Today’s itinerary was action-packed. It started with a tour of the historic City of Chester, England, then a concert at the Chester Cathedral, and finally a scenic drive to the adjacent country of Wales which included a tour of the Welsh castle in Caernarfon, followed by a delightful group dinner.
Our guide began the day with a walking tour of Chester, which is perhaps one of the oldest cities on the British Isle. Chester was once a city in Caesar’s Roman Empire. Much of the city today has been built on top of the Roman structures and roads of antiquity. Some remnants of the ancient Roman city, including the ancient wall that was erected around the city to protect its inhabitants, can still be seen today. Tourists can walk around the entire city, which only spans two and 1/2 miles in length. We saw the Chester amphitheater where gladiators once fought, as well as its stronghold room for protection of valuables – much like a safe. After our guide’s thorough tour of the city, we quickly changed clothes to leave for our concert and excursion into Wales.
The Chester Cathedral, a religious structure originally built by the Catholic Church, has endured numerous transformations and currently exists as a Protestant church. This majestic landmark is more than 900-years-old and was the site of our afternoon concert. The priest on-hand thanked the choir for leading him and the community in worship, which was well-attended for a mid-afternoon Friday performance. Our brief stint in Chester was followed by a journey to Wales, a country to the immediate west of England.
The United Kingdom is made of four different countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland or the southern portion of the Irish Isle (where we had our layover in Dublin) broke away from the United Kingdom in 1922. The official language of Wales is both English and Welsh. Despite being much older than English, Welsh is spoken by only 20 percent of the population.
The Welsh-speaking population from the eastern portion of the British Isles migrated to the western portion of the island. As a result, all traffic and street signs are in both English and Welsh. For example, the signs for “Police” also had the word “Heddlu,” which is the Welsh word for police. Our first destination in Wales was the ancient Caernarfon Castle. This formidable structure appeared as strong and solid as when originally constructed in the 13th Century. A grand view of the entire town of Caernarfon was viewable from the castle’s peak. King Edward I of England (Braveheart) built many castles to suppress the Welsh and exercise his dominion.
After the Castle tour, we drove around the Welsh highlands to see the beautiful mountainside and countryside. Our passage through Wales brought us to the Welsh town of Conwy, which is Welsh for Conway! I loved the fact that an entire Welsh city had my surname. We even saw the Conwy Castle, where my relatives must have resided in the medieval times (just kidding). We had a great dinner on the Conwy river overlooking the Irish sea with candelabras and good conversation. After dinner, we had an hour drive back to our hotel in Chester, England for our last overnight in this historic city. Next, it was on to Shakespeare country in the morning!