I’m so exited! Today I will visit real castles for the very first time. Getting up early this morning was tough, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it. The trip is organised by a local society for international students wanting to visit the country, for a very reasonable price.
First stop is Conwy (about an hour away), a castle built by the English in North Wales in 1283 and was constructed in only four years. It was built as a means to control the Welsh, who weren’t exactly happy that the English were in their territory. After several attempts and sieges, it was eventually captured by a Welshman who snuck in during a holiday, killed the two guards and opened the doors for the Welsh army. Learning about British history is quite interesting since it goes back sooo far compared to Canadian history.
I watched the walls of the castle in the distance making their way closer and closer, to which I realized the immensity of the stone structure. This was built in the 13th century! And is still standing to this day!
I decided to walk around the ground level first, and then make my way up at the back of castle. I observed the foundations of the houses, imagining the bustling medieval life. Each tower had their own role; the kitchen, the well, the church… Inside each of them was a set of steep spiral stairs that led from the bottom all the way to the top. Climbing them, I realized how in shape these people were; the steps are a little less than a foot high, making climbing 80 of them quite the challenge. As I wonder through the many hallways, rooms and staircases, I stop to observe the view through some windows, some of which are only slits to prevent unwanted enemy projectiles inside. As much as climbing the stairs was exhausting, the view was well worth it. Good thing I brought my jacket, it’s quite windy up here.
After exploring the castle for a couple hours, a few friends and I decide to go eat some fish and chips, which is a local specialty apparently. It was even better than the ones I ate in London, simply delicious. But I still craved a salad after. Even though I’m stuffed, I wouldn’t mind a little something sweet- Oh look! A bakery! As I walk in, the smell envelops me in a pastry wonderland. All these goodies on display, but it’s all stuff I could get at home, so I ask the baker; “What’s traditionally Welsh?” She pointed at some welsh cakes. They looked like small, thick pancakes with raisins in them. “I’ll have that.” Tasting one on my way out, it was a little dry, but not in a bad way. It’s pretty good, but I can’t eat more than two, I guess I’ll keep them for the bus ride then.
Next stop is Caernarfon, another English castle built in the 1200s. As I arrive, I couldn’t help but notice it’s in much better shape than Conwy, and also much bigger. Walking through the main gate led us to the interior courtyard, which is quite big. Not really knowing where to start first, I head towards the tower across from me. Inside, I find the Royal Welsh Fuseliers Museum. I locate the entrance, in the wall beside the tower, to which I find many displays about this regiment I’ve never heard of. Quite the history lesson! After visiting the museum, I explore around the castle. As with the one in Conwy, the many stairs and passageways offer hours of fun. Unfortunately, after exploring only half the castle, I hear a bell ringing, which I imagine is announcing the castle’s closure; it was 3:45 after all. The bus is picking us up at 5, so I have some time to kill. I feel like a nice walk by the river, and the bridge is right there. The castle looks majestic from here, great for pictures. The tide is low, leaving seaweed on the pebble-ly beach, which emits that classic sea smell. It reminds me of the many trips I did to the east coast with my family. Man, I miss them. A sudden rush of homesickness overcomes me. I feel like I’ve been here for months, and yet it’s only been two weeks. I’ve met so many people, but no quality friendship has been made yet. My squad and my best friend is in Canada, and what I have so far here, are just acquaintances. “I just need more time. I’ve got plenty of it, but I’m sure once June rolls by, it’ll all be gone in a flash.” Time calls, the bus will arrive soon, better get back to the pick up point and head home.
Looking back, spending that time alone in the park by the river, across a majestic castle, was a moment of self reflection I needed. I realized that it’s been gogogo for two weeks, and I need to simply relax once in a while. I don’t have any trips planned for the next couple of weeks, so I think that’ll be nice. Unless something unexpected comes up, we’ll see.