Catching Up (Brecon Beacons/Valleys Tour)
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I have updated this blog. I guess I understand what it’s really like now trying to keep up with one while being abroad–you don’t want to be inside on your computer, you just want to be out and about doing things!
So I guess I’ll be playing catch up a little with the next couple of posts.
First order of business–
I guess the busiest part of the last nearly three weeks has been…CLASSES. I have a lot less free exploring time now that classes have started. I could give you an in depth explanation of each of my modules and what they are like, but I think I will spare everyone that joy. I will touch on this though–the academic system here is quite different, as I said before, and I’m still not quite sure I’ve gotten the hang of it. I’m just doing the best I can!
But absolutely, without a doubt, my FAVORITE class here (so far) is Welsh I. It’s the least practically useful of all the classes I am taking in terms of my degree progress, but I am so happy that I stuck to my guns and decided to take Welsh anyway. It’s a pretty small class (and about 1/3 International students at that) and the professor is pretty cool. Unlike most language classes I’ve taken, there isn’t a lot of pressure when we do oral exercises and stuff like that; it just feels less intimidating, I guess because we all really have no idea what we’re doing! Welsh is so different from the languages most of us have studied, we’re all kind of starting at the beginning. It’s hard to describe, but usually I feel so nervous and anxious, but in this class, it really does feel like it’s okay to get things wrong and nobody will judge you for that. Which makes the environment of the class very conducive to language learning, I think. But enough about Welsh for the moment!
So I have yet to actually be in Cardiff for a weekend. The last couple have been just crazy! In my last post I talked about my trip to Big Pit and St. Fagan’s; the weekend before last, I went on another tour with a company called Where When Wales, called the”Valleys Heritage” tour. This is a great little tour company run by a lovely Welsh woman named Jan and her husband, John. John drives the mini-bus to the many tour locations while Jan acts as guides, and they are really some of the loveliest, nicest people you could meet! One of my flatmates, Anthony, came along on the tour with me, and aside from the two of us there were only two other people on the tour, so it was a very personal experience.
The tour was pretty jam packed with stops! We started off by stopping briefly at Castell Coch (= Red Castle), a pretty small but very pretty castle just outside of Cardiff. We didn’t get to go inside, but it was really lovely just to stand outside it, all tucked away in the woods.
From there, we drove about an hour away (Jan telling us all about Wales while we drove!) to the town of Caerphilly, to visit Caerphilly Castle. Caerphilly is absolutely GORGEOUS and it is the second largest castle in Britain (Windsor being the first), with a well planned line of defenses that served it well back in the days when it was being stormed–no one ever managed to breach the castle itself! Pretty impressive.
A number of TV shows and films have shot at the castle grounds, particularly in the Great Hall (which you can also rent out for weddings and events!), and it’s easy to see why, because they are just beautiful. I honestly felt as though I was in some sort of dream or novel (Game of Thrones, anyone?) as I explored the grounds. We also got extremely lucky, because the sun came out and the sky cleared a bit just as we arrived in Caerphilly, and stayed out for the duration of our time there!
After a thorough exploration of the Caerphilly Castle grounds, we headed for the Brecon Beacons National Park, where we spent hours driving through the hills, valleys, and mountains–primarily populated by sheep and wild ponies! Unfortunately it got cloudy, windy, and a bit misty/rainy as we entered the mountains, but it was still beautiful. We stopped early in the afternoon in the town of Brecon for lunch and a quick visit to the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal along with the Brecon Cathedral, which had some grave stones from the 11th century (used later to pave the floor)! Amazing!
After lunch we drove around the Brecon Beacons some more, with some stops at the Libanus Visitors’ Centre near the highest mountain in South Britain, Pen-y-fan. Unfortunately, the misty weather and low clouds greatly reduced visibility and the peak wasn’t actually visible, but the Visitors Centre was still cute. And I did buy some delicious Welsh mustard there!
The drive back through the Beacons and small valleys was quite lovely, and a nice way to end a long day of adventuring!
Well, I think this is long enough for one post…I need to go study some Welsh.
Next post: last weekend’s adventures in Swansea and at the Gower Peninsula!