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Clements Expedition to England, Wales, Scotland

Clements Expedition to England, Wales, Scotland

Aug 9th, 2009, 12:35 PM
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Clements Expedition to England, Wales, Scotland

Devon Part 1
There are a smattering of trip pics on Flickr at: www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/page12/ this should start with the last page which is the beginning of the trip. (reverse chron order is just a pain sometimes, sorry).

In deciding where to go after Cornwall, I had to consider that DH wanted to see Plymouth and maybe walk in Dartmoor National Park. I didn't want to stay in Plymouth, because it is a big city. So I looked at some of the smaller towns around it and found Totnes. I chose Totnes because it had or was close to two steam railways, another priority. It was a great choice. We stayed at Great Grubb B&B and they did serve a good breakfast. The owners were friendly and gave us some tips about the town. It is one mile from the Dart River, but only a half-mile from the picturesque bridge building over High Street. Again, it is also a bit more than the 10 minute walk from the train station that they advertise on their website, and its uphill.

We arrived on the train from Redruth about 3:30 pm, checked in, washed up, and went to look at the town. It was just after 5 pm and the shops had all closed, but it was a pleasant walk and our first mission was to find the place we would go the next day to start our “round robin” trip. The Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway has this wonderful set up where you can complete a circular trip by boat, ferry, steam railway, and bus, between Totnes, Dartmouth, and Paignton. You can choose to go clockwise or counter. We choose counter-clockwise because we started with a cruise down the Dart River. After we found the dock for that, we walked back across the river and DH took several pictures of the tidal mill. It was low tide, even this far up the Dart, the tide affected the river and we found the Morrison's grocery store and bought a few supplies, like milk chocolate digestives for me (yum!, DH says they taste like cardboard, so I didn't have to share after the first biscuit). And back to bed – for me at least - DH discovered cricket on tv and for the rest of trip watched as much as could to try to figure out what it is all about.

By 9:30 the next morning we were at the dock to begin our day trip. We had a arrived just after a tour bus had unloaded, but they were still selling tickets for the 10 am boat. I didn't think we would get on, but they can get a lot of people on that boat, and dogs. We had by now, found out that dogs go wherever people, almost, in England. We had seen dogs on the train, on the buses, and now on the boat. The people next to us had a Northumbrian terrier, which we mistook for a Yorkie, but were corrected by the owner. It spent most of the trip under his owners' seats. The commentary along the way was informative and even funny in places. Along with some charming small towns along the river, we also saw the trees that surround Agatha Christie's home. A tip if you ever want to visit, is to get your tickets early. The guy doing the commentary on the boat said that they have more people who want to visit than can be accommodated at the house.

We arrived in Dartmouth before noon and decided to look around a bit while the tour people headed directly for lunch. We thought we would let them eat before getting our own lunch. It was our first encounter with a senior tour group, although we were to run into senior tour groups all through our trip. Very few foreign tour groups, but lots of British seniors getting out and about. On our way to the tourist information center(TIC) in park, we found a line-dance group performing in the park complete with cowboy hats, boots, and belt-buckles. Not something we expected to find in Dartmouth. The TIC office has a Newcomen Engine which was running when we were there. So DH took lots of pictures. Thomas Newcomen was from Dartmouth and they are proud of the man who invented the steam engine that made pumping water out of mines practical.

We tried to follow the walking tour brochure we purchased at the TIC, but going backwards, didn't work out at all well so we gave up after a half hour. We did see one warehouse that had been built in the 1400s and was still in use! We had an ok lunch of sandwiches at the George and Dragon Pub before moving on to the merchant's house museum. Charles II had dinner in the building and they had some great boat models, those were the highlights of that museum. I wanted to go to the castle, but it would take too long to walk there and I was feeling cheap and didn't want to pay for the boat ride. Over all, I liked Dartmouth and maybe will spend a couple days there on a future trip.

