Sunday, May 28, 2006
Cardiff, Wales and Bath, England
Well, as I realized that within the next few days I would once again be part of the work force, I decided that I would first take a brief excursion about the UK! For my first stop, I bought my train ticket to Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and decided to come back to Cambrdige through way of Bath...so first off, let me talk about Wales!
Wales is absolutely gorgeous! The countryside throughout the UK is absolutely breathtaking and has the deepest and richest shades of green and all types of color. You can hardly imagine (and I guess the frequent rain helps a bit too!) So at last, after about 4 hours on the train I arrived in Cardiff, and proceeded to walk the soles off my shoes going everywhere that I could in the day and 1/2 that I had for Cardiff. I went to their Millenium Stadium (an enormous sports stadium that looks a bit like an 80's attempt at modern architecture--really kind of an eyesore in the middle of the city), their Millenium Center (here's a picture of the gorgeous opera house very picturesquely placed right in the middle of the bay--yes, Cardiff is on the coast), and also to Cardiff Castle (which though small, is really beautiful and cool becuase you can tour the inside...which was actually decorated during the Victorian era according to their fantasy of what the Gothic era and before would have looked like. Just about all of it is solid wood, elaborately painted murals, or gold-plated...and this was only the summertime castle for the Stuart family's relatives!).
That night I also went to see some live jazz with some Aussies I met at the hostel where I was staying...it really is cool to meet and talk with all these international travelers. So far I've mostly met Aussies, Kiwis (New Zealanders), or Canadians (Canadians are everywhere!). Suprisingly enough, I’m usually the youngest present! Most of the travelors I’ve met are well-off doctors or engineers in their late 20’s going through an early mid-life crisis, so they’re taking a year or two off to travel! It has really been interesting to hear their perspectives and have long conversations about life, motivations, etc., which are common topics in this group …if you could pray of me during these conversations, that would be amazing! Sometimes the questions are pretty hard, and I’ve been the only Christian (or even religious person for that matter) present in each time…however, people have been really willing to listen, and I’m willing to listen to them, so it’s been really enjoyable and stretching.
The next day several of us (2 Canadians and an Aussie) went to a nearby castle that is supposed to be one of the largest in the UK--Caerphilly Castle (yeah, try to pronounce that the right way here and you'll only get laughed at!) and explored all over the place. As we were leaving to go to the castle it was rainy and really cold, but by the time we got there 30 minutes later, it was bright, sunny, and really warm. The local joke here is four seasons in four hours, and they're really not kidding!
Then, I was off to Bath! Now my American friends, you don't say this word like “bath tub”, or else you will either get laughed at or completely ignored. To pronounce correctly: Hold you head way up high (think of all your British stereotypes), look haughtily about you, and eloquently as possible say "Bahhhhth." There you have it!
Anyway, Bath really is one of the most picturesque and beautiful places I have ever seen. Absolutely gorgeous!!! There are cathedrals everywhere, hundreds of years old limestone buildings everywhere, the ancient Roman baths, and rolling hills dotted with sheep and everything. Absolutely wonderful…I could have spent weeks here just looking at the town--I wish pictures could halfway capture it! Here I again walked everywhere they would let me, and in the day and half I was here I saw their Botanical Gardens, the Royal Victoria Park, the Jane Austen Center, The Circus and Royal Crescent (enormous terrace houses that will make you stop breathing when you walk up to them they’re so gorgeous and impressive), the Roman Baths,
the Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, and the Holbourne Art Museum---so believe it or not, this really long post is the edited version of everything I did! I also made a short trip out to see Stonehenge (which was really cool to see!) and the small village of Lacock (where parts of Harry Potter and the original BBC Pride and Prejudice were filmed!) on the way back. Also while we were here, the Antiques Road Show was on their way through (it made me think of you, Dad!) and the lines were just beginning to form with all the antiques and treasures in tow.
It really was incredible, and maybe when I get back I’ll have the chance to tell you all the side stories and wonderful experiences I had here, but as this is already very long, I think I had better go!