Our Travels, part 1 – Wales

Photos from our Trip

I apologize for the absence. Life has been a little crazy, but we recently had a wonderful trip to Europe and I thought this would be a great way to share our trip (especially, for our friends who have asked about our trip). My hopes are to resume a slower, calmer pace in life soon. Well, one can hope. I will write about our trip in installments so that I don’t fall asleep. I’m imagining the blog equivalent of the never-ending vacation slides. Speaking of slides, many of the photos from the trip may be found at the flickr link above and I will continue to add photos as time allows, there are also photos on Pinterest.com. One other note, many of you know that I love to cook and learn about new foods, so you will find that I give the food we ate a bit of attention. Thank you for sharing in our adventure!

There is a family in my life, each of whom hold a special place in my heart. The oldest daughter, who lives in Europe now, asked me to be in her wedding. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I am so honored to have been part of this wonderful day and part of her life, our relationship has brought me great joy. Since we were going to be in Europe we decided we would to go early and stay longer to take advantage of being in England and Wales, since we don’t know if we will ever make it back. Here is how it went…

Day 1: We leave Greensboro NC at 3:45 pm EST and arrive at London Heathrow at 6:30am BST. Customs, etc., was amazingly easy, and though the flight was long, we were not too tired. The first item of business was to pick up the rental car, and I was the intended driver. We felt that I was the calmer driver and would therefore be better under the pressures of left-hand driving and roundabouts. Ummmmm, no.

In my defense, it was rush hour traffic leaving Heathrow my first time driving in England. I did ok, until the first roundabout, which I would like to say didn’t look very round. When I panicked and drove the wrong way part way through the roundabout, I had sense enough to pull straight into a parking lot (car park) to try to recover. Breathe in, breath out, relax! Ok… back onto the road. I moved over into the correct lane, got through the roundabout and was doing well, but then I was pulled over by a very nice London Police officer. She had seen my adventure through roundabout number 1. I explained that I had been in the car a total of 5 minutes and this was my first roundabout, but felt like I was going to be fine. She said “are you American??” This apparently explained everything. She nicely gave me directions to my next stop and sent me on my way-without a ticket!! I then drove for a while without further incident, but I had been so badly shaken that I got sick. Oh, well. As it turns out Van drives wonderfully in England and did so for the rest of the trip.

First stop, Stonehenge. Stonehenge was amazing to see, but it was freezing cold, with a wet, biting wind. I’m sorry to say we walked quickly around it. Even my Michigan bred man was cold! But it was worth the stop. We left Stonehenge and continued through the lovely Welch countryside (where we saw more sheep than we had ever seen to this point), to Cardiff, Wales.

We arrived in Cardiff in the afternoon and got settled into a fantastic hostel called the Riverhouse Backpackers Hostel. If you are ever in Cardiff, stay here. The people were wonderful, the beds were comfy, the food was great, and we could walk most places. This first night we learned something very important. In pubs you must quickly grab an open table and claim it, then send someone to the bar to order food for everyone. We did not know this, and sat a very long time waiting for a waiter before we gave up and left. As we stood to go, a gentleman informed us that there was no table service. Oh well, we were tired and hungry and ready to go, so we left, agreeing to return another night, and walked back towards the hostel. On the way back, we stopped at Subway, where we ordered subs and they were playing “Play that Funky Music, White Boy”. It felt, I don’t know, American? We then fell into bed and peacefully slept until morning. No jet lag. I guess extreme exhaustion takes care of that.

Day 2: DOCTOR WHOOOOO, OHHH YEAAA. We met our friends in Cardiff and went to the Doctor Who Experience, an interactive museum, and then to Cardiff Castle We had a great time! For those of you who are Doctor Who fans, I actually stood in the Tardis! I can’t believe it, whoop, whoop, ah-hem, I mean to say that I enjoyed the experience. The museum was well done. The first part involved a walking tour through sets from the series with a video of the doctor talking to us in each room, complete with special effects. I admit, it was pretty realistic. The second part was the museum itself. In the museum they had the original costume of every doctor on display and costumes of many of the companions. There were Dalaks, Cybermen, and even the Face of Boe. Many items were props from the show. We were in geekville having a blast. Oh, and bow ties are cool!

We left Doctor Who and his wonderful Tardis and walked to a small cafe/diner that had just opened a few weeks prior where we had our first experience with Welsh food. Most of the group ordered something called Caul, which is lamb stew-very yummy. My friend had some toast with Marmite oh man, blech. It tasted like bullion cubes-straight. But now we can say we know what it tastes like. Apologies to those who love it. I tried the vegetable soup which is actually a split pea type of soup, also very yummy. The breads and butter were amazing and the cheese was terrific.

After lunch we went to Cardiff Castle. http://www.cardiffcastle.com/. The castle was incredible. The castle had changed through the years, meeting the needs of the time, including war-time. It was thought-provoking and touched my heart to see the sections that had been prepared for the war. The castle keep, the castle itself, grounds, tunnel, everything were amazing architecturally and historically. We all had a nice time there. We ended the day at Y Mochun Du, which was the pub we had left the day before. The food was great. My daughter said it was the best fish and chips she had the whole trip. Several of us tried more traditional dishes, I had laverbread (uhh, that would be seaweed) and cockles (small, edible saltwater clams), Van had Steak and Ale pie, someone had Welsh rarebit, another lamb dish etc. We enjoyed every bite and enjoyed the time sitting over diner and Welsh beers with friends. Everything is so much better when shared, especially when shared with those special people who come into our lives, as if they has always been there. The kind you can go years without seeing and pick right back up where you left off. This was our richest experience.
More to come….

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