Rock ‘n’ Roll
It’s been multiple days since this weekend, but I’m still trying to make up all the sleep I’ve missed, all whilst trying to keep up with school (can’t forget the study part of this whole study abroad deal) and I have a paper due next week and a presentation the next. Time management is going to have to become my best friend if I want to try and avoid a full on stress meltdown. Despite the exhaustion and incredibly sore feet, this past weekend is not something I would trade for anything. It was absolutely incredible.
I know that technically Friday (or Monday for that matter) isn’t a part of the weekend, but for the sake of this post, both of those days are going to be grouped in with Saturday and Sunday. Even though I have three classes on Fridays, I was still extremely excited for the day, mainly because it was finally the day we got to have lunch with Andrew, our fantastic IFSA rep for Cardiff. We met up at Pizza Express for a fantastic meal of dough balls, pizza, and chocolate cheesecake, whilst talking about all things school and Cardiff. It was awesome to get to sit down and talk about all of our experiences, and ask Andrew all about what we were getting in to with the whole Six Nations festivities that night. For anyone who doesn’t know, Six Nations is a rugby tournament between Wales, England, France, Scotland, Italy, and Ireland and is incredibly exciting, especially in Wales. We finished up our incredibly delicious lunch and Andrew gave us some homemade welsh cakes (that were AMAZING) before we said our goodbyes.
Now I have to bring it right back to rugby. Rugby is a really big deal in Wales, but when the game is England v. Wales and it’s at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the whole city is buzzing with energy. At 1 in the afternoon when we were heading to lunch, city centre was already filling up with merchandise booths and flags and tons of people getting ready for match night. In order to get in the spirit, we all bought scarves and flags to get ready to cheer Wales on to victory. Friday was spent in the Talybont Social sat around the TV’s watching the game. It was really fun to watch here because so many of the students are from different places that there was about a 50/50 divide between England supporters and Wales supporters, which made it all the more exciting. Unfortunately I had to be up at 4am the next morning to catch a train so I left at halftime, and Wales was winning so I was ok with heading off to bed.
The “yankee” ladies sporting some Wales gear for the game.
At 4am the next morning, I was abruptly woken up by my alarm and immediately on my feet making sure I had all of my things ready to head into London. By 4:45 I was out the door and headed to the train station. If you want to know anything about the Welsh, all I really have to say is that at 5am when we were just waking up and heading out for the day, there were still people downtown partying after the game (which apparently Wales lost in the 2nd half I WAS SO DISSAPPOINTED). City centre was an absolute mess of empty chip containers and other post-celebration remnants. I can’t imagine what it was like during the game but I can’t wait for the next games of the tournament.
We found our way to the train station and hopped on for our journey to London. The train ride was nice, I find them quite relaxing, and I ate some breakfast while reading Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please (so far it’s very funny) before we pulled into Paddington Station. A tube journey and some walking later and we arrived at the IFSA office where we waited a few minutes for the rest of the students to arrive. When the coaches arrived, we made our way outside to find out that one of them was a double-decker. We all but ran over to the bus to line up to be first as to assure we got the front seats on the top level. And let me just say now that there is no better way to see a country like the front seats on the top level of a coach. There is a window surrounding you, with extra legroom, and absolutely nothing in your way. I fell in love with my spot on that bus and could have sat up there watching the country pass by for hours.
The front seat squad.
The journey to Stonehenge was a lovely few hours of taking in the scenery and catching up with friends who we hadn’t seen since orientation. Throughout the weeks leading up to this excursion I have been bubbling with excitement to go and see Stonehenge, which is a monument I didn’t really know anything about. I had really no idea what to expect so the anticipation was building. Upon our arrival to the site, we were greeted by a parking lot full of massive coach buses and a huge visitors center, which assured me that this place was a little bit bigger of a deal than I previously imagined, but also made me a little nervous that it would just be a massive commercialized tourist attraction. However, I quickly noticed that one of the main way that people were heading out toward the actual historical site, they were just walking through a field. No sidewalk, no path, just a field in the middle of the gorgeous English countryside, and I was no longer worried about it being too commercial.
Just a sampling of what our walk over was like.
We made the pleasant walk through the hills watching the little farmhouses pass by, and seeing my first flock of British sheep, just hanging out next to Stonehenge going about their daily business, while a thousand year old monument is looming over the hillside. The first time I caught site of the rocks of Stonehenge I was immediately speechless. I still can’t believe what it felt like to walk down this hill, in what felt like the middle of nowhere, to see this incredible historical landmark just in the middle of a field. I have never seen anything like it. Just the thought that thousands of years ago people put together this massive monument all by hand (with stones from Wales- I felt very proud when I found that out, is that weird? I haven’t even been here a month and I have very strong Welsh pride). I think it’s quite cool that not much is really known about Stonehenge; it sort of adds this mysterious aspect to something you can’t really find words for anyway.
My first glimpse of the rocks was with this dude, who felt like modeling for me for a while.
This is an actual real place, not just a picture on a postcard. Spectacular.
It does feel quite touristy when you get up to the border of the site, but there’s nothing that can really be done to avoid that, and it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as it could have been. We wandered around the rocks, taking pictures from all sorts of angles and just taking in this incredible place. Even though we were absolutely freezing at this point, I think I could have stayed there a lot longer. But, we were on a day trip and there was a lot more to be done, so we headed back to the visitors center, opting for the shuttle this time around to try and regain feeling in our fingers. The visitor center is a really nice place where we did a little souvenir shopping and grabbed a lunch for the ride over to Salisbury. There wasn’t a lot of food choice but we settled on traditional English pasties. I had a steak one and thoroughly enjoyed it, however we think that some people in the crew ended up getting sick from them so I don’t think I’ll be eating at Stonehenge if I ever return.
