(Written by Helen, Aug 17)
Wow, what a great day!
We have just come ‘home’ from our day spent touring
Yesterday we took a catamaran across from
That evening we met up with Father O’Shea and let me
tell you it was really great to see him.
He looks fantastic! The last time
we actually saw him was the night he had his heart attack. He actually told us that he saw us at the
night market in
That first night we went down the street to a great little Italian restaurant and had a fantastic meal. We talked and laughed and reminisced about our days aboard the old QEII. The food and company were great!!
The next morning we woke up to a glorious sunny day
which apparently isn’t the norm here in
This manor was built on the site of an earlier
medieval dwelling in the heart of historic
The tour takes you to different areas of the manor and in each of these rooms there is a ‘servant’ there acting his or her part telling you what life was like in that era. They are very funny and often ask the tourists questions to get them involved. You visit the kitchen, the servant’s hall, the great hall where King Charles I dined in August 1645, the parlour, the master’s bed chamber and Colonel Prichard’s study. When we entered the bed chamber we noticed that the bed was very short. We soon found out that it was because the gentryfolk slept half sitting up due to a superstition. The belief was that if the Angel of Death passed by in the night and saw you lying down asleep he would think that you were ready to die. To fool him, they would sleep sitting up. Very bizarre! It was a very educational and entertaining experience and the kids just loved it!
From the manor we drove the breathtaking countryside
From there we headed to our original destination. The Big Pit. It is the
Next, they ask you to remove all substances that could cause a spark such as matches, lighters, cameras, cell phones, watches and keys. At first I thought he was joking but sure enough, everyone handed it over and he placed them all in a big bag and locked it in a locker. At this point I started to get just a little concerned. We then got herded into a cage and the doors closed and you slowly descend into the earth. Immediately you feel the change in temperature as the air grows colder and damper. Some water actually drips into the cage and you can hear and see the water running down the walls of the shaft. You keep going and going until we finally reach the bottom. That’s 300 FEET UNDERGROUND!!!!! You get out and your miner takes you on an hour tour of the coal face. It is so incredible to be in there and actually feel what it was like for the thousands of men who worked there. What a strenuous and dangerous job! As you tour the mine you walk down another 100 feet and sometimes you have to bend over quite far to get through the eerie tunnels. And there are tunnels everywhere.
A picture just before going down into the mine
So if you can picture it. You are walking along in a tunnel that is held up by pieces of wood that look like they are hundreds of years old. The path is wet and slippery, it is pitch black except for the lights on our hats and I found myself listening for any cracking sounds or explosions (there goes that imagination of mine again). At one point, as the miner explains to us that kids as young as six worked down in the mines, he asks us all to turn off our lights and envision what it must have been like for those kids. Their jobs at that age were to man the doors. It was very important that the doors were opened when the coal or men were making there way through the tunnels, but more importantly, it was imperative that the doors be closed behind them as well. That was the job of the children and the miner told us that for most of the day the kids would sit there in the pitch black and wait. He said that there would be rats scurrying about their legs and big beetles would fall from the ceilings all while they were in the pitch black. No thanks!!!! If Nikolas complains ever again about making his bed I’m going to remind him of this story. Never mind, if I ever complain about my job ever again, I will think of this story!
Anyways, he takes you along and explains all the machinery and how they bore holes into the walls. He showed us the stables where the horses were kept. He explained to us how some men, himself included, had to work in holes that were less than 2 feet high and how they were usually sitting in water up to their waists. The stories were amazing and he told us that the camaraderie amongst the men was very strong and I can surely see why. If you are ever in the area, this museum is a must-see. Nikolas thoroughly enjoyed it and because Steve’s dad used to work in a coal mine I think Nik has a new found respect for him.
Father O’Shea told us some sad stories about the
history of the coal mines in
From Big Pit we took a drive up to the top of the mountain and had a spectacular view of the valley below. Along the way we encountered some very cute sheep and lamb and it was truly beautiful.
As we headed for home we stopped at a wonderful park
To top off this fantastic day we ordered Chinese Take-out and enjoyed another delicious meal with our wonderful host.
Thank you so much for an extraordinary tour of your incredible city Father O’Shea. We look forward to seeing you one day in our little part of the world!!!!