Monday, January 27, 2003

[Alert : This is a long blog. I am trying to recount my experience in its full glory that it deserves.]

I am back from my overnight trip to Cardiff, and I must say, Wales is definitely something special. On Saturday morning I took the 8:10am bus to Oxford and met up with two other co-ops (Rob and Caroline) working there. Their boss was nice enough to drive us all to Cardiff, about 2 hours away from Oxford. Once we arrived in Cardiff, we stopped at a cafe for lunch. I had a TotalFullOn - and they do mean it by TOTAL: Two eggs, two slices of bacon, tomatoes, baked beans, four slices of toast, orange juice, and tea. All for �4.50. Not a bad deal considering what I have been eating in London. After lunch we bid farewell to their boss and started walking towards town.

We thought it would take us more time than it actually did. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at the 'downtown' of Cardiff. Much like other big cities, Cardiff has a pedastrian street filled with shops, buskers, and hundreds of people on a Saturday afternoon. Strolled along the street and decided to get ourselves a room at the Cardiff Backpackers first. It was another 30 minutes before we reached the 'colourfully' (yellow and purple) decorated hostel. Didn't take us too long to secure ourselves with a private room with a three sleeping spots. At this point we realized that the Cardiff Castle will be closing in about 15 minutes, and we should hurry if we want to visit the castle.

Only after arriving at the castle precisely 15 minutes later that we found out most of the castle was closed to the public. (We later found out that there was a wedding during the time in the banquet hall) Instead of paying �3.30 to visit just the grounds, we could wake up early the next morning and take a full tour for �5.50. Promptly we left the castle, but took a few pictures outside since it was quite sunny at the time. (a weather condition that is few and far in between) Instead, we found ourselves in the National Museum and Gallery of Wales.

At the museum there was this special exhibition of Star Trek Federation Science, apparently displaying how the technology in Star Trek and its relation to the real physics and chemistry. As much as I don't like to admit anything related to Star Trek, we were pretty interested in what kind of exhibit it was so we looked around. It was more for kids than anything, so it was rather disappointing. Had a look around the history of Wales and how it came to be what it is today before the lights were abruptly shut off. I suppose they could have warned us that the museum was closing, instead of just shutting off all the lights. Anyhow, we had no choice but to leave.

After heading back to the hostel, we decided that pub/club/dancing was the way to go for spending the night. On our way out to High Street, where the nightlife of Cardiff hides, we passed by this house that is boarded up from top to bottom. From the doors to the windows, every single opening were borded up and written all over were rants about how the City Council of Cardiff screwed the person over regarding housing. We also saw the Millennium Stadium, which looks like a spaceship ready to take off.

A funny story I had during my dinner at Subway. The person who served me was Welsh, and as I ordered my steak and cheese sub, he asked us if we were Americans. We promptly replied that we are Canadians, and he immediately apologized for mistakening us for Americans. We laughed, saying that at least he knows to apologize for that. He then told us that he knows how it feels to be mistaken for something he's not. Apparently he went to the United States, and somebody went to him and asked, "So you are English?" He replied, "No, I'm Welsh." The American seemed confused, "So.. you're English?" He replied, "No, Welsh." Now the American is really confused. He decided that it was pointless to explain to him, and then he said, "Actually, I'm British." The American proclaimed ,"AH! So you're English!" That got us all laughing. :) (honestly, if you did not understand that, I would strongly recommend you read up on England and Wales history before you make the same mistake as the American did)

High Street (St.Mary Street) was really lively during the night time. It was about 8pm, and the street is packed with people dressed up as if they were to attend a ball. Women wearing skimpy outfits, showing off their assets. While men walked in groups, wearing shirts and sometimes even jackets. Some girls even dressed as police, walked down in a group, harassing (more like flirting) blokes walking down the street.

