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Astonishing Wales – The Ryder Cup Dream is Launched
It is 1999 and we are guests at Celtic Manor in Coldra Woods, Newport, Gwent Wales. We stop on the high ground adjacent to the golf course. As the Ryder Cup dream moves around us, we’re looking back. Below us is Caerleon, once a Roman fortress called Isca. A few valleys behind the mist-covered hills beside the River Wye, directly to our east, are the ruins of Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey.
The caterpillars, their black and white feathers shot by the sunlight breaking through the low clouds, fly from their pine trees. Arrogantly, he walked across the lawn with a leg that looked at the three men nearby. One takes a strong shot, not affected by the birds in motion, following the ball with his eyes as it flies over the lake and the green very well until it reaches the slope in the middle of the hole you want.
This is the new Wales, a land of witches, ethereal music, and sheep grazing in parish gardens, now joining forces with the high-tech laboratory and golf courses that surround us. This sale is the end of a dream that the richest man in Wales, who is number 18, was the richest in Britain.
After graduating from the University of Wales, Swansea, Newport native Terry Matthews, now 55, went to Canada. Newbridge Networks, the high-end telecommunications company he founded, is still based in Ottawa, Ontario, but its headquarters are far from Celtic Manor, the resort the billionaire built into a world-class resort.
This is the sixth year my husband and I have returned to Celtic Manor, a 19th century stone-built hotel designed by Matthews. Sitting at the top of the M-4 as an honorary grandparent, it entered the prestigious Johansen Book of Recommended Hotels in Great Britain and Ireland at its inception.
On this day, television cameras are placed at the entrance of the hotel to capture BBC sports presenters and other media persons interviewing golf enthusiasts who arrive non-stop in taxis and luxury cars. After that, the players have a lot of fun, and their friendship is expressed in several languages. Unknowingly, we planned our trip to coincide with the opening of Wentwood Hills, the championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.
His most recent success is a strong selection to play in the Ryder Cup in 2010. Today’s broadcast – broadcast later in the UK – is one hole.
The once-unsettled area that surrounds the site is failing to quell the frenzy of construction workers rushing to complete the new Celtic Manor Hotel in time for its “Grand” opening in July. From our fourth-floor bedroom window, we peer up over a sea of wildflowers overflowing in rows. Above, an impressive new hotel overlooks the limestone cliffs. Each large room has a well-placed balcony to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We stare, momentarily blinded by the sun peeking through the patio doors.
It is clear that Mr. Matthews has invested heavily in this project. Its hopes of being hailed as the UK’s most impressive hotel, conference, golf, sports and leisure center are real. From the 400 elegant bedrooms and suites that offer modern amenities, to the soaring glass room and the large Wentwood Suite theatre-party hall, the venue anticipates the business needs and trends of the next century. Meanwhile, fun-seeking guests will be spoiled for choice, whether it’s on the links, strolling around the Roman pool, following the fitness program at Club Rio, analyzing and modifying golf courses at the Ian Woosnam Golf Academy, or engaging in a smorgasbord of other sports.
But Celtic Manor does not represent Wales or its people. Beyond the picturesque golf courses, visitors to this small country quickly discover the colorful surrounding countryside and surrounding villages where natural, ancient and historical treasures must be seen and preserved lest they be overrun by modern interests.
In the nearby capital of Cardiff, the Welsh National Opera and the National Orchestra of Wales satisfy the spirit, while the National Museum of Wales and the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum within Cardiff’s harbors delight the senses. The ferry is a hub for visitors to Barry Island’s coastal attractions. Others travel north through narrow, fertile valleys where miners once toiled and the mythical bells of Rhymney await at the end of the journey. Hardy nature lovers can opt for the sixty-mile cycle path linking the Bay and the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The Welsh Folk Museum in St. Fagans on the outskirts of Cardiff is a series of authentic houses that recreate the art, tradition, and heritage of Wales, from sheep farms to a castle with a rose garden. On each return trip, we always find something new to enjoy at this “must see”. Vast and rich in history, one visit will fuel your appetite for more Welsh delights.
For lovers, there is nothing that makes the heart beat faster than the castles that abound on all sides. Cardiff Castle – built between Roman and Norman ruins – and its alter-ego, Castell Coch, is the 19th Century whimsies of the third Marquess of Bute and the American architect William Burgess whose reconstruction leans more towards Victorian and Gothic styles than the real past.
Caerphilly Castle, on the other hand, is a complex of stone towers, walls, dams, and moats that were completed in 1271. Generations of knights housed here engaged in athletics for pleasure and the occasional battle to defend themselves until the castle was besieged. . in 1647.
One gray tower of this second largest building in the British Isles leans ominously, the victim, some say, of Cromwell’s failed attempt to blow up the castle during the bloody civil war between Wales and England. Some say the collapse is due to the passage of time and the natural vibration of the islands and dam walls that hold the towers. Shrouded in mist that floats above the Rhymney Valley and a history that pits generations of Welsh barbarians against the tyrannical Crown, Caerphilly Castle is a metaphor for the vulnerable. Some insist that her mysterious aura comes from the sad spirit of the Green Lady.
After centuries of banishment into exile with her husband, the Norman lord who once ruled the castle, she is said to haunt the site of her death and often surprises visitors by appearing in the chapel near the Great Hall or on the winding staircase. She means no harm because, again and again, she wanders off in search of the Welsh prince who stole her heart.
Although the Green Lady retreats within the castle’s walls, visitors embrace the wonders of the outdoors on pony-horse rides through the Brecon Beacons National Park, overlooking North Wales’ windswept Mount Snowdon, or walking along the rocky Pembrokeshire Coast. The way. Not surprisingly, hiking, climbing, and hiking are among the small country’s main attractions. In every place, one sees more palaces and authentic antiquity than any other country in the world. Pre-Christian burial chambers are interspersed with ancient fortifications. Standing stones that predate Stonehenge, historic settlements, and Celtic cairns appeal to the ancestral seeker in all of us.
Update: It’s 2010 and Terry Matthews, now 66, has achieved his Ryder Cup dream at Celtic Manor. Famous golfers and their fans from around the world will gather there on October 1-3 for the twelve-year-old event. But don’t be surprised if, by the time it’s over, many attendees will be so enthralled by the surroundings that they’ll be tempted to delve beyond the dull pages in search of the magical secrets of Wales.
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