The Thursday of Halloween weekend I arrived in Cardiff at Midnight. My camp friends Lauren and Francesca were waiting for me at the train platform. We stopped to grab something to eat and I was surprised to see a Papa John’s Pizza place, one of my favorite pizza places at home. Unfortunately it was closed so we picked up food somewhere else and spent some time catching up at Lauren’s place. On Friday, the girls showed me some of the tourists spots in Cardiff. We ate lunch at the Cardiff Bay and headed to the National Museum Cardiff where we saw several Monet’s impressionist paintings, a Van Gogh, and a Degas. It was so cool to see some of Monet’s water-lily paintings because when I was little my mom use to read me a book called “Linea in Monet’s Garden” and I have always loved water lilies because of that. I also did a little shopping on Friday because I had wanted a dress at a store in Brighton but they were out of my size and luckily they had the same store in Cardiff with the dress in my size! That evening we got back to Francesca’s and decided to take it easy. In honor of the first Men’s Hockey home game at UND of the season, I threw on my Sioux jersey and we settled in for a night of watching Mighty Ducks with the girls. The next morning we woke up early to go pick up our Irish friend Shana at the airport and later our friend James drove down from Liverpool. We all went into town to do some last-minute Halloween shopping and got ready for a night on the town in our costumes. It was Saturday night and Halloween wasn’t until Sunday but back at UND I have always dressed up every night of Halloween weekend so going out all decked out as a Sock Monkey, Harry Potter, Mr. Incredible, Bat Woman, and Dracula’s Wife seemed normal. I was wrong. Our friends brought us on a pub crawl around Cardiff and we all looked pretty silly because we were the only people dressed up almost everywhere we went. We had a great time looking foolish and running around town together. The next day was Halloween and we headed to the Cardiff Castle. They were having a special Halloween tour but we unfortunately bought our tickets too late so we could only go on the normal tour. It was still a very interesting tour as our guide brought us through the royal apartments and every room had a different theme. My favorite rooms were the men’s lounge room and the nursery. The men’s lounge was in the clock tower and so the theme for that room was time. The decor consisted of zodiac signs, wood carvings of the different times of the day, and the different phases of life. The nursery was decorated with different nursery rhymes which were portrayed more as gruesome lessons than the quaint, happy tales they have become today. After the tour we headed up to the Castle Keep and climbed to the top for a view of the city. We left the castle, headed for a dinner on the town, and took a long night stroll back to Francesca’s house. On Monday, James and Shana had left and Lauren had a big presentation so Francesca and I took the day to do some serious shopping. She brought me to the shopping center which had all the typical British stores that I’ve been shopping at but we also went to a section of town that had vintage shops and a typical Welsh market where I bought Welsh cakes for my friends back in Brighton. We also went to a store that sold Love Spoons. Love Spoons are wooden spoons traditionally carved by Welsh men as a pre-engagement present for his future wife. The store also had the largest and smallest Love Spoon ever made on display. The largest spoon was 44 feet long and was made from a single tree branch. That night I hung out with Francesca and Lauren for the last time and we set up a cab to pick me up at Francesca’s at 7 in the morning the next day so I could make my 8 am train back to Brighton. I’m not quite sure why I thought that was the time I was leaving because when I arrived at the train station and picked up my tickets I realized I wasn’t leaving until 2 in the afternoon. That gave me 6 hours to either sit in the small train station or find my way back to Francesca’s. Because I didn’t want to pay for a cab again I walked all the way back to her place and fell back asleep for a few hours until I decided that I might as well just walk back to the train station.
After a long day of traveling, I still decided that a night out in Brighton would be a good way to unwind. My friend Shawnya’s boyfriend came to town so we wanted to show him around. Down the street from our University is the University of Sussex which has a lot better set up with restaurants and pubs that are run by the University and open better hours. It’s the only pub with in walking distance and since were all a little sick of taking the bus everywhere we went there for a few drinks. The next couple days in Brighton went by as usual. I went on a big grocery trip and I hope I have enough food to last me until the end of November. This week was also my reading week which means I didn’t have any classes in my main course (kind of like a major) so the only class I had to go to was French. Thursday night was one of the guys in our programs 21st birthday so we went in a big group to Oceana (the club that has 7 different rooms representing different countries) and stayed out until all hours of the night which was really fun since bar close at home is always 2 am.
This past Friday night was the 5th of November which is celebrated all over the UK as Bonfire Night the night Guy Fawkes was unsuccessful in his attempt to blow up the houses of Parliament in 1605. The small town of Lewes is a hot spot for this night as it has one of the biggest celebrations in the area and thousands of out of towners flock to Lewes every year. Lewes has quite a bit of history relating to the conflicts that lead to Guy Fawkes’ escapades as many Protestants in the town were martyred for their beliefs during that era and so the celebration is a big deal to the town history. We were advised that the trains would stop running into Lewes and that it is very hard to leave Lewes once you get in. We left around 3 pm to get into Lewes early enough for dinner and get a good spot for the first procession (like a parade) at 5:30. When the processions first started we were a bit confused about the best spot to stand but after a bit of moving around we found a spot where we were able to see 4 different processions from different Bonfire Societies throughout the night. The processions are similar to parades because there are bands and people dressed up in costumes marching through the streets. They are very different from parades however as almost everyone in the parade is carrying a torch and the fire comes with in inches of your head if you are standing on the curb. The youth in the parade also throw fireworks at the ground which make loud noises and smoke goes everywhere. The whole event is full of loud bangs and people cheering! It was definitely a site to see. The processions then head to different bonfire and firework show sites. We were all pretty tired and didn’t want to have to wait a long time to catch a train later so we decided to head back to campus and skip out on the fireworks displays. The next morning my friend Jane and I woke up early and went on a bit of a shopping spree! I finally found a winter coat that I thought would make it through the North Dakota winter and I’m looking forward to wearing it come December when I’m back in the bitter cold! I also stocked up on cheap tights, sneakers, and heels at Primark, took advantage of a sale at a store called Republic that I hadn’t checked out yet, and did a little more shopping at the boutiques in the lanes. That night we headed to a club that had another DJ that Lars and Jane were excited about and I tagged along to see what all the hype was about. There is always something going on in the music scene in Brighton and I’m really glad I have friends who know where to find it!
Things I’m loving: Spending time with good friends I haven’t seen in a while, Seeing impressionist art by Monet, Shopping a lot so I have a revamped wardrobe when I get home, Watching English guys play American football out my window, Exploring the music scene here, Bagelman bagels, Experiencing a local tradition that is Bonfire night,
Things I’m not quite loving: Bouts of homesickness, Not being able to get ahold of my advisors at home,
Things I’m learning: I’m getting much better at knowing what to buy when I’m grocery shopping,
This week I have a lot of homework and tasks to complete before I leave Wednesday morning for Madrid and Ciudad Real, Spain to visit my friend Cami! I’m super excited for this trip since I get to spend some time in a new country and get to see my first friend from home since September. Its gonna be a fun week!
Peace, Love, Bonfires and Espana.
At Cardiff Bay.
Lauren and I dressed as Harry Potter and Sock Monkey! (Photo Credit to Francesca)
The Royal Apartments at Cardiff Castle
This Devil carving was outside the men’s lounge in Cardiff Castle inorder to scare the women away so they would not enter.
The start of a Bonfire night procession (again my camera screen is broken so I haven’t been able to get the best pictures).