First we went into a pub for a small drink. It wasn't too alive, with people sitting in tables chatting away. We quickly left and headed up the street to find many clubs and bars already filled with patrons. As we progress up the street, we grew weary about the way we dressed. After all, a pair of trainers with denim jeans and a sweat shirt is not what you would consider 'classy'. However, it wouldn't matter since nobody knows me anyway. We went into another bar that is blasting music, and boasted free entry at the door. I am convinced that the city is about a decade behind in music - everywhere we went, all I hear is music from the 80s and 90s. To be honest I have no problem with that, afterall, I am an 80s child. It just seems a bit odd that everybody enjoys the music and can sing almost everything they put on. The whole night was a tribute to Uptown Girl and Billie Jean, to Queen and Abba. Sometimes they would slip in something more popular, like Kylie or Ricky Martin.

Now speaking of this bar (unfortunately I have forgotten the name already), I saw some rather 'interesting' people in there. These two girls walked in, took off their jackets, and started dancing on the dancefloor. The dancefloor itself was about 10x10 square feet, with speakers blasting from both sides of the floor. One girl was wearing a red plastic top and some short 'thing' she considers a skirt. The other girl wore a white top that looked like she was going to pop, and a skirt again that almost covered her bottom. It wasn't their dress that caught my attention though, it was their attitude towards the other men who were drinking at the bar. They ran up to random people (I was sure by the surprised look on their faces and their reaction to the girls), and just pull them to the dance floor to dance with them. To make matters more interesting, the girls force-kissed the men within 15 seconds on the floor. They must have done this to at least 7 or 8 blokes in the place, since all these people were suddenly surrounding them, dancing, rubbing aginst the two girls. It was quite a scene, actually. I couldn't stop laughing even after leaving the bar shortly after.

The reason why we left was because the music started to become really weird and not 'danceable'. At this time, we wanted to go to a real club with real music, so when we passed by the club called Edwards, we were drawn by the beats blasting through the doors. The music was a little more trance, drum n'bass, and less 80s. It was still a drinking hole with two floors dedicated to drinking. A small dance floor was situated between the two drinking floors, and that's where we spent the rest of the evening until about midnight. We proceeded back to the hostel. Rob and Caroline quickly fell asleep, but I still had a bit more energy in me so I chilled in the lounge.

I met some interesting people there, several travellers from Australia, one girl from the States, and one other guy from some part of Europe. We chatted, talked about Canada and how we have really good beer (GO CANADA!), and how our country is really beautiful. They said all the Canadians they have met were extremely nice people, and they haven't met anybody from Canada that didn't say 'Please' and 'Thank You'. It is nice to know that outside of Canada, we have such a good reputation!

The next morning we all woke up nice and early (8:00am!), had some free toast at the kitchen and checked out. Walking down High Street once again to reach the Cardiff Castle, I saw the remains of the party from the previous night. Cleaning workers washing the roads, picking up the empty cans and garbage left behind by the party-goers. It took us a little over 15 minutes to reach the castle, and the tour was ready to begin in a short while. The castle was beautiful! (too bad we were not allowed any pictures inside the castle) It definitely had a different style than the Windsor Castle, mainly because it was rebuilt and restored in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Most of the furniture and designs were Victorian age, which was very elegant with its own right. Each room is themed, with subtle cleverness hidden behind each decorative design. For example, the winds of the world were holding up the four corners of the ceiling at the clock tower. Or the twelve zodiacs painted on top of the ceiling, the four seasons' personification on the stained glass windows, the four basic elements of the world, the monkeys reading books (Darwinism was very popular at the time it was rebuilt), etc. It used to be a fort at Roman times, and therefore the keep and parts of the Roman Wall remains were still intact. It looked like it was attacked, but well defended and must have given the attackers a tough battle.

We still had a little time left after the visit to the castle, so we decided to walk down to Cardiff Bay. What a silly thought. It took us more than 40 minutes to reach the bay, only to be called by our ride back to Oxford. No big loss though - the bay looked just like every other major bodies of water. Very.. water-like. :) After arriving in Oxford I just took the bus back to London, where I spent the rest of the evening sitting around. Come to think of it, I must have walked up and down that High Street at least 7 or 8 times yesterday. It was definitely a fun overnight trip - very relaxing, and at the same time I had a whole bunch of fun. I wonder where our next trip will be?

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