Connecting in Cardiff, Occupied in Oxford

Well, isn’t it just the way of life that when you imagine your plans are most set, you find that they are in fact most flexible? That was my experience this past weekend.

First of all, the past week was quite nice in school. I went to two LeRoc classes (the dancing that is a hybrid of jive/swing dance/hiphop/salse etc. ), read oodles of pages of academic writing (reading quite a few of Emerson’s essays this past week as well as Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, and Bks 4&5 of Paradise Lost), and went on a few runs as well as enjoyed the sweet company of friends. So, we come to Thursday night, and I am mentally packing my bags for my trip to Snowdonia…
This past weekend, as you may remember, I had thought that I would be going to Snowdonia Natl. Park and hiking to the top of Mt. Snowdon, right? Well, there is a funny story about that…

   I was talking to my friend Paige (on Thursday night) who was also going to be traveling with me to Mt. Snowdon. The entire trip to Mt. Snowdon, in Northern Wales, was included in my fees for studying abroad through Butler Univ. All food, lodging, and activities had been already arranged for us, and all I had to do was get to the Bristol Parkway Station and be reimbursed for my ticket to Cardiff. I, being the eager beaver I am, had already bought my train ticket to Cardiff for the weekend of March 1. Right, so I am talking with Paige and she is telling me how her boyfriend was coming to visit and was going to arrive the next day. I started empathizing with Paige, saying how sad it was that she was going to miss the weekend with her boyfriend since she was going to be in Wales. Paige, rightly being confused, said that it was alright since he was leaving on the morning of next Friday, so they wouldn’t miss any time with him. This, needless to say, confused me. After a bit of fumbling between us, Paige says, “Sally, you know the trip isn’t until next weekend, right?” No way. There was no way I had gotten the dates wrong, right? I mean, I had already bought my ticket to Cardiff, surely I hadn’t bought it without checking my dates first?

Weeeellll…there are many times I overestimate my savvy in life. Recently I thought I had found a great plane ticket deal to France (preparing for my trip over Easter break) only to find that instead of flying into Lyon, I was flying into Limoges, a city that is about a 4hr ride from Lyon. Of course, I didn’t discover this until after I had bought the ticket. In a similar vein I found that I know was the proud owner of a train ticket to Cardiff that was leaving the next day, and included an open-ended return. After laughing a bit with Paige, we wished each other a good night, and I began planning my trip to Cardiff. I had never been to Cardiff, and there was no point in wasting my ticket.
            To get to Bristol Parkway Station rather than Temple Meads (the main rail station in Bristol) was a bit of a trek. It took two buses, about 75min, and a bit of luck. Why Luck? Well, while Britain has a FANTASTIC transportation system its convenience and its thorn is that you can stop the bus whenever you want (getting off at the closest bus stop), but that if you don’t know what your destination looks like or necessarily where it is, you can find yourself pressing the stop button and arriving about a ¼ mile away from where you need to be. Thankfully, my thumb was at the ready for the button, and I guesstimated my first stop with relative ease. After waiting near the front porches of ground floor apartments for about a half hour I caught my next bus and arrived at Parkway. I collected my tickets and boarded my train.
            I knew I had arrived in Cardiff when I got off the train and saw all the signs were written in Welsh with an accompanying English translation. I walked out of the station saw quite a few police officers dressed in fluorescent yellow carrying orange cones while the sound of drum reverberated and bounced in the air. I went to one of them and asked what was happening and he said, “Why, it’s the St. David day parade love.” Thanking him, I walked further towards the sound of the drums and saw a vast milieu of people dressed colorfully carrying un-bloomed daffodils. I couldn’t believe my good luck! I started snapping pictures immediately.
            The parade included many a walking musician, filling the drab afternoon with a vivacity that was energizing to the crowds surrounding. It was a delightful experience. After following the parade I found the famous Cardiff Central Market and went inside to poke around for a bit. I bought a burger with onions and chips as well as a Bakewell Tart. The burger was fine (made me feel a bit sick later) but the Bakewell tart was divine. From the covered market I walked to the bay where I was given a grand sweep of the Cardiff Bay. After taking some photos and walking through the shops I decided that the some 4hrs I had spent in Cardiff had left me satisfied and I was ready to head back before dinner. I think I would return to Cardiff to see the Dr. Who Experience (in fact I plan to), but other than that, I think don’t need to go again. It was extremely pleasant, but other adventures call my name.
            On Sunday I began to make plans for Monday traveling. My consistent travel companion has been a girl named Meg who is studying abroad here from Canada. We had agreed to go adventuring on Monday, all I had to do was plan it. So after making schemes, looking at routes and finding tickets for a few hours, it turned out that the only tickets that were within a students price range (aka below £25 for a day trip) were those that would bring us to Oxford. I called my friend Rachel (a good friend from Wheaton taking a semester at Oxford) to see if she would be free to meet up, and at her “yes” sent out a message to a little group of other Study Abroad students to see if anyone wanted to join Meg and I on the 10:30am train from Bristol to Oxford.
            Due to my experiences last week, I wanted to make very sure I got to the train station with time to spare. All in all, I arrived at the station about an hour early and entertained myself with a mental puzzle book from the station’s convenience store. Evan, a study abroad student at Bristol who is from IN (small world), showed up, and with 5min to spare Meg comes in and we rush to find our train. Those 5min before the train left were spent by us running from the platforms looking from train to train until I finally found the one that would bring us to the right station (we were connecting to Oxford through Didcot). Getting on the right train was also a bit of luck, as I was torn between two of them and only just saw the Didcot runner beneath the lit sign pass as we hopped aboard.
We arrived in Oxford to an absolutely beautiful day. The sun was out and the moment I stepped into its rays I felt as though aerated gold was seeping through my pores and into my veins. It is amazing how much the sun can affect your mood when the dominant weather pattern you experience is overcast with drizzle. The day we spent in Oxford was lovely. We met up with Rachel and she showed us all around the main sights. We climbed to the top of the (I think) Oxford tower, getting beautiful panorama shots of the city in the sun. Walked to the Oxford Covered market where we ate savory pies, and then went to a place called G&D’s (a place highly recommended by my English friends) where I had a coffee and chocolate milkshake.
From there, Rachel had to go and make dinner since that evening was her turn at her residence, and Meg, Evan and I went to Christ Church and walked around in their wide open meadow for quite a while, laughing and playing around. The three of us then went to Evensong at Christ Church which was lovely; there was a clear, strong soprano whose solo was transcendent.
After that, Meg and Evan headed back to Bristol and I met up with Rachel. Rachel and I talked for a bit as I ate my Lamb kebab wrap from a food cart. It was so good to see her again! It’s funny, we haven’t seen each other in months, but it felt so natural to fall back into place with one another. If you’re reading this sweet girl, Thank you so much for giving up a day to hang out with me and my friends. It was a monstrous highlight for me to see you in your element.

I caught the 9pm train out of Oxford and, between the next train and the bus back to Stoke Bishop, arrived home around 10:50.  What happy adventures I had.Now, this weekend, I am rather sure I will go to the oft’ vaunted Mt. Snowdon. But, with the ways things have been shaking out for me so far, I wouldn’t bet your life savings on it.  I hope you all have a lovely morning/afternoon/evening!

*Safety requirements in the UK can get weird.