Then it was time to move on. We caught the ferry across the river to Kingswear where the steam railway was and took our first steam railway journey. It was a nice little ride, although England has a lot of trees that block views and there are also the deep railway cuts with no scenery. If you are not a rail fanatic, and get excited over the different engines on the different lines, then one steam railway seems just like the other – except for the two Welsh railways we traveled on. At Paignton we boarded the bus for Totnes and arrived about seven o'clock. We decided on the local chippy for dinner. The dining room was closed, so we got our fish and chips and took our meal to the island park in the river and had our meal watched by a slightly aggressive seagull, who was displaced by an even more aggressive seagull before we finished. However, neither received any of our meal.
GBbabe is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 01:14 PM
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hi babe,

good start. only it wasn't the start - from what you say you started just down the road from me at redruth station. have you already posted that part of the trip? I hope not - I'd love to read the Cornwall bit.

BTW, I couldn't get your photo link to work.

Totnes is great isn't it? did you avoid the killer seagulls?

regards, ann
annhig is online now  
Aug 9th, 2009, 05:14 PM
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Photo link didn't work for me either. Disappointment.

However, I am enjoying your report (just wish it were all in one thread.) Please keep it coming.
irishface is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 07:32 PM
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Oops, sorry about the flickr link, it should be http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/ and then you scroll to the bottom and click on page 12. That will get you to the beginning.

annhig - yes I already posted the Cornwall stuff at http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...o-cornwall.cfm and http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...l-186125-2.cfm
because I am clumsy. But everything from now on will go here.

We just stared down the one seagull who got close to us, but he did look evil.
GBbabe is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 07:53 PM
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The people doing line dancing in Dartmouth reminded me of the square dancers in Freiburg, Germany. Madison, Wisconsin, is their sister city, so they named their group "The Madison Square Dancers." They looked pretty good with the fluffy skirts and peasant blouses, but the shoes were wrong. American women square dancers wear those Mary Jane-type shoes.
Pegontheroad is online now  
Aug 10th, 2009, 06:36 AM
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Thanks for updated photo link. I enjoyed the first of them and can't wait to get to the others later!
irishface is offline  
Aug 13th, 2009, 01:16 PM
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The next day we decided on skipping the steam railway that actually leaves from Totnes (South Devon Railway) and just take the regular train to Plymouth. We walked from the train station to the Barbican as the clouds closed in. We had packed rain ponchos for the trip to England, hearing how much it rained, but we had been there for a week without rain and left our ponchos in the B&B. That was the last time we did that. By the time we looked at the “Mayflower Steps” the Pilgrim Fathers walked down when they left Plymouth, rain was beginning to sprinkle.

We went to the the Admiral McBride Pub nearby for lunch. I ordered my first Ploughman's Lunch. I was surprised when it came because it was artistically presented on a square dish, with the apple pieces carefully stacked in one corner, the two cheeses artistically arranged in another corner, some ham in the middle with a pickled onion and the chutney in a small bowl and walnuts in another corner. I hadn't expected ploughmen to be so particular about the presentation of their lunches. DH is not a drinker, but he intended on this trip to try scrumpy in Devon, whiskey in Scotland, and rum on the Queen Mary II. So he had the scrumpy and said it tasted like paint thinner with an apple aftertaste. I guess I don't have to worry about him becoming a drinker. He also had tomato herb soup and bread to go with the scrumpy. The pub also had a sign that stated the actual “Mayflower Steps” were probably located under the ladies' room. I thought it funny that all the other port cities I have visited have built out into their harbors over the years, but Plymouth had refrained from filling in their harbor. They have a Mayflower Center right there, but we skipped that.

By the time we were done eating, it was raining but we headed toward the Hoe, going around the Royal Citadel. However, but the time we got out to the mouth of the harbor, the rain was coming down hard and the wind was very strong. We turned back and decided to explore the Barbican. It still has many houses from the 15-16th centuries along the original narrow streets. We went to the Elizabethan House museum. It is a late 16th century house that is set up as a house of the period would have looked. Then we made our way to Vauxhall/Notte streets seeing some of the places mentioned on a walking tour pamphlet I picked up at the TIC. We attacked the Hoe from the land side, since the seaside was so treacherous. The city buildings gave us cover from the wind, even along the Armada Way and up the Hoe. The rain had slackened by this time and it was mainly wind that we were fighting. DH wanted to see the statue of Drake, which we achieved. However, we did not get the view that Drake had of Plymouth Sound. The weather had pretty well closed in and we didn't even see a mile out to sea. The Armada could have passed unseen that day.

