Sunday, February 19, 2006

V-Day, The Sheperds Bush Party & Wales Day 1

So, it’s Valentine’s Day. What a stupid holiday. It was historically a day where people were supposed to exchange gifts of caring with others, and if you are pre-pubescent that seems to still be the case, but as soon as people start caring about the other sex… *sigh* look what happens. I’ve been kicked out of apartments on the 14th in the past because one of the girls just couldn’t handle having a MALE around. It reminded her that she didn’t have her ex-boyfriend anymore, and she got into a fit. Brilliant, what better way to make a holiday bright then by taking Valentine’s Day and twisting it into something horrible; a reminder of old flames and loneliness. Thanks ladies, you’ve created a monster; now enjoy it.

Last weekend I was in Wales; the land of atharine Zeta Jones, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Jones to name a few. I was going to go to Cornwall, but now that’s been moved to next weekend. Wales is a small country that is attached to the west coast of England. It seems beautiful, the people are friendly, and the scenery seemed amazing from the pictures I saw of North Wales. We went to the South of Wales (also beautiful) to the capital, Cardiff. Amanda and Ross loved Cardiff (they’d visited weeks before) and I thought it was pretty great.

We were supposed to leave for Cornwall on Friday, but that fell through, so we decided Saturday morning we’d leave @ 9am from Paddington station (yes, the same as the bear, there is a statue of him in the station) to head for Cardiff, Wales. So Friday night I went to a party at Meredith and Heidi’s temporary place. Before the party Steph, Meredith and I were going to get some dinner and shop for a while; so we met at Whiteley’s in Bayswater. We shopped around, Steph bought a bunch of stuff, and then we went to Tapa Tapa and had some pretty good food and conversation.

Afterward, Meredith and I headed to Shepard’s Bush; stopping at an off-license for alcohol. The party had been going a while when we got there, so we jumped right in. I knew no one so I just stood there next to Meredith not knowing what to do or who to talk to until this friendly Aussie chap jumped in and we started a conversation. He asked the obligatory questions about nationality (‘American! Neva’ been thea’), the “What are you doing here,” question and we talked for quite a while. Apparently this particular Aussie has an obsession with the NBA, and one of his lifelong dreams has been to go to a San Antonio Spurs game; this was quite impressive and he and Mer spouted off about basketball for a while… I wandered eventually to get another drink.

Andy arrived a short while later and I introduced him around. I started talking with another Aussie named Mike, he was much quieter than the first guy and we had more of a 2-way conversation. We chatted for a while about the people around and the usual pleasantries and chatted for sometime. I was getting drinks occasionally, talking with Meredith, at midnight or so we had a birthday sing-time for Tegin and had some cake (in little slices because there was a lot of us, and then around 130 Heidi arrived.

Around 3am I had been laughing and talking with most everyone in the dimly lit kitchen, talking about music, singing along to the CDs playing and having just a genrally goot time. There is a girl in this story named Kat, we’d chatted only briefly and laughed together a couple of times, but as I stood in the middle of the kitchen she grabbed me and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a kiss.

After a while we'd ended up enjoying each others company a little more, but being that this was a new thing to me, I was drunk, and she was a little more forward than I am willing to admit... I eventually ended up (per the original plan) sleeping in Meredith and Heidi's room with Andy and the other two...

It was a good thing I did too because Heidi (who was f-wasted) ended up coming in,and needed someone to take care of her when she got sick later. I ended up sitting in the bathroom with her till around 5 or 6 am... who knows what time... until I cleaned her up a bit and put her to bed.

The next day the train to Cardiff left at 9am. Steph called at 730, and my alarm went off at 8, but I slept on, and then at 845 I sprinted out the door leaving my toothbrush and scarf behind. Luckily I bought one at the station (that I did not make it to at 9am) and it wasn’t cold enough to need a scarf. Steph could have made the train, but only just… she ended up waiting for me by the Paddington Bear statue near the train platforms. I felt bad, but I was only a few minutes late and there was a train every hour so I didn’t feel as bad walking in at 9:07am… We bought tickets for Cardiff, Wales and chatted about the nights events. I slept a lot on the train ride and listened to my iPod… I am so glad I have that thing (even though it’s been a pain in the ass keeping it going).

