This is heaven for Pam as she walked the beautiful gardens in this magnificent estate now in trust for the world to see and appreciate.
On this day we embarked on a comfortable coach ride through the splendid British countryside- a landscape which English author Ben Aaronovitch described as being so photogenically rural. Along the way we stopped at Bodnant Garden a historic horticultural gem located in North Wales.
We have time to wander the paths of this beautiful estate and smell the flowers. Then we continue on to the seaside resort town of Llandudno for the next two nights.
This is how the landed gentry used to live. Our guide told us that many of these enormous estates were now in a trust and maintained for the public to enjoy.
All we have shown here is four pictures, but we took over 40 as we strolled through the gardens.
Checking into our hotel we were met with a seagull that kept itself on the ledge of our window. It was obvious someone had fed it and it would not leave. We were unable to open the window and enjoy the great smell of the ocean.
Persistent cuss. He would not leave.
Next morning we were off touring the land of castles and the land of song. Wales is also a land of fierce natural beauty as we saw for ourselves on the morning’s visit to Snowdonia National Park. Named for Snowdon, at 3,560 feet the tallest mountain in England and Wales, the park comprises some 840 square miles of unspoiled wooded valleys, mountains, moorland, lakes, and rivers. This is Wales first national park, and covers more than 10% of the land area of the country. We toured the park riding on the Welsh Highland Railway. The train is pulled by a steam locomotive and provided a scenic ride through the park.
The park is magnificent
The park was very rugged, and as you can see it was very damp.
The next stop was the port town of Caernarfon for a visit to the 13th century Castle, a medieval fortress whose brute appearance symbolized English domination of the Welsh. Strategically set at the mouth of the River Seiont as it empties into Menai Strait, the castle was built by King Edward I of England. Edward I (the first) was better know as Edward Longshanks and also “the hammer of the Scots.” If you recall from the movie Braveheart it was Edward I that William Wallace of Scotland fought against.
Entrance to the castle.
The castle occupies almost a city block and was a small city unto itself.
The castle was immense in size. To get a description go on line and type in the name. There is some excellent information about why and how it was built.
The round circular disc in the picture is where the ceremony called investiture occurs. The UK still has a Prince of Wales – nowadays, it’s Prince Charles (who’s next-in-line for the throne). The ceremony of ‘investiture’ (effectively a ‘crowning’, or giving the Prince his formal title) takes place in Caernarfon Castle. Charles, Prince of Wales, received his title here in 1969, and he did not do a thing to earn it except be born into the royal family.
Caernarfon was the birthplace of the first Prince of Wales – a man who could ‘never speak a word of English’
As you can probably imagine, the Welsh people weren’t too thrilled with the English domination of their native country. However, the birth of Edward I’s son in the castle, in 1284, was a perfect opportunity for Edward I to ‘spin’ the story to his advantage.
The child – Edward of Caernarfon – was legitimately a Welshman, and was crowned ‘Prince of Wales’ in 1301 – demonstrably a Welshman, ruling over his own people.
This persuasive story-telling didn’t end there. It’s said that Edward I sold his son to the Welsh people as “A prince born of Wales, who could never speak a word of English”.
However, it was a bit of a crafty piece of propaganda – and it definitely didn’t mean that son Edward could only speak Welsh. The language of England’s nobility back then was still French, and so it’s almost no surprise that Edward of Caernarfon couldn’t speak English!
The history of the royals was very entertaining as we traveled through the countryside.
The next day we had a coach ride from Wales to Stratford-upon-Avon. This was the longest coach ride we had for the trip and as we were always on the move, and the break felt good as we just looked at the beautiful Welsh and English country-side. Pam and I both agreed Wales was one of the most scenic countries we had traveled.
The first stop was at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens, the thatched farmhouse of Shakespeare’s bride. The cottage is a bit of a misnomer as it has three chimneys (an indication of the number of fire-places) and twelve rooms.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. This is far from we think of as a cottage. We took a lot of pictures of the inside of the house, but as an amateur photographer they do not look good. Online there are some excellent photos shot by a professional with expensive equipment.
Gardens at Anne Hathaway’s
Next stop was a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace. The restored 16th century half timbered house where the Bard is believed to have been born in 1564.
House believed to be Shakespeare’s birthplace
The tomb of Shakespeare located in Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Written on the grave is the following verse: “Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”
The next day we set out for the postcard-perfect Cotswolds. England’s south central region of gently rolling hills dotted with villages of honey-colored limestone, market town, and unspoiled countryside. The Cotswolds looks much as it did 300 years ago.
We took this picture because all the roofs had thick tile or roofs made of rock looking like old stuff. That is a poor description, but there was no one to ask. All the men made comments about upkeep on the roofs and here is proof it does take place with a lot of scaffolding.
All the homes we saw on the trip were decorated with beautiful floral displays.
Rock walls were everywhere especially in the farmlands.
The traditional British Red phone booth. This is the only one we saw.
