Hey! This is Geoffrey blogging for the first time on this trip. Well it was an exciting day on Monday, May 6. We started the day by going to Conwy Castle where Tate gave us an enthusiastic tour. There was much gesturing of arms as he pointed out each of the 8 towers the castle had. Tate then took us up to the wall giving us a good view of Conwy and the coast. He then took the group up Chapel Tower, then again up the King's Tower. Now Conwy castle is very much intact and its towers can be seen from much of the town and countryside. These big towers are what we climbed and as with all medieval towers, it was a spiral staircase. I personally don't mind the climb or the staircases and the way Tate was running up and down them, he didn't either. Much of the rest of the group would disagree. Given the choice I think they would prefer to admire towers from the ground.
Well, both towers provided excellent views of the countryside, and the towers themselves were interesting. The Chapel Tower of course had a chapel within it, and the King's Tower was the tower that would house the King of England, namely Edward I, when he would stay there. Of course, all the decorations that would of gone with this tower were long gone.
Tate concluded his tour after descending the towers and showing where the Great Hall used to be. We then turned our interest to the display going on in the courtyard. That day was a Bank Holiday which is simply a day off work for many people in the U.K. and allows places like Conwy to have events and displays. In the courtyard were two men dressed as knights and they were the handlers of some birds of prey. They had a Barn Owl and two Harris Hawks. One of the hawks was still a little new to training so she was kept away from the people, but the other two were trained and well, I might add. We were allowed to pet the owl on the head and the hawk on the chest. The Barn Owl was soft and fluffy, while the Harris Hawk was smooth and lean. One of the trainers also had the hawk stand on his arm and he would hold her above people's heads and have her spread her wings so that photos could be taken and people would appear to have a hawk on their head. The knight also let some of us hold the swords he had. No need to worry, they were very dull, but very cool all the same.
The handlers then directed us to go to the foot of the castle where the rest of their group was displaying more birds. This we had to see so we went and what an experience it was. There were three more handlers there and they had another Barn Owl, a Buzzard Hawk, a Bengal Eagle Owl, a Peregrine Falcon, and a European Eagle Owl. Thanks to Dr. L making a donation to the handler group, we were allowed to hold the birds. A handler would give us a thick glove and a short rope tied to the leg of the bird so it won't fly away and then they moved the bird to our arm. The birds were so well trained that they didn't try to fly away and sat calmly on our arms. A few of our group members are not fond of birds or animals in general, so they observed from what they deemed a safe distance. It was a blast for the rest of us. I was one of several to hold the Peregrine Falcon, which is the fastest bird in the world by the way. Some also held the Bengal Eagle Owl and the finale was the European Eagle Owl. It was definitely the biggest bird there and Adam, Julia, Jenny, and Eric all got to have her on their arm. I'm sure it was a comfort to be told by the handlers that this owl's talons had enough gripping power to crush the bones in their arm, but they enjoyed the experience none the less.
The handlers were also dressed as knights and had their reenactment gear with them. After we finished holding the birds they let us hold and handle some of their gear, mainly their chain mail. The chain mail shirt they had weighed 60 pounds and when they said we could put it on I just had to give it a go. Now, that chain mail shirt was long, for once I got it on it hung to almost halfway down my thighs. The handler then had me put on a head piece of chain mail that wears on you like a hood. He then gave me a sword and I was free to stand around in my medieval regalia.
Once wearing it the weight is not so bad though it does restrict arm movement. However, due to its size and weight I needed the handler's help to get it off. He had to pull it over my head while I was down on my hands and knees. Now we know why knights had squires. I couldn't blame the other members of the group trying on the other chain mail shirt they had which is open at the front and can be put on like a coat.
After all the fun with the birds and gear we moved on to a house in the town of Conwy called Plas Mawr. It was built during the Tudor Period meaning during the reign of King Henry VII and his family line. It was st up to look like it did in the Middle Ages and it had audio tour guide remotes which would tell about each room in the house. The real interest though was in the two interpreters, people reenacting a medieval person. There was a woman who talked about the herbs and vegetables of the medieval times and how they were used.
There was also a man being a medieval surgeon and he had all the medical tools that were used back then, including a live leech. He told about how a surgeon would do bloodletting to solve a headache and the way they knew you had lost enough blood was when you go pale from the loss of blood. It actually had the placebo effect of believing it works so patients would feel better. He also told about how surgeons dealt with a serious concussion; the brain swelling and bleeding. He described all of this as if he was doing it, so he would cut the scalp, and drill a hole in the skull with a drill that will pull out the circle of bone drilled. He drains the blood until he thinks it looks good, pushes the brain back if it plugs the hole, puts the bone back in the hole, or a silver coin if he loses the bone. Sews everything back up, and lastly lathers the place with honey as an antibiotic. Amazingly this actually worked, though the non washing of hands and medical tools leaves a lot of risks for the patient in the way of disease, but such things were unknown at the time.
After Plas Mawr the group went its separate ways, everyone eventually visiting the Aberconwy House which is a 1400's medieval house that has survived the ages of war and progress. It was small, simple, and the thing the personnel who worked there seemed most proud of was that the house had been prevented from being taken to the U.S.A. in the early 1900's. Nice to know we almost had a medieval house in America. Apart from that everyone explored and enjoyed lunch and sweets in the town of Conwy. At 2:30 we met up to grab our bags and take a 3:21 pm train to Leominster. The two and a half hour ride was spent in silence as everyone slept. We're now in a hostel in Leominster which has a lack of hot water and wooden bunk beds which creak something awful. Still though, it was a great day and hoping for more to follow.