North Wales


Great Britain
Day 9 - Friday, 16 May 1997

Caernarfon Castle

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.

Caernarfan Castle

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.

Swallow Falls

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.)

Blaenau Ffestiniog

Geri at slate mine

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.