A Day in North Wales
The sun was shining brightly this morning outside our breakfast room at the Castlebank Hotel in Conwy in North Wales. It was the perfect day for exploring.
Plas Mawr in Conwy dates back to the 16th century. It's a large historic home overseen by Cadw which means keeping in Welsh. The main floor was covered with slate mined from this area. They kindly gave us a high tech audio guide, but we never needed it because in the first room we met a docent who was so pleased with our undivided attention to his explanation about the hanging wooden bread basket in the kitchen that he took us on a private tour. Unlike the Tudor house we toured yesterday, this one had plain white plaster walls embellished with small plaster casts on the walls and ceilings of birds, animals, dragons, or flowers.
In one room which smelled of mint, sage and rosemary, I spotted some visitors writing with quill pens and making Welsh cookies with a woman in period costume. She beckoned me over and I longed to join them, but it would have been impolite to leave the enthusiastic docent mid sentence, "The swan on the ceiling to the left of the owl represents... "
Conwy Castle was built in the 13th century right on the water's edge where supplies could be brought in from the sea. Today you can tour the grounds and walk the castle walls, but unlike many castles it hasn't been restored so you have to use your imagination to picture what it would have looked like.
Bodnart Garden, a National Trust site, is just down the road. It bills itself as one of the world's most magical gardens and I think it's true. Walking down the garden paths which twist and turn you discover an old tree, a pool filled with lily pads, a babbling stream or wildflowers planted around a neatly edged path. At one turn I followed my nose to a familiar scent, Easter lilies.
My favorite section was a rose garden. My mother grew red, yellow, and pink roses along a fence at the home where I grew up in West Hartford. My mother spent years looking for a special yellow rose from her childhood, but I was lucky. These roses were just like the ones I remembered. I leaned over them and breathed in their scent.
Our last stop on our self- guided tour was Swallow Falls. It's a magnificent waterfall cascading over rocks into pools below.
Tonight we drove across the harbor to Llandudno. At first glance, it looks like it might have been in an old Victorian movie. It's very atmospheric with cream colored Victorian hotels lining the long sandy beach and a promenade that juts out into the sea with Victorian wrought iron railings and a game arcade in the pavilion at the far end. On a promontory overlooking the sea stands the Grand Hotel which must have wide sweeping views up and down the coast.
We ate fish and chips at the St. George's Hotel right on the water. Dating from the 19th century, it got rave reviews on Trip Advisor. The once glorious Grand Hotel didn't do quite as well. it scored 60/61 hotels in the town. On closer inspection, it was crumbling and the lobby featured bingo posters. Not only that, two entertainers named Ray and Jay wearing gray suits with bright red silk ties sang, "Don't break my heart. My achy breaky heart," while people who seemed to love it, danced.
Back in Conway, the lights are twinkling across the harbor. It's very beautiful and peaceful here, but there's something else. It's sweater weather here in Wales. What could be more perfect than that!