Early Monday morning, we catch a bus into Cardiff, just to meet up with Marina and Sabrina to catch another bus. It’s an intricate process that only seasoned regulars can master, catching public transportation in Wales. Thankfully, we’re getting there.
This day, we are heading to St. Fagan’s, a historical site that’s entirely unique. This area is filled with a village-like setting of houses, churches and shops that were in danger of damage or destruction from all across the UK. The buildings have been moved brick by brick, beam by beam, from the original location to St. Fagan’s and rebuilt in exactly the same format. These are very cool, medieval buildings. The creator of St. Fagan’s has an estate and extensive gardens surrounded by ponds with small connecting waterfalls on the same property. All that has become part of the grounds, and it’s incredible, and ever better, completely FREE.
That afternoon, we returned to Cardiff and met up with a friend and rugby coach, Gwes (short for Gwesyn, a very Welsh male name) at a delicious chain called Nando’s, known for its delicious Portuguese chicken! We migrated to a nearby coffee shop in downtown Cardiff to chat, taking cover from the rain that had graciously held off early when we were outside.
On Friday, one of our hosts offered to take us to Stonehenge, across the border in England. To avoid the high cost for what was essentially a pile of rocks ($30), we parked on a nearby farmer’s road and looked from afar. Although we didn’t pay for the audio tour and all those extras, seeing the massive rocks stacked on one another invoked an awe that reached towards your soul. The rocks had been tested and were from the west of Wales, over 200 miles in 2500 BC. Many groups have claimed the site, but the mystery of why it’s here, how they did it, what it was used for, is asked to this day.
That evening we returned home and layered up for yet another outing to watch the Women’s Royal Combined Services team play the Women’s Regional Cardiff Blues team. An amazing match, in the worst downpour I’ve ever seen (the sideways kind). I have met and played with several players on both sides, and seeing familiar faces made the game even better. Eventually, Cardiff prevails.
The first match of the annual Autumn International matches starting on Saturday. Wales took on Australia in a very heated and exciting match. Everything from fireworks, a penalty try, injuries, Prince Harry, massive flamethrowers, pint after pint of Strongbow cider, and pulled pork and stuffing on rolls were present. Life cannot get any better than that. The 60,000 spectators to take over the blocked off streets, every nightclub and pub, surrounding the stadium. Welsh national colors (red, green and white) cover every surface. The nation’s mascot, a red dragon (isn’t that the coolest) is painted on faces, across chests, printed on scarfs, hats, t-shirts and banners.
Following the match, we joined Ken and a few new mates at a nightclub just down the street for a few more. Eventually, we made our way back into Penarth by train to The Railway for some food and to watch the Ireland vs. South Africa game. We walked ourselves home, exhausted yet filled with a lingering buzz of energy from the riled Welsh fans.
Yesterday, we met up with some friends we met at an Expat Dinner we went to early in our trip. They joined us for a light dinner before we walked to the ice rink to watch the Cardiff Devils hockey team take on Belfast. Thankfully, the team had much improved since our last game and then won 3-2, even defending a six on four powerplay with nearly two minutes remaining. We had a great time hanging out with them, and it was a perfect way to end the looooooong weekend, with some hockey, American accents and relaxation.
This week will be much less exciting, but necessary after the event-filled week. This weekend I’ll have another match, and we plan to travel up to Glouster, England to watch USA Men’s Rugby team play Tonga. Until next time, a special shout out to all my loved ones in the Northeast dealing with snowstorms, I don’t envy you.