me & the Joes in Caerphilly
After a long week of tests and hard work, I was definitley ready for a relaxing weekend ecape. So this time, a bunch of friends and I shot on over to Wales for a couple of days. The people were mostly the same that I hung out with last weekend, and the plan this time was to see a lot of the beautiful Welsh countryside, as well as check out a few of the many old medieval castles around the country's capital, Cardiff
. The city is very nice, and is the biggest city in Wales, with only 300,000 people. It is on the southern coast of the country, and although there is no beach, it does have a nice bay.
The train ride to Cardiff was only about two and a half hours on the high speed line, which was great time for how far away it is.
me & Dustin
The first thing that I noticed when we got off the train was that all of the signs were written in two languages, one of which I had never seen before. Come to find out, the Welsh have their own language! Since they are part of the United Kingdom, the main language of the country is obviously English, but do to a recent resurgence of nationalism in the 90s, the old language is being taught in the schools and put alongside English in all public places. It is very interesting, almost reminding me of an old Gaelic type of English. Therefore, we quickly became familiar with the words "Cyrmu" (Wales) and "Caerdydd" (Cardiff). I also caught a glimpse of their country's flag and was amazed. It is a green and white background with a freakin red dragon in the front; how cool is that!
We decided to hit up some castleage right off the bat and took a 40 minute bus ride to Caerphilly
, where there is a wonderfully preserved medieval castle right in the city.
The trip was a little difficult since it was pouring rain, but we had lunch at a nice tea and coffee shop (I must say, I'm beginning to really enjoy my daily dose of tea). The castle was huge! It had two moats and most of its stonework intact, and I noticed very few modern restoration efforts. It was pretty cheap to get in, and I was honestly surprised how little people were actually there. Here is a big beautiful medieval castle, and it didn't seem to be a tourist trap at all. Of course, the rain could have had something to do with it. Either way, the best part was the fact that there was no guided tours or anybody really patrolling at all; we were able to roam around as we pleased, with little distraction. Definitley a wonderful way to start off our castle tour.
in the Grand Hall
Getting back proved to be a little difficult, as we missed the bus we meant to get on and had to get a later one. By the time we got back to Cardiff, it was getting a little late to see more castles that day, so we decided to check into the hostel and go get dinner. I must say, the hostel we stayed in was pretty nice as far as hostels go. It was called "The Nomad," and seemed to be run by an older couple. The rooms and bathrooms were clean, and we had private rooms of 4 for the guys and girls. After drying off for a few minutes, it was time for dinner. Where would a bunch of tired, wet Americans feel at home? Hard Rock of course! I had no reservations about visiting my 3rd Hard Rock Cafe in two months. The music and food are both awesome, and we get plently of the local cuisine anyway.
clock tower at Cardiff
The town was very pretty at night, once the rain stopped, and after walking around for a while, we retired back to the hostel to get a good night's sleep for the morning.
I must say, we had quite an interesting night. It was a little tough to sleep, since both Dustin and Joe (the big one, as opposed to small Delta Chi Joe) were sick and coughing a lot. But the strangest thing happened at about 4 in the morining, when we were awoken by a loud knocking at our door. Big Joe answers it, all of us still in a daze, as the night watchman starts threatining to kick us out. We were utterly confused. He said if we were loud one more time, we was calling the cops on us. There happened to be a group of loud, drunk British guys in the room next to us, and I did remember waking up when they came in very loudly.
Apparently, there were complaints and the guy mistook them for us. Needless to say, we were pretty confused, especially after having just woken up. But it was pretty funny, not gonna lie. Joe's a big guy, and started explaining the situation to the watchman (who was a young dumb loser as me and other Joe found out from asking him for towels earlier in the night), in a deep irritated voice. The guy seemed to get scared, and I would've been too. He apologized and left us alone for the rest of the night. It was great. Although it would have been an even more interesting story if we'd actually been kicked out...
The next morning, we picked out a couple of castles that we wanted to hit before heading back home. The first one was easy, as there is the famous Cardiff Castle right in the middle of town.
me & the Norman Keep
This one was definitely more touristy, and as it happened, we showed up on family fun day. It was a little more expensive, although it did include a tour of the interior, which was fully furnished and everything. This castle was a little different in the fact that much of it is not original; most of it was built by a rich guy in the 1800s as one of his vacation homes. The walls were built upon some original Roman foundations, which can still be seen, and the interior of the grounds does include an authentic Norman Keep from the 13th century. It was pretty cool to see the exquisite rooms inside and how the rich lived back then. There were also real peacocks just walking around out in the grass! It was also really cool to look up and just see the towers of the castle with modern buildings in the background.
top of the Keep
After a quick lunch of cornish pastie, it was off to our next destination.
We then took a bus out to some small town, and walked uphill about a kilometer to get to a place known as Castle Coch. The walk up was interesting, as we took a wrong turn and ended up on this narrow footpath through the woods. We ended up getting there, but it was in a cool roundabout way. Come to find out, this place was actually built by the same guy and architect who did the Cardiff Castle. This one was much more fairytale-like, and there was actually people coming out of a wedding as we walked up. Although not as big as the other castles, this one had charm, and is set up on a nice hill overlooking a small town and the beautiful Welsh coutryside. I also love checking out the gift shops in all these places.
me at Castle Coch
They have wooden and foam swords, things with dragon emblems everywhere, and all sorts of cool medieval paraphenalia. It was really cool to see all of this stuff now, as it matches up well with the Medieval English History class I'm taking. I think I want to build me a castle. If I were rich, I'd be such a badass...
After going back to the bus stop, Dustin, Lisa, and I went to a local pub to try some of the beer. The popular Welsh beer is called "Brains," and it was awesome! Each of us had a different kind of it (each in a glass with a red dragon on it of course) and all were very smooth and tasty. American beer is just no comparison to what you can get over here. Well anyway, after a bus and train ride home, the trip came to an end. Wales is a beautiful country, and definitley gave us a nice break from all of the big city tourism we've become so used to.
inside Castle Coch
Da boch! (that's Welsh for goodbye)