We made the brief journey from Stonehenge to Salisbury, in our favorite seats of course, and pulled into another place that I didn’t really know much about. I had no idea what to expect in Salisbury. The only thing I knew about anything Salisbury is a Salisbury steak, and there is probably absolutely no correlation between the two. Almost all of our time in the city was spent with our awesome tour guide. She has lived in Salisbury her entire life and therefore had a ton of hilarious anecdotes about the various sites in the city to share with us. Salisbury is actually an incredibly old city and almost everything there has some crazy history to it. There’s a market that’s been running since the 18th century, a department store that’s haunted, and a hospital that Florence Nightingale worked at as a nurse, all intermingled with all of the elements of a prosperous, modern day English city. That’s one thing about the United Kingdom that I will always find incredible; while it may have these incredible historical elements, they are juxtaposed by the modern world. There may be a cathedral that is hundreds of years old, but a few doors down are a Top Shop and a Starbucks.
The River Avon (which actually translates to River River) running through the city.
Our tour ended in Salisbury Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the world, and it was absolutely beautiful. I think that my favorite part was the small courtyard right in the middle of the cathedral. It had two trees and looked like it was straight out of a Harry Potter movie.
Unfortunately, after we saw the cathedral it was already time to catch the bus back to London. I wish we could have had a bit more time to just explore the city and check out the market, but I was very excited to get back into London for the weekend. I spent the journey back to the city fighting sleep and watching the sun slowly set over England. We made excellent time until we hit the city where there was a pretty significant traffic back up which took about 40 minutes to get through. When we finally got back to the office, it was a mad dash to the bathroom for me and then my big test on the tube. Up to this point I have felt pretty good about using the underground, but I had never really done it alone. But I managed to make it all the way to New Cross using two different tubes and the overground, with no problem at all. I made my way out of the station and met up with Shelbie!
Our evening was spent getting dinner (I had wonderful spaghetti), eating cookies in a mug, and watching a movie. It was a pretty laid back evening, which was lovely considering I had been awake since 4am and had walked around 8 miles.
On Sunday we slept in which was awesome, before getting up and enjoying some delicious pancakes a la Shelbie. The rest of the day was spent exploring the British Museum! I was ecstatic to finally get a chance to see the museum. When I was in London for orientation a few weeks ago we walked by the museum and its adverts for the Egyptian exhibit and I was determined to get there to check it out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards that weekend (there was just too many other things going on) but I finally got there this weekend.
The museum itself was absolutely incredible. The exhibits just kept going and going and the atrium was gorgeous. We saw an exhibit on clocks (which informed me that the clock I had seen in Salisbury Cathedral yesterday was actually the world’s oldest mechanical clock, which is pretty cool), and on the Romans and Greeks, money, Enlightment discoveries, and ancient Egypt. I have had an obsession with all things ancient Egypt since I was about 7 so I could not wait to get a glimpse of some of the artifacts. The exhibit was pretty cool, but since most of the really significant stuff is held in the Cairo museum, most of the artifacts were for some of the lesser known Pharaohs and general Egyptian goods. But hey, it’s like a test run for the Cairo Museum, which I will get to sometime in my lifetime.
By far the coolest part of the entire museum was getting to see the actual Rosetta Stone in person, no I’m not talking about the computer programs that help you learn a language, I’m talking about the actual stone that helped scientists translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics for the first time. It was surrounded by people with selfie sticks and the glass was covered in the fingerprints of children who probably didn’t really understand what it was, but it was absolutely incredible to see.
The real life Rosetta Stone. Amazing.
After a few hours, we had seen as much as we could for the day (I think if you wanted to try and see everything in the museum you would be there for days), we headed off to find our bus stop and get something to eat. Unfortunately we missed our bus, but the great thing about London is if one form of public transport fails you, there is always another option. So we hopped on the tube. I had a burger at New Cross Inn (which was delicious) before grabbing my stuff, saying goodbye to Shelbie, and heading off on the overground to Paddington station. I successfully navigated myself through the tube once more to the train station with plenty of time to spare before boarding.
The train ride back to Cardiff was a nice way to wind down for the weekend and read a little bit before getting back to school and jumping right back into classes. I spent my night unpacking all my things and getting my room back in order before skyping with my friends from home and retiring to bed. The weekend may technically have been over, but I still had a very exciting Monday to look forward to.
I had my Welsh class Monday morning (still trying to figure out the language, it is definitely not an easy one to learn) and grocery shopping in the afternoon (so exciting right) but on Monday nights I had a ticket to see Walk The Moon, All Time Low, and You Me At Six at Motorpoint Arena. I knew about this tour a long time ago and was really excited to know that I would be in Cardiff for it, but it sold out before I had officially been accepted to study here so I wasn’t able to get a ticket. But, thankfully there is this wonderful thing called StubHub so I managed to get one of the last 25 tickets available.
The show was absolutely awesome. I love all three of the bands so I didn’t even have to sit through an opener I had never heard of, and the crowd was absolutely massive. Since the show was sold out the energy was insane. All three bands put on killer performances and I had an amazing night. I can now say I’ve been to concerts in three different countries, and on two continents.
All Time Low never fails to impress.
Sorry that this post got kind of long winded but the weekend was jam packed with exciting activities. I’ve gone from exploring all over England to sitting at my desk researching BBC Three for a presentation and doing prep work for my first essay, which is probably the epitome of the insanity of spending a semester abroad. Not only did I get to check out some rock ‘n’ roll at a concert this week, but I got to roll through the English countryside and check out some rocks (clever title Lauren look at you go).