Day 69 (Cardiff, Wales)
Well, I have been extremely slack in writing and I apologize for that. Not sure if it has been late nights or getting sick but I haven’t written a post in over a month which is horrible. I guess it can be hard to sit down and write about travels when your doing them. Most people following this blog are on my Facebook and I have been a bit more active on there but still very lazy sadly.
Well one problem with posting so infrequent is that I don’t want to make a single post that explains the many things I have done since so I will do a quick recap of the last month with some depth in between and follow it off with what’s going on currently and in the future.
So I have been traveling for well over 2 months now and almost completed my trip through the British Isles. It was originally going to last until the end of May but I did a bit of rushing to get back to London on May 11th to meet a friend who will be spending a day in London. But let me start with where I left off in my 2nd week in London. So I was indeed hosted by Thom for 11 days before I finally left him. I did a bit more exploring throughout London but felt that I could probably have cut my London visit in half and still seen a great deal.
After I left London I went to my 2nd England destination which was Manchester. I stayed with a very friendly guy from France that I stayed with for 9 days. While there he also hosted a few Polish girls for 2 days so we hung out as well. We went to the stadium that Manchester United (Football (soccer) team) plays in, walked around city center and generally just hung out. Manchester had a very good couch surfing community including 1 person who had basically dedicated his house to all things couch surfing. Most of my time there was hanging out with that group of people. Sadly I caught a cold early on that visit by stupidly walking around in shorts and a t-shirt, not knowing that England weather changes very quickly. So I was sick for 3-4 days which worked out okay because I had set aside a good amount of time in Manchester. While there I decided I would also like to see York in England but didn’t get to see it yet so I will likely see it after my re-visit to London on May 11th.
Once I left Manchester I began the Scotland part of my trip, first destination was Edinburgh. I stayed with 2 people during this part of my trip, both people I met in Manchester at that couch surfing house I was talking about. They were very cool guys 1 Scottish and 1 Irish. This is probably my favorite city so far for architecture as it is a very beautifully designed city. I took a free tour on my first day and actually ran into another couch surfer who was also at those parties at the house in Manchester. We hung out for the day which is always good if you get bored of touring cities along which I rarely do. When I wasn’t doing that I mostly ate pizza and drank beer which seems to be a way of life for the people of Edinburgh as everywhere I went it was going on. Also did a lot of hanging out at a park called The Meadows which is a very cool park near city center. Did a hike with my first Edinburgh host early on in my visit there and had a really good time, may have sprang my ankle but it feels fine now so I guess it got better.
The second part of my Scotland trip was Glasgow were I ended up getting a host last minute because of poor planning on my part. A trend that would follow me right up until today as I have been taking less and less time in each place after realizing I had been spending too much time in places like London and Manchester. So I stayed in Glasgow for 3 days with a friendly university student. We stayed at the university dorms which is a new experience for me and was party central basically every night. I didn’t end up going to any of those parties but we did go to that bar one night which was a good time. Besides a 1 day tour that my host took me on I really did not do a ton in Glasgow which is to bad. It was a mix of poor planning and rushing that caused it but I don’t regret it as I still had a good time.
After Scotland I went on to Northern Ireland which is still part of the UK, unlike Ireland which is not part of the UK and uses a different currency (Euro). My one and only stop in NI was Belfast at a soon to be doctor’s home in an area called Carrickfergus. This was my first host were I had my own room and bed and even a dryer which was a first for a UK home for me and I was more than happy to use. I was there during the royal wedding and the prince was actually given the title of Baron of Carrickfergus that day which me and my host thought was cool. I did a tour of the dry dock that Titanic was actually built in because Belfast was were Titanic was made. It was a free tour that went through the entire construction of Titanic and it was actually pretty neat. On my last day in Belfast I booked a tour to Giant’s Causeway which is that area that is famous for having those stones shaped naturally in a unique way.
I then took a bus down to the city of Dublin in the country of Ireland. It was my first look of currencies to come as they use the Euro there which is going to be the main currency when I get to the Eurozone (France, Germany, Italy, etc). I only spent 4 days in Dublin and once again it was a panic to find a host because of poor planning and also because of my timing. I got there right in the middle of a massive holiday with the Royal Wedding, Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday all in a row. Most people had taken a few days off and got themselves a 9 day weekend so hosts were not easy to find. I ended up staying with the person who has the most references on all of couch surfing (944 positives when I left). He says he has hosted over 1700 people through couch surfing which is very high. My first day in Dublin I found a few people on a couch surfing forum who were going to a place called Howth and she organized for us all to meet and go together for the day. Her main goal was to see the seals that are suppose to be there and right before we left for the day a few appeared which was neat to see. Another day my host was kind enough to let me use his unlimited movies pass and got me tickets to a few movies I wanted to go to as I had a sunburn from Howth and was not in the mood to go into the light that day. Sadly this trip was the first time that I could not find a host for my entire visit. My last day I ended up staying in a hostel which was fine but I was hoping to couch surf across the entire British Isles. I didn’t get much time to enjoy the hostel as I had to wake up at 6 AM to catch my ferry out of Dublin. The walk to the Dublin Docks was way further than I expected and is not meant to be tourist friendly.
The ferry takes you to a place in Wales called Holyhead which is not much to look at and not really worth hanging out in. Luckily my cousin Britney and her husband Richard live less than 20 minutes away and were gracious enough to let me stay at there house for a few days before I went to Cardiff. They live in a place called Rhosneigr which is a small town with a very nice beach that Richard showed me on my first night because he had to leave the next day for York. The next day I decided it would be a cool idea to borrow the bike in the garage and bike to Holyhead so I could pick up my ticket for Cardiff and to save 2 GBP ATM fees that the one ATM in Rhosneigr wanted to charge me. It was about 14 miles and ended up being a rather tough ride down the highway. Sadly when I got to Holyhead the front tire was basically flat and I had to take the train back which cost me more than the ATM fees would have cost, but it was a good workout at least. The train I booked from Holyhead to Cardiff which is only about 4 hours away was going to take 16 hours because of the timing of the trains and the fact that I booked the cheapest possible ticket so it had the worst possible transfers, one of which went into England. It was almost all worth it to see this amazingly long name for a town which I won’t even try to type but I will put the picture at that start of this paragraph.
Well I think that gets us right up to today. I got off the train from Holyhead this morning in Cardiff and have been waiting to meet my host when he is done work at 5PM. I am in the main library in Cardiff currently while I type this post as it seemed like a really good place to take the time to finally update my blog. I say this every time but I really will try and keep this blog up-to-date and at least post every week.
As for the future. I have a ticket to London on the 11th to meet my friend from Saskatoon for a day. I will be staying in his hotel for the night which is a good money saver. The next day I am not totally sure, I thought I had a couch in London but I may not and may instead go straight to York for 2-3 days before I visit my friend who recently moved to London and may at that time (May 15-16th) have a couch for me, I hope. After that I plan to take a bus from London to Paris, France and begin my trip around the Schengen Area which encompasses many Eurozone countries and allows me a free visa to go between those borders, but only for 90 days. I will try and post before I leave for France and I will do a round-up of my time in the British Isles and how I felt it went. Thanks for reading!