Monday, July 11, 2011

Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle

So, back to my amazing adventures abroad, in the midst of our stay in Stratford-upon-Avon we took a little day trip to two different castles! It was a pretty fun day. :) You know how I love my castles!!! The two places we went were polar opposites of each other. The first was Warwick Castle.

Warwick has a pretty interesting history. It was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror (who, by the way, I am a direct descendant of) on a bend of the River Avon and was used as a fortification until the early 1600s. At that point Sir Fulke Greville turned it into a country home. It has been involved in a lot of important events of British History. It held some prisoners from the Battle of Poitier, Then during the  15th century, it was used to imprison King Edward IV.

As I said, Warwick has a cool history- lots of wars and stuff. :) But in the 17th century it's focused turned from war fortifications to a tourist location. It was still occupied by the different Earls of Warwick, most of whom allowed visitors, until 1978. At that point, it was purchased by the Tussauds, of the Madame Tussauds wax museum, and it was turned into the ultimate tourist trap. It was a really fun place to visit. One of the coolest things about it was its peacock garden:

There were two female peacocks and a LOT of male peacocks. The whole time we were there the boys were fighting over and trying to woo the females. It was pretty interesting to watch. Plus, they're pretty. 

 Inside the different towers of the museum, you can definitely tell that it's owned by the Tussauds. First of all, because of the insane admission prices. All the cool stuff costs extra. The atmosphere of the place kind of feels like Disneyland without the rides. Like, if Disney had a land centered around the Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood. Oooh that would be cool. :)

Here I am with Queen Elizabeth. She and I are pretty tight. She offered to make me a Duchess, but I turned it down. Too much responsibility...

Ah yes, and here we are with our buddy Henry VIII. I didn't like him as much as Queen Elizabeth. In fact, it was kind of weird and creepy to see him life-sized. I wouldn't want to be around him when this museum comes to life at night. 

Yeah, so Kaity, Juan, and Becca gave good ole King Henry VIII the lip and this was their punishment. Tsk tsk tsk. They almost didn't make it out alive.

Anyway, I've discovered that I'm pretty creeped out by wax figures. They're so lifelike. Maybe it's because of that one old episode of Twilight Zone where all the mannequins in a department store come alive at night and turn some of the customers into mannequins too. But man, they were creepy. This tower was called the Kingmaker, and you go down into the basement at the beginning. When we first walked down the stairs, he was just sitting there at the end of the hallway. I wasn't expecting him to be there, so I may have jumped ever so slightly. :)

This horse made noises and flicked its tail around. He was creepy too.
My night in shining armor. I had to share him. >:( I think he kind of looks like Keanu Reeves...
This lady was creepiest of all...
As much fun as seeing the creepy demon wax figures was... my favorite activities at Warwick Castle took place outdoors- surprise, surprise.

That little dark line in the sky is a bald eagle. They have like five American bald eagles that they use to breed and show in the bird show. They were really cute. My favorite part was when they flew about 5 inches over my head. Yeah!

This was my absolute favorite part about all of Warwick! This thing is the world's largest working trebuchet. It's 59 feet tall and weighs 22 metric tons. It takes 8 men and a half hour to load and release. See that little wheel in the center? It's used like a hamster wheel for humans to pull back the lever. Then, once it's cocked and loaded, they had to run on it the opposite direction to unwind the rope from the wheel. It was a LOT of work for one shot. But it was really cool to see how it worked. It was a little more complicated and impressive than the one I made in 9th grade out of bamboo skewers. 

The weather on this day made me feel like I was in Idaho. There would be torrential downpour for like two minutes, then out of nowhere it would be totally sunny and like a million degrees. It was pretty confusing.
After spending most of the day at Warwick, we spent some time at Kenilworth Castle, which I absolutely loved! It was probably one of my favorite castles that we went to. Up to this point the only time I was ever alone on this trip was in the shower- so, about 5 minutes a day. :) But at Kenilworth I got to spend the entire time by myself. It was a beautiful place. I wandered around the dungeons alone and found a lot of secret passageways, then I went and stood on the tallest towers and felt like I was at the top of the world. There was also this really cool tree trunk. It was absolutely HUGE, and it was cut in a way that gave it the basic shape of a bench. I think I probably lied there for about twenty minutes just watching the clouds. It was really peaceful and amazing.

Kenilworth had some pretty amazing history, too. It was built as a stronghold in the 1120s. The walls are up to 20 feet thick to serve as an "unconquerable fortress." There were streams around it, but they were dammed to create a big lake that surrounded it. It's the largest manmade lake in England. The fortress became a royal castle under Henry II. Over the years it was expanded more and more, even the lake was made bigger until the castle was on an island. In 1279 it became one of 5 licensed Knight tournament grounds, after the Round Table of Knights and their ladies first assembled there to celebrate and compete. Another thing about it that I think is really cool is that in the 1560s, Robert Dudley (the Earl of Leicester) took over. He was one of Queen Elizabeth's (the "virgin queen") many suitors, and he built her a huge residential block that overlooked the lake, including a dancing chamber that was specifically for her use.

Something that I loved about Europe was it's hilarious signage.  Warning signs like this always had hilarious illustrations.

Another thing I loved about Kenilworth was its completely random works of art all over the grounds. This  thing is made of plastic toys and tupperware. There was also a giant chess board and a Scrabble board that said, "The fairies did it." It was really random.


Before I end this post, I need to add a little appendix to my post about the previous day. In addition to Blenheim Palace and Hidcote Manor and such, we also made a quick stop at Bourton-on-the-Water, which was a really cute little town. But the best part was this sign, located on the building where I bought the most delicious ice cream cone of my life:

Hee hee, it's so funny! I love British humor! Especially when they make fun of themselves.


Taralyn said...

Ha ha signs are great. :) Also I love the Night at the Museum reference--your active imagination makes me happy. And look at you holding Juan's fingers. ;-p I think every castle is your favorite!

Tiffany said...

Ha ha, I lol-ed at this post. "I would hate to be here when this museum comes to life." ha ha Also Matt Roloff would be drooling at that trebuchet. Not only is every castle your favorite, but every chocolate piece is the best piece you have ever tasted. :) hee hee.