Over the Easter Holidays, which seems like an eternity ago now, I went on a bit of an adventure. You may recall how I went away to Austria over Easter 2014 on an orchestral tour to Vienna, and it appears that music, Austria and long haul coach trips are now somewhat a tradition for me over the Easter break. However, this year I did not have my sheet music and violin in tow, but ski boots, goggles and a slight apprehension about what I had actually signed up for. This time I was off to Snowbombing Festival.
Ramblings from a coffee shop
I have begun writing this post sitting in a coffee shop of which this will be my third visit, partly because it is just so good and mainly because I don’t know where else to go as a non-resident of Durham. It feels a little bittersweet to write a post about how brilliant Durham is as I had my heart set on studying here for so long, so I already knew what a wonderful place it is. In fact, I did have concerns it would be a little upsetting to be here and be so involved with the student lifestyle I once thought I would be living. However, this visit has so far reassured me that although Durham is wonderful, Bristol is the city for me after all and I can continue to write this post about my wonderful trip with no bad blood or dramatic sobs of ‘WHY OH WHY?!’. So now I’m going to carry on sipping my raspberry tea whilst I wait for my friend to join me and enjoy the rest of my time here with a refreshing sense of contentment that everything has worked out for the best.
I want to do a bit of a profile of some places that I have visited, but because I am pretty sure I will visit most – if not all – of them again at some point, I’m going to call this ‘series’ (woah getting a bit of professional over here) “First visits” cause I’m so creative with naming things. So here is the first of the first visits. How apt!
Vienna, Austria, Central Europe
I said I would do, so I did it. Here it is; my trip down south (*everyone applauds, fans screams, people faint etc…*)
The day after I got back from Cardiff, I was back on a train and marked my third trip to Birmingham New Street in 5 days. This time, however, instead of hopping on a train to the land of the Welsh, I hopped onto a Virgin train (ooh fancy) which headed towards London, as I was off to visit my ‘lavely’ friends and their ‘lavely’ dog. How ‘lavely’. Mel, Dave, Max, Leah and Willow. Can you guess who the dog is? (no, it isn’t Dave).
The first full day was very chilled. Max, Leah and I went into the town centre for a bit and met up with Mel, but the miserable weather scared us off a little, and we headed back and made plans to see a film. So off to the cinema Max, Leah and I went, and we saw ‘The Maze Runner’. I haven’t read the book, and the only thing I knew about the film was from a book YouTuber who recommended the book – so basically I knew very little than the fact people are stuck in a maze. Needless to say, it was pretty good. Definitely was following that dystopian feel that we have seen through other franchises like ‘The Hunger Games’, but it was pretty different, and I quite liked it (I don’t like reviewing films too much, feel silly, let’s pretend that didn’t happen).
The evening we headed to Prezzo, and I was treated (thanks, guys!!) to a wonderful meal. I was very impressed with myself as I ate a whole calzone, then hazelnut covered ice-cream. Be proud, guys. Be proud. (Thank goodness I joined a gym, is all I can say). We went back, and Dave introduced me to Spaced. (I like it a lot. We watched a fair amount of Spaced whilst I was there.) I also wore my new heels that I got for a bargain and didn’t break my ankle, so it was just a night of successes really.
The next day, we went to London. Ever since I went to London with some of my friends over the Summer, I have been dying to get back. I always liked London, but that trip just made me fall in love with the city. With it only being a twenty minute train journey from where my friends live, I had to go. So Max, Leah and myself got on that train and headed straight to Camden Market to have a wander. I really like the feel of Camden So many different people there, but all pretty chill. It is wacky and wonderful, and as someone who loves Affleck’s palace (which is just afflecks now apparently, who knew?) in Manchester, Camden feels like the ultimate extension of that, with it’s Gothic stalls and vintage corners. It is hipster central, but that’s probably why I like it so much. You can judge me, it’s okay, I just like kooky places (it is a well known fact that I am this ‘hipster’ of my friend group, I mean, I’m going to study French and Russian, I had no chance).
Once we’d spent a little time in Camden, and I’d bought a scarf for me and my best friend, we decided to head for lunch. This meant catching a few tubes to Baker Street, and heading to Ask Italian. If you have never been on the tubes before, they can be summed up quite easily; hot, stuffy, sometimes very claustrophobic but incredibly fun and the best game of dot-to-dot ever. I really love working out which stations to hop on and off and what lines to get – I could ride around the tubes for hours if I’m honest. Plus I’m a nesh, so it is one of the only places that I am warm (the tubes and the staffroom at work).
Baker Street is such a wonderful station. It is ridiculously Art Deco and feels very grand, and you just want to take pictures of it and pretend all tube stations in London look like this (spoiler; they don’t). So here are some photos of Baker Street which is TOTALLY like all other tube stations. Definitely.
I thought I had more pictures than that. Awkward. You get the idea though, right?
Ask was, not surprisingly, fab. But that isn’t a shock, because I just love food a lot. I’m sure you’ve realised that by now, considering I talk about it so much. I’ll just show you pictures this time though, because I still have a lot to talk about, and FOR ONCE food isn’t my priority (is this still Rhiannon writing? Who is this imposter?).
