Cardiff - Castles and Bus Tours

Trip Start Dec 01, 2008
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25
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Trip End May 21, 2009


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Flag of United Kingdom  , Wales,
Friday, February 27, 2009

I was told I had to take 3 days vacation to get my holiday pay so I booked a tour to Wales at the last minute.  My oh so lovely managers wanted to know why the hell I wanted to go to Wales cause there's apparently nothing there.  Regardless, I thought it was fun enough especially for a weekend trip.  Also, it's a whole other country that I hadn't been to.

I went on a tour with Haggis.  Haggis is a backpacking tour company.  For 150 US dollars you get three days on a tour bus with a guide who takes you to various places.  You pay out of pocket for pretty much everything except for one or two included things and you pay about $22 a night for a hostel bed.  Naturally, it mainly attracted young people and lots of solo backpacking Australians so its really easy to meet people.

The tour left from London and it only takes about 3 hours to reach Wales which in in the middle west of the country.  You cross over a body of water called the Severn.  I guess it's kind of like a river but it eventually opens up into the ocean.  Apparently, about 11 time a year, one giant wave comes down this body of water due to weird tidal stuff.  It's a big deal for surfers because the wave goes for miles.  One guy broke the record and surfed the SAME wave for over an hour.





So, what to say about Wales...it's VERY rural.  That being said, it's the longest inhabited place in Europe stretching back to a time when England was still connected to Wales.  The Welsh language is also thought to be one of the oldest languages in the world.  Some parts of Wales are so rural and remote that many still speak Welsh as their first language and all signs are bilingual.

Our first stop was in Cardiff, the capital of Wales.  We only had about 3 hours to spend there which was probably a good idea.  One thing about Wales is that it has a lot of castles.  So Cardiff basically was a lot like being in Akron but with a giant 1000 year old castle in the middle.  Wales is like the Midwest of Britain.  More laid back and very working class.  However, due to their dependence on mining and Margaret Thatcher closing down all the mines, some areas still have at least 20% unemployment.

Cardiff, surprisingly, is a really multicultural city as we learned on a bus tour we took.  One school in central Cardiff has kids from 25 different countries.  I don't really know how the hell they all ended up here.

But yeah, Cardiff isn't big on sites.  It does have a castle and it was enjoyable.  The keep has a moat around it and everything so as the British would say, it's a proper castle.






The other buildings around the castle had been renovated and added on to through the centuries so there was a Morrocan themed room among others.





As I said we also took a bus tour to see the architecture around the city.  It's a nice mismatch of old buildings and new.  Not the prettiest city.  They also have a HUGE rugby stadium.  Turns out there was a huge rugby match that night but Wales was playing in France, luckily or we would've never gotten into town.  I should mention that the Welsh are really really patriotic and they definitely love their rugby.  Right now is the 6 nations play offs around here with Italy, France, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales.  In England, they play just down the road from where I live.  Bars open at 8am and its a very big deal.

Oh and my mom wanted to know what "Welsh" food was.  Well, the pub food was pretty much like English food.  The problem is that it was always a really poor country so like Denmark, they don't really have a lot of distinctive dishes.  One very Welsh thing is called rarebit which is basically a grilled cheese with some bits of lamb in it.  Not exciting.  But Welsh people often only ate meat on Sundays as a treat.  And since they were very Catholic/had a zillion children, the leftovers weren't enough for everyone so parents would make sandwiches, slipping the leftover meat into a few of them.  Whoever got the special ones got the rarebit.

I also had some Welsh cakes.  Which are a cross between a scone and a pancake and, despite the dried fruit in them, really good.  They are traditionally eaten for St. David's Day who is the patron saint of Wales.  St. David's Day just so happened to be that Sunday, the last day of the tour.  So people eat Welsh cakes and wear daffodils, the flower of Wales, or carry around inflatable leeks.  But more on leeks later.
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