Monday, 3 September 2012

Warwick Castle

Hello Readers,
We are slowing down from our summer of vacations.  Catching up on the household chores, getting ready for school... all of the fun getting-into-the-school-routine tasks.  Feels kind of nice after all of our travels.  Before we cover this weekend's activity and all travel to Warwick Castle I wanted to catch y'all up on a few items I skipped over during the last few posts.

First is our Better Halves Club.  Our first meeting in August was at Hackwood Farms where we sent off a member and a half.  For our lunch there was 5 half members, 2 three-quarter members, and 5 members.  Goodbye Sarah and adorable little Anna, we'll miss you.  Our second lunch in August was at Ember Pub & Dining (link) where we again sent off a member and a half.  This time there was 4 members , 1 three-quarter member, and a half member.  Goodbye Tracey and curly haired car loving Andrew, we'll miss you guys also.  Andrew and I were the token male members so its just me carrying the torch again.  We were missing some people in August due to vacations so we'll see how we do in September.  Hopefully we'll be able to pull in some more recruits.

End of August means Vegas Elvis has left the building.  He enjoyed rockin-n-rollin through the countries with the family.  Stay tuned for next month's facial hair.

Smouldering Vegas Elvis bidding adieu.  Lori misses him already.
On Saturday we visited "Britain's Ultimate Castle", Warwick Castle (link).  Although we are almost castled out we were told by a lot of people we had to see place.  It is set up as an entire experience with most of the structures still in places, period dressed actors roaming the grounds, restored rooms, and exhibitions throughout the day.  Timing wise it wasn't great for us coming off of the month of travelling but Sunday was the last day of the season to catch the castle experience in its full splendour so it was either see it now or wait until the spring.  Plus I had purchased the tickets before we did all of the travelling so we weren't as tired then.  But we survived and here's our day.  

The castle grounds map.  Pre-bookers use the fast track entrance.

Some peacocks in the Peacock Garden.  They wouldn't show us their full plumage though.
A few early castle facts for the people who didn't check out the link. 
914 AD - Ethelfleda orders earthern ramparts constructed for the threatening Danish Invaders.
1068 AD - William the Conqueror builds a motte and bailey fort.
1260 AD - Stone construction replaces wooden castle construction.
1350 AD - Caesar's Tower and Dungeon constructed.  Both are still in place.
1395 AD - Guy's Tower constructed.  It is still in place.
And on and on.  Numerous kings and queens visit the castle, people imprisoned, trials held, castle is attacked... all of the old castle stuff we have seen so far.  Not to diminish the castle, some of it is just a repeat of the surrounding history we see in a 2000+ year old country.  I love the history here while the fam is a little less excited.

The main building and central courtyard from Guy's Tower.

Guy's Tower info board.

Barbican and Gatehouse info board.

Caesar's Tower info board.

View of main building, central courtyard, The Mound (left center) and ramparts from Caesar's Tower

The Mill and Engine House.
 Part of the castle experience were staged rooms with mannequins from 1471 as the Kingmaker is preparing to go into battle.

Teresa Robinett pic - horse being suited up for battle.

The blacksmith working on the weapons and armour.

For below.

The Porter standing guard.  You can see the murder holes above. 

The women gossipping (some things never change) and working on the clothing needs for the battle.

For above.

Treasurer (no pic) info board.

The arm wrestlers relieving tension.

Richard Neville gives the troops a pep talk.  Fat lot of good it did him.
After the battle preparations area was the Great Hall and State Rooms area.  Nicely decorated now they must have been really fancy back in the day.

The famous/infamous Oliver Cromwell standing under his helmet in the Great Hall.  The English regard him as famous as he has a regal statue outside Parliament in London.  The Irish regard him as infamous as his wax museum exhibit in Dublin was a pyramid of skulls symbolising death.  

Info board from above.

The frame mentioned here is below.

Ornate frame from above.  Yup that's impressive.

One of the many visits from a Queen for Warwick Castle. 

