A weekend break! I’ve been promising to write about this for ages because it happened while Kelsey was here the first time and since I’m such a fail, Kelsey is coming back soon and I still haven’t written about our first mini-trip together. We went to Wales! Specifically we were in Cardiff. Wales – a whole new country (at least it once was… not so much anymore) but still, it was awesome. We went out the night before and then got up in the morning to take a bus to Wales. I’ll admit I slept through most of the drive, but I woke near the Welsh border and it was very worth it. When we left Notts it was raining and grey, but in the afternoon the sun came out and lit up the spectacular countryside. You know when you see those pictures of Wales or Ireland and the rolling hills are an impossible shade of green and all you can think is ‘boy, you can’t pull one over on me, I know that photo is doctored’? We were fools. It really is that green. I have no idea how, but I know a lot of people who want that grass! And the green-ness of the grass only sets off the white sheep. It’s some fairy-tale land with impossibly coloured livestock and foliage!
After we found and settled into a hostel, we headed back into town and went for a walk in the park by Cardiff castle where I ran into another traveller I’d met before in Nottingham – odd chance encounters! We went for dinner in a local pub and then headed back to the bar at our hostel to start our night out. Our hostel turned out to be an excellent choice because our very friendly bartender definitely enhanced our Wales experience. When he found out we were Canadian (he had Canadian roommates) he refused to serve us just any cider, and insisted on a local Welsh cider. I can’t remember the name, but it had a dragon on the bottle and was dry, crisp and very strong. We headed out to start out pub crawl and went to a handful of Cardiff’s best establishments – meeting some interesting Welsh characters along the way. The Welsh are very cheeky – one guy walked brazenly up to us as we were coming up out of a chip shop and stole some chips. He even told us he was being cheeky! We also met a group of guys who bought us strange (and unnecessary) plastic roses from someone on the street. We went back to our hostel later that evening and hung out with our new friend the bartender before hitting the sack.
The next morning we got up and headed straight for Cardiff castle. It’s a pretty interesting site with a gothic Victorian mansion as well as an earlier Norman keep. Kelsey and I enjoyed walking inside the fortress walls looking at the exhibitions on WWII and the former bunker that was built in the walls to keep the citizens of Cardiff safe. The old castle keep was also incredibly beautiful set against the clouds and the view from the top was pretty amazing – but we did have to climb and descend the steepest stairs ever to get to the top!
Later in the day we took a train twenty minutes outside of Cardiff to Caerphilly, a tiny little town with a very large castle. It’s one of the great medieval castles of Britain, if not Europe – the second largest in Britain with large water defenses. It was built by Gilbert de Clare and is apparently an excellent example of late 13th-century military architecture (not that I know much about that). What I know is that there were pretty ruins! It was such a pretty castle with blue sky and clouds and water against the grey stone, so Kelsey and I wandered around the perimeter before heading in. After exploring for a couple hours we had lunch in another pub before heading on the train back to Cardiff and then back to Nottingham – the end of our adventure!