Day 9 - Friday, 16 May
The most castle-y castle is Caernarfon, on the west coast of North
Wales and near the Isle of Anglesey. It is so surrounded by the town that has
grown up around it we were surprised when we actually drove through an opening
in the old wall that surrounds the castle - and were still in "town" homes on
tiny little streets. But we soon found our way to the castle itself.
We climbed and wandered around on the top of the walls, up and
down the towers and through the great rooms. It was clearly built for a
fighting position, used by the English to conquer the Welsh. But the conquered
Welsh cling tenaciously to their separate identity, still speaking their own
language as well as English.
We nearly missed Swallow Falls, but turned around and went back.
It is a truly lovely spot just beside a bend in the road where the water
spills, pools, turns and spills some more. This was the first (and so far only)
place we have paid to walk down a path to see a waterfall. This was also the
place where the rest rooms had a goldfish aquarium above each potty - at least
in the ladies room. I was so amazed I peeked into each stall to check. (Note
from Jim: I saw no fish in the men's room.)
We visited a slate mining town Blaenau Ffestiniog were went down
into a mine. What a hard life miners had! We rode a car down and heard the
story of one young man's life, beginning work in the mines at age 12. It was a
gray day but there was a feeling that all days in this place are gray. There
were great piles, even mountains, of waste slate. Several tons of slate were
mined to get one ton of usable and saleable slate.
We circled through the above places and returned to Ruthin for the
second night. However, we stayed in a different B&B. In spite of the nice
view from our bedroom window it turned out to be our least favorite of the
trip. But even it had its charms. The bed was the poorest we had slept in but
we were entertained during wakeful times of tossing and turning by the musical
(?) calls of the peacocks from the nearby "castle" hotel.
We shared a bathroom here with another couple, so our morning
preparations took a little longer. But breakfast was quite interesting, all the
guests were using Rick Steves' guidebook. And all of us were from within 120
miles of each other in California! One woman had come specifically because
Rick's book said this woman was a quilter. But that turned out to be incorrect
- the other Mrs. Jones outside of town is the quilter.