Friday, March 26, 2010

Wales trip!

Thursday 2/25
Our program got to spend 2 days in Wales!! It was amazing. 2 very busy days... thursday morning we left the Centre at 6 am for Wales. The countryside of England is very pretty, but Wales was a little different... it was just so bright green and hilly and breathtaking. I'm glad i was too uncomfortable in my seat to get much sleep thursday morning because then i would have missed out on the scenic drive.
PS the Welsh flag is awesome!
Our first stop was Tintern Abbey - the ancient ruins of a monastery built in 1131 and destroyed by Henry VIII. It's better this way though! I loved it. I don't think i could describe it as well as a picture.... but i loved how the grass was the floor and the way the dark gray stones and surrounding green-ness looked all together. it was spectacular. I also loved the quaint Welsh houses on the hills around it and all the Welsh translations on signs. PS Welsh is a crazy language! it's fascinating :)
Welsh-English sign

 After Tintern Abbey we headed deeper into Wales and stopped at "Big Pit" - a National Mining Museum of Wales and an old ex-mine. It's name in Welsh is (honestly) "'Pwll Mawr' - Amgueddfa Lofaol Genedlaethol Cymru." How aewsome is that. Well it was on top of a hill overlookong a town and it was all beautiful... shockingly green with a few patches of snow. At the beginning of the mine tour we got hard hats with 'lamps' and a fanny pack with a battery pack and CO2 mask. This is our hilarious (very sarcastic) guide Wayne, an ex-miner. He liked making fun of us. :) I love this Welsh geezer.
We took an elevator cage down underground. it reminded me of Tower of Terror! i miss that ride. We went about 1000 feet underground to the mine shaft, where Wayne showed us around. He told us sad stories about the child labor that used to happen in mines, and the horses that would go blind from being stuck in the mines all year. Sad. Not to mention all the toxic methane poisoning and black lung! They really did use canaries too, to alert miners if the air became toxic. We meandered through tiny tunnels and through horse stables and mining areas. "Dig dig dig dig" from Snow White's Heigh-Ho song was stuck in my head the whole time. :) 
mining train

After Big Pit we drove for awhile and stopped at St. Fagin's Museum of National History of Wales. It was cool because most of it was outside and you could explore the grounds. The indoor museum included artifacts and modern Welsh things (random things - a harp, farming tools, old Welsh clothing, books, etc). Outside there were sheep pastures, a barn, an old manor house/museum, and gardens. Oh and in the museum we got to dress up as an old Welsh woman and wrap up a baby doll in our shawl. Then we drew pictures of Welsh things in the coloring area. It was fun :)
In the garden Calvin (one of the 4 boys here) tried teaching me and a couple girls how to Moonwalk. It's safe to say that dancing will never come very naturally to me. Later: here's Cam and Calvin dancing the Dance of the Welsh (or something..) ha.
 We ended the day in Cardiff, and after some exploring a group of us ended up getting dinner at random Mexican restaurant. Which seems weird.. Haha and they serve frech fries with the food, as "chips." Maybe it was a cultural experience after all. At the hotel i roomed with Kalyn, one funny girl. I finally got to experience British tv. The only channels were crime news and gardening. :(

Friday 2/26
Woke up early, good continental breakfast, then back on the Coach. The first stop was THE BEST. We visited Caerphilly Castle, a massive castle surrounded by a lake-moat, ancient but still intact. It was so intimidating it was never attacked. I pictured King Arthur in the mighty stone fortress haha. I love castles! Especially Welsh castles.

After Caerphilly castle, the rest of the day was spent seeing church history sites... not my favorite.
It was interesting to visit places we had learned about in our religion class here, but i prefer castles and Welsh ruins. We visited Worcestershire (i had the best subway sandwich of my life! with sweet chili sauce), Herefordshire, Hill Farm, Castle Frome Church, Gadfield Elm Church, and Beacon's Hill. At each place we had a guide with us who told us the story behind the place.
My favorite stop was Beacon's Hill which was a giant hill overlooking Welsh countryside. It was insanely windy at the top! And i got left behind in the bathroom in town so i climbed the "hill" quickly and almost had a heart attack at the top. I swear there wasn't much oxygen up there! It was hard to even stand with the crazy wind trying to push you over the edge, but the view was absolutely amazing.
The black smudge in the 1st picture is me trudging up the monster hill alone haha

 our last view of Wales! (at Gadfield Elms)
i love Wales

Thursday, March 18, 2010

march 18 *note/catch-up

ok. I have had a FANTASTIC past month and plan to blog about it all before april. Or asap. :)
Here's a teaser for you (mom, etc)... Highlights:
Wales, castles, Mika concert, Shakespeare's hometown, Hampstead heath, markets, cathedrals, stourhead (from the pride and prejudice movie!), plays, being a tour guide for Melinda & family (love you guys!), digestives, nutella, oh and the last four days I spent in Paris!!! (our "spring break").

And the best parts of PARIS were - the eiffel tower (at sunset and at night), a boat tour on the river Seine, Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Arc du triumphe, amazing museums, Versailles, Chartres cathedral, the Catacombs (the coolest - underground maze with walls made of skeletons), and of course eating crepes, croisants, and french bread every day. I can't believe this is my life right now. !! :)

Also: I discovered the BEST candy of all time in Paris!! (i may have eaten 5 bars since i discovered them 24 hours ago. Actually i ate them for dinner... haha). I hope i can find them in London.
Introducing ... Ferrero Rocher Duplo Nocciolato
 ps. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!! i love you so much. this post is dedicated to you. See you in less than 2 months. I'll bring home your awesome birthday presents :) :) xoxooxxxoox