Tuesday, January 31, 2017

St. Fagan's, Caerphilly

Email from June 18:

This morning we started with a lovely toast breakfast with Gwenno (our host) and then drove to St. Fagan’s Museum of Welsh Life to meet up with the Forward family (the family I stayed with 11 years ago). Jenny and Steve were there with their 6 (!) children: Isaac is now 17, then Josh, Jamie, Ethan, Leah, and Luke who is 4. Also there was Grand-dad (Steve’s dad who gave me tips on how to marry a Welshman last time I was here) and Steve’s sister and her husband (who told us: “Wales is God’s own country. It says so in the bible. ‘God created great whales.’ There's a spelling error but it's right there.”) and they brought one of Steve’s nephews (from a different sibling). We walked around St. Fagan’s for most of the day. There was apparently a Welsh museum strike because the workers used to get overtime on Saturdays and Sundays but they’re trying to take that away, so there was a strike today. Most of the museums were closed entirely. St. Fagans is an outdoor museum where they’ve taken historic buildings from all over Wales and put them all together in one big park. It was still open, but many of the buildings were closed. We did get to go into a couple of the houses and the blacksmith’s shop (he was hammering on some hot metal). It was lovely. Between Jenny and Steve’s sister, we had quite a picnic of fruit, sandwiches, pork pies, Scotch eggs, biscuits, crisps, and donuts.

Around 2pm we left St. Fagan’s and drove to Caerphilly. Caerphilly is honestly one of my favorite places ever. The giant castle and moat is right in the center of town. (We don't know what it's like to go to the grocery store or to Burger King and have a giant 11th century castle across the street.) It’s known for being one of the biggest castles in all of Europe, 2nd largest in UK, and having a leaning tower that’s leaning farther than the Leaning tower of Pisa. They’ve also added a cool dragon coming out of the ground in front of one of the gates. We didn’t pay to go in (it’s a ruins), but we walked around the entire thing. At this point, it was just Jenny and Steve and their kids. Then we went with them over to some old Caerphilly friends’ houses (Jenny and Steve live in Chorley now – where the Preston temple is – and poor Steve is Bishop again). The friends, Lee (now the bishop of Caerphilly ward) and Sarah I remembered from last time. They’d built a beautiful kit cabin out in their backyard as well as a mini football (soccer) green. So the kids played on the green and the adults played pool in the cabin and talked. We left their house around 7:30pm, got a recommendation for a good Indian place in Caerphilly (“You haven’t had a curry yet? Well then you’ll have to go there, haven’t you?”), and Tom and I were off to dinner.

At the Indian restaurant, the lady came over and asked “You want papadam?” We had no idea what that meant and the poor girl thought we couldn’t understand her accent, so she sent another guy over who said “Would you like Papadam?” Tom asked: “Is that a kind of bread?” His response was: “It’s Papadam.” We ordered two and realized we had had them before (they are like a big crisp shaped like a tortilla), but we had never known what they are called. It's what Indian restaurants serve before a meal the same way other restaurants serve bread. People here know their Indian food. And we clearly do not. The food was all quite delicious. We ate more than our fill and returned back to Gwenno’s around 10pm. Church in Caerphilly is at 9, so we best be off!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Roman Baths, Cardiff Castle, Doctor Who Experience

Email from June 17:

The rain continues to be magical. When we come inside, it absolutely downpours and when we venture outside, it lets up and gets sunny again. We ate breakfast with our lovely host in Bath. She grows her own kefir and gave me some homeopathic remedy for my seasonal allergies. I'm not sure if it worked or if I'm just not as allergic in Wales... but either way, I've been better this afternoon. We said goodbye and walked down to the Roman Bath house and took the tour there, and drank the obligatory sample of the mineral-rich spring water. Then we grabbed a Cornish Pasty on the way out of town and drove to Cardiff.

On the way there we crossed the River Severn, which is the root of the name Sabrina.

