Day 7: Ironbridge, Chester, Conwy, Chester

 

Day 7 Photos (129)

 

We pretended to have found fault with the breakfast and then sang the chorus of “Proper Cup of Coffee”  for our hosts, and learned that Mandy was one of the administrators for the local country opera company for 16 years. This was in fact her last week on the job….finally retiring to run the B&B.  They had taken on and successfully presented such mammoth projects as Wagner’s Ring Cycle, with a staff of 2 ½ people!  Check it out: http://www.lfo.org.uk/

As it was a lovely morning we walked about the grounds of the mill, checking out the millpond, the iron bridge across the mill stream, and all the engineering feats that Rupert had supervised or accomplished himself. Final photos together at the front door, and we were off to Ironbridge.

We passed a lot more farmland and rolling hills moving out of the Cotswolds, and then worked our way down into the ravine in which the very first iron bridge spans the River Severn. A Quaker, Abraham Darby I, devised the technique in 1709 of smelting iron with coke which initiated the Industrial Revolution. More about all this at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/371

We strolled over the bridge and checked it out from all angles, up and down, and then spent some time getting smarter in the museum, a small but info-packed  two-story structure that was the active toll house for several centuries.

Lunch at an outdoor café just across from the bridge, at least until the clouds dumped a sudden shower and we scrambled to the only remaining indoor table to finish up, a bit soggy but glad that we’d gotten our time on the bridge before it started to pour. Pretty much cleared up by the time we headed back up the gorge to the main roads and set out for Chester, more than 2 hours away. We intended to check in to our Holiday Inn in Chester and take off right away for the medieval castle in Conwy, North Wales. Took a few moments upon our arrival to absorb the fact that this was a hotel on a racecourse (I had known that), but that the racecourse is the oldest on in the UK and was originally a Roman harbor we hadn't realized.

With a nod to the origins of Chester, we were on our way by 4pm, hoping to get to Conwy, an hour away, in time to explore inside the castle. No such luck, so when we realized we were too late for that, we found a crepe café and chatted with the young lad who made our dinner. Heard the woes of his working life having to deal with TWO managers, one of whom came in to say they were closed for the night and the other a few minutes later announced they were still open!  He said he couldn’t keep them straight. When we finished there, we fortified ourselves with ice cream cones and headed down to the quay. Posed Hank next to the “smallest house in Great Britain.” We set out to walk atop the walls of the town of Conwy, all part of the fortifications built by Edward I starting in 1292 to protect himself and his reign from the locals. Hugging the coastline in order to re-provision safely by sea. Walking all the way round on the city walls was an adventure itself and took over an hour. Lots of crows and rabbits, and views into townspeople’s back gardens, and the occasional peek into a church or other public space. We felt the breeze, smelled the salt of the Irish Sea, heard the sounds of night falling, and saw incredible views of the castle and the surrounding lands.

 I had hoped to sit in a Welsh pub and hear Welsh language burbling all around us, but the locals disabused us of that notion. Said we’d have to head into the remote countryside to get any of that—“around here, most everyone speaks English”—so we sat in a pub on the quay and Hank had a pint while I had some soda and crisps. Then back to the car and Chester for a “real” hotel experience – cookie-cutter room, but spacious and comfortable.

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