So this weekend we took our first trip to Wales and visited the city of Cardiff. I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to go to Wales, but we finally made it. And hopefully we will have many more trips there. The people were really friendly, and the country very beautiful. Wales is only a couple hour drive from Derby, but it is its own country. Even though it is part of the UK, the people of Wales like to distinguish themselves from the English, and vice-verse. The dislike between the two countries is similar to that between the Scottish and the English. You don’t ever want to call a Welsh person “English” because they will take great offense. Also, they have their own language which is some sort of Celtic language and is really crazy sounding! It has lots of guttural sounds, and I swear most of the words don’t even have vowels!
We drove there after work on Friday, and of course hit the post-work traffic. That meant we arrived pretty late and didn’t have much time to see or do anything that night. However, we did manage to try out the Welsh beer ‘Brains’, which is something like the national beer. Pretty tasty. And the guy at the pub was super friendly and gave us samplings of all the different types of the Brains beers before we chose one. I think we both opted for the ‘Brains SA’ because it was quite smooth and easy to drink.
By the way, we were staying at a pretty nice hotel – way above our normal hostel and budget hotel routine. The hotel was the Angel Hotel – and you guessed it – we got a good deal for a 2 night stay with bed and breakfast. It was all decorated for Christmas and had a really nice atmosphere.
On Saturday we started the day with a good Welsh breakfast (which is exactly like an English breakfast or a Scottish breakfast) and then headed to Cardiff castle, which was conveniently across the street from our hotel.
The castle has a long history that can even be dated back to the Roman times because they have found Roman wall ruins. Most of it is from the Norman period, including the castle mound and keep in the center. It was even used in WWII as an air raid shelter.
Pretty soon after we started touring the castle, Doug started complaining that his stomach was hurting. Now, if you know Doug, you know that he has a really short attention span. After almost a year of touring Europe, he has gotten pretty bored of going to museums and churches. I assumed that he was now also getting bored of going to castles, hence he was whining about his stomach so that we would leave. I wasn’t going to waste the 11 GBP entrance fee, so I gave him the camera and the task of taking pictures while I followed the audio guide through the tour of the castle. We managed to tour the WWII air raid shelters and part of the building before Doug was really struggling.
At this point, Doug wasn’t even taking pictures because his stomach was hurting too much, so I told him to go back to the hotel if he felt that bad. So he left immediately and I continued the tour of the castle.
The banquet hall was one of my favorite rooms, and it was all set up for Christmas, much like the rest of castle.
Pretty soon I got a call from Doug – he was sick and throwing up at the hotel. Hmmm, guess he wasn’t just bored of the castle after all. Sorry, Doug! Good thing our hotel was just across the street from the castle! I left the castle to get Doug some medicine and then headed back to the hotel. Doug was not in good shape. He was very sick and there was no way he was leaving the hotel room, or even the bed, for the rest of the day. All I can say is good thing we had a nice hotel room and not a hostel with a shared bath! I did what I could, but I figured I could at least make the most of the day.
I walked over to the civic center, where it turns out they were also having a fair, complete with rides, “candy floss” (aka cotton candy), and an ice skating rink. I also walked around the National Museum of Cardiff, part of Cardiff University, and Cathays Park. It was a nice, sunny day, and the buildings were pretty impressive.
Next I explored the shopping area which was crazy crowded. I guess everyone was out doing their Christmas shopping. There were a lot of arcades, which are covered walkways with shops on both sides. I always thought an arcade was a place where you played video games?!? What happened to that?
At the Cardiff central market you could get anything from fruits to meat to pet toys (and pets!) to batteries. You name it!
I popped into a local coffee shop and tried out a Welsh delicacy – Welsh rarebit. It is basically just cheese on toast, but it was actually quite tasty.
That was about it for Saturday and I headed back to the hotel to check on Doug. He was still hurting, but I think it was at least less violent than earlier in the day.
By Sunday, Doug was feeling much better, but we still don’t know what had made him so sick. Either he caught a bug (the winter vomit flu) or it was food poisoning. It doesn’t make sense that it could be food poisoning since we both ate the same thing for breakfast, but he wasn’t convinced and steered clear of the free breakfast that morning. However, I enjoyed my eggs, bacon, and sausage.
Next up was our first ever rugby match! The stadium was on the other side of our hotel, opposite of the castle. Again, amazing location for the hotel! The game was not in the enormous Millennium stadium, but instead in the Cardiff Arms park, the tiny stadium next to it.
Overall, the rugby match was very entertaining. WAY BETTER than the soccer game we went to earlier this year (https://schetzelsintheuk.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/derby-county-rams-football-match/). There was continual action and even scoring involved, which hardly ever happens in soccer. Additionally, you were allowed to take food and drink into the stands, and picture taking was not forbidden. We liked all of these things. Additionally, the people around us were friendly, and even helped explain rugby to us. I think I actually understand the general concept now.
Similar to a touchdown in American football, they have a “try” which gets you 5 points, after which they can go for a conversion kick, which gets you 2 points. Other scoring is worth 3 points, and that occurs after when the ball is kicked through the uprights, so similar to a field goal. However, the ball can be kicked through at any time, provided that the player bounces the ball on the ground before kicking it. There is also a penalty kick which is worth 3 points.
When the ball goes out of bounds, the other team throws it in, which is called a line-out. Teams will actually lift other players up in the air to try to give them an advantage of catching the ball. Kind of reminded me of what the cheerleaders do on the sidelines in American football…
Oh yeah, and one of the most important rules of rugby: no forward passes. If someone does a forward pass, then there is a penalty, which often results in a “scrum.” This is when all the guys link up in a circle and try to get the ball to their teammates on the outside of the scrum. None of the guys that are linked up can use their hands to get the ball, and they also can’t fall on the ground, or else you have to do the scrum again.
The half-time show was simply this guy singing two songs. One pop song and then one traditional Christmas song. The Welsh have a very strong singing culture, and I noticed it throughout the trip. When we were at the castle on Saturday they had a children’s choir there, and wow, they sounded amazing! Definitely better than any children’s choir I’ve ever been a part of… I didn’t take any pictures of that b/c I felt a little creepy. Then there was the halftime show with the guy singing, and a couple more musical acts later in the day.
After the rugby game (Cardiff lost by the way), we checked out Cardiff bay. This area is much more modern, except for the lone Victorian Pier head building. We ate some dim sum at a cool Chinese restaurant (Pearl of the Orient), and walked along the bay checking out the area. They had a Christmas market set up outside and inside the Millennium center (arts complex), along with some live music. We checked it out until it was time to head back home to England.
By the way, check out the Welsh writing on the sign in the picture above. See, isn’t the language crazy? I can’t even begin to pronounce those words!