Saturday, May 1, 2010

Last Few Hours in the UK

On the morning that I was to leave to head to London, I said my final goodbyes and was taken to the train station by Daf. It was much harder to get on the train than I anticipated. From the moment I stepped on the train, everyone was so generous and helpful. Random people would offer to help me with my bags, since I had two bags totaling in weight at about 50 kilos. Even when I got into London and was navigating the tube system with 2 huge bags and a backpack, people were very patient and helpful. I got a bit flustered at times when I would think about having left my friends and colleagues behind and being a little lost, but looking forward to seeing my family put a smile back on my face. I finally made it to my hotel. Had a little difficulty getting situated and the front desk had too many trainees working at once, but finally calmed down, had a cup of tea and my sandwich from home. I repacked my bags so as to lighten the load in my checked baggage (still overweight) and drifted off to sleep.

I arrived at the airport at 6:45, and couldn't check in until 7:25. Then got through security with an hour and a half to kill before my gate even opened. What a long morning!! It's 9 am and I've been up and at'em for 4 hours now. and I will gain 6 hours today. Talk about longest day of my life!!

Excited to see family and friends! See you all soon!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Climbing Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh)

So to start my story off, I will tell you what we did the night before climbing Snowdon. Ether had a fund-raising gig for Daf's sister to go to a choir competition in China. Let me tell you, the girl has some pipes!!! Anyway, most of us were out for this and then everyone met up at the pub to play some pool and have a night cap. Let's just say we all had a late night and some of us later than others...I won't mention names... *cough*Brighid*cough. :) We had originally planned to meet at my flat at 6AM but we changed it to 7AM, but some of the group didn't get the message. So we started out the day unorganized and people running about trying to get there packed lunches ready at the last minute (raising hand).
So we set off at about half past 7, oops. The drive was nice; you cut through the moors (sp?) and Betws-y-Coed which is a cute little town. And then, the mountains start coming into view. At this point I'm thinking I should have gone to bed earlier. :/ After driving around the bottom of the mountain for about half an hour, we finally find somewhere to park...D was right,
we should have set out earlier to avoid some of the crowds. We had to walk probably almost a mile to get to where the trails started, this is when I knew I had gotten myself into something I may regret later. I was huffing and puffing all the way up. (In the picture from right to left: Dafydd, Peter, Brighid, Chris, "D"/Dave)

We started walking up at about half past 8. It was a nice cool morning, there was a breeze, and the sun was behind the clouds, but of course I had my shades on because I am just that cool, Joe Cool to be exact. The views were absolutely spectacular! You don't see anything like it in Texas, that's for sure! The picture at the top of this blog is from about the first 20 minutes of our hike.

Halfway up to the top, we stopped for lunch, at about 10:30. It's crazy how much energy you use up!! The terrain was rough and I wished I had had boots on because I cannot tell you how many times I rolled my ankles. My thighs and buttocks were burning, the sun came out so it got hot, and we didn't bring near enough food. Let me tell you what though...climbing up Snowdon is like walking on a stairclimber for the whole day. But when you get to the top, you realize that it's worth it. It took us about 4 hours to get to the top. The top of Snowdon is at 1085 feet, so it's a good climb. We could have done it quicker, but we were talking our time, stopping to take pictures and just enjoy the view.

We started our climb down which took significantly less time than going up even though we took the longer route down. We went down around the lakes left by glaciers and the water was beautiful and clean and cool. We finally made it down and the whole trip took us about 7 and a half hours.

I won't lie, I was really sore the next day and was in bed by like 7:30 or so. I was absolutely knackered!!! But it was a great day to spend with friends and enjoy being outdoors.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A little place called Rhuthun

Over the half-term holiday, my friend Pete, who is also a teacher and had time off, and I decided to take a daytrip to a nearby town, called Rhuthun/Ruthin. It is a quant little town, but is full of history! We set out midmorning on the bus. We walked around the park, where Pete showed me some spots of his childhood memories, such as trying to hurdle a fence and face-planting...boys. Ha! We saw the old jail, some of the old church buildings, the town square, the old courthouse, the outside of the castle because it is privately owned now, etc. To see pictures from the day, check them out on Facebook (click on the link). Funny story to end the day in Rhuthun, as Pete and I are walking to the bus stop to go home the bus drives past the bus stop. Well, normally this wouldn't be too big of a deal except the bloody bus only comes once every 50 minutes. So we sit there patiently, chatting away, and then I start talking about hatchbacks (a type of car I would like), well they aren't familiar with that term here, so I was looking for one to point out to him...right as the bus drives by AGAIN and doesn't stop to pick us up because you have to hail the darn thing. I lost it; I was laughing so stinking hard, I couldn't control myself. So, I am about to update my Facebook status via my prepaid phone and the bus comes around again in 5 minutes (by fluke), this time luckily Pete was paying attention and hailed it. Needless to say, I may still be sitting in Rhuthun had Pete not been with me. Good times.