After we had stuffed our faces, we decided to go see the poppies at the Tower of London, as we were lucky enough to be there for the run up to Remembrance Day. For some reason, I had it in my head that it wouldn’t be that busy. Half term. London. Once in a lifetime event. Really, Rhiannon? Needless to say, it was absolutely buzzing, which was lovely to see. The only downside is we didn’t get very close to the poppies, nor did we stay for very long. But it was truly stunning and such a wonderful tribute to those who died in WWI.
After a lot of tube journeys (the circle line is the only line that confuses me majorily. IT ISN’T EVEN UNDERGROUND HALF THE TIME?!?!), our final stop of the day was Leicester Square, where we ate a lot of Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Phewf. Leicester Square was, as usual, busy and full of life, and was the perfect end for little day trip to London Town 🙂
And that concludes our little trip to London. Ah, I love London.
Later that evening Max and Leah went out to explorers and I spent my evening with Mel and Dave, where we went to the very swish hotel that Dave works to get a pumpkin (don’t ask). We actually ended up getting Cosmos. Pumpkins. Cosmos. It was a crazy night.
My final full day was Halloweeeeeen. That apparently entailed Max and Leah sleeping in until the mid-afternoon, but I got a lot of my book read (you lazy fools). But as soon as they were up and ready, we headed to Tesco to buy lots of baking goods as we decided to spend our day baking some Halloween themed cupcakes. This had to be my favourite afternoon of all. Music on, us three in the kitchen making a bit of a mess (we cleared it up, don’t worry), singing loudly and making some slightly naff cupcakes (bar Leah’s). It was just a good laugh, and reminded me why we are all still friends after all these years. We all just get along so well.
The rest of the day consisted of preparation for Halloween parties. Which, for me and Max, mainly involved sitting around wearing moustaches, and then a lot of weird white paint (I am so, so sorry, Max). Then I went to a party with Max and his friends, who were all very lovely. They were all a bit younger than me, so I felt like that “cool, older person”, but I’m not that cool, and I’m not that old. It was good fun though, and nice to just have a laugh at a party for a change 🙂
And that is it! That is my few days away… I FINALLY WROTE IT!
I really had the best time seeing them all, and I can’t thank them enough for having me there. Miss them already, and I hope I see them much sooner than another year (love you guys! x).
The cliché blogging round up of the things I’ve learnt, or at least feel are notable enough to bullet point (because who doesn’t love a good list?):
- Spaced is weird as heck, but a very good TV series.
- You can NEVER have too much Italian food.
- Naively thinking that just ‘a few’ people will go to see the poppies at the tower will lead you to be very surprised by the very full tubes and heavy security at Tower Hill.
- Willow the dog is smaller than I remember, but just as lovely and cute.
- Playing Ring of Fire with southerners is highly unfair when someone pulls a 9 and chooses the word ‘grass’ for me to rhyme with.
- I really like travelling alone on trains.
Disclaimer: I’m deeply apologetic to any Welsh speakers – I used Google translate and considering I have experienced its terrible grasp of the Russian case system, I don’t have much confidence in its accuracy, especially when it comes to Welsh.
So, this weekend I went to visit one of my wonderful friends, who has ditched our northern seaside town for the city of dichotomies; Cardiff. I’ve been very excited about this visit for a number of reasons:
1. Travelling alone feels very grown up, therefore I can fake this ‘adulthood’ thing and buy coffee at Birmingham New Street like I own the place.
2. This would mark the first time I visit a friend at Uni, and that is so bizarre but really exciting.
3. I’ve never been to Cardiff, but as a massive Dr Who/Torchwood fan, I’ve seen it a lot of TV. I geeked out a lot.
4. And of course, I get to see one of my best friends for the first time in quite a few weeks. Aw.
Off I hopped, and after 4 trains, 5 hours and about 100 songs on my iPod later, I had reached my lovely destination.
The first evening
The first evening consisted of 3 things:
1. Continual talking
The talking spanned from general gossip to neuroscience, and was welcomed by me with open arms. I love work, but talking about OFSTED and lesson plans isn’t quite the same as a good natter with my mates.
Nandos was perfection – I mean how could peri-peri chicken wings and refillable drinks be anything less? My friend and I got a sharing platter and stuffed our faces until we quite content.
One thing you should know about my friends and I; we try to be classy by drinking wine, but in general we just love getting a deal, and cheap white wine has become a staple at most parties and gatherings. Or in this case, evenings sat in my friend’s student kitchen. We were both pretty shattered; 6 hours of pharmacy lectures for my friend, 5 hours of travelling for me, so the bottle of wine got us pretty… Giggly. Cool fact: my general studies lesson plans are a fantastic way to spend your drunken evenings. However, when my friend tried to explain vector and scalar quantities to me, I had no chance. Don’t even understand them sober.
