Saturday, September 12, 2009

Our first adventure!

And to think I've only been here two weeks! I feel so at home here, it seems I've been here months, and we've also gotten a lot done! This week was my first week of classes. On Tuesday, I have my Jane Austen class, as well as History of the Middle Ages. I like them both a lot, as well as my professors. Wednesday was my big day, as I had a find my way to Oxford (about an hour train ride away) to attend my Georgian Politics and Society Tutorial. I got there early, and a good thing too, since University College, the college where I am having my tutorial, is on the opposite side of the city from the train station. Prof. Leslie Mitchell met me on the front steps of the college, and we had our lesson out in one of the gardens. It was so beautiful! Oxford wasn't really what I pictured it to be though. All of the colleges are spread throughout the city, and even though the college buildings themselves are beautiful, they are surrounded on all sides by normal restaurants and shops. And the quads are rather small. It was a beautiful city, but I much prefer Bath! Prof Mitchell was really wonderful, and I think I am going to enjoy my tutorial. Of course, I've only had one class so far, so that may change! Wednesday night after my tutorial, one of our ASE Staff Members, Jonathon, organized a sports night out in the park in front of the Royal Crescent. We had a really fun game of football going. Some of us had played before, but most of the students who came out hadn't, so it wasn't the most impressive display, but we had a blast! And we were being laughed at by all the English who were out relaxing in the park, but we didn't care. Afterward, we went down to a pub called The Pig and The Fiddle to watch the England World Cup Qualifying Game against Croatia. This was a big match. If England won, they automatically qualified for the World Cup. Also, England lost to Croatia before, and were therefore unable to play in the European Championship - so there was a grudge as well. It was a fantastic game, England winning with a score line of 5-1!

Thursday, I only had one class, In The Courts of Princes, which is a Renaissance Lit class. I think I'm going to really enjoy that as well. Not much else happened during the week, but enough happened on Friday to make up for it!

Friday, my friends Audrey, Elizabeth, Allison, Hannah, and Sara visited Cardiff, Wales, and had an amazing time. Wales is so beautiful! We got up early and took a train into Cardiff. It was only a bit over an hour, so it was a nice and easy drive. We also had perfect weather - surprisingly! When we got there, it was so cool to see all the signs at the train station and all over the city. They are not only written in English, but also in Welsh!

I can't even begin to try and pronounce those words!

Our first stop on our tour of the Welsh Capitol was a small village on the outskirts of the city called St. Fagans. Here, they have an open air museum called the National Museum of Welsh Life. It was there that we saw the beautiful St. Fagans Castle, which is a Victorian age manor house with beautiful gardens surrounding it. Here are some of the gardens:

The Castle itself (I think it is more of an estate, personally), was equally beautiful. We were able to walk around inside and see how it may have looked two hundred years ago. Unfortunately, though, no pictures allowed! It was fun to imagine walking around the breathtaking gardens wearing a hoop skirt and a corset, though!

After seeing St Fagans Castle, we went to another part of the museum, where they had typical Welsh homes on display from various time period. In the picture below, there is a long building which is broken up into different houses and behind them are different gardens. The farthest end of the building held a house that was decorated from the 1500's. The next one up was from the 1700s. They come all the way up to the pink one on the right, which is from the 1970s. It was really cool to see how everything had changed!
After an hour or two in St Fagans, we headed back to center city Cardiff and what do we find right next to the Hilton Hotel? Oh yes, a medieval castle, of course! Cardiff Castle was first constructed by the Romans in 9th century, but the parts that survive today are from the late 1200's. Below is the keep and the far wall. There is even a moat around the keep!

We climbed up into the keep and had an amazing view of part of the castle with Millennium Stadium in the background, where Cardiff's football and rugby teams play.
The castle was by far my favorite part of our trip to Wales, and I'm so glad that we splurged on a $15 guided tour of the main building. Here are some highlights from it:

The castle, from the 1800's until the 1940's, was owned by a private family, the family of the Marquess of Bute, one of the wealthiest men in Britain. He was also an ancestor of the Stuart kings, like James I, Charles I, Charles II, and Mary Queen of Scots. The third Marquess spent the most time at the castle, rather than at one of the many other family homes. He was fascinated by medieval England, and furnished the living quarters of the castle to look like an extremely opulent medieval palace. In his private smoking room, which is underneath the clock tower, he themed the room to be about time. The ceiling was covered with signs from the zodiac, norse gods, and greek symbols of time. Here, Apollo holds up the sun, symbolizing midday. I could have stood in this room forever and still not find all the subtle hints and references to time. It was incredible! Oh, also, if it looks like gold, it usually is. This guy had so much money!

Coming out of the smoking room, we looked up and saw this thing coming out of the ceiling. The Marquess put it in there to frighten away maids or his children if they were coming to bother him while he was with his friends. He had quite a sense of humor!
The children's nursery was definitely my favorite room. The walls were painted with different stories, like Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, and Robin Hood. There was also the most exquisite dollhouse and rocking horse. Those kids were spoiled! Although, they also had to work hard. They knew five languages by the time they were 10 years old - English, Latin, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and French!
The banquet hall continued with the mythical them. All along the wall, there was the depiction of a great civil war that took place in the 1100s between cousins Stephen and Matilda. I want to decorate my house like this! It is so COOL!
After getting a fabulous tour of the castle, we decided to tour for ourselves, and found ourselves wandering along war time tunnels.

We were exhausted by the rest of the day, and I slept on the train on the way home. It was a gorgeous day in Wales, though, and I'm so happy we went! Today was also a lot of fun, though I've spent most of it doing homework. At 2pm, a bunch of us headed to Bath Rugby Grounds for the first home game of the season. Of course, I have no idea how to play rubgy, but my British friend Ian was there to help explain along the way. Bath ended up losing to the London Wasps 17-10, but it was still a great game. It's so intense! Those guys are huge and just slam into each other like it's not big deal. I don't understand how more people don't get hurt! It was much more exciting than American football, however, and I'm hoping to go to a bunch more games this season. Go Bath!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kelsey:

    What a trip! Your blog is simply wonderful to read and the pictures make us feel like we're there with you! We're not sure how you will ever be able to leave and return to PA.

    I wouldn't be worried about things to do at Christmas. I believe that Europeans go all out for Christmas, so it should be beautiful. For example, I know in Amsterdam that if the canals freeze, all the Dutch go out to skate on them and there are Christmas decorations everywhere.

    Keep those stories coming!

    xxoo, Uncle Bill and Laura