Barcelona

Approximately a billion years ago, I went to Barcelona. A billion plus one years ago, I was talking to my darling friend Jenny about how I hadn’t traveled anywhere. I’d been to Cardiff, and Edinburgh was in the cards, but I hadn’t been out of the UK. Let’s go to Barcelona! Jenny declared. And soon enough, she was looking up flights and plotting plots. I like when things actually happen! So yes, we went to Barcelona.

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Edinburgh!

Hey guys, I went to Scotland! It was the best. My lovely friend Erin is living in Edinburgh for two years while her husband does a master’s at the University of Edinburgh. They’ve been down to London, but I needed to get myself up to Scotland. Luckily, our friend Heather decided to take a trip out this way, so we coordinated a big adventure. I’ve long had an appreciation for Scotland for basically no reason (aside from how much I like to listen to Peter Capaldi swear at people), and I’m so so happy I finally got up there.

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Cardiff!

Oh, hello there blog. I started writing about Cardiff like a million years ago, and then forgot to finish. But I’ve recently had some…complaints…about my lack of updating, so here we are. Really what happened was class started again and I got busy. And THEN my computer went crazy and crashed, so I’ve not had much patience for anything technological lately. But anyway, here is a long delayed post about Cardiff.

When Emily came to visit, we decided to get out of London for a few days. She’d already been here a couple times and done all the big touristy things you’re supposed to do in London, so we figured we might as well check out a different British city. And, because Emily is very obliging, we went to Cardiff. Because uh, Doctor Who and stuff.

There is, of course, more to Cardiff than Doctor Who. There’s a castle! A rugby stadium! Lots of cute arcades and streets for shopping! Museums! A silly little winter wonderland! And oh boy oh boy, we’d get to go to a whole new COUNTRY. So off we went to Cardiff.

Being silly Americans, we had NO IDEA transportation would be such an issue on Boxing Day. WHAT THE HELL IS BOXING DAY. We still have no idea. So we had to take a bus to Cardiff, which was hellish just because bus stations are some of the worst places on the face of the planet. I don’t remember Victoria Coach Station being so terrible the few times I’d been there before, so I’m going to blame Boxing Day and Megabus for making it terrible, and hope for better things if I have to go back there in the future.

ANYWAY, Cardiff. Cardiff is a lovely little city. And I mean little. When we arrived, we spent probably about an hour trying to figure out how to get to our hotel from the bus stop, whining about how far it was. Only to realize later on that oh, we’re just idiots that can’t read a map (and also one of us (ahem, me) was very hungry and tired and CRANKY), and actually everything in Cardiff is crazy close together and walkable. Once we got our bearings, it was all so much easier.

The first day, we didn’t do too much. We went to a Wagamama, because we both have a fondness for it and Emily hadn’t been to one yet on her trip. And the best part about going to Wagamama was that it was IN THE LIBRARY. Well, in the same building, anyway. So Cardiff was well on the way towards redemption after a cranky afternoon. We wandered about a bit after our dinner, checked out some arcades, but then called it a night to watch various panel shows and rest up for the next day.

Early(ish) the next morning, we set out on a walk to Cardiff Bay to go to the Doctor Who Experience. We estimated a bit wrong, so had lots of time to wander the area before our time slot at the Whosperience (I’ve decided to call it that). It was quite cold and windy and I’m sure I complained a lot, but once we were inside the Whosperience and there were small children dressed as the Doctor(s) (two brothers–one was 10 and the other 11), I felt better.

Now, I had fun at the Whosperience. But oh man. It is…silly. There’s an interactive bit, where you have to help the Doctor fight some aliens and whatnot that, to be honest, was pretty lame. I hope the kids liked it? I couldn’t tell. It was also horribly outdated, but in an effort to seem a bit cooler than I am, I won’t talk about that. I had more fun wandering around the exhibit part, with all the costumes and set pieces and props and whatnot. I thought there’d be more, though. But what was there was pretty fun. Some old TARDIS sets, allllllll the Doctor’s main costumes, and all sorts of baddies. I also got to be a Dalek, so that was PRETTY FUN. And then I bought a little plush Adipose and a new t-shirt, so. I’m the worst.

We spent the rest of the day eating and wandering around Cardiff, finding a lovely coffee spot in one of the arcades. I may or may not have bought some things in the big sales going on. We went to a fancy micro brewery place for dinner and sampled the local beer.

The next day, we did basically all the touristy things we could do. We went to Cardiff Castle and wandered for a while, had some delicious Welsh rarebit (basically cheesy bread), and went for a tour of Millennium Stadium, where I pretended I knew lots of things about rugby. We went to a pub called The Goat Major for a pint of Brains (the local brewery is called Brains, which I think is hilarious)–there is a Welsh regiment that, for some reason that I learned and now forgot, travels with a goat. So this is his pub. It was a good old man pub.

We also went to the silly winter wonderland thing by city hall, and went on this big 60 meter swing ride thing. I tried to take pictures from the top, so I have a lot of weird slanted pictures of Cardiff. We also went to the National Museum and saw some art, and tried to learn some things about Wales. I discovered Welsh Cakes, which are…delicious. We wandered through Bute Park, and took a last stroll through pretty much all the arcades, then got our train back to London. To Paddington Station. Where we met Paddington Bear. Hooray!

So, there’s a quick, sort of half-assed roundup of Cardiff. I’d say I promise to be better about updating this thing, but…yeah, not going to promise anything.

An American Thanksgiving in England

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It’s not religious, so I never felt left out, or had to explain to confused friends what it was about. With the exception of maybe a year or two here and there, my parents have always hosted, so I always got to be at home. I’d usually get up early, head downstairs in pajamas, and plant myself on the couch with a warm drink to watch the big parade. Maybe I’d help chop some vegetables, but let’s be honest, I mostly just sat and watched the parade and was all snuggly and cozy while the house filled up with Thanksgiving smells.

This year was the very first time ever I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving. And the first time in many years I haven’t had to strategically plan when to leave work to avoid the biggest crowds at Grand Central and mentally prepare myself to throw lots of elbows and push my way to a seat on a crowded train (pretty sure I had a stress dream about that last week). I’ve also had to explain the holiday to people who don’t know what it is. And it’s also Hanukkah, which noooo one seems to understand. No one even knew what a dreidel was! What is this place! So I was feeling doubly mopey and homesick, doing my best to be excited about two holidays no one in London understands. Luckily, I had a place to go to feel at home, and while it wasn’t exactly like my past Thanksgivings, it was pretty wonderful.

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