UK: Day Nine

Day 9:

June 23, 2014


IMG_5265Today I learned that the big blue lines on our road map are not rivers, but “motorways” the biggest of the roads that we’ll be traveling. Discovering that has been extremely helpful for navigational purposes.

Made to order chocolate treat!
Made to order chocolate treat!

The weather was dreadful, but we spent 5 hours touring the Cadbury Factory on the outskirts of Birmingham, so it’s all good. The Cadbury brothers figured out how to make yummy chocolate (not bitter) by mixing it with milk and their best selling product the “dairy milk” bar was born. “Cadbury World” had several Disney-style exhibits walking visitors through the history of chocolate. There was also…the history of the factory “Bournville” (that opened in 1904), a wonky kiddy ride reminiscent of the Winnie the Pooh ride at Disneyland and a factory tour. The factory wasn’t functional today because it’s Sunday, but we did get to walk through and see the machinery and read a bit about how it all works. There were also informative videos showing how their most popular products are made. Cadbury is the #1 chocolate maker in all of Britain and there are more varieties of chocolate bars than you could ever imagine. I went a little crazy in the gift shop. Surrounding the factory is the “town” that was created for the workers that came to work at the factory, including a school, housing and recreation, such as a swimming pool and cricket pitch. These things were all built to improve working conditions for workers during the Industrial Revolution. After the inside tours, Jeff and I were exhausted so we let the kids play on the playground for a bit, saw a magic/clown show and hit the road.

This place has chocolate plumbing!  Seriously.
This place has chocolate plumbing! Seriously.

Read about the Cadburys and their vision here.

Caernarfon Harbor, just steps from our hotel.
Caernarfon Harbor, just steps from our hotel.

We decided to change plans slightly and drive 165 miles northwest to Caenarfon, Wales (pronounced: kar-narv-on). I was starving because we hadn’t eaten a meal yet, but Jeff made us drive three hours to the hotel before we could eat. He said it was “hunger strike” payback for the “death marches” of previous days. The drive to Caenarfon was beautiful. Jeff said that the roads were as narrow as the roads to Hana that threaten to void your rental contract, but “fun to drive.” (For the record – we went the whole way around the Hana loop and the car rental company was none the wiser.) As soon as we crossed into Wales and out of the hustle and bustle of Birmingham, we were surrounded by idyllic sheep dotted rolling hills. We had to pass through the “mountains” (highest peak 3,560 ft) and slope down to the sea. We were all excited to see the water again. After checking in to the hotel, we had a lovely dinner and packed it in for the night.

UK: Day Eight

Day Eight:

June 22, 2013

Warwick Castle
 "Can Shakespeare come out to play?"
“Can Shakespeare come out to play?”

We got up and got moving today. After a short walk into Stratford-upon-Avon for some pastries and tea, we took a “short” drive (12 miles) to Warwick Castle. I’ve finally figured out that English traffic math is roughly Port Orchard traffic time TIMES TWO. In other words, every journey takes about twice as long as you think it should. Now I understand why Bill Bryson said in his “Notes from a Small Island” something like ~ If you want to go anywhere in Britain, you should’ve left last week.

Did someone say "Trebuchet"?
Did someone say “Trebuchet”?

Warwick castle is a “medieval castle developed from an original built by William the Conqueror in 1068.” It later became an 18th and 19th century residence. It is now run by the largest theme park operator in Britain (they also own the London Eye, Madame Tussaud’s and the London Aquarium), making it a genuine castle with theme park twist. It was perfect for the kids. There was a princess tower with stories and dress-up, interactive exhibits on the Victorian era at the castle (Queen Victoria’s son Edward partied here with his mistresses) and preparing for medieval battle, a trebuchet demonstration (cool!), a birds of prey show, and a medieval warrior weapons show demonstrating the various weapons of 12th century knights (with hunky knights- always a plus). There was also a peacock garden with at least a dozen peacocks just chillin’ in a baby hedge maze in front of a giant glass conservatory building. We were also able to climb 530 or so more steps up the castle towers and around the embattlements. I am so glad we found more stairs! Jeff said after the stairs at St. Paul’s that these were “baby easy.” We outlasted most of the cars in the parking lot again and made our way back to Stratford-upon-Avon to find some dinner. After an authentically British dinner (and gin!) in a 17th century inn, we walked back to the hotel and we were all in bed by 9. Tomorrow, we’re off to Cadbury World!DSCN0788