2003 letter about a visit to Conwy, Wales: Once when we were driving along a beautiful road in Scotland with Mike & Wilma Donald,
Adelle said "Look, there’s a castle." And Mike said, "Oh, castles are like bums. Everyone has one." That may be true but not everyone
has a castle like Conwy’s (pronounced Conway’s). Picture attached.
Actually, that’s not quite true. There are four such castles
in Wales, all built by Edward I to maintain his hard fought control over a land not his own at the time. The castle fell into great
disrepair 300 years ago when the then Lord Conwy (who owned it at the time) needed money and he sold the lead covering which protected
the wooden roof . This was explained to us by the man who was our guide through the castle.
This elderly man can only be described
as "a hoot". It is no wonder that the cable program "Modern Marvels" featured his tour of the castle! (Picture of "hoot" in animated
gesture).Conwy is in Wales.
Don’t even think about Welsh names. A couple of my favorites: Rhosllanerchrugog and Penrhydeudraeth
which may or may not be names. My all time favorite is Llanfair-Pyllgwyngyu. It has many letters but almost no vowels, and I can’t
find it on the map. I saw it on a road sign. Ron is particularly partial to Stiwdio, which he thinks means Studio. ( By the way, some
signs in Scotland are in Gaelic pronounced "Gallic", I think. For example, Post Office seems to be "Oifice a Phuist") Road signs are
in Welsh first and English second. I (Ron) quickly got used to seeing "ARAF", followed by "SLOW".
There was a good model of the
castle as it looked in its heyday. And our guide not only knew the functions of all the rooms in the castle, but knew a lot of the
lifestyle of those who stayed there. One of the most interesting things he said was that the entire castle had been white – inside
and out – like a Mediterranean house today. Lots of the lime that covered the stone walls of the castle is still left.
Elizabethan town house circa 1500 called Plas Mawr (which translates into Big House) was down the street. It also was coated
with lime and also quite Mediterranean looking. This house is the best preserved house of its kind in all of Britain, we were told.
It had been repaired by the city but much of the interior is original, even with some of the original furniture. Walls and ceilings
had plaster figures embossed and painted in gay colors. (picture of plaster work over fireplace in great dining hall, with Elizabeth
Rex—E R and red rose ) Despite honoring the Queen , there was no love lost between a rich Welshman and the English generally in this
house. One of the plaster figures on a ceiling was a face representing the head of an Englishman, said head being seen immediately
by visitors as having been cut off some Englishman’s neck, symbolically of course. We compared it with the medieval house in York
dating from 1300’s. There were a lot of improvements made to houses after 200 years. But there was also a great deal of similarity
—more, larger rooms, warmer feeling, toilets over shafts down which waste fell to pits under the house (picture of commode over such
a shaft), separate rooms downstairs (ground floor) for the servants—but kitchen, buttery, pantry, great hall, all similar.
walking an hour through the castle ruins and then through Plas Mawr including lots and lots of stairs, I’d had it. We moved on to
Caernarfon to a campground.