We took the 10am train so we arrived in Cardiff at 130p. We’d noticed something odd both in Paddington station, and on the train; there were a lot of Kilts around… something was going on. Upon arrival we finally got the hint, there was a rugby game!! One of the biggest events in UK Rugby is the Six Nations Tournament; the Six Nations being: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, and Italy. They all play each other with usually one or two games being played each weekend in Feb and March. Let me just say that it was amazing. We arrived and it was like Scotland Lite! There were Kilted men everywhere wearing rugby shirts, talking and laughing with their mates, it was fabulous. Scots are so funny! I think our Welsh experience was a bit tainted by it, but it was still lots of fun. Our first priority (as always) was to find a place to stay… We used the map we’d obtained earlier to find our way from the train station to the tourist information area and finally got a list of places to stay, however it being game weekend we knew we’d be having a tough time finding anything. We looked at a few places, but the only thing we found was a £60/person/night w/ b-fast – place with one family sized room left.

We kept looking, and finally found a little B&B just outside of town for £50/person/night w/ b-fast and took it. The room had a large bed and was en-suite (with bathroom for those of you who don’t know) and was a short walk from downtown. We hoofed it the 15 minutes from our present spot and checked in. The room was nice the bathroom clean and I took a nice 30 minute nap before we headed back out into the city. Cardiff is very beautiful, with nice shopping and touristy areas, a really beautiful town centre and a lovely looking castle. We wandered the town enjoying the people watching of all the Scots, had a Cornish pasty for lunch and walked through the streets of its ‘old town’ while talking, munching and taking in the UK Culture.
I say UK culture because it wasn’t really Welsh Culture. There were so many Socts around that it was too diverse to really tell them apart! We decided to leave the castle for the next day and were fine with enjoying the city itself. We went to the Wales Centre looking for our obligatory national flag patch for our backpacks, finding it easily (now were pro’s) and shopped around. In the Wales centre we learned that Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey, Wales was only 190 miles away; the name translates to ‘St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave,’ and is not only the longest town name in Britain, but also probably the longest domain name on the internet. Check it out if you dare. As darkness was falling we decided to walk to the Bay area (recommended to us earlier) and figured we could grab dinner or something down that way. We walked all the way there alone (as that no one was interested in walking, but consuming alcohol was very popular this evening). We got to the bay area and found a very modern shopping area, similar to something you’d find in a severely sprawled city suburb, complete with a 1950s American Food diner…

It was a little disappointing, but on the way we’d gotten to see a Roald Dahl monument (he was from Cardiff –wrote books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and many more) and the new Civic centre (which was incredible). The centre is called the Wales Millenium Centre and was opened in November 2004, and has won numerous awards for it’s amazing façade. The structure is dominated by a huge metal dome which houses the main theatre. Inscribed into the front of this dome, above the main entrance, are two poetic lines, written by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The Welsh version is Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen, which means "Creating truth like glass from a furnace of inspiration". The English is "In these stones, horizons sing". The letters are formed by windows into the centre's bar and at night are illuminated. We were there in the dusk and later so we got to see it in all it’s beauty.

Roald Dahl Monument - sad because it reminded me of a Stargate SG1 Episode...

After we’d walked around for a while downtown we decided to head back up and get a pint before we headed home. It was only around 8 or 9 but we were tired (I’d had a long day already). We stopped into a pub we thought looked good called Kitty O’something-or-others, and Steph said it was going to have live music later so we would come back. Instead we went to the high street and found a bar called The Old Arcade. It was local and looked cool so we entered and found a table in the back section. The place was quite large and featured some local brewery named Brains (not Brians).

After a half pint for testing we bought a full pint and talked for a while slowly enjoying ourselves. There were still lots of Scots around boozing and laughing loudly and just as we reached the halfway point of our pints a couple of them asked if we would accommodate them at our table. This being normal to us now that we’d been used to the ‘shared space’ in Europe we let them and started another crazy night…

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