On the way back to the railway station, we stopped at a Subway and got sandwiches for dinner just in case the weather was bad back at Totnes, which it was, and we ate in our room and spent the evening in doors with DH watching cricket or football and I was using my computer to set up our next stop in Cardiff.

The next day we left our bags at the B&B and went to discover Totnes. By this time we had pretty much seen most of the sights on the local history tour, but we filled the gaps by going to the Castle, the guildhall, and their church. The castle is just the round keep, but it has great views over the town. We walked by the guildhall since it is the town office building and visited St. Mary church. It still has its pews but they will be going away soon. There were drawings displayed that showed how they were going to remodel the church. The alter would remain and the pews were going to be replaced by chairs. The back half of the nave is going to be turned into a enclosed cafe/bookshop with a new choir stall built on top. They seemed to be turning the church into a community center. I thought it odd at the time, but found later on our journeys that it is getting to be a common phenomenon.

Then we stopped and had our Devonshire Cream Tea and left on an afternoon train for Cardiff.
GBbabe is offline  
Aug 13th, 2009, 10:10 PM
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" They seemed to be turning the church into a community center."

Well, that's what it's always been.

Apart from a brief period of fundamentalist extremism between about 1540 and 1660, England's ancient churches have always been centres for all kinds of community activity. And they've been subject to continuous remodelling since they were first built.

Pews are a bit of a recent invention. There are scarcely any at all in England older than 1600, and the vast overwhelming majority of them are 19th century (pews are what the laity in the main body of the church sit in. They're not the same thing as choir stalls, which in some churches are what the clergy sat in).

Removing them doesn't just make it easier to have concerts and lectures: many clergy these days find chairs make for greater liturgical flexibility. Europe's biggest and most visited Christian church (St Peter's in Rome) has hardly a single pew.

One of the reasons you might have seen a lot of remodelling activity is that these churches are forever being tinkered with to keep their structures intact (those medieval masons were just as prone to jerrybuilding as their modern counterparts). If you're going to have to shore up a buttress or three, you often might as well do something else while the builders are in.
flanneruk is offline  
Aug 21st, 2009, 12:00 PM
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We arrived in Cardiff mid-afternoon, 18 June, and set off to find our hotel. I had used Priceline's stated-rate site to find the hotel because I couldn't find a better deal by bidding. We stayed at the Express by Holiday Inn in Cardiff Bay. I knew DH would want to see the bay and the picture on the Holiday Inn site showed that the Express was on the water. What it didn't mention was that the old east dock was now enclosed and while picturesque, there were signs warning that even looking at the water could be harmful to your health, never mind touching it! (ok, I exaggerate, but they warned against touching the water)

Since I couldn't print out the instructions on how to get from the train station to the hotel, I saved the map and Googlemap instructions on the route to take on my computer. When we walked out of the train station, I got out my EeePC and followed the map but not the instructions given by Googlemaps. DH was concerned that someone would see the computer and then rob us, but that didn't happen. I probably looked a bit weird, but that is only because I am ahead of the curve. A couple days later I saw another couple consulting their gps to find their hotel. Whether gps or netbook, I think more people will be using these systems to get around. The Express is about 1 mile from the train station but it is an easy walk.

Check in was easy and after a quick wash up, we headed to the bay. It is about a 20 minute walk to the Roald Dahl Plass. I was looking forward to seeing the Plass because I am a Doctor Who/Tourchwood fan. I was soooo disappointed to see that they were setting up a giant outdoor sports fair for the weekend in the Plass. I was expecting to see it empty, like it is in the TV shows. But I got DH to take my picture while standing on the entrance stone to Tourchwood. Later we found the entrance by the water. I also found the building with the outside staircase used for “Runaway Bride” and I saw the building in Cardiff on which Capt. Jack stands to contemplate life. This was Thursday and we were leaving Monday, so the Plass was filled with trucks, tents, and people the whole time we were there. Mermaid Quay wasn't the way I had imagined either, so I spent the weekend and little confused and disappointed. Now that I am home and had a chance to watch the “Boom Town” episode of Doctor Who again, I see that I made up some details in my mind.

