Thursday, 1 September 2016

There is More to Conwy Than Just a Castle

The day we visited the walled Welsh town of Conwy we actually had intended to only stay in the town for a couple of hours.  We thought we would see the castle, walk around for a bit and be on our way.  Little did we know that Conwy has so much more to offer than just it’s castle, which as you know from my previous post is quite spectacular in it’s own right.  So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that by late afternoon, several hours after arriving in Conwy, we were still there.  After touring the castle, we meandered through the small town and made our way down to the waterside.   

If I remember correctly (this was almost a year ago after all), I believe there was an art fair sort of thing going on there.  We passed through the tent and happened upon a raptor display.   

Owls!  Ellie’s favorite.  A few years ago she read this fantasy book series featuring owls called Guardians of Ga’Hoole and she's been fascinated with them ever since.  She was over the moon excited to see some up close and personal. 

We roamed around the town some more searching for a place to have lunch. 

Mmmm – this looks tempting, but I think I will have to pass.  Now, if you are British, please don't be offended.  I mean no disrespect, but one thing I never figured out in all my time in the UK is what the fascination is with mushy peas.  And beans on toast – I don’t get that one either. 

We decided to eat here instead…

The former Bank of Conwy which is now home to a lovely bar serving delicious tapas and a healthy selection of beers, including those of the Belgium variety.  Can you guess why we chose this over the mushy peas place?

We also visited a 14th century merchants house which sits right in the heart of Conwy called Aberconwy House.  While the bottom floors of this house are made of stone, the top floor, which dates back to the 15th century, is made of timber, and when you think about that, it truly is amazing that this house has stood for so long.  Wooden structures in a cool, wet environment where they had lots of fires generally do not survive for long periods of time, especially 500 plus years.  Believe it or not, but after withstanding centuries of wear and tear by the environment and people, this gem of a historic house almost got the wrecking ball during the 1900s.  I don’t remember the exact years the guide gave us, but at some point the local folks decided to tear this and some of the other old buildings down to make room for some new ones.  But, an American businessman came along and fell in love with the House, so much so that he wanted to buy it and have it shipped back to the USA.  Crazy, but true!  Well, apparently this got the attention of the locals who started thinking maybe they shouldn’t tear down this amazing display of history.  So, the Conwy people decided to keep it and at some point the National Trust got the site and now they maintain and operate it, opening it to the public for visits and education. 

Even though the house is relatively small compared to basically all the other houses we’ve visited in the UK, it was an incredibly interesting and intriguing place to visit.  The timber framing was like something out of a movie.  Upstairs, the floors and walls and timbers themselves were so terribly uneven and crooked you had to watch every step you took.  The very low and irregular doorways (people were a lot shorter back then due to malnutrition) had doors cut to match their wonky shape and size.  The house is adorned with furniture from the Georgian, Victorian and Jacobean eras to represent the different time periods this house has stood through.  And maybe the best room of all was the kitchen on the main floor with the huge fireplace for baking and cooking and a peculiar, large wooden cage suspended from the ceiling.  I joked with the girls that they better behave because that’s where they use to put naughty children (they didn’t think that was funny), but the National Trust guide kindly explained that the cage was for storing bread and other items out of the reach of rats.  Boy those must have been fun times!

I wish I had more photos to share with you of Aberconwy house, but it was dark and small and hard to photograph inside.  So, I guess you’ll just have to travel to Wales and visit the House in person.  Trust me, the trip to Conwy will be well worth your time and money.

Just around the corner and up the street from Aberconwy House is another fascinating and very kid friendly historic site called Plas Mawr (apparently this means ‘Great Hall’).  Although it has undergone much reconstruction, the underlying architecture is almost unchanged from what it was back in the 16th century when it was first constructed.  Plas Mawr is recognized as one of the finest townhouses to have survived since the Elizabethan era.  

The girls had a ball in this Elizabethan townhouse (notice the wooden cage hanging above the table in the photo below - a very large bread basket that is similar to what we saw inside Aberconwy House as I mentioned earlier).   

Now, if there is one thing my girls love to do when we visit historic sites or anywhere for that matter, it is to play dress-up, and Plas Mawr did not disappoint.  

I know I am bias as these are my children, but do they not look adorable in these Elizabethan outfits or what!  

Yes, the outfits were a little on the large size (the wool hat falling down over Leah's eyes in the first photo had me in stitches), but these two would have fit in perfectly back in the 16th century.  

I think there father would have been chasing the boys away with a broom.  

And if there is another thing my girls absolutely love to do when we are visiting historical sites, it is to play in the kitchen.  Gosh, looking at these dress-up and kitchen photos make me wish I was a kids again.

That is all for today and from Conwy, so I leave you with the rest of the photos from Plas Mawr.  If you ever find yourself in Wales (and you really should someday), don't pass Conwy by.  Look beyond the castle because inside the town walls there are some fascinating sites to see.  We’ve visited our share of castles and estate homes in the UK, but these houses from the 15th and 16th centuries that were on the small size relatively speaking were truly unique and so very interesting and fun to visit.  Despite the necessary reconstruction work that has taken place here, when you walk through the doors of either Plas Mawr or Aberconwy House, it's as if you've been transported back in time.  

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