Wales, Conway Castle and High Winds

One should not go to sleep at 8:30 at night.  Because one wakes up at, let’s say, about 4:30 in the morning.  However, I laid down to read and the Carnival Legend was gently rocking and the next thing I knew, I was sound asleep. No evening entertainment or shows for me that night! Too bad, because the shows are wonderful and the cost is included. This shot below is from the show on the Carnival Splendor. We sailed on her before. I can’t show you the photo from this cruise, because, obviously, I slept through the shows….all of them. Yep, every last one.

Carnival Splendor Show

The other disturbing thing that is happening is that I’m now dreaming in that cockney British accent. I’ve never had this happen before, except when I lived in France. And I’ve only been here for 10 days or so. And the problem is that I don’t understand about half of what they are saying.  You see, after 300 years or so, British and American English are only distant cousins, kind of like we are to them.  And when you take into consideration that English is a second language in most of London, you’re dealing with cockney British English spoken by a non-native speaker – and then you understand about every 4th word.  So I understand only part of what people are saying in my dreams.  But that’s OK, I just make up the rest to be what I want it to be!  It’s my dream, after all.

Yesterday was a “sea day” meaning we didn’t dock in any ports. We won’t discuss this particular sea day because the word of the day was “Dramamine.” High winds forced us to change the schedule as well, and we’re going to miss one of the ports I was very excited to visit, because the tour we had booked was going to go right past the last of the McDowell family whose DNA my McDowell family matches, in Northern Ireland, on King’s Moss Road in Ballyrobert, Newtown. When you’re trying to use DNA to find your family location in the old country, this is indeed the Holy Grail. I’m so close but yet so far.

The problem is that it’s storming and there are extremely high seas, 25-30 foot waves. To put this in perspective, waves are generally no more than 6-8 feet. The port of Belfast has closed and we’ve been rerouted. We’re going, guess where…. back to Liverpool which is adjacent Chester. In fact, Chester is one of the shore excursion options. Instead, Jim and I chose to go to Conway Castle in North Wales.

Try as I might, I could not find any ancestor who was from Wales. There is one rumored to be from Wales, one Peter Johnson supposedly born 1715 in Wales and who died in 1790 in Allegheny Co., PA. He married Mary Polly Philips. I also have a Thomas Rice, which is a Welsh name, rumored to be from Shirenewton, Monmouthshire Wales, born about 1660, but no proof. This probably means I just haven’t hunted deep enough, because someone has to be Welsh.

There is a Wales Cymru DNA project at Family Tree DNA for people who can prove their ancestors back to Wales. This project is for both Yline and mitochondrial DNA. Due to the importance of determining the genetic profile of the indigenous populations of the British Isles, The Wales/Cymru DNA Project collects the DNA haplotypes of as many persons as possible who can trace their Y chromosome and/or mtDNA lines to Wales; the reasoning by many researchers being that there was less genetic replacement from invaders in Wales than elsewhere, excepting small inaccessable islands and similar locales.

Having said that, tradition among historians holds that the Celts retreated as far west into Wales as possible to escape invading populations. The Wales DNA project seeks to determine the validity of that theory. Their long term goal is to identify the haplotypes of the Welsh Princes. They provide a nice list of resources on this page if you have Welsh ancestry.

I decided to dig a bit deeper. In the Rice DNA project, kit number 4086 is reportedly a descendant of Matthew Rice, who is probably the brother of my Joseph Rice (c1700-1766) who was married to Rachel. If this is the case, and if the project grouping is correct in terms of family association, then my Matthew could have been Welsh.

So, I’m going to enjoy Wales assuming that I do indeed have Welsh ancestry and I simply haven’t proven it yet! If nothing else, I’m Welsh for a day because today, we’re visiting Conwy Castle.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle (Welsh: Castell Conwy) is a medieval fortification in Conwy, on the north coast of Wales. It was built by Edward I, during his conquest of Wales, between 1283 and 1289. Constructed as part of a wider project to create the walled town of Conwy, the combined defenses cost around £15,000, a huge sum for the period.

Conwy Castle mockup

This rendition shows the town within the walls as it would have appeared in the 1200s when initially build.

Over the next few centuries, the castle played an important part in several wars. It withstood the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn in the winter of 1294–95, acted as a temporary haven for Richard II in 1399 and was held for several months by forces loyal to Owain Glyndŵr in 1401.

Following the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I, holding out until 1646 when it surrendered to the Parliamentary armies. In the aftermath the castle was partially slighted by Parliament to prevent it being used in any further revolt, and was finally completely ruined in 1665 when its remaining iron and lead was stripped and sold off.