We ate dinner at the Mermaid Quay three of the four nights. Pizza Express the first night, which had good pizza and Bayside Brasserie on Sunday night. I don't recall what we had, but it was good and we also had a wonderful view over the bay. That was the night we learned to have our cameras ready in the evening because while the light lasts past 9:30 pm, it changes quickly. The other place we ate was Demiros which we chose because they served some traditional Welsh dishes as well as Italian and Spanish dishes. I had a lavabread and cockle tortlet for a starter. The taste reminded me of liverworst – but I like liverworst. DH had a soup and then we shared a pizza. It was rather cold that weekend and we didn't eat outside, but most of the restaurants had outdoor dining when the weather is warmer.

After dinner on Friday and Sunday nights, Thursday night was too cold and windy, we walked around the bay. At one point we walked past the St. David Hotel and found the bird sanctuary. We saw a swan sitting on a nest. No other birds were around in sanctuary, but walking back, we saw two other swans and some ducks swimming around under a terrace at the hotel were some people were standing. They were waiting for handouts, but were disappointed.

Another night we walked into the older part of Cardiff Bay and found the Coal Exchange building. It is being renovated into shops and condos, but at one time, it was THE place where the world price of coal was set. Along with the Butte building at one end of the Plaas and the rail line down to the bay, these are all that remains of the great coal port of Cardiff.
GBbabe is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 11:48 AM
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On Friday, we took the train to Trehafod to visit the Rhondda Heritage Park. It is an old coal mine museum. You can't see very much on your own, you need to take a tour. Call ahead to check on tour times and you can even book your place on a tour ahead of time. We didn't know about the tours. When we arrived just after 11, we were told that the next available tour was at 3. The 1 o'clock tour was taken up by a school group. We didn't want to wait until 3 and the guy at the registered called the school group to see if it was alright for us to join them, which is was. We looked around the displays they had inside. There was a communications snafu and we didn't realize that there was a couple displays outside to look at. We had lunch in their cafe, which was good, although most of the welsh dishes had already sold out. Then we joined the tour. It is a very interesting tour that shows many different job duties in a coal mine. There is a underground portion, but I don't think it goes down very far. They seem to have had the money to install some Disneyland simulations. The ride down takes longer than it should, but comes with realistic sounds and movements (I have much experience riding in mine cages on tours). The tour ends with a simulated tram ride “out” of the mine. That is where the real Disney affects come in. I think it is a good tour introduction to coal mining, although they don't show how the coal was actually mined or the large machinery. The National Coal Museum of England near Wakefield does a better job showing the machinery, but it doesn't have the neat simulated ride. That took up most of the day. When we got back to Cardiff, we found the bus stand for our bus ride to the Welsh Life Museum, now known as St. Fagans (no appostrophe). Then we went for dinner at Mermaid Quay.

Saturday we took the bus out to St. Fagans. They seem to be in the middle of a name change. All the maps and tourist info we had called it the Welsh Life Museum, but they are now calling it St. Fagans National History Museum. It is in the town of St. Fagans. We arrived half an hour before they opened and walked around a bit. There are two buses that go to St. Fagans, one will go into the car park of the museum, the other stops in town near the castle. However, the Castle, while part of the museum, is on the opposite side of the museum grounds from the entrance. That is the bus we took. We walked around to the car park but before we went up the drive, we noticed the train crossing a little further on and went to look at that. Nearby is a small park with an information board telling how Queen Victory got off the train nearby when she was visiting the Castle. The board also talked about the battle of St. Fagans in the Civil War.

The museum has some indoor displays, but it is primarily an outdoor museum with buildings from all over Wales that have been moved there, except the Castle. It is large and it is worth it to pay for the Vistor's Guide and take a few minutes to plan out what you want to see. It is a very large complex and it wore me out trying to see it all. We just used the free map and bought the guide on the way out so we could remember all we saw. We started in the Agricultural Vehicle Gallery. I grew up on a farm and I found it fascinating to see all the equipment and learn about Welsh farming. They had great photos in addition to actual tractors and combines. There was one little display on peat harvesting, but all it had was a few photos and no explanation. I would like to know more about harvesting peat, but the photos I saw helped me identify peat harvesting in the Scottish Highlands when we went by on the train.

