After a lovely breakfast at our hotel, we had a real treat. Chef Andy, the lead chef here at the Castle Hotel, invited us back into his kitchens to teach us how to make a Welsh pastry! Courtney got to do the making, and I got to do the filming. My job turned out to be a much less messy one. Lots of butter (Courtney gave a shout out to Paula Deen), flour, currants, spices, etc. were mixed by hand, then rolled out and cut into small circles. Courtney then had to pan fry them (more butter) and give them a sprinkle of sugar. We could have eaten the whole pan! They were perfect. Andy and his staff of young men were busy bustling about the kitchen getting prepped for the day’s service. Pork was being trimmed, chicken boiled, vegetables sliced… wonderful group of fellows, and very talented cooks as well. Thank you, Andy!
Following the cooking lesson, I sat down for coffee and a chat with Peter Lavin, the owner of the hotel. He and his family have run the Castle for 13 years, and are doing a remarkable job! The attention to detail sets it apart – from the lighting of candles, to the uniquely decorated rooms. Everything is done with taste, and maintaining a homey feel. The hotel is built upon the site of a 12th century abbey, which Peter says give the hotel its good “feel.” The current hotel dates back from the 15th and 17th centuries. Of interest are the series of striking paintings depicting various Shakespearean works, done by a resident of the hotel in the 1800s named John Dawson Watson. (It is said he and the proprietress of the day were quite “close.”) These paintings can be found throughout the hotel. Peter is indeed a charming and attentive host, eager to share the stories of his hotel and other information about the environs.
Next, we headed out to explore. Last year we came to Conwy only briefly, and just had time to visit the castle, where we learned so much about the history of England and Wales during the reign of Edward I. Pretty ruthless fellow, but we are quite fond of his castles! Last year the castle was undergoing renovations, so we were glad to get to go back and see the improvement. Under Courtney’s ever-encouraging urging, I climbed all the way up to the tippy top turret,with the 4 inch deep twisty stair with a vertical rope for a handrail…all so she could get a “shot.” The things we do for friends! (Well, she is helping me conquer that fear of heights thing,,,,)
We also visited Plas Mawr – an Elizabethan townhouse just up the street. This one was built in the late 16th century by a wealthy man named Robert Wynn. What a remarkable home! Everything inside is pretty much just as it would have been in his time. Very much worth a visit. The best part was the view from the turret-like tower inside the courtyard. At the bottom, there was a sign: “Warning – steps at top get very narrow and steep.” Um….it was basically a ladder. That is about as narrow and steep as you can get! But further braving my fear, I climbed up and was treated to such a view – mountains, harbor, castle…
The smallest house in the UK is supposedly the tiny 10′ X 6′ red house on the quay in Conwy. We took a peek inside, pretty much one at a time. And really a peek is all it takes!Ridiculously tiny!
The sun came out en force just in time for us to do the walk of the town walls! The blue sky set the backdrop for some of the best views of the castle, walls, and surrounding mountains. We could even see the sea! There were several families up there walking the walls – all with stressed out, worrying moms. Apparently, the regulations for the height of rails over here must be much less stringent….at the top of one tower it was barely over knee-high! So kids frolicking around – because that is what one must do as a child on Medieval ramparts – causing moms to freak out about the low rails. I totally felt for those moms, because I would be panic-ridden as well! My solution: do not take small kids up there. It was a lovely walk, slightly rugged at times, but not at all strenuous. We ended the walk down by the quay, soaking up the fresh sea air.
We decided that we did not want to eat anywhere besides the hotel, because the food was that good! Not to mention the exceptional service and the fact that we had a cooking lesson with the chef! But tonight, we sort of went American. Macaroni and cheese for Courtney, and a burger for me. Welsh-style, of course! Hers was made with 3 kinds of Welsh cheese, and was presented so elegantly. Yes. Elegant macaroni and cheese. My burger was served with Welsh cheddar and bacon, on a “bap.” I did not know what that was, but it was basically a large, flat roll. Served on a slate! Probably from the Llechwedd mine we visited yesterday! So, yes. A Welsh-style burger.
We took a walk down to the water’s edge and caught the last pink glow of a sunset over the harbor filled with anchored sailboats, as the sun just slipped below the mountains. The end to another day filled with blessings – beautiful places, and lovely people.
Enjoying the journey with full hearts-
Heather and Courtney