Sunday, May 8, 2011

Seagulls, and Owls, and Hawks! Oh my! "Official Post"

We started our day be visiting Conwy Castle. Before we started our tour we ran into some men dressed in medieval clothing carrying three birds. It turns out that two of the birds were Bengal Eagle Owls and the third was a Harris Hawk named Jesse. We learned that the men were dressed as a Knight Templar, a hospitaler, and a Welsh Knight. Some of the people in our group even got to hold the birds! They were promoting the charity of Help for Heroes, which is the equivalent of the wounded warrior program in the United States. These men had taken recently taken part in a reenactment of the 15th century Welsh siege of Conwy Castle. Luckily for us, they are also hired by cities to walk around town because it scares off the pesky seagulls.

Tom gave us a fantastic tour of the Conwy Castle. Turns out that the history of this castle is fairly similar to Caernarfon Castle. Building began in the same year as Caernarfon (1283) headed by King Edward I. Building was basically finished in four years, and at one point there was a total of around 1,500 craftsmen and laborers working on building this castle. Conwy was one of the castles that King Edward I built to help retain power and control around the Snowdonia area. On this castle alone King Edward I initially spent around 15,000 pounds. This is about 9,000,000 pounds today. During the Madog Rebellion, Conwy Castle withstood a six month long siege, but after the Rebellion the castle and town was overtaken for a short period by the Welsh while the King was out of town. When the King returned he took it back.

Conwy Castle has eight large drum round towers separated into two wards that were divided by a massive cross wall. The two wards were essentially two separate fortifications. The inner ward housed the Royal apartments and chapel. The outer ward housed the military garrison quarters, great hall and prison tower. We could climb up to the top of the towers and walk along the walls of the castle where we could take in some very nice views of the water and the town. While at the tip of the chapel tower, a group of us ran into another group of college students from Iowa. They are from Central College and had been studying are abroad since January. What a small world!

We also toured the Aberconwy House and Plas Mawr. The Aberconwy House is the oldest house in Conwy and it dates back to when the castle was built. The house was constructed in a common English design that was not found often in Wales. This house has passed between many owners over the years and was even used as a Temperance Hotel for many years. In the 1930’s it was in danger of being bought by an American and picked up and moved to the United States. By the sale was never completed. Shortly after it was given to the National Trust and can now be toured. The man taking our tickets was fascinating to listen to. He knew many facts about the house and the objects inside, along with a few ghost stories that he and others have experienced at the house.

Plas Mawr was much different. This was a very wealthy family’s home. It is huge and elaborate. Our group had an audio tour through the house, but I still almost got lost because it was so large. Nearly all the rooms were extensively furnished with items that would have been similar to what was originally there. Walking around the house was like stepping back in time.

We had free time to get lunch for the rest of the afternoon. We could walk the city walls, check out charity shops, boutiques, and gift shops, or walk down by the marina, plenty to see and do.

In the evening we caught a bus to the train station and nearly missed our train to Leominster. We even had to run to catch it. This was one of those times that I have been thankful that I Brought a Backpack and not rolling luggage.

We are spending five nights in Leominster.

That’s all for now.


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