For a full list of my travel adventures, click here.
This weekend was a great experiment in the “can V still travel on her own?” category, as I took Friday night and got outta town. Last year when I went to Oktoberfest, the last night in town my new friends and I met some Welsh gents who made us promise that if we came back to England, we would make sure to visit Wales. Combined with the recommendation of seasoned travelers back home and a few friends here in London who went to Cardiff—the capital of Wales—a few weeks ago, I booked a train ticket and a room over Airbnb with a lovely local couple.
Right after class on Friday, I headed to the train station for a few hours journey West. The train was nice—I did homework and slept a little. I got into Cardiff only to realize two important things: I had no idea how to get where I was staying, and I hadn’t planned a single thing for my twenty-four hours in the city. Luckily, my iPhone still works in Wales because of that neat little thing called a United Kingdom, so I managed the first one alright. From there, one of my hosts helped me plan a few things to look into doing for Friday night, as well as on Saturday.
I ended up going into town for a walk-around to get oriented, a pint at a place called Dempsey’s, and to a Wales rugby match on Friday night, because they were playing, and rugby is like, The Thing in Wales. It’s everyone’s favorite sport and some 40,000 people turned up to watch two teams of really big dudes throw and kick a ball around, and then to see Wales lose on top of it all. I met a few people at the match who were kind enough to explain the finer points to me, including Why the Welsh Team Has a Goat and How the Game Works but not What All These Crappy Fouls Mean That Are Being Called Against the Wales Team. I topped off the night with a round of Indian food.
The next day, I planned a few things, but didn’t end up doing too much because for the first time ever, a city actually turned out a lot bigger than it looked on the map… Or maybe it was just that my bag weighed a ton with all my school stuff and all my travel stuff plus the Wales team scarf and leftover Indian I was carrying. I first walked to Bute Park, which is a lovely green space next to Cardiff Castle. It turns out the two are actually linked, because the family that built the major portion of the modern castle owned the land that became Bute Park. But, there were falling leaves and mud and a cool ring of stones that turned out to actually only be from the 1970s (wah wah, here I was thinking prehistoric shiz was going down in Cardiff!). I listened to “Bedouin Dress” by Fleet Foxes and walked slowly and felt quite calm. After the full night’s rest I had followed by a lovely breakfast with my hosts, it was precisely what the Dr. V ordered.
I then went into Cardiff Castle for a guided tour of the main portion, as well as an audioguided tour of the grounds, Roman ruins and the Norman Keep which still stands. I ended up spending quite a lot more time than I planned, and walked away with an astounding number of beautiful photos I never expected when I was taking them. I sat in the freshly-emerged sun and wrote a little bit with green grass around me and a castle on my right hand side, and felt a little more calm. In light of the building pressure of anxiety I’ve been generating in my mind, I moved a little bit back toward what I like to think is normal for me (still plenty to calm down about though).
I then spent the day walking through the City. I passed the shopping district and cut through a few “quarters”, which are courtyards and pathways of shops. I moved among stalls at a German Christmas market (do they have those in every country?) before settling into a quick lunch of bratwurst and a final Welsh ale. I caught the train back to London and was greeted again by the hustle and bustle of my lovely big city. I got a bit bamboozled by the press of people on the tube and mostly wanted to go home and change into fresh clothes. It was nice to get home, of course, but it was also inescapably nice to get away, even for just one night.