Monday, March 16, 2009

The Castle is in check!

Breakfast at Bryn Derwen is a leisurely affair that begins no earlier than the very civilised 8:30 am. We have taken to having coffee and tea to start and then orange juice with a full Welsh breakfast of local pork sausage (oh so good!), rashers of smoked bacon, hash brown, fried eggs that are just perfect, grilled tomato and baked beans (mine is minus the beans and Michael could sure do without them - if you get my drift!). We then finish with toast and jams - no wonder we often don't need lunch. Our host Andrew is chatty this morning as they are not as busy as on the weekend. He and his wife Jill have had the B&B for the past two years, although it has operated for about the last 20 years. They are almost finished totally refurbishing it and it displays their great taste and obvious passion for comfortable lodgings.

Daffodils are the national flower of Wales just as they should be. They are everywhere. It is like someone had got into a crop duster plane, flown over the whole of Wales and just indiscriminately dropped seeds all over the country. Not only are they grown in beds inside and outside private blocks, they line the motorways, fill the cemeteries and colour the hillsides. They are huge and we have photos of about 7 different varieties - in all the possible shades of yellow.

Today we are off to Caernafon to have a look at the Castle. Like many other coastal strongholds in this area, the castle dominates the town and exists admist the daily life of 2009. Like Conwy Castle, the roads still go through the various fortress gates and the walled city is still inhabited - in fact by thousands more people than would have been housed within the walls at the time of its construction. Although the walled city was completed in 1330, the castle itself remained unfinished. As it was protected within the City Walls, it was not given the highest priority at the time when the English were creating a seat of power dominant over the Welsh.

Still, the castle complex as finished is very impressive with its nine towers, multiple curtain walls and two major entry gates. The ramparts run the perimeter at times on three levels, providing defence points all round the castle. The towers go up to four levels and afford fantastic views of the city and the surrounding coastal areas.

There had long earlier been a significant Roman presence here and the remains of the Segtonium footings are still very visible. Troublewas, the site was closed on Mondays so all we could do was look through an impressive strong iron fence!

From Caernafon we head further south to Pwllheli (pronounced P-th-elli) to meet Mick's niece Heather and her husband Don. Parents to Matt who we met quite a few times while he was in Australia and future in-laws to his fiancee Emma who we also met in Australia. They were warm and welcoming with a fantastic hot cuppa and cake. We exchanged travel stories and shared our groans about some of Mick's jokes (hehehe). All too soon it was time to head back. We made one quick stop to get a pic of the Castle lit at night.

On our way down to Pwllheli we stopped briefly to have a look at what appeared to be a Norman Church in a small hamlet just off the main road. St Beuno's Church is unfortunately closed until Easter. The building and surrounding graveyard were very interesting with many grave markers dated back to the early 1700s. The church is rather squat and sqared compared to most we have seen and was filled with leadlight (but not stained glass) windows that should make it light and airy - guess we will never know.

Back in Conwy it was time to try the Alfredo Restaurant that we cold not get into the other night. I wondered if tey would even be open given that so much in the tourist trade is closed on Mondays - but I need not have worried. Not only were they open - they were doing a roaring trade with three quarters of their tables occupied. As the name suggests, this is an Italian themed restaurant with good choices of pastas, seafoods, pizza and heartier meals. Interestingly I did not see one pizza ordered while we were there! The food was great!

Bianchetti Fritti (Deep fried whitebait with a salad garnish) Michael
Bowls of assorted green and black olives - Michael
Bruschetta Nostrale (Bruschetta with the addition of melted mozzarella - fresh basil!) Maria
Canelloni Nostrale (Tubes of pasta filled with Spinach and covered with a meat and cheese sauce) Michael
Pollo Parmigiana (Breast of chicken cooked in a creamy parmesan sauce with mushrooms and white wine and topped with mozarella cheese) Served with fresh vegetables - Maria
Too full for dessert (even after Michael polished of about a third of my main) but we finished with espresso and amaretti biscuits - real italian ones, not the anglicised version - yu-um.

We were still to get a photo of Conwy Castle at night so made a quick detour on the way home. Like Caernafon, this structure truly dominates the entire landscape at night when it is lit up amidst a much darker town. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be a marauder trying to come in by the cover of darkness to come against such an imposing structure!

The other thing that Conwy is known for are the local Conwy Mussels. Down on the waterfront there is this beautiful statue carved from a block of local slate. It too looks great at night.

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