Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Conwy, Wales

This past weekend, we drove to Conwy, Wales. Google Maps gave us some pretty bad directions. They weren't inaccurate but did lead us through every small road they could find to get there. We borrowed a road atlas of the UK from the library and my wife cleverly substituted proper highway directions for the Google meandering directions.

We had one stop along the way for a snack at an unremarkable rest stop. Arriving in Conwy, we drove to our bed and breakfast so the kids could get their after lunch naps. The road led through town and, more significantly, through the medieval wall. The gate was a tight squeeze, allowing traffic to get through one way at a time:

Glad I wasn't the bus driver!

Checking in at the B&B, Glan Heulog Guest House, was no problem. It's a charming house on top of a hill overlooking a rather narrow road (two way traffic but one side has parking so it's really a lane and a half).

Seems spacious after the arch, but is still terrifying to those behind the wheel!

The rooms at the hotel are nice and naps went fairly well. We took shifts watching the little nappers. Angie went into town first and headed for the most fabulous feature, the Castle.

One imposing structure

Conwy Castle is located on the waters of the River Conwy. Edward I built the castle in the 1280's during his second campaign in Wales. Visitors can still walk through where his rooms were and see his special "watching room" overlooking the castle's chapel. He would attend Mass by privately watching through a window above.

King's view of the castle chapel

View of the chapel from inside

View of the chapel from outside the castle

The castle is a pretty magical place, with plenty of halls, walking paths, and rooms to fire the imagination. After nap time, we took the children to see it. Jacob loved it very much. He climbed up the terrifyingly narrow stairs to look out over the town from the tops of the turrets.

Jacob views his potential domain

Lucy was less adventurous in the heights department but wanted to look in every nook and cranny as I carried her around. We enjoyed walking on the different walls and seeing all the different birds (mostly gulls) hanging out in the castle.

The middle of town had a square with a fountain that claimed its water was undrinkable, or at least, unsafe to drink. Looking in we saw no water. We did see a statue of Llewelyn the Great who built Aberconwy Abbey before the town and castle were there. Edward moved the monks down the river when he replaced the abbey with the castle.

Lellwelyn the Great surveying what they've done with the place

We had a nice Italian dinner at a nearby restaurant followed by more wandering. We tried to go to a concert at St. Mary's Church in the middle of town. The local men's choir was to give a performance. The line was far too long for the kids to stand around and wait for the 19:30 starting time. Instead, we looked around outside. The graveyard does have a tomb marked "We Are Seven" which was immortalized in a poem by William Wordsworth, who visited and was inspired by the sight.

Jacob pays his respects

One the way back home, we pulled out our GPS and found our first geocache in Wales and the first cache of this trip. We enjoyed discovering y berllan (that's the name of the cache) and only signed the log book since we had no trinkets to trade. Hopefully we will carry some in the future. Here is the location of the cache, for those interested:

Being good geocachers, we don't disclose the exact location!

By this point, we were exhausted from walking all over, up, down, and around the town. We headed back to our B&B for some R&R. The next day we took advantage of the breakfast part of the B&B and headed off for more adventures.

This was the self-serve part, we also had traditional Welsh breakfast

Here's the Wordsworth poem, We Are Seven, for those interested, from

--------A SIMPLE Child,
          That lightly draws its breath,
          And feels its life in every limb,
          What should it know of death?

          I met a little cottage Girl:
          She was eight years old, she said;
          Her hair was thick with many a curl
          That clustered round her head.

          She had a rustic, woodland air,
          And she was wildly clad:                                    10
          Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
          --Her beauty made me glad.

          "Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
          How many may you be?"
          "How many? Seven in all," she said
          And wondering looked at me.

          "And where are they? I pray you tell."
          She answered, "Seven are we;
          And two of us at Conway dwell,
          And two are gone to sea.                                    20

          "Two of us in the church-yard lie,
          My sister and my brother;
          And, in the church-yard cottage, I
          Dwell near them with my mother."

          "You say that two at Conway dwell,
          And two are gone to sea,
          Yet ye are seven!--I pray you tell,
          Sweet Maid, how this may be."

          Then did the little Maid reply,
          "Seven boys and girls are we;                               30
          Two of us in the church-yard lie,
          Beneath the church-yard tree."

          "You run about, my little Maid,
          Your limbs they are alive;
          If two are in the church-yard laid,
          Then ye are only five."

          "Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
          The little Maid replied,
          "Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
          And they are side by side.                                  40

          "My stockings there I often knit,
          My kerchief there I hem;
          And there upon the ground I sit,
          And sing a song to them.

          "And often after sunset, Sir,
          When it is light and fair,
          I take my little porringer,
          And eat my supper there.

          "The first that died was sister Jane;
          In bed she moaning lay,                                     50
          Till God released her of her pain;
          And then she went away.

          "So in the church-yard she was laid;
          And, when the grass was dry,
          Together round her grave we played,
          My brother John and I.

          "And when the ground was white with snow,
          And I could run and slide,
          My brother John was forced to go,
          And he lies by her side."                                   60

          "How many are you, then," said I,
          "If they two are in heaven?"
          Quick was the little Maid's reply,
          "O Master! we are seven."

          "But they are dead; those two are dead!
          Their spirits are in heaven!"
          'Twas throwing words away; for still
          The little Maid would have her will,
          And said, "Nay, we are seven!"

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