We began the day by meeting up with the BYU English Language study abroad students that are based in London. It was fun to see new but friendly faces and talk about the places we'd all been. Their program sounded pretty cool, but ours is definitely the best. :) I was absolutely thrilled to notice that one of the girls was an HBLL employee! It made me feel right at home. We jumped right in talking about her bosses and department, and you guys know I LOVE my library. I probably freaked the H out of her, what with my exuberant and obnoxious ways, but it was worth the great picture. Good times.
At Tinkinswood, we saw a great dolmen - or a huge rock used as a burial site. There we sang a few rounds of "Blae my Daniel" with the ELang students and then went on our way.
St. Fagan's is a unique museum, and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to go there. There are life-sized representations of houses and other buildings from several different time periods. One building in particular has 10 small apartments along its ground floor, each one decorated according to a successive time period. So every few steps you could poke your head in and see how things had changed. It was absolutely fascinating. They also had buildings like the corn (wheat) mill, which was taken apart from the coast and rebuilt piece by piece on musuem property. And is still a functioning mill! Incredible.
As we were preparing to meet the rest of the group to go home, we ran into 2 girls from our group that asked us if we'd seen the castle and gardens. We were tired and didn't really care to, but she insisted that we check it out. "You'll feel like you're in Beauty and the Beast." Ok. That got me. I'll bite.
Turning the corner, I saw that beautiful scene beyond the hedge. The force of the image hit me. I would say I swooned, but that's retarded. I was certainly affected in the sinus area by allergies quite quickly, but it was completely worth the emotional experience of this gorgeous little castle. We traipsed along the pond and fountain, singing "Something There That Wasn't There Before" from Beauty and the Beast, and then we ran up the short steps to face this -
The covered archway was the most singularly beautiful and romantic thing I've seen since we've been here. I have always loved the twinkling arches that you ride under in "Storybook Land" at Disneyland. They've been my secret romantic guilty pleasure, even more so than the Disney castle. These blew them away. The delicate flowers took our breath away and seemed to cushion us from the cacophony of the playing children without the walls. We couldn't help but imagine scenes and scenarios that would appropriately take place in such an amazing setting. Following the frenzy and speed of Oxford and Winchester, the peace and beauty was calming and welcome. Truly it was one of the best moments of my summer.
Had our day ended there, it would have been a success. But of course we still had an entire afternoon to take advantage of. We walked into downtown Cardiff to enjoy the pleasures of festival season. In Europe, towns and counties have festivals to promote local goods, music and culture. It can be compared to our fairs and carnivals back home to some extent.
Viva la Cardiff Food Festival! Weirdly cool European music was being played at one end of the square, while tents and booths filled the remaining space.
I enjoyed roaming the festival by myself, perusing the strange crafts and foods that were available in each tent. I was able to buy some cool souvenirs for some of you guys back home, and I tried some famed double chocolate Cow Pots (a prominent Welsh ice cream brand). Thank goodness the Welsh like their ice cream. It's like a little piece of home for me. Other strange finds included lamb burgers, licorice ice cream, free samples of whiskey and cider (!) and these themed beers.
We ran into some street performers that particularly liked teasing Americans and their blonde hair. Yeah, me. One man in a suit and skintight black leggings seemed bent on embarrassing me with his immodesty. Needless to say, it worked. haha. They were absolutely ridiculous. I was pleased to find that the person who took the pictures for me captured two photos. In the first, you can clearly see me and Zoe's reaction to the pelvic thrust of said gentleman. The second photo is the intended cute group one. :)
Above the square is the pier. Cardiff Bay Pier is SO COOL. I loved it. We sat and ate our lunches and strange food samples while overlooking the ocean and listening to the interesting Jew-rock coming from the square below us. I found a 1.5 liter Diet Coke for cheaper than a normal-sized bottle, so I was a happy camper for the remainder of the afternoon.
Midafternoon, we took a tour of the Welsh National Assembly. This building was really cool and symbolic. The Welsh people are trying very hard to preserve some individuality and to assert that the language of Welsh is not inferior to English or any other language. They conduct their proceedings in both languages, simultaneously translated and projected on screens around their conference rooms. It's pretty cool. Almost the entire building is made of glass, which our guide said was symbolic of transparency. I think that's a great concept and I wish them well.