I went to Durham: A tale of coffee shops, schnapps and friends

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.

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Cardiff Adventure: #BlogioYngNghymru

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.

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That single leaf makes it so atmospheric.

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Only went and got a table seat to myself on the second train, didn’t I?

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The xx whilst traveling alone on a train; how to feel like an indie movie.

The first evening
The first evening consisted of 3 things:
1. Continual talking
2. Nandos
3. Wine

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.

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There it is… The place of dreams

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The menu of dreams…

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And the food of dreams….

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?
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Saturday
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.
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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.
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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).
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I’m a dork.

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I really am a dork.

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’.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The evening
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.

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Sunday morning
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.
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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.

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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.

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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.
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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!

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See you soon, Cardiff.