Cedar Drawing Room, read below.  Clue on "Pregnancy Table" - look at the legs.

For above.

For below.

Can you see the hidden door?

Clock believed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette.  The twelve stations of Christ are depicted on the clock.

Anne Boleyn on top, Mary Boleyn on bottom.  Mary was supposedly a mistress of Henry VIII before he married Anne.

Painting of popular King Henry VIII.
See picture below.

Read about it above.

Fine wood carving in Chapel.

Chapel from late 17th century setting.  All castles had their own chapels.

Crossbow, swords and maces on display.

See Robert below.  The deaf and dumb sniper was mentioned at least three times that I saw.

The unlucky Robert Greville from above.  

Bronze Egyptian cannon made about 1871.

1851 Kenilworth Buffet from below.  Beautiful carvings although the picture doesn't show it.

Carving detail.

Kenilworth Buffet above, arquebus below.

The enormous arquebus gun.

World's largest trebuchet per the castle literature.  We made it down in time to see it launch nothing.  They wound it up and released it but the sling was empty - a little anticlimactic.  Kind of like watching Justin Verlander warm up then leave before he pitches in the game.  There was a fireball launching later but we were done for the day by the time it launched.

The kids also shot some arrows, here's Karl.
Here's Kalle.

KJ just nicked the bullseye, the only one to hit the bullseye on the longest targets.  Way to go KJ!

They had a jousting exhibition that was more comedic than realistic so we didn't stay for it all.  The English hero is in red and white.

After the jousting was the lame sword fighting display so we went back to the castle.
Next up was the Secrets and Scandals part of the experience in the State Rooms where you were introduced to the castle residents and friends.  The S&S referred to how the wealthy socialites in the late 1800's slept with each other but no one talked about it as long as certain protocol was followed.  Basically it was alright to do whatever with whoever as long as the two people never touched or were overly friendly towards each other at public appearances.  And these people thought they were better than everyone else.

Kalle called this knife and fork combo a fife.

Creepy sloth collecting tips.  Embarrassing enough to shoot a sloth, then you stuff it?

What Daisy thought of Winston.  Daisy was the lady of the castle at one point, we'll meet her later. 

A young Winston Churchill.

Daisy has a lot to say.

Madame Clara Butt.

Random bedroom pic.

Daisy was a "very friendly" lady.

Lion skin rug in the lord's bedroom.

More Daisy info - see her below.

"the greatest beauty of the Victorian era"

Check out the size of the bath tub. 

The rules for the servants.

Great Hall from above.  There was a wedding being held here later in the day.

Stained glass window.

Photograph of Daisy.
Next up was the gaol (jail), a small dingy horrible place.
See below, I think this is a predecessor of solitary confinement.  I can see why they called it "the hole".  The hole was about two feet by three feet by five feet deep.

For the pic above.

For the wall stocks below.
Read above and below.

For the pic above.
View from on top The Mound.  St. Mary's church in Warwick.  From an info board - one of the tombs in the church is Richard Earl of Warwick who oversaw the trial and execution of Joan of Arc. 

From The Mound - Guy's Tower on left, Caesar's Tower in back, State Rooms and Great Hall on right, Central Courtyard.  People are gathering for the warriors exhibition.

A new feature this week is the Jeff Seppanen sports pic/update.  After seeing the Dallas Cowboys star on his tunic I instantly started rooting for everyone he was battling.  C'mon RG3, lead us to the promised land!  Or at least beat the stinking Cowboys if we aren't going to the big one yet.  American football is starting up again and all I have is fut-bol to watch.  At least fut-bol doesn't have commercials so life isn't all bad.
The warriors exhibition was three guys sword fighting and stopping periodically to explain the differences between Hollywood sword fighting and real sword fighting of the 1600's and later.  A few tidbits - sword fights on the battlefields typically lasted ten seconds and were between three and five moves, the broadsword shown in the Jeff Seppanen pic above was given to boys when they reached the age of six (meaning it's a child's toy not a man's weapon), swords were rare on the battlefields because they were very expensive (knights and noble could afford them but most others could not), and fights between knights and soldiers rarely happened because they typically meant a quick death for the soldier.  I actually knew the last one (yeah me!) because of the knights skill/training and better weapons and/or armour. 

