Saturday June 23, 2012
That weekend I left the the hustle and bustle of London and ventured off in to the country of Wales (Princess Diana!) Our double decker bus drove out of the twisted and busy streets of the city and entered the motorway (freeway) that transformed the scenery. We passed by lush green trees and wide open fields. Every mile or so I would see patches of sheep grazing or lying down on the tall grass. It was a nice change to get out of the city and explore what the United Kingdom had to offer. For a short amount of time, my program group and tour guide (James, who was hilarious!) had seen a good amount of the country. refer to map!
After a two to three hour bus ride, we stopped in the city of Caerleon which contained the Roman Amphitheater and Roman Baracks. James had explained that the Romans had taken over the Celtic tribes that inhabited the country. They had build their own Baroque buildings in the city, and the community became a military base and township. Today the amphitheater is in ruins, but it was amazing how much history was behind a pile of rocks!
After, we packed back on the bus and headed to Caerphilli where they are actually known for their cheese, but most importantly one of the most greatest medieval castles in Western Europe. Its history dates back 2000 years ago, where the Wales royalty used to reign. The castle is the largest in Wales and the second largest in Britain (after the Windsor castle). Wales itself has more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe!
After 45 minutes of exploring and taking pictures, our bus took us to the outskirts of Wale’s capital, Cardiff to visit St. Fagan’s Museum of Welsh Life. There I learned an interesting fact!
So you know how in Alice and Wonderland, there’s a character called the Mad Hatter, there for the expression, “you’re mad as a Mad Hatter?”
Well, back in the 20th century, some of the people of Wales would work in factories that made top hats. The felt that composed the top hats would emit fumes of mercury which was toxic to the workers since they didn’t have gas masks or anything. The hazardous fumes would make them sick physically and mentally. Thus, made them mad as a “mad hatter” since they went crazy from making hats!
Welsh life was pretty interesting, it’s very simple and rural. Their sense of community was described as very strong.
It was a full fun day and we ended Saturday at Swansea, Wales where we took shelter (at a really nice hotel) from the cold rain. In the morning we woke up bright and early to drive through Brecon Beacon’s National Park to Rhondda Valley where the Big Pit Mining Museum awaited us. Wale’s main industry was coal mining and even to this day, the country is known for mining history. Back in the day, boys started mining early, even at the age of six! The tour was fun because we actually got to go down to the mines with legit helmets and flashlight! Former miners would lead groups down and talk about what workers did and how the conditions were. I couldn’t bring my camera down since they didn’t allow anything with batteries down in the mines because of some frequency issue, but in the mines itself was very dark, wet and tight spaced. I felt bad for the tall people because there were multiple times where the ceilings got very low. It was like exploring underground caves! I took a lot of pictures outside the mines since the museum had old abandoned trains, carts and equipment out.
The last place we went to was Tintern Abby, which was my favorite! In the middle of Wye Valley, stood the ruins of beautiful tall architecture that inspired and still inspires painters, poets and artists. Within the ruins you can still make out the arched windows where decorated windowpanes used to be.
The large arches towered extravagantly over our heads as we all looked above in awe. Words honestly could not describe how beautiful this place was. Even these pictures won’t give it justice. But honestly, that weekend is a weekend I’ll never forget!