Friday, April 14, 2017

My first trip to Wales!

Back in December, I celebrated my birthday with a trip to the UK, where my parents were staying. I've been to north-west England a ton of times, but this was Jules's first visit somewhere other than London (and Edinburgh, if we're talking UK), so we aimed for a blend of old favourites to introduce to him and new places for me.

Hence my very first trip to Wales! It seems strange I've never been before, since my family has Welsh ancestry on my father's side, and Wales is really not far from where my parents are from. Plus it has some pretty cool features - like the Snowdonia national park (which we didn't go to, but got close enough to see the Snowdonian mountains), and more castles than any other country in Europe (if you count Wales as a country, which it's not really, but over 600 castles is still very impressive).

And it was to one of these castles, Caernafon, that we headed for my first taste of Wales. Caernafon is really impressive. It's pretty huge, seems fairly intact in terms of the stones, although not as far as whatever was inside is concerned, and has an amazing location by the sea and mountains. And we were super lucky with the weather, as you can see.

View from the town side

Caernafon as it currently stands was built from 1283 under Edward I of England, as a way to keep the Welsh down, man. Edward took the pretext of rebellions in Wales to wage a war of conquest against the country, which was previously divided between a largely independent (although feudally linked to the English crown) Welsh principality and spheres of Anglo-Norman control. After Edward's war and the construction of the castle, it was captured in 1294 in a Welsh rebellion and besieged at the beginning of the 15th century, but subsequently things calmed down in Wales and it lost its strategic importance and fell into disrepair over the centuries.

On the battlements
I'm not good enough at mountain-spotting to tell if one of those is Mt. Snowdon, but it's a pretty view in any case

The large circular bit in the middle is where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969. The first Prince of Wales, Edward I's son (later Edward II) was supposedly born in the castle. Legend has it that Edward I promised to give them a prince born in Wales, who spoke not a word of English - and fulfilled it with his baby son. (It seems that this bit is bogus though, even if Edward II was born there.)

Me in the courtyard and Mum and Dad on the battlements

View from the towers of the River Seiont

Caernafon is known for having polygonal, rather than round or square towers. It was intended to be particularly impressive as a symbol of English power in Wales, with a design perhaps inspired by Byzantine or Roman examples.

A dragon sitting on top of a war memorial
Cute painted houses seen from the castle

 Afterwards, we grabbed a light lunch on the square in the photo above. I was mildly surprised that the staff working in the cafĂ© spoke Welsh. I have known at least one Welsh-speaking Welsh person before, but it was kind of cool to see it in action as a working language, rather than something just taught in school or something. About 19% of the population of Wales said they could speak Welsh in the 2011 UK Census.

Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i'w gyfieithu, everyone!