Happy St. David’s Day!!
What, you don’t know what St. David’s Day is? Seriously, it’s a more famous day than Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day! Um…not really, but I think the Welsh like to believe in the next 50 years it will become a largely well-known day outside of Wales. Disneyland Paris even had a St. David’s Day parade with fireworks.
So what is St. David’s Day? St. David is the national saint of Wales, just like how Patrick is the saint of Ireland, George for England, and Andrew for Scotland. David went on several religious pilgrimages throughout Wales and west England and founded many religious centres. He settled in southwest Wales where he preached and performed “miracles.” St. David’s Day is celebrated on March 1, and it is custom to wear either a leek or a daffodil, along with the national costume. This year was a beautiful day for Welsh festivities, and this was the first time I actually heard the native Welsh language.
Boy in traditional Welsh costume. The yellow cross with black background is St. David’s flag.
Welsh Flags at the parade
Traditional Welsh costumes
A women with a large daffodil in traditional costume
In order to celebrate St. David’s Day, two friends and I went to Llandaff Cathedral for a dose of Cardiff history by going on a ghost walk! Llandaff is an area of Cardiff that was its own city until Cardiff swallowed it up. It includes ancient castle ruins, its own cathedral, and medieval architecture. For the ghost tour, we met up at an ancient preaching cross that immediately set the mood for the rest of the night: spooky!
We walked north of the cathedral a few hundred feet to an open field where the tour guide talked about some of the spooky and mysterious tales of Llandaff. If you owned a pub or were a landlord, you were doomed at Llandaff. We walked along the River Taff on the Taff Trail slightly west until we came upon “the Walk of the Dead” and listened to more ghost stories. The Welsh have their own mix of the Grim Reaper and a Banshee. She’s the Gwrach y Rhibyn, the Hag of the Mist. She has a green and white face with long fangs and flapping wings. She likes to appear and shriek at the people’s windows, and then shortly after she takes him/her back to hell with her. Whether or not you want to believe these stories, this also gives a little bit of history of the Welsh culture. Before weirs controlled the River Taff, it was a very violent river that had strong tides and quick floods. The open field next to the cathedral was a part of the river until the course was controlled, and it flooded a lot. Many of the ghost stories dealt with accidents or disasters surrounding the Taff. We also walked through an abandoned graveyard next to the cathedral which is a site for many ghost children. Sound like a great way to spend a Friday night?? Well, it actually was. My flatmate was the most noticeably freaked out person in the group of about 25 people (and she wasn’t the youngest).
Llandaff Cathedral in the dark
In the graveyard. See any ghosts?
The following weekend I went to London because it was time for IFSA-Butler’s second excursion to Blenheim Palace and Oxford. On Friday, I managed to do a bit more sightseeing. After I arrived to Victoria Station, I made my way up to Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, 221B Baker St is completely made up, but 221B Baker St is actually a Sherlock Holmes museum. I didn’t tour the museum itself, but I spent some lovely time in the gift shop and bought a souvenir. The people working in the museum had lavish costumes from Sherlock Holmes’ 19th century era. After hanging out at 221B Baker St, right next door at 231 Baker St was the London Beatles Store. I was in heaven. I wanted it all, but I just settled for a mug which included all the albums. A few days after I bought it, I noticed the mug had a typo: “Meet the Beagles” instead of “Meet the Beatles.” Someone had dogs on the mind when they were making the mugs. I needed my own personalized mug for tea time in the flat. I then made my way up to Trafalgar Square to go into the National Gallery. This is just like Chicago’s Art Institute. The building was gorgeous, and it’s free for the public. There was a free concert going on and being filmed featuring a cello and acoustic guitar. That added to the atmosphere as I was looking at various works of art. Though, one thing that museum is lacking is some modern art. There wasn’t much after the 1900s, but their art collection went as far back at the 1400s.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
The London Beatles Store
Baker Street tube station
The National Gallery
On Saturday, I went to Oxford first. It was a beautiful city, and I haven’t seen anything like it before. This is what I thought England looks like outside of London: old and beautiful buildings. I took a tour of the city where we went to many of University of Oxford’s individual colleges. The University of Oxford is the second-oldest surviving university in the world, dating as far back as 1096. There are thirty-eight individual colleges at the university. The day I arrived happened to be graduation day. I got to see a lot of students and faculty in robes around Oxford. Oxford was also a site for many religious public executions, and there were small memorials throughout the city to mark the death-place for many bishops, etc. Emma Watson is supposedly studying abroad at Oxford through the Butler program, but I was unable to catch a glimpse of her. However, I was able to see different parts of Hogwarts because much of the Harry Potter films were filmed all over Oxford. I was unable to see the Great Hall though (I ran out of time).
The Randolph Hotel
Crosses throughout Oxford that mark religious executions
Sheldonian Theatre. Where you graduate among other ceremonies.
Bridge resembles those in Venice
The Bodleian Library. Has every single publication stored in the library.
More Oxford shops
An Oxford church
Students and professors in graduation robes
A university building
Christ Church College on left that holds Hogwarts’ Great Hall
After Oxford, I made my way up Blenheim Palace, which is the home of the Dukes of Marlborough, and it is the birthplace of Winston Churchill. It was a beautiful palace, and we had a tour that unfortunately took up my entire time, and I wasn’t able to roam the grounds. During World War II, it was used by MI6. The filming of Harry Potter also took place on the grounds of Blenheim Palace.
Gate that leads to the Palace
The grounds that lead to the Column of Victory
Looking at the palace straight on
Palace to the left
At the signs
My favorite place was at the Italian gardens
The back end of the palace
British Word of the Entry: Squash. Not the vegetable or the sport. This is a concentrated fruit juice that needs to be mixed with at least water. My flatmates drink this and it’s all new to me.