Random trips around Wales

I am very lucky to have a friend that 1) has a car 2) is actually enjoys my company and 3) is willing to take me around to some places in North Wales so I can fully experience this area. So, thank you Dafydd.

The first little trip we took was to Portmeirion. A small charismatic village south of Denbigh. There are little shops and restaurants there, and it is right on the coast. There was a nice little walk to go on, and so much character to observe. We spent the afternoon there and got to see
the tide begin to go out, and walked through the woods, up the light house and through the village. We then carried on to Porthmadog, where some of his family is from. We visited the nursery and the harbor...sadly, I didn't take any pictures while we were there.

Next, we went Llanrhaeadr which is just outside of Denbigh, and it has its very own bath. Daf took me here after I got back from Bath. It was a nice little walk off the road, back into the trees, and behind a little church. He said they used to use it for baptisms and stuff. It was really neat to see some thing that the Welsh had built and was kept pretty much intact by nature.

The next little trip we went on was to Conwy, a place that I have been wanting to go to since before I even came to Wales! I wanted to see a big castle that was mostly intact. Sure, there is an awesome castle here in Denbigh that I spend a heck of a lot of time at, but it has
been through war and destruction, so it is just ruins now. Conwy is a seaside town that has a beautiful harbor that I just couldn't take my eyes off of. It has castle wall that enclose the old town, and you guessed it, I made Daf walk all the way around it. The views were lovely, and the houses were all interesting to look at. We picked up some sandwiches and flapjacks from a little deli in town and had lunch on the docks, shielding our food from the seagulls who are known to snatch food right off the table. That was a lovely day.

Yesterday, we headed off to Llandudno for the afternoon. It is just another seaside town, but there are lovely Victorian style houses and buildings that you can look at as you walk along to
promenade by the beach. It was a lovely day, weather-wise, yesterday. We walked out along the pier and got some great views of the coast. Then we meandered around town just to see the different buildings and round-abouts, where they had just planted huge beds of flowers so when the sea breeze blew you could take a deep breath and smell the flowers. It was gorgeous. We ate dinner at a place called Weatherspoons, where I had root beer for the first time since December. It was nice. Then we headed back to the car so we could drive up to the Great Orme (picture to the left), basically it is a huge rock/peninsula thing that you can go up on and get views for miles! When we got to the car wouldn't start, so we spent about half an hour pushing the car over any incline in the parking lot that we could find to try and push start the car...No luck. So we decided to walk around and see if we could find anything else to push it
down within the near vicinity. We found a parking lot across the road the had a steeper incline so we pushed it over there and finally got it started. Glad i'm not a whimpy girl, otherwise we would have been seriously stranded. We got up to the Orme and drove around, found a nice place to watch the sun set and just relaxed. It was absolutely breathtaking!! And I don't even think the pictures I took do it justice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dublin Round 2

Daf and I boarded the ferry in Holyhead to head for Dublin on Thursday; we were both really excited for a holiday. We arrived in Dublin Port and got on a bus to head into the city centre, only the bus didn't take us as far as we thought it would, and in an area I wasn't familiar with. We started wandering aimlessly using the tourist map the bus driver gave us. We found Connolly Street, and then I knew where to go. After about an hour and a half of carrying our luggage and walking the streets of Dublin we found Janet's house! I was excited that I could remember the way. We dropped our things, had a glass of water, and headed out to find food. We went to The Bleeding Horse Pub, one of the originals in Dublin for a late lunch. We then headed towards St. Stephen's Green. We wandered around the park, and I was taking too many pictures of ducks (as usual). End of the day Janet came home and wasn't feeling well. Everyone had an early night. Daf and I set out the next morning to see the West side of Dublin including Manning Bakery on Thomas St (ironic because my grandfather's name is Thomas Manning) took sandwiches from the bakery to have lunch in Phoenix Park, past the Guinness factory, Jameson Distillery, Smithfield (new village in Dublin), the oldest cobblestone road in Dublin, the old "Black Church" and then to the pub to watch the Heineken Cup (Rugby) and catch some traditional Irish folk music. Saturday we spent the morning in the National Museum (Daf's first time at a museum and he really enjoyed it!!!), and then went to the Bleeding Horse again for lunch and to watch more of the Heineken Cup and the Grand National (horse races, my first time to watch). The day before Daf and I had both picked random Horse's names (Hello Bud and Joe Lively) out of the paper and his got 5th and mine finish in the top 10…not bad. We also visited Dublin Castle and Grafton Street before calling it a day. Sunday was a lazy day. We headed out to Dundrum just outside the city, had a bit of a walk around, found an HMV and I found Princess Bride on DVD for really cheap, so I bought it! Bingo, cheap plans for the evening. We, and by we, I mean Daf cooked, I supervised, made a nice curry at Janet's (we really did a lot of cooking, you know young kids on a budget, gotta make it work) and watched The Princess Bride. Monday was our day to head back to Wales. So we cleaned up the house, played some cards, had some lunch and headed to the ferry. But this is the best part of the whole trip…or luckiest (Daf says it was a miracle). We set out for the ferry two and a half hours early for the ferry, giving us time to walk across town to the shuttle and have time to check in and what not. Well, we got to the shuttle stop and asked one of the bus drivers to ensure we would be getting on the right bus. He said to take any of the 53 busses. We get on the 53A bus and the driver says we should be on the 53B bus. Dangit! The driver is talking to Daf and apparently he says he will go a little out of his way to get us closer to the port. Already we are thinking, "this is fantastic!" Then Daf asks how we should make it the rest of the way, but the driver insists we will not make it if we walk and will get ripped off by a taxi driver. The bus driver takes us a mile and a half off his route and drops us at the front door of our ferry station!!!! It was absolutely mental!!! And to top it all off, he only charged us one bus fare instead of 2!!!! What a day! Well, we made it like an hour before our ferry departed and ended up sitting around playing cards and reminiscing about how crazy that experience was!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

a series of unfortunate events...ok only one

I was washing dishes this morning at my flat and as i was washing a glass with a crack in it, the glass broke and sliced my hand across my knuckle. the cut is about 3-4 inches long and deep. luckily the healthcare here is FREE and i got steri-stripes and a sling, and was sent on my way. i will be going back tomorrow to have it checked. so for now, i sit here pecking away with my left hand in a little bit of pain, frustrated because i cannot do anything for myself. i will have to postpone my dublin blog for now...until then...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Week One as a "Backpacker"

After saying goodbye to Jen Sunday the next 2 days, I spent indulging myself in a little R&R to recuperate from the term of hard work. On Tuesday, I set out on a train to Bath, in South England, all alone (don't freak out Dad, I'm safe and I was careful!) The first night in the hostel, which was only £12 and was the best one I have stayed in in the UK thus far, I made some new friends. I was sitting on my bunk looking at the maps and lists of attractions, and This girl, Alysse, walks in and is talking about how she is homesick, I make small talk with her and we decide to go to the pub to watch my beloved Man Utd. play (against Munich, and we lost!!!) We spilled our life stories and got some late night munchies, and we friends instantly.

The next morning I went on a walking tour of Bath, highly

recommended, and saw all the sights in Bath: the Abbey, Sally Lunn's house, the parades from the 18th c

entury, theaters, famous people's houses, the Queen's square, the Circus, the Crescent, and more things that I am forgetting.

Then in the afternoon Alysse and I met up to go on a bus tour of Stonehenge (absolutely magnificent) and Lacock, a small village that has been mostly preserved, and bonus, has 2 houses that have been used in Harry Potter films!! So we were stoked!

The next day I went to the Roman Baths, which was really cool, and I can't believe I almost didn't pay the £13 to get in, because it was totally worth it! Then made the hike up the hill to the Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms, built in the 18th century as the new center of the social scene in Bath. Later, went back down the hill to Queen's Square Park to eat my PB&J that I brought from home, and read my book for about an hour before heading for a walk down the Avon River and the Pulteney Bridge. I happened to stumble across the Postal Museum and an Art Gallery which

were interesting to walk around. I then had run out of things to do and my train wasn't for 4 more hours so I decided to go to the train station to get my itinerary (there were a few connections I had to make) and go find a pub to sit down in and get some food. On my way to the train station, it starts HAILING!! Out of no where, I'm walking down the street, it sunny, I have sunglasses on and shorts, and it starts hailing. I was tired and put off at this point, so I asked the man if there was any way I could get on an earlier train, he said there was one leaving in 35 minutes. So I hoofed it back to the hostel, grabbed my bags, and called my friend who was to be picking me up, to ask if I could please be picked up early. So I hopped on the train back to Denbigh, and felt satisfied and fulfilled.

Dublin on Thursday, and I think I'll try to hit up one of the medieval towns around here this week that I can catch a bus to, although, today (Monday) is a bank holiday, and everything is closed. Tonight, curry and film night with the gang, along with my apple cobbler/tart/crumble thing that I made from some of the excess food from the boarding house. It turned out really nice. Thanks and Gig'em.