We gave the Costume and Textile Gallery a miss and DH looked at the social history gallery when we came back from touring the buildings. They have several farm houses of various sizes, but really, when you've one, the others are just slight variations. There is functioning farm that was interesting to walk around, although you have to watch out for tractors and horse wagons. The horses are used for wagon rides for the visitors. The bakehouse is also functioning and has a teeny-tiny shop next to it where you can buy the baked goods. We had a slice of white bread with butter and a slice of barra bread – yummy, And the smells coming from the bakehouse were great. What I remember best is the row of iron workers' houses. They have six houses, each decorated in a typical fashion for 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955, and 1985. It was very interesting to see the changes through the years. How our society has accumulated stuff. The castle is also open and was a great contrast to most of the other houses in the museum.

We were worn out when we got back to the hotel so we went next door to the Wharf pub for dinner. The food was good, inexpensive, and they have free wi-fi.

Sunday we took the hop-on-hop-off tour bus from the Quay. We got off at the National Museum. We first looked at their art collection. The Lonely Plant guide talked about their impressionist collection, which I wanted to see, but it turned out to be about 10 paintings in one room. DH went through the rest of the museum looking for something on the history of Wales. He found mostly geology and archeology stuff. There wasn't much about the general social history of princes and wars and government.

The bus commentary was very informative and we got off before it headed back to the bay. DH wanted to walk around the city a bit. We missed the last hop-on-hop-off bus back the bay and walked back along Lloyd George Ave. It is lined with newer buildings that replaced the warehouses that had been there before. There is real difference between this newer development and the older neighborhoods on the other side of Lloyd George Ave. and the railroad tracks. The older neighborhoods were built by the Lords of Bute for the dock workers. Bute Street has a much different feel to it than Lloyd George Ave.

On Monday, before we took the train to Swansea, I bought a cheap phone at the Orange store. I found I really needed a phone in order to call ahead or get directions. It was only £10 and some of the best money I spent on the trip. In Swansee we stayed at a guest house that was officially closed. The owner couldn't compete with the newer hotels and their special rates (I couldn't find any) but if people called the old number, she would still rent out a room, but didn't serve breakfast any more, so we got a cheap rate.

After dumping our bags, we headed for the National Waterfront Museum. DH teaches museum science so when he goes to a museum, it is to learn about whatever the museum is about and to how they present that information. He says that museums can have one of two problems, not enough money or too much money. The Waterfront Museum falls into the latter category. It is new with all sorts of fancy bells and whistles and cacophony. It is one of the noisiest spaces I have been in. It also forces you to go through the museum in a specific order – FOR NO GOOD REASON!!!! There is no progression through the galleries, no chronological order. They just want you to go through in a seemingly arbitrary order. Newer museums are also darker than older museums because museums now understand the damage light does to artifacts. But that doesn't mean I have to like the darkness. In addition to loud talk of the three school groups who were there filling out their museum worksheets, the museum itself seems to think people need random noise. Disembodied voices droning on about this and that. Sometimes there are snippets from oral history recordings, which may or may not be interesting. For an area with displays about sports, there was crowds cheering for no good reason. Noise, noise, noise. That is what I remember from this museum. I am not sure that children are learning more at these types of museums than the older ones. The school children we saw were intent on filling in their worksheet, find this, find that, what color is this... etc. It is very easy to fill something out without learning anything about what you are looking at.

We wanted to go to the Swansea Museum, but it is closed on Mondays. So we went off in search of a bus to take us to the Mumbles. Once again, we fell afoul of incomplete directions and maps that didn't show all the streets, so it was easy to take the wrong turn. But eventually we found the bus stop and took the bus out to the Mumbles. The coal miners and their families would take the train out of their valley and go down the Mumbles to enjoy the seaside. There is a long pier which today costs 50p to go on. But it provided a fun day out away from the smoke filled valleys. We walked from the bus stop, out to the pier and back again. Finally ending up at the White Rose for dinner. The food was good and even with a coke, dinner for the two of us was under £10!
GBbabe is offline  
Sep 21st, 2009, 10:22 PM
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Sorry about the delay in continuing this report. It took some time to get used to being back home.