Next stop was Bath and we arrived late in the day really tired. Checking into our hotel we were so pleased that this one had air-conditioning in the room as all the previous hotels did not. Also this was the period where England had a heat wave and we got stuck in it in the evening. For Iowa people used to air-conditioning, it was tough on us. That evening we arrived at Bath.
Thank goodness we arrived in Bath and immediately contacted the front desk for help. We had run out of clean clothes and needed to have laundry services. It was outrageously expensive, but what were we to do. We still had over a week of touring to do. On our trip to S.E. Asia in January, we ran out of clean clothes in Laos. Fortunately the guide had arranged for a person to pick up laundry and almost everyone of the tour had a bundle of clothing to be washed. The best part was it was immensely cheap, so things balanced out.
The area where the city of Bath now stands show evidence of habitation from before recorded time. It is best known as the location where in 60 CE the Romans built baths and first took the water at England’s only hot springs. We learned about this historic site on the morning’s tour as we visited the Roman Baths Museum. These were a couple of buildings which included the original Roman era baths and temple.
The roof over the bath has long been destroyed. This view is above the bath.
The lady at this location on the ground level of the bath, played the part. When we asked if we could take a picture, she responded with, “I don’t know what a picture is. I am here to help you with the bath. If you would like to leave your attire with me, I will see that it is taken care of, and I have towels for you.” We got a good laugh out of all that.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, a golden bronze head graced the center of the “Temple Sulis Minerva” at Bath. In pre-Roman times, during the Celtic polytheism practiced in Britain, the goddess Sulis was worshiped at the Bath thermal springs as a local deity.
The location where the Romans got the thermal water flowing from the ground and furnished the water for the baths.
Next we visited the 7th century Bath Abbey, a majestic Anglican church noted for its intricate, fan vaulted ceiling and for hosting the coronation of King Edgar of England in 973.
The Bath Abbey.
The ceiling in the Abbey is one of a kind.
Beautiful stained glass adorned the wall of the Abbey.
Next day the guide requested we all assemble at 7 a.m. in the hotel lobby. A continental breakfast was available at 6 a.m. and the group was showing low caffeine levels due to lack of coffee. We are supposed to be on vacation.
The reason was he wanted our group to be first at Stonehenge as the later you get there, the crowds get larger. We were on our way to London, but this was the first stop with the second being Windsor Castle.
I shot this picture out of the coach as we went by a small village. If you notice the chimneys all have several stacks. This is because each stack serviced a fireplace in the house or apartment. It really must have been smokey in the wintertime.
Stonehenge is the Neolithic monument that remains something of a mystery today. Archaeologists believe that the massive stones were erected sometime between 3,000 and 2,000 BC. The prehistoric circles of stone are a masterpiece of engineering and building is undisputed. The why is less certain, although many experts now believe the site was used as a burial ground.
We walked all around the structures. We soon found out why we were up so early. It wasn’t but 30 minutes after we reached the site the crowds started to arrive.
This stone has a special significance. For the first 10 people that send me an explanation of what it is all about, I will send you a free book. Post on FB your finding and email me your address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our next stop was famed Windsor Castle. Originally built in the 11th century after William the Conqueror invaded England, the sprawling stone fortification has been expanded in the centuries since to become one of the country’s most impressive sites.
Windsor was one of Queen Victoria’s favorite places. The image of the queen is not at all like the image of the beautiful young woman who played the role of Queen Victoria on TV.
Pictures were not allowed inside the castle. However, the government supplied a recording device that hung around your neck and you lifted to the ear and moved through the building with the history and background of each room. This was absolutely outstanding and a tourist could move through at their leisure and pause where you wanted to take in the room and the sites. I would recommend you go on line to see the inside of Windsor Castle and there are a lot of photos of rooms used today by the royals. It was an enormous place and very fascinating.
This is a picture of a wedding and has nothing to do with the castle. We were walking by and I just raised my camera and shot this picture. Pam wanted it for the hats the women were wearing, and everyone was dressed to the nines. We paused momentarily but were unable to get a shot of the bride and groom. Really neat.
We left the castle and continued on our trip to London. This tour is not a tour for you if London is what you want to see as we only spent a day and a half there. you can’t see what there is to see in that amount of time. However, there was a post trip for those who wished to spend more time in London. We arrived late in the day and dinner was on our own. The questions were: where do we eat, how much do we want to spend, and what do we want to eat? There were plenty of options and even a McDonalds.
Next morning we toured in the rain and drove by some of the city’s landmarks. We also visited two of the museums and the tour was over for us. But the next part of this trip was about to start. Read the next blog about where we went and how we got there.
Trafalgar square. Our hotel was just a block away.
London Bridge, Just a little rainy.
Westminster Abbey, Just a little rainy.
Buckingham Palace. The rain had let up a little, the next shots the lens was covered with water.
We ended the day by touring some of the museums and enjoyed the art museum which contained many of the old masters painting along with some more temporary art. This concluded the tour of Edinburgh, Wales, and England. Next day we started on a new tour of the Scottish Highlands. This was a great trip, but the Highlands was a WOW! Read the next blog.
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God hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank