The Short of It: Small Layovers and Trips – CARDIFF, WALES

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Third time’s the charm, and from this experience, I can tell you this sentiment especially rings true when one gets their nose pierced.

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The first time, I was a freshmen in college taking advantage of “free piercing week.” Free is so for me that I also went back to get a lip ring. Flash forward to my mother giving me 24 hours notice that she would be visiting me, and my room-mate is pouring me vodka shots to numb the pain of her boyfriend pulling my two part lip ring out in time for mom’s arrival. The nose ring, I kept until I got a job as a teacher. Both sad and symbolic for me, my nose ring represented my care free days of my college years. Pulling it out wound up being a waste of effort, as my school is awesome and cares not that teachers have piercings and tattoos.

The second time, I got the nose piercing done RIGHT before traveling to south east Asia. I swam in dirty water in Thailand and neglected to clean my piercing entirely before it became infected and I had to eventually yank it out in Laos.

Why would the third time be different? Well, I was in an altered state of mind, and the spirit of revolution and rebellion burned within me.

I sat in front of a questionnaire and warning sheet that I barely took the time to read. Are you under the influence of alcohol? Yes, very much, but I’ll circle no. Are you pregnant? I actually WAS, but had no idea at the time, so I circled no. Some minutes later an extremely painful pinching/yanking pain of a giant needle stabbing through my thin nostril raged on, and VOILA, nose piercing #3 in all places….WALES was complete. My cousin went next, which is bad-ass considering she watched my body thrash around on the table while I got mine!(Then again she’s suffered the pain of countless tattoos and rides motorcycles – so I shouldn’t be surprised!)

So, how the fuck did I wind up here?

“Let’s do a day trip somewhere,”

“I’m diggin’ it, where to?”

“I don’t know…somewhere fuckin’ unique…What about Wales?”

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

Was exactly how I think the conversation went. We booked our bus tickets in advance, slept through a four hour journey, and arrived in the dreamy city on a random Wednesday in August. We would be documenting just how awesome Wales – and in particular the city of Cardiff could be for a day trip.

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“Do you consider Wales a country?” was the question I, and my travel companion repeatedly (and tipsily) asked every native Welsh person we met on our day long journey to Cardiff. The answer, as you can imagine, was confusing at best. One person would passionately shout that Wales was indeed its own country as one could describe themselves as Welsh. Less than five feet away, a person would disagree stating that Wales was not an independent and autonomous country, but technically under the control of the United Kingdom. Nina and I jokingly decided that we would do our best to rouse a spirit of rebellion among the citizens, to break away from the UK and incite a spirit of Independence! Here’s us doing that:

Turns out, we had little work to do as a fierce spirit of Welsh pride is already abysmal. All who participated in the question of Wales being a country agreed that no matter what side of the debate one falls on, Welsh pride is abundant. The culture and language of Wales is without a doubt unique to the (I’ll call it) country. It’s a point of pride to know and speak the language. I agree that anyone who is comfortably fluent in this language should inherently feel pride in being so, more so than any other language. Wales has had it rough considering their letter combinations are largely the ones that no one else in the world wanted (presumably.) Take a look and tell me I’m lying:

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(I am lying.)

We only had one day in the city, and wanted to see as much as possible. I’m not a fan in any capacity of walking a lot, so we opted for the big, red, tour bus as our means of transport. Normally, you can ride a sheep around Cardiff, but the Queen of England was in town when we visited, and her as well as her Calvary were using all of them for a grand parade later that day. If you follow this blog, you’re probably my mom, and besides that, you probably know that I’m absolutely terrible with directions. Taking the bus around eliminated the fear of not being able to see all of the city.

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Cardiff Castle is worth the visit, even if it’s the only thing you do all day. It is exactly how I picture most of Wales to be. Rolling green hills with a piece of history built right in the middle still standing after thousands (2000 in this case) faithfully. Visitors are free to climb, marvel at, and explore. Cardiff Castle is reminiscent of any decent medieval fairy tale, and allows one the feeling of stepping right into the story. It is tranquil and spacious enough that it gives every visitor the opportunity to feel that he or she is discovering something unique, untouched, and all their own. As I always do, I looked out from the windows of the castle and wondered what early people must have felt when looking out those same windows a thousand years ago. I daydreamed looking among the green fields and thought it amazing that such a castle stands in the middle of a major city. I wondered and pondered dreamily, until someone shouted, “GET THE FOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW, YOU’RE HOLDING UP THE LINE.” No one said that, but it would be absolutely amazing if they did.

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The interior of the castle is even more of an immersive experience. It looks largely untouched and identical to all the images that the mind conjures when we think of medieval fairy tales. It looked as though the residents of the castle had simply left for an outing and would return home soon. Spoiler alert, the residents are the three little bears. “SOMEONE HAS BEEN DRINKING OUT OF MY CHALICE!” exclaimed King Arthur bear.

The castle offers guided tours, none of which we took because I like to immerse myself in the culture and try to read the local language. So far, I’ve learned “gehguwrgurhwiuhfwun” which means “hi.” There are also movies shown on the castle ground which is a highly unique experience, one I’m sure all of the ancient royals enjoyed thousands of years ago. But, really. How many opportunities do you get to attend a movie on castle grounds?! I didn’t get to partake, but if you ever go…please do this for me! (And tag me in a picture!)

Time traveling is difficult work, and thus, a stroll through Castle Quarter Arcades to find food. A fair amount of options are available within the arcades, which by the way is a term used to describe a building with many shops. We settled on waffles for breakfast which didn’t thrill me initially because…typical choice. When they arrived I realized just how wrong I was. Enter…the pop banofee and strawberry sundae waffles! A filling and cozy breakfast alongside a giant mug of coffee with booze was the perfect way to settle into a cozy, rainy, vibe of a day in Cardiff.

I can’t overstate enough that the red bus was a fantastic way to see the city. Not only does it stop at the castle, it also stops at the National Museum of Wales and Cardiff Bay. The Roald Dahl plaza named after the famed Welsh author is a performing arts center which also hosts outdoor events in the summer.

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I should mention that the bar scene in Cardiff is incredible. The watering holes in the city are right there with the best of them. We spent the better part of the afternoon throwing back fancy infused drinks and talking about life in a secluded section of a sexy and artistic lounge. Who knows how many beverages later, we enlisted the help of the bartender to pose in our #WhatAboutWales photo series. We had a good laugh about it afterwards, and made good friends with both him and another bartender about the autonomy of Wales, the Russian language (don’t ask), and life in Cardiff.

Returning to the exposition of the story, Cardiff is littered with piercing salons. The sheer volume of piercing pagodas next to an equally high number of bars nearly begs visitors to get something…anything studded after a quality day of drinking. Through a booze fueled haze, we pressed forward with our #WhatAboutWales photo series. This was becoming more and more entertaining, and more and more ridiculous as the day continued.

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Freshly punctured, what better way to numb the pain other than more imbibing? We ducked into a spacious, casual bar for some giant ciders, Welsh cakes, and fooseball. We were having such a great adventure that we couldn’t remember how to find the bus to get back to London. You know the feeling of everything seeming like a good idea when you’re intoxicated? Well, we came frighteningly close to saying, “screw the bus” and staying over night in Cardiff with no accommodation whatsoever. Not to mention, we would be leaving my husband and his best friend who were working during the day in London. Literally as we were excitedly talking about what a grand plan this was, the bus to London pulled up right in front of the castle. A sign.

Four plus hours later, we groggily got off the bus and rushed to a dinner reservation to meet the guys. Hungover and noses pierced, we sat at the booth exhausted. I would have a lot of explaining to do.

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What I Learned Is: I saw a lot less of London in the week that I was there because I took an entire day to visit Wales. Sometimes, the long road around is worth it. In this case, I feel that it was entirely worth it. Wales, and Cardiff especially is not England. I was fortunate enough to get a sampling of the culture, history, and language of Wales and to intimately meet the Welsh people who show a fierce love and pride for their country. Nearly everyone I met in Cardiff had a manner which made me feel as though I were the only person who mattered in that moment and at that time. They are skilled in story telling, incredibly helpful, and skilled in the art of meaningful conversation. Cardiff is ethereal and comfortable. I feel as though I may have found the only city that is not frenzied, bitter, and chaotic. A day in Cardiff spreads out before the adventurer in a slow and tranquil manner. It is a place that one can explore at a relaxed pace with plenty of time to lounge in the pubs and watering holes before, in between, and after a day of delving.

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