That evening was also my first introduction to Cardiff city centre, which is a place I recommend to anyone. I didn’t expect to like Cardiff as much as I did, purely because I knew very little about it if I am quite honest. But Cardiff is full of classically British buildings, both modern and old. Cardiff castle looms over the modern high streets giving a stark reminder that this is a city of heritage and importance – it is of course a capital city of a beautiful country. The mix of the old and the very new made it such a cool city to visit. You could go into the buzzing high streets, then walk another 10 minutes and end up in the massive Bute park, which my friend was also lucky enough to have practically on her doorstep. Plenty to do, plenty to see. Can you tell I was impressed?
My friend lives about a half an hour walk from the city centre, so we set off, and I was given a bit more of a tour of Cardiff. We even went into her pharmacy building as it was open day at the university. If Cardiff did my course, I think I would have applied there. We also went and got coffee and snacks from Nero, cause we are typical 18 year olds who love food and coffeeshops.
Okay, so if you were paying attention before you’ll remember I said I love Dr Who. If you did remember, points to you. If you didn’t, that’s a shame, but I won’t hold it against you, just know I’m crying right now. Sob. Now, Cardiff Bay is the home of BBC Wales and the Dr Who Experience… So… Can you see where I am going with this?
My friend and I hopped on the cutest train you will ever see that literally runs from Queen Street to Cardiff Bay then back again. It was one carriage which made me very happy. I even took a picture, and the train driver waited to drive off until I took it. I like Welsh train drivers.
When we got into the bay I was pleasantly surprised at how familiar it was to me. The Millennium building stood tall pulling in passers by to take photos of its impressive structure. Including me. The whole area was fairly chilled, and did remind me of beloved Bristol harbour in some ways. We stopped off to grab lunch (somehow I ended up with a fishfinger and cheese panini… It was alright…) in a sweet cafe, and did a bit of people/chaffinch watching. Then we headed towards the Millennium building again, to see what was going on in there (and also use the toilets, such freelancers).
Inside, it was buzzing. Massive celebrations of black history month filled the ground floor, with wonderful flags from around the world pinned around. I particularly enjoyed the Caribbean arrangement of ‘Valerie’.
We then decided to slowly wander over to the Doctor Who Experience, and have a look at the sites. This included a Norwegian/Welsh church, some lovely ships, BBC Wales, weird contemporary art and a failure of a selfie with a sculpture. You have permission to laugh at it.
NOW I’M GOING TO TALK ABOUT HOW FAB THE DR WHO EXPERIENCE IS AND I’M VERY EXCITED. Bloomin’ love Dr Who. (Feel free to skip this part if you aren’t into sci-fi BBC dramas about a Time Lord… But oh are you missing out).
Okay, so just go to it. It is so good. And I don’t want to spoil it for any Dr Who fans and those who don’t care about Dr Who won’t care about this part much but you fly the TARDIS so I mean it is cool. Well… “Cool”. Just go. Here are some photos.
Phewf. I need to calm down, I’m all excited about Daleks and Cybermen. I’m sure you’re just as excited as me though, right? (I’m a geek, I know).
After the fun that was THE COOLEST FEW HOURS OF MY LIFE EVER (again, “coolest”) we headed back to the city centre and I got a further tour of the city before heading back to her student flat for tea. My friend showed me the famous animal wall, and took me closer to the castle, which really is very impressive both afar and up close.
The evening progressed from;
Fajitas –> Skyping our friend –> watching Dr Who (duh) –> Clubbing in the SU
I felt like I hadn’t been clubbing in ages (in reality, it’s been about a month) so I was really looking forward to dancing away. It started off slow, but by the end of the night they stuck on Nirvana and The White Stripes and I was very happy. Nothing beats jumping up and down, head banging to your favourite music with loads of other people doing the same. We went with my friend’s flatmates who are all absolutely lovely, so I had a really good time.
We decided to have a nice stroll to the area where Roald Dahl grew up, which has the feel of a village, but due to its stunning cathedral, is actually a city all to itself. Much alike to St David’s in Pembrokeshire, the cathedral seems to sneak up on you, as if it is hidden. But once you find it, you wonder how you could ever miss such a colossal and awe-striking building.
We also saw the sweet shop that Dahl mentions in his autobiographical book, which is now, quite disappointingly, a takeaway. His old school still holds its ground though; old, stunning… Very posh I would imagine.
We then walked back through the suddenly familiar Bute Park, where we saw a lot of dogs, a lot of footballers and a lot of leaves. It felt like such an autumn walk as we wandered through the leaves, and I could imagine feeling very home in Cardiff. As I hope my friend does.
To end the lovely trip, we grabbed lunch at her student flat then went for coffee. Or in my case, hot chocolate and the very ‘indie’ hot spiced apple. It came with a cinnamon stick, I highly recommend it if you are heading to Costa anytime soon. I also recommend taking a hipster photo, adding filters then uploading it to tumblr with a highly ambiguous sentence underneath. I keep getting notes for it… Oh tumblr.
Ha, what a photo.
It was an absolutely fantastic weekend, and I can’t thank my friend enough for showing me round her beautiful new home. The only downside to the whole trip was my delay at Birmingham New Street… But I had a burrito whilst I waited so I can’t really complain!
See you soon, Cardiff.