UNESCO considers Conwy to be one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe”, and it is classed as a World Heritage site. The rectangular castle is built from local and imported stone and occupies a coastal ridge, originally overlooking an important crossing point over the River Conwy. Divided into an Inner and an Outer Ward, it is defended by eight large towers and two barbicans, with a postern gate leading down to the river, allowing the castle to be resupplied from the sea.

Conwy Castle exterior

The castle walls are absolutely massive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unfortunately, Conway Castle is so large that I couldn’t get far enough away from it to get a good photo.  The outside of it is at least 2-3 stories below the inside courtyard and castle main area where I was.  The entire city was walled with a total of 21 towers and everything inside was part of the castle complex.  The magnitude of this castle was simply astounding.  It only took 4-5 years to complete.  It was built in the 1200s and is in ruins today.  But they are beautiful ruins.  The 8 castle towers and walls are all still intact.

Conwy paraphet

Conwy view

Conwy arches

When we were in Chester, I wanted to walk the old city walls, but we didn’t get a chance to do that.  Here, I walked the walls, around the castle, but the wall walk at one time extended entirely around the city.

You can see in the photo below that the castle walls seamlessly transition into the city walls.

Conwy City walls

This photo gives you an idea of how large that wall actually is, as compared to the cars.

Conwy walls back

Conwy skyline

In addition, I climbed the very small, very tight circular stone stairs to the top of one of the paraphets, or towers.  The views were utterly stunning.  I’m glad I did it, but I won’t be doing it again.  Between the height, the wind and the motion sickness from the circular stairs, once is enough. The next few photos are from the paraphet walk.

Conwy Jim

And of course, there are sheep. There are more sheep in Wales than people.

Conwy sheep

The city as seen from the towers.

Conwy village

And the countryside.

Conwy countryside

And the harbour.

Conwy harbor

Sometimes rainy days make for stunning photos!

Conwy harbor 2

Can you imagine maneuvering a bus through the city wall? Well, our driver knew that there was only one wall entrance that had a 3 inch clearance, side to side, and that is the only entrance the bus would fit through. And it was not this entrance.

Conwy road

After leaving Conway Castle, we went and had lunch in Betws-y-Ceod, a resort area in North Wales.  We had lunch at the historic Village Inn where they served us lamb.  We had no choice in this matter.  So, I ate lamb.  I still don’t like lamb, but I did try it.  For dessert, we had strawberries and cream, which made up for the lamb.

By then, it was pouring but we had 45 minutes or so of shopping time, so we visited some local shops which is, of course, what tourists do.

There is a very quaint local courting custom.  Young men interested in young women would carve wooden spoons with highly decorated handles and give them as a gift to the object of their desire.  They are called love spoons.  The number of balls on the handle tells her how many children he wants to have, inferring of course, with her.  This custom is excusive only to Wales. You can see many examples in the LoveSpoon store, of course.

love spoons

We also tried Welsh cakes and had a little dessert picnic.  Welsh cakes are a cross between pancakes, cookies and biscuits.  They were different.  We tried three kinds, one berry of some sort, one with sugar and cinnamon – how could that be bad?  But the third was called “savory” and to me it tasted like it had lamb in it.  Not my favorite.

Welsh cakes

Back on our bus and back to our floating home. The great thing about cruises is that you only unpack once and the cruise line worries about logistics. All you have to worry about is getting yourself back on that bus at the appointed time.

Tonight at dinner, we left port just as we were seated.  As we moved out to sea, we saw a wind farm in the sea, followed by an oil rig.

Wind farm at sea

Oil rig

You can see how hard the wind was blowing because the flame at the top is burning sideways, not straight up.  Very rough sea tonight.  I’m ready for bed and I’m wearing my sea bands to bed tonight with my fingers crossed.

Our towel guy tonight was a scorpion and had a tea towel of the flag of Wales, a sweater I bought, the giveaway book about Wales and two love spoons on his fingers.

Towel guy Wales

2 thoughts on “Wales, Conway Castle and High Winds

  1. Nice story as usual. Conwy also has some historic bridges across the river Conwy. The suspension bridge, one of the first of that type, was built by Thomas Telford in 1826 and once carried road traffic. The towers of the bridge are designed to match those of the castle. Right next to it is the tubular rail bridge built by Robert Stephenson in 1848. It is similar to the other tubular bridge also built by Stephenson which crosses the Menai Strait to Anglesey.

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