June 23. We were off to northern Wales. We took the “Heart of Wales” railway line from Swansea to Shrewsbury. It was one of our lovelier train rides in Britain. The views are amazing and there are few trees or cuts to block the views. We changed trains in Shrewsbury for Bangor and arrived about 2:30. There is a bus stop near the train station, to the left and up the road a couple yards. The bus driver couldn't understand my pronunciation of Caernarfon at first but then muttered “never heard it pronounced like that before” and gave us our tickets. We stayed at the Bryn Hyfryd Guest House up a little hill from the Morrison's (a grocery chain in Britain). I had tried for the Black Boy Inn in the old part of town, but they were booked. The guest house didn't have wi-fi and we ended up having our dinners at the Black Boy and using their wi-fi.

We had a lovely room with a balcony overlooking the backyard. It is amazing what can be done with such small spaces. In the US, backyards are mostly plain, with maybe a grill or playground equipment. But the yards we saw had summer houses, gardens, fountains and streams, very pleasant to look at. Our first evening, we walked around the old part of town, had dinner at the Black Boy, and walked along the waterfront. The next day we headed for the TIC to find out if there was a self-serve laundromat in town – they said there was, but when we checked it out, it was a drop-off laundry service.

Then we toured the castle. It is a very impressive castle. We climbed to the top of a couple towers which had great views of the castle and the town. We did not visit the Royal Welsh Fusiliers' museum which seems to take up one side of the castle.

We had lunch at a little tea shop down the narrow street by the wall of the old town. We had very good soup and a slice of bara brith for desert. Then we went in search of the station for the Welsh Highland Railway. We found it and bought tickets for the next day. DH then headed for the Segontium Roman Ruins and I headed back to the guest house to rinse out some clothes to last until we got to Liverpool. DH was disappointed with the roman fort. Being a teacher of museum studies, he always looks museums and historical sites differently than most people. He didn't think the interpretation of the site was done well.

Next day, we left on the first steam train out of town. By now, the railway runs all the way from Caernarvon to Blaenau Ffestiniog, but this summer, the Welsh Highland Railway ran to Beddgelert. From there we took a bus to Porthmadog where we caught the Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog. I had wanted to stop and visit an old copper mine at Beddgelert, but we barely had time to get from the train to the bus stop. The bus ride was exciting. The driver kept the door open most of the time and he drove fast down winding, narrow roads, all the while talking to a man in the front passenger seat and he did not keep his eyes on the road at all times! But we arrived safely in Porthmadog. We caught a quick lunch from a place near the railroad. DH was off taking pictures when the train guard closed and lock the carriage doors. I told him DH was still taking pictures and he said he would come back to let him in, if he could. The carriage we were in had bench seats running across the carriage and individual doors at each set of facing seats. The guard did make it back to let DH into the coach. Both train rides were wonderful. Snowdonia is beautiful. We will have to come back some day and spend a couple weeks, at least, just in Wales.

We stayed at the Isalt B&B in Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is on the hill above the railway station. We had a wonderful room and the breakfast the next morning was good. We arrived about 2:30, put our bags in our room and headed off to the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. The Lonely Plant guidebook doesn't have much good to say about Ffestiniog due to the large piles of slate, but the slate piles aren't visible from the B&B and I thought it a lovely town site. We found later that the restaurant selection is very limited. We ate at Sinatra's, the food was ok and I was very interested to hear the owner, waitress and a regular patron, all spoke in English while we were there. By this time, I was used to hearing Welsh all the time. And since they were only gossiping about what was going on in town, I would have thought they would do it in Welsh.

The Caverns are about two miles from the B&B and are worth a visit. They have a small town with shops and a pub, in addition to the mine buildings and tours of the underground workings. DH and I took the “Miner's Tramway” tour which was very good and they have a “Deep Mine” tour which we didn't take. The Miner's Tramway tour would be very good for people who didn't know much about mining and they explain they system of mining used in slate mines. The miners worked in groups of four, two worked underground mining large slabs of slate and the other two worked in the splitting shed, splitting the slabs into individual slates used for roofing materials. The group was paid as a unit depending on how many usable slates they were able to produce. From this pay, they had to pay for their own candles, blasting powder, fuses, and blacksmithing. What was left over, was split between the four of them.

