Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cornwall!... and a few other things too

I am still terribly behind- it's almost ridiculous. This is really just not my type of thing; I usually write in my journal like every two months or so. Anyways, I left off with the Friday we went to Bath.

On Saturday went went to Caerphilly Castle and Castell Coch, but sadly I forgot camera. I had been switching my bags around and didn't get my camera moved over. Of course, they were both really cool castles. Caerphilly is one of the largest in Britain, and Castell Coch was built by the Lord Bute who lived in Cardiff Castle. Both were amazing, but in very different ways. Caerphilly was impressive and imposing and Castell Coch felt like a fairytale castle tucked away in the woods. Hopefully I will get some pictures from my friends, and then I can post them here.

We didn't do any travelling on Sunday, and then on Monday we went to Big Pit- a coal mining museum. I am sure that this sounds absolutely riveting, but let me reassure you just in case you feel skeptical- it was very cool. We had a tour of the mines (which are no longer operational) from a miner who was absolutely hilarious. Going down into the mines was very interesting, and the museum exhibits above ground were well put together and engaging. I definitely recommend it.

After Big Pit we went across the town to the Iron Works- which were not interesting. Although it was rather morbid. Spaced at different parts of the Iron Works were metal post with sound clips describing what went on in that area (half of which didn't work). One of these contained the simulated sounds of a person being crushed. I am not really sure of the educational value of that particular retelling. The only redeeming quality of the Iron Works was this cool building:

We finished off the day with a couple of Roman museums in Cearleon. There was also this nifty gate in the town:

Tuesday was a round of marcher lord castles- plus a few other things. We started with Coity Castle, but it was closed so we went over to the Margham Stone Museum. I was a tad skeptical, but it turned out to be a pretty cool place. They had a lot of interesting stone crosses and such.

Then our Prof. called about Coity castle, and they said they would open it for us, so we went back. We were given a tour by a skinny old man with horrible teeth- who also knew a LOT about the castle. Unfortunately it started pouring down rain. We were all huddling under umbrellas, freezing, almost none of us could hear him, and he just kept talking. And then my umbrella started leaking. However, the castle looked very mysterious in the rain, so I had fun.

Then we hit Ogmore. Thanks to the rain it was a bit flooded there, and we got this awesome picture with all of us out on what had become stepping stones.....which I do not have a copy of. But I'm hoping to get one.

Our last castle of the day was Newcastle. I hate to admit it, but by now it would have taken something seriously amazing to impress me. I was feeling a little over-castled.

We ended the day with Eweeny Priory, where a funeral had just ended. We had to park at the bottom of the road (it was too skinny for traffic going both ways, especially when one vehicle is a 17 passenger van) and walk up. I felt incredibly awkward, but we just went to the edge took a few pictures of the building, and then left.

We started Wednesday off with a few church history sites, including Benbow Pond, and climbing a big hill known as Malvern. The climb was steep and rather painful, but the astounding view was ultimately worth it.

Then we went to Tolkien's home town. He moved there from South Africa when he was four and it is generally believed that living in and exploring the area inspired scenes in his books. We first visited the Sarehole Mill, then his house, and then a nearby forest/bog with a stop at a sandwich shop called "The Hungry Hobbbit."

We ended the day with a visit to an art museum in Birmingham.

Now I'm finally coming to one of my favorite parts of this whole trip: Cornwall!

Our first stop in Cornwall was Tintagel Castle- an amazing place to start. Before going up to the castle (literally since it's on a cliff) we went to Merlin's Cave- a tidal cave below the castle. Luckily the tide was out so we were able to climb all the way through it. Not so luckily, my camera got a bit wet and acted silly the rest of the day. It was worth it though!

Climbing up to the castle was a pain, but it's one I've gotten used to. One doesn't often think about the fact that most castles are in high places i.e the tops of cliffs and hills. The reason for which I now completely grasp: going steeply uphill sucks. I can only imagine what it would be like in armor!

However, seeing the castle is almost always worth the sweat, and Tintagel certainly was not an exception. The view was absolutely astounding.

After exploring the ruins a bit I went back into town to get a Cornish pasty for lunch and do some shopping. Tintagel is supposed to be the birthplace of Arthur, so naturally 'mystic' people flocked to it. There were some cool shops- and a LOT of pretty, shinny Celtic jewelry. I definitely enjoyed myself.

Our next stop was St Ives, a cute town on the coast that was absolutely packed with people on holiday. And vicious seagulls. When we got out of the vans we saw a sign warning people to watch out for the seagulls because they would try to steal food. After experiencing the seagulls in Cardiff that like to rip open trash bags I believed it, but I wasn't prepared for how vicious they would be. They would swoop down and grab the food right from your hands! One girl was about to put it in her mouth when the seagull attacked and it cut her lip! About half a dozen of the girls on the trip were molested by seagulls. After St Ives "The Birds" seems so much more plausible.....

After St Ives we checked into our hostel in Penzance (which was VERY nice) and drove out to Land's End- arguably one of the most breathtaking magnificent places I have ever been to. I've now decided that I need to build a house on the coast of Cornwall with lots of bay windows where I can curl up and watch the sea.

Finally we went Carn Euny- a Bronze Age village that had been inhabited for 900 years- and guess who forgot her camera?.... again. Which is sad because it was a cool place. When we finally got back to hostel we were all exhausted- it had been a seriously full day.

Then I got up early Friday morning to join the 'dawn patrol' to see a few more sites. We ended up wandering around in fields quite a bit, but we found two of the sites: Men an Tol and a quoit.

The Men an Tol is reputed to be able to do two things: increase fertility and/or prevent rickets. While the latter wouldn't be too bad, I definitely did not want the former side affect, so I maintained my distance. However a lot of girls climbed through. No thank you.

After seeing the quoit we hurried back to the hostel for breakfast and then moved out. Our first stop of the day was St Michael's Mount, which is sometimes an island and sometimes not. It was low tide when we arrived so we walked across the causeway to the island. We explored the town a little, and then went to the top to see the castle. What a view! Maybe that's why they built castles at high points- not for defense but for the view. The castle/house was also pretty nifty.
They had some crazy flowers at St Michael's too! There was this weird rose tree thingy. I have never seen anything like it!

Next we hit Lanhydrock- one of the coolest stately homes in Great Britain. It's an Edwardian home, which isn't really my favorite style but they way they have the inside set up is phenomenal. It truly feels like the family has just stepped out and you're getting to peek into their lives. Also, it's kitchen is comprised of ten or so rooms, which is just awesome however you look at it. After touring the house I explored the gardens a little. So many homes here (everyday homes included) have lovely gardens; it's given me a desire to create one for myself.

Our final stop of the day was Cotehele, another stately home. By the time we got there the house was closed, but we were able to walk around the gardens. I found this beautiful pond, and was able to take an amazing shot in the water's reflection.

Also we found this rather creepy statue:

I think it looks like the evil queen's hand in Snow White.

Finally after Cotehele we came home to Cardiff. Cornwall has definitely been one of my favorite places (although I seem to have many favorites), and despite it's tiny roads I want to explore it some more. We had some great experiences taking a large 17 passenger van down roads where two normal sized cars couldn't fit. Roads that are often up or down hill. With tall hedgerows on either side that scrap gratingly against the sides of the van with a sound worse than nails on chalkboard. Our poor driver Ana was more than a little stressed out! My recommendation for anyone who wants to visit Cornwall: rent a small car.

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