We arrived in Cardiff on the 18th around 11:30 AM after a dismal coach ride. There’s nothing like spending three hours in a bus colder than England in winter, right? Anyway, we walked to our hostel right away which was only a five minute walk from the station. This was my first stay in a hostel but I’m confident it was the most unique, fun one out there! The common area was decked out with picnic tables, umbrellas, plush armchairs, string lights, flag banners, paper cranes, you name it. There were also three beds used as couches which I thought was such a great idea for people to hang out on. The staff was so friendly and made us feel at home right away. If you’re ever in Cardiff, stay at the Bunkhouse! Did I mention the (NUTELLA) hot chocolate is to die for?
Cardiff is pretty small and extremely walkable. We did a lot in one day: lunch at a pie restaurant (best invention), Cardiff Castle, the National Museum, dinner… Afterward we just hung out at the hostel bar and had some great conversations while drinking wine. It was a pretty classic night for us but I couldn’t ask for much more. We explored the bay on the second day, and mostly did a lot of eating – breakfast, coffee, lunch, ice cream, hot chocolate round two, dinner. Hardly anyone was out on and about that day, it was like being in a ghost town. Our experience in Wales was quiet but pleasant and it was really nice to get away from city life for a couple days. It was almost like being home when we sat in the sun eating Mexican food over the bay for lunch!
Tomorrow we go to Stratford upon Avon. Hooray for another six hour roundtrip journey!
Exhausted traveler signing off 🙂
This was as productive a day as it could have been considering I have no class or schoolwork to speak of until Thursday. I woke up at 5:45 am, skyped for a couple hours, then took the tube into central London by myself. I brought a pack of these “city walk” cards that were lent to me. Each card has a map on one side, and directions and information about the shops and stuff on the other side. They give you descriptions of places like good restaurants or the old homes of famous people. I did “Soho 1” and followed it exactly, which brought me to some incredible stops. It took some walking up and down the same street several times every now and then to find the next turn, but hey, I tried and ultimately succeeded. I walked by the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, where Jimi Hendrix reportedly gave his last performance before he died, and the sites of Mozart’s and Karl Marx’s old houses. What a trio of things to see within a span of ten minutes.
I ate at one of the cafes that the card suggested, Maison Bertaux. It was adorable! An old, sweet couple ran it and were so kind and attentive to everyone in the shop (me and about two other people in the other room). I sat by myself at a small table while having my new favorite breakfast (an almond croissant and lady grey tea) with a coffee (typical). It was actually really nice to eat alone and just focus on my surroundings… And my lack of knowledge of British etiquette, apparently. Right after I sat down, the shop owner brought me an enormous croissant on a plate with the smallest fork and knife I’ve ever seen. I’ve never eaten any kind of pastry with utensils, so I was a little confused… I was thinking, “Do English people eat croissants with forks and knives? Will I look like a barbarian if I use my hands?” Overall, I was just very confused. The outside of my croissant was super tough so the fork and knife didn’t quite cut it, pun intended. So when the man was near me, I pretended to use the utensils. When he left, though, I sneakily (probably not) just used my hands. It was quite the ordeal. I really should do a little Googling to solve this mystery.
Speaking of ordeals, OH WOW did I get myself lost trying to get back to Roehampton. I could only find tube stations that went north and I needed to go west, so I walked proooobably five miles trying to find the right one. That’s what I get for trying to be independent and adventurous, I suppose. I finally found it, or so I thought. As it turns out, Euston Station and Euston Square Station are not the same thing. Who the heck thought that was a good idea? Someone somewhere is laughing at me I just know it. Is it you? I walked another mile or so back the way I came to get to Euston Square Station. It was quite the experience and I’m glad it happened but dear lord I hope it doesn’t happen again!
Maybe it’s because everyone speaks English here, I haven’t seen much of England or Europe yet, or because I’m super weird, but it still hasn’t really hit me that I’m living abroad this semester. Most of the differences I’ve noticed are pretty marginal, aside from the obvious ones like accents and weird colorful money with an exchange rate that makes me cry inside. The peanut butter here is scarce and what you can find is subpar (I don’t want no mediocre). Also, most of the sinks here have two faucets—scalding hot or freezing cold. Who thought that was a good idea?
Today I took my first trip outside of London with two friends, Morgan and Courtney. We took a coach to Oxford, where we explored the town all day. We went to our first high tea and drank the best darn tea of all time. After that, we just walked around some more and took a tour of Bodleian Library at the university which was really interesting. The books were all ancient and enormous! I can’t imagine anyone actually reading those things. We ate at the Eagle and Child, a 17th century pub, for dinner. It’s pretty famous, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to hang out there. There were Lord of the Rings and Narnia decorations everywhere. The history of the town and the authors really came alive in that cozy, dark pub.
More than ever, I can’t wait to keep traveling around Europe and the U.K. ☺
Hi mom and maybe two others reading this! For having moved to a new country until May today, there are few exciting stories to report. There was quite a bit of waiting–to get on the plane, to get off the plane, to get on the bus to campus, to wait for the bus to the supermarket… Not to say that there were no learning experiences, though. After taking the bus the wrong way for twenty minutes, Morgan and I found out that it matters which side of the street to board from. Who knew? Once we (finally) got to ASDA, we figured out after much trial and error of trying to unlock the shopping carts (trolleys?) from each other that you need to insert a pound to use a cart. Being the confused Americans we are, we abandoned that effort and went inside anyway. Checkout was also a bit of a fail as the cashier wouldn’t let Morgan buy her groceries at first because her signature on the receipt didn’t perfectly match the signature on her credit card. Apparently the Gs didn’t quite match up. We then got stuck inside the store because the only exit we could find led to an unbeknownst-to-us parking garage. Our trip to ASDA was overall very weird. One struggle of an errand later, we returned to Roehampton and went to a pizza dinner for new international students. I thought it would be really cheesy (pizza pun, anyone?) but we actually met two cool girls which was great, and we sat and talked with them for thirty minutes or so. Afterward I unpacked my luggage in my room and rearranged some furniture to help make it look less like a mediocrely-funded women’s prison cell. It still is a little janky, but I did my best! If only the springs in the awful mattress would stop torturing my spine.
Shoutout to Mr. Eric Ward for the kickass pillow pet and to anyone who read this uneventful post.