Next day, it was back to the standard deisel train and on to Llandudno. Our objective was the bronze age copper mine on the Great Orme, a large headland that jutted out from the Llandudno beach. We had trouble finding the TIC in Llandudno because they had moved since my guidebook was printed and the signs in town were very confusing, but after a half-hour, we were able to find the TIC and ask about a place to leave our bags. They sent us to to the “bus station.” This turned out to be a large lot where coaches unload/load and a closed restaurant. There was no official signage and I thought the TIC and been mistaken, but some coaches pulled in to let out a tourist group on its way to the beach, and a man came out the building. After he told the coach drivers where to park, we asked about left luggage, and he said we could put the bags in the old restaurant, he would be there all day. It only cost 50p. We really didn't want to carry our bags, so we locked them up and left them and headed to the Great Orme.

Here we found another difference in language, not just the Welsh vs. English, but English words meaning different things in the UK and the US. If you don't have a car and do not want to walk up the Great Orme, you can take a cable car or a tram. In the US, a cable car is a ground car pulled by a mechanism underneath and a tram is a gondola hanging from a cable. In the UK, the terms are switched. A tram is on the ground and the cable car is in the air. We took the tram up. At the top, there is a visitors center with restaurant, pub, playground, and the cable car station. On the way up, we saw the copper mine, which is a quarter mile down from the visitor's center. We had an indifferent lunch at the center before heading to the mine. This is the oldest mine I have ever been in. The bronze age caverns had been buried by waste dump of the shaft mine that had worked the copper deposits in the 19th century. At that time, they thought the old workings were from Roman times and people forgot about them as the waste material covered them up. In the 1980s, the local authorities decided they wanted to “pretty” up the dump site and started moving dirt around which uncovered some of the ancient workings. They have dug out a good portion of the ancient works and it is very sobering to think that the original miners worked with fat lamps and stone and bone tools. Many of the passages are very narrow, they only dug out what they needed to to get to the ore, although they hit an enormous deposit at one point which left a large chamber several stories high.

Coming down in the cable car was fabulous with a wonderful view of Llandudno, its beach, and the sea. The town is very popular with English visitors and looks like an English seaside town with a wonderful promenade which we walked along once we were back in the town. The prices posted outside the small hotels we passed seemed to be very reasonable, starting at £30 on up per person/per night. But we couldn't stay. We had reservations in Liverpool. We collected our bags from the “bus station” and headed for Liverpool.
GBbabe is offline  
Sep 21st, 2009, 11:13 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,136
This is a fascinating series of commentaries on Britain's fad over the past decade or two of pouring huge sums into trite showbiz-style "experiences" masquerading as museums. I completely agree with your general observations about the frequency with which they turn out to be vacuous noise machines.

But I must challenge you when you say "Newer museums are also darker than older museums". Many better, newer museums (like the Byzantine at Thessalonica, the Parthenon Museum, the Museum of London, Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland and Oxford's remodelled Ashmolean) are awash with light: the designers have used their brains to find ways of protecting the artefacts from light without keeping us in the dark.

Interestingly all of these (except, possibly, Edinburgh) are serious museums, almost devoid of the showbizzy junk that's taken over so much of Britain. Apart from a couple of recent museums dedicated to rare books (who have to be peculiarly concerned with limiting light damage), it's generally only badly designed new museums that add all this gloom. And din.
flanneruk is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 01:15 PM
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 320
flanner, thank you for telling me about the remodel of the Ashmolean. I will put that down as a must see the next time we are in England. After all, if DH is going to teach about museums, he should see the Ashmolean. I was in Oxford briefly in 2002 and "ran" through the Ashmolean too quickly. I have been enjoying the Lewis series on our PBS Mystery show. The production is using the university a lot more than they did when Morse was alive. I definitely need to get back and spend a whole day in Oxford and maybe slip in a quick visit to Blenheim, I know how much you think of that :^)
GBbabe is offline  

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