Games Workshop again and try another free game of tabletop miniature or paint some models.