So this is my last adventure to share with you guys from my time abroad in college. But I think in some ways it’s a good comparison of my time while in college. I came into college not knowing anyone as I chose a college around 800 miles from home. Likewise, this is last trip I took was a solo trip to Wales so I didn’t know anyone there either. I had to figure out how to get around and do what I wanted on my own and while I did make friends fairly quickly freshman year, I had to navigate by myself for a while too. Wales speaks Welsh in addition to English so there were words on buildings or street signs that I had no idea what they were or how to pronounce and though, the Midwest still speaks English obviously, the dialect is different so hearing the word “umbershoot” for the first time and trying to figure out what the hell that was was interesting. (FYI, it’s an umbrella). Or maybe I’m just full of it and starting to get sentimental of my rapidly diminishing time left here on campus so I’m making connections that don’t really exist. Either way, this is post is about my solo four-day adventure in Wales.
I started off in Cardiff, possibly the most famous city in Wales. The ironic part of this is that when I originally started thinking about doing this trip, I had no real desire to go to Cardiff; I was more interested in going because I’d never taken a ferry to another country before and because I really wanted to visit this little, teeny town in Wales that has the third longest town name in Europe. But, upon looking at logistics of traveling as well as poking around to see what there was to do in Cardiff, I decided I had to stop there for a day or two. Okay, so finding out that the Doctor Who Experience was located in Cardiff and that the cast had filmed an episode or two in Cardiff Castle sold me. I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan, you can thank (or blame, depending on your view) my father for that. He used to watch the old Doctor Who (what’s now called “classic”) that ran from 1963-1989. When the series restarted in 2005 with the Doctor Who most people today are familiar with, he started watching again and got my brother and I hooked.
The shortest summation of the series is this: a mad man in a box. The premise of Doctor Who–in layman’s terms–is a time lord who is the last of his kind and travels through time and space encountering different scenarios and people/species along the way. He also travels with a human companion. The Doctor also regenerates instead of getting killed and so far there have been twelve different doctors as well as numerous companions since one doctor may have two or three companions over the course of that doctor. The Doctor and his companion travel in the TARDIS which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space–essentially a flying space ship that is way bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. In the older seasons of Doctor Who, the TARDIS would change shape in order to better blend in with its surroundings but it got stuck during an episode in the shape of a blue police box so that is what it still looks like today. Possibly one of the most famous aspects of the TV series is that the Doctor carries around a sonic screwdriver that he uses to do just about anything. This is because he is not a fan of guns and would prefer to fight using wit and brains and a sonic screwdriver than resort to violence and bloodshed.
I could go on about the series and what kinds of other species and creatures are featured in the show but I will cut myself off here. If you are interested in checking out the series, you can click on this link or this one to find out more or you can find the series to watch through a medium of your choice. So that is how I spent one of my two and a half days in Cardiff–exploring the Doctor Who Experience as well as just general wandering around.
I spent part of my other full day in Cardiff exploring Cardiff Castle, which lucky for me was literally at the end of St. Mary’s Street (a pedestrian only road) which is where my hostel was. It was a nice day out so walking around the castle grounds was especially nice. The castle itself was originally built as a Roman fort in the late 50s AD. Evidence shows that there were actually four different forts of varying sizes built on this site and remains of the Roman walls can still be seen today at the castle. Later, after the Norman conquest, a keep was built where the Roman forts used to be. Additional protections and parts of the castle that we see today were added over the next several hundred years as the land was passed from one noble family to the next. After the 4th Marquess of Bute died, the castle was given to the city and the space housed the National College of Music and Drama for 25 years. Today, it is one of Wales’ most popular attractions.
Visitors are allowed to explore the grounds as well as the keep, the castle apartments and the wartime shelters–located within the walls of the castle–at their leisure. While I was there, a group of male reenactors were giving demonstrations of the trebuchet, a 13th century siege weapon, and other weapons used during that time.
My third day in Wales, I caught a train heading across the country from Cardiff toward Holyhead. The scenery was beautiful. Lots of green and little houses and farmland. The rapeseed also seemed to be in season as we passed several fields of yellow. And yes, that is the actual name of the plant. I discovered that at some point while I was in France I believe. Rapeseed is used in animal feed, vegetable oil, and biodiesel among other things. I got off at Llanfairpwell, which is the shortened version of the name pictured at the very beginning of this post. It was nice little town. The bed and breakfast-type place that I spent the night at was about a mile to a mile and a half walk from the train station according to the lady in the tourism office. It didn’t feel like that long of a walk though. I didn’t see much of the town but it seemed quaint and lovely from the bit of it that I did see.
The next morning, I checked out, walked back to the train station and waited on the platform to catch the train to Holyhead. I was a little nervous about catching the train because I was the only one on the platform and the train station office area was boarded up so I wasn’t sure how getting on the train would work since I didn’t have a ticket (I later found out from the ticket man on the train that it’s been closed for years). While the platforms displayed the schedule of trains expected to come through the town, that was about it. I knew from riding the train the day before through little towns that the train only stopped if someone caught the conductor’s attention and waved it down so that’s what I did.
Once getting to Holyhead, I had an hour or two to kill before catching the ferry back to Dublin where I then made my way back to NUIM in Maynooth. Even though I originally didn’t want to go by myself, I’d made up my mind to visit Wales way back towards the beginning of the semester and it was the only way that I was going to be able to make that happen. I took this trip in May in the middle of NUIM’s exam period which lasts about 3 weeks so my other friends all still had exams (they’re spread out over the 3 week period). I was happy I went though. I’m not scared of traveling by myself for the most part but it’s never as much fun as with other people.
And with that happy note, I bid y’all adieu for now.