The past couple days were spent in North Wales, specifically Conwy and Caernarfon, where we visited the medieval castles. More photos are available on the North Wales page.
We caught an early train from Stratford-upon-Avon to Conwy, but it wasn't exactly straightforward. Our first train was a little more than an hour. The second train, however, was to take not quite three hours, and the Conwy stop was by request only. The train wasn't very full, and we were wondering, how many people would want to go away from London on a Friday morning, anyway?
We mentioned to the conductor that we wanted to get off at Conwy, but she said that we'd need to tell the conductor who would get on at Chester, and that we'd also have to move up a car since the car we were in would be disconneced at Chester. We moved on up, then waited until Chester to tell the conductor. A lot of people got on the train at that point, but more kept getting on the further we went. We also saw lots of people bringing their bikes on. Fortunately, everything worked out; the train did stop at Conwy, and we made the short walk to our B&B, where our room had a great view of the city and hills.
After dropping off our bags, we went back to the city, grabbed some meat pies for lunch, then, made our way to the Conwy Castle. This castle, as well as others in North Wales (including Caernarfon), was commissioned by Edward I in the 13th century. They haven't been restored to the extent that Warwick Castle has been, but you can still wander around the grounds, climb the towers, and walk along some of the walls. Since there were no tours, we picked up a guide to the castle, which ended up being well done and very useful.
After we exited the castle we walked across most of the town walls, climbing up to the watchtower at about 180 feet. We got a great view of the city, both inside and outside the walls. Having done that, we did a general walk through the town.
That was enough for us for that day, so we grabbed something from the store for dinner then headed back to our room. The room's radiator was on, so we did some quick laudry and it didn't take long to dry given a good source of heat.
While we were sitting in the room, we started to hear a lot of rain outside; again, we missed the worst of the weather. We also heard some fireworks, as well as a bunch of young adults swarming into the building.
We went down early for breakfast, and each had a full Welsh breakfast, which isn't that different from a full English breakfast. I haven't described them yet: the full breakfast is toast, fried egg, baked beans, sausage, ham, and tea or coffee. Some add one or more of a hashed brown patty, grilled tomato, or grilled mushroom. In addition, most places add juice and cereal. Yes, it's quite a bit larger than we're used to, but a lot of times it helps us postpone lunch until later, making it easier to time seeing the sights and avoiding crowds.
While we were eating, the young adults came down; this group was from France. We finished up and headed out the door for our bus to Caernarfon.
We arrived in town a bit before the castle opened, so we wandered around a bit, getting the lay of the land. We headed back to the castle gate, and across the street a woman was yelling out "Don't waste you'r money, there's not much to see!" to the tourists. Fortunately we had a British Heritage Pass, so our admission was already paid. Since there were no tour guides in sight and we had such good luck with the guide book for the Conwy Castle, we bought one and saw it was done by the same group, and was just as good. Armed with more than enough information, we made our way into Caernarfon Castle.
The Caernarfon Castle has fewer interior walls than Conwy, but many of the towers were in very good shape and climbable, although we didn't climb all of them. We did make it to the top of the Eagle Tower, the most impressive of them all. In that tower was an exhibit showing the history and restoration efforts of the castle, a movie which also covered the castle's history, and many well-preserved rooms. We were also able to walk up to the top of one of the turrets.
After we were finished inside the castle, we went about looking for a place to eat, but being Sunday, most shops were closed. We did find a place which was open that served a great cassoulet. After looking a bit at the town walls, we decided to catch an earlier bus back to Conwy. From all we could figure out from the time tables, we'd have to transfer to a different bus about half way, but as it ends up, the bus got to the transfer point, changed its number to the one we wanted, and went on its way. Easier than we thought it would be.
The rest of the day was spent catching up on things: working on photos and writing about what we had done for me, double-checking what we'd be doing in the days to come for Melody. Also, Melody was able to chat a bit with Celeste; it was great to hear from her.