We finally did it! After months of planning, saving and stressing out, Jackie and I have made our way to Penarth, Wales, United Kingdom. After an entertaining drive with Mom up to Montreal airport and checking some overweight luggage, we had a quick flight to Toronto. With a couple hours to kill before our longest flight into Dublin, Ireland, we relaxed with some dinner and watched a bit of the Basketball World Cup.
Aer Lingus took us into Dublin, where it was 5:20am upon arrival (12:20am EST). Our layover was cut short, and we had to sprint through the airport to make the final call for our last flight. We were so late that a security guard actually gave us a ride in her vehicle onto the runway to the plane’s entrance. After a short breath of relief, I watched (Jackie slept) at least 30 rabbits chase around the grass next to the runway along the plane. Just after we took off, I saw the sun rise over the Irish eastern coast line (Jackie kept sleeping, even after the poking).
We expected quite a bit of security at the Cardiff airport, since the NATO conference is being held there, with all the world leaders flying in the same day as us. But to our surprise, we picked up our baggage and walked right out of the airport, without a single question from the non-existent customs officers. It was a bit of a let down, no one seemed to even care we were there!
Ken, who we are staying with during our time here, picked us up and we were off! The first day was a bit of a blur, as we had only slept about 2-3 hours in the last 36. We stopped into Ken’s house and met his adorable dog, Flossie. She was a bit wary of us at first, but is starting to warm up to us now, even sleeping outside our room at night. After a long nap (or part of a night of sleep), we met Plug and Marina at a coffee shop in downtown Penarth. Plug is a rugby fellow who helped arrange our trip, and Marina is another American rugby player looking to travel and play rugby abroad. We walked around town for a while and down to Cardiff Bay, where a walking bridge (called a barage here) lifts for incoming ships, and a small marina houses local boats*. (*Reminder to bring Dad to the marina if they visit!) The town and streets are set up quite differently here, with hardly any straight lines at all, which made my sense of direction completely gone with the help of some jet lag. Ken made us a delicious stew for dinner and we proceeded to sleep for nearly 12 hours!
Since our first day we have watched more rugby than I have seen in 6 months combined, bought some cheap phones, ordered two bikes for each of us, bought a gym membership, and had our first night out on the town! Yesterday, I played in a fun match with Llandaff North and had an outstanding time with the girls on the team. Last night, we had a few pints of cider at two local rugby clubs, and then went into town to The Railway, a lounge and bar with a great gathering of the lively locals. Thankfully, we met a few ice hockey fanatics for Jackie, who might have been going crazy with all the constant rugby talk. After a few more pints of cider, we got some amazing flatbread pizza at a local street stand and walked ourselves back home.
This morning, I’ve helped coach with a group of the Penarth Rugby Club minis side. I was with the 4-6 year olds today and it was a pretty awesome training session! Funny enough, it wasn’t so different than our first days at college. Now we are off to view some of the war ships in Cardiff bay before they depart next week.
I’ll try to post at least once a week, to please all the fans (Mom, Dad and Tony). More pictures to come soon!