A mace display.  Per the actor - Christians used maces and blunted weapons because they couldn't use edged weapons like swords that would spill blood.  (Maces killed just as easily as swords as they showed with a cabbage.)  This puzzled me because when we toured the chapel (pics above) they said all castles had churches and the castle people were very religious but the noblemen had swords.  I think he may have meant monks and/or ultra-religious warriors instead of Christians.

Now we are onto the fun display - a poleaxe vs. a great sword - you can see the height of the sword next to the guy on the left.  Per the actors most swords were of this size (William Wallace size swords from our Scotland trip) instead of the smaller child's swords as is popular in movies.

One interesting point to me from the fight is that the great sword was held two handed as shown in close quarters combat which is rarely seen in movies.  The big sweeping sword swings would have left the swordsman defenceless and were not used.
My favourite part of the day was the birds of prey exhibition.  We saw four birds - Archie the North American Bald Eagle, his son Merlin, Ernie the Milky Eagle Owl, and Stanley the Sea Eagle.  Not only were birds great the handler was funny as he told us about each bird's different character and training methods. 

The magnificent Archie.  This guy was the star of the show with his six foot wingspan and fearless flying.  He would swoop down within inches of the people as he circled the crowd.

The handler said sometimes Archie flys so high he disappears from sight then dive bombs straight down.  I guess birds do this to cool down, the handler said NA Eagles can reach speeds of 100 mph.  I think Archie just dive bombs because he's awesome.
Next up was Merlin.
Merlin is a little flaky and easily scared.  The other trainer let him out and he flew to the castle instead of our trainer.  Kind of funny.
Merlin the immature North American Bald Eagle.  The trainer said that when Archie swoops down and looks like he is about to hit you he never will, he has that fine of flying control.  When Merlin swoops down and looks like he is about to hit you he probably will so brace yourself.
Next was Ernie.  Ernie is six months old and was pretty cute.  The crowd went awwww when Ernie hopped out of his crate.  The trainer is still working with him and warned us that he wasn't sure what Ernie would do which proved prophetic when Ernie got spooked a couple times and flew off to his favourite tree.  Fortunately the trainer has a pouch of raw meat and was able to bribe Ernie with his favourite treat - a raw chicken head.

Ernie debating if he should fly to his favourite tree or not.

The trainer showing off Ernie's natural instinct to swoop down and pin the prey down with his huge talons.  The prey in this case is a piece of chicken.

Instead Ernie slowly landed in front of the meat, turned and looked at the trainer, then bent over and grabbed the prey with his beak.  The trainer was not happy but said it was better than a month ago when they did this trick and Ernie landed ten feet short of the "prey" and proceeded to leisurely owl hop over to the prey.  Ernie was just plain cute.
Last was Stanley.  Stanley doesn't like taking directions and doesn't like the trainer withholding the chicken pieces.  The trainer would position his gloved hand up if he wanted the birds to fly more (tricks for the crowd) or out if he wanted the birds to land on his glove.  Every time the trainer's hand was up Stanley would swoop by and hit the hand with his talons.  It made a loud click sound and the trainer said it hurt.  Stanley was not a good boy.

Stanley has a lot of 'tude.  He wouldn't give me a good profile pic.
 A long distance shot of Stanley landing when the kids were shooting the bows during the first bird exhibition. The other bird pics are from the second show where we had front row seats.

Last shot of Warwick Castle.  A fun experience even with all of the castles we have visited.
Thanks for listening,

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a nice day out. Too bad about the trebuchet timing -- that was pretty cool to see.

    We went during the off season so didn't have all the demos that you did. We saw the birds, but not the jousting and sword fighting. Glad to see you didn't do the lame extras (Dungeon, Merlin, etc.).