We got to Cardiff and headed straight for the Castle. When I did my home stay in Caerphilly, I went to the ruins of the Caerphilly Castle. Only two other people were able to go to Wales for their home stay and they went to the Cardiff castle. We were sort of comparing notes and pictures and they said they had toured a castle and I said "me too" but then I looked at their pictures of Cardiff castle (which is giant, inside great walls with a big green, and very elaborately decorated inside) and realized my trip to the Caerphilly castle wasn't even close! Ever since then, I've wanted to tour the Cardiff Castle. There was a big joust happening for school groups on the green when we entered the gates, so we got to see the final sword fight and the champion taking his victory lap on his decorated joust horse at the end of the day. It was so festive! Then we toured the house part of the castle, the big Roman keep in the center, the walls that were turned into bomb shelters during the war, and walked through the big green. It was all spectacular.

From there we drove and then ran to the Doctor Who Experience (our tickets were for the 3:30 adventure and we parked at 3:25pm, but we made it!). We went through a very cheesy 30 minute adventure through Daleks and Weeping Angels and then were let free into the warehouse of props and costumes. We had a blast looking around.

It was pouring down rain when we finished, so we waited a minute, but the museum was closing, so we headed out into it. Of course, after about one minute outside, the sun come out and we walked through the Cardiff town centre. We ate dinner at Wagamamas with a view of the town square (Roald Dahl Plass). As we were eating dinner, a whole bunch of Porsches started driving into the town square and lining themselves up. Not really sure what event it was, but definitely a pretty good Porsche parade. We walked back to our car and drove to our new home for the next three nights just outside of town. We're staying with a lovely primary school teacher named Gwenno. And her townhouse is the Welsh version of ours and I love it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Stonehenge, Salisbury, Stourhead

Email for June 16:

We ate a delicious breakfast of warm scones, yogurt, and fresh fruit at our Avebury AirBNB, served by the daughter at the house who just finished her A levels. Hilariously, we recognized her from the Red Lion pub last night. She was one of the people we asked to borrow a phone (to call her own house!). Small world. Or small village, rather.

Then we drove to Stonehenge. We got there 30 minutes after opening and managed to walk around the stones and get decent pictures before the deluge of people showed up. (Including the BYU Ballroom Dance Company!). They have a new visitor's center which was very nice and well done and they've re-routed the path to get us closer to the stones than the last time I was there ten years ago, so that was nice.


Can you find us in these these two pictures?:

From Stonehenge, we drove to Salisbury. We have now seen two of the four original copies of the Magna Carta on this trip (the other one was in the British Library). Salisbury is also home to the oldest working clock, which is always a fun thing. Also, the lady we sat by at the Globe last week told us about the infinity font at Salisbury, and now we know what that is. I really liked walking around Salisbury. We stopped in at Poundland and bough some Jaffa Cakes, some Jammie Dodgers, and a selection of McVities biscuits. We ate some of those in the car on the way to Stourhead.

Again, today was a bit drizzly, but it didn't rain on us at Stonehenge and the hardest it rained all day was when we were inside the Stourhead house. When we got out to the gardens, it was drizzling which was perfect because we could walk around without getting too wet and there were fewer people. The gardens are just as beautiful as always. The swans were out, the rhododendron trees were in bloom and they were giant!

After seeing it all at Stourhead, we drove to Bath. The traffic in and out of Bath is ridiculous. And then we, sort of by accident, drove through the Town Centre which was all crazy narrow one-way streets (as most town centers), but on top of crazy streets, it was crowded! Several times we thought we were driving into pedestrian only areas, but we weren't. We finally parked just outside the main area and walked all around. The Baths had already closed (we'll do those in the morning), but we walked the streets, saw the Circus and the Royal Crescent. We ate dinner at a pizza and pie place - Tom got a butternut squash sweet potato pie and I got a jerk chicken pizza. Then we drove up to the place we're staying tonight. It's right up on the hill in Bath and our bedroom downstairs has a view of the abbey out the window. We'll try to Skype with the kiddos before going to bed (though it's hard to predict how fast the internet is and if it will work. I guess we'll see.)

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