So I spent the weekend in Wales and it was a wonderful trip! I have to say, Aunt Jean was
right, it did remind me of Scotland with the landscape and mountains, so beautiful. Anything that reminds me of Scotland can’t be bad given how much I loved it there! At about 8:30 on Saturday we met the coach right outside of Great Portland Street tube station, this is the first time I have been to this particular station, and drove straight on toward Wales. It was a surprisingly short trip. We crossed over the Sevens River into Wales. Our guide mentioned, you have to pay a toll to get into Wales but not to get back into England. What do you think that says
about the Welsh? He also mentioned that when we got lunch, etc. that everything here is much more laid back. So the service is slower but then everyone is genuinely nicer or at ease. He gave a bunch of little tidbits of the cultural differences as we were traveling that I found really interesting.
First we stopped in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales. There was a small bridge we went over to get there from England and stopped at Chepstow Castle. Then we went back to the bridge and stood in the middle so we had one foot in Wales and the other in England. I have been in two places, two different countries, at once! This bridge is where JK Rowling had to
cross from England to go to her Wales primary school everyday. Then we went to go see the castle, which rides at the top of a small cliff over the river and onlooking to England on the other side. It wasn’t as extravagant as Edinburgh or anything but a castle indeed. We got to wander Chepstow a bit and see the quaint little town. I love the small architecture bit on the windows and doors of the homes here that you don’t see anywhere in Iowa. We stopped at this little cafe called the Pye Corner for lunch for tea with a sandwich. Then we hopped back on the bus and headed toward Tintern Abbey. It is a cathedral and some ruins along a very muddy river. The other side of the river looks like the hills and trees of Scotland. When we were there, across the parking lot right next to the entrance, was a game of Welsh men playing football
and we watched them for a bit. The village was quite small and we didn’t see much of it but explored the grounds of the ruins.
Then in the evening, as it gets dark so soon, we went to the town of books where literally kindles are banned, there are signs everywhere. We got there late so most shops were near closing but we wandered into one and it was just wonderful. I would have loved to have been there in high school when I had more time to read any books I wanted. After about an hour in one shop it was time to head to the hostel. The hostel was half a hotel so was really nice. I had the best night with the girls. We went through all of the signs, the hostel being in the middle of nowhere, with no phone reception, the maze to the
pool with a tarp over it, the “disco” party with a dumpster out our window and keys working on all the rooms, potentially all of the signs that our death was being plotted and I haven’t laughed so hard in ages, we had SO much fun. Supper that night was a chicken salad for me and tea while breakfast was turkey sausages and fried egg with orange juice.
After breakfast we left the hostel at nine and headed toward the horse riding centre. All of the trips via coach bus were only 10 to 30 minutes so very easy rides. We got there and they had about twenty horses already saddled up and ready to go. So, it was myself, Sarah, Katherine and Lexi from IES who went together with other study abroad students from other programs in London. It added up to about 20 girls, ironically no boys. There wasn’t demo or preinstruction – which I was okay with. They just gave us our helmets and asked if we’d ridden before and luckily I have. Most were in the same boat. Then they gave each of us a horse. Mine was a black guy with long hair, he was so soft and had a white star on his nose. We got along great! His name was Axel. Sarah had Dials, Lexi had Falcon and Katherine had Tom. We then rode, trotted and cantered a little bit, not by any means your beginners riding day for a solid 7 hours in the mountains of Wales. It was so beautiful and not too cold at first. The mountains had snow on the tops and there was little instruction so you could just ride around everywhere. However, if I could change anything about it I would have taken off the last couple hours because then I couldn’t feel my toes. On part of the mountain there was a path, very muddy about a foot wide on the side of a mountain, in the middle. So if your horse sidestepped you would be sent rolling down the mountain. Two girls got off from fright and I think I held my breath for a solid minute. The horses all wanted to walk on the grass of this steep incline and you had to force or direct them to stay on this path
because if they got off you were essentially in a rut. If dad saw me doing this, or grandma, they would have died of worry. But I think Amber would have definitely enjoyed doing this with me. I just literally saw my life flashing before my eyes, I fell in love with Axel for being such a good guy though when some others horses weren’t. One girls decided to roll and she fell off right towards the end of the mountain path thankfully and another fell off. But I mean, for me it was just the best thing. I would never have been able to do this, or have thought of it, otherwise and it was great to be outdoors and just roaming around. When we would pass fields of horses, they would sprint from all over the pasture and then poke their heads out, five in
each field probably, just to say hi to us and my did they look magnificent when they ran freely, just amazing. When we were done and back, around 4:15 we went to a pub, the Three Horseshoes, about five minutes away for supper. I got the butternut squash risotto and we got this big bowl of cheesy cauliflower, cooked carrots and peas, cabbage and a mashed cauliflower mix and I devoured it, the best vegetables – I was stuffed afterwards but it was delicious!
We got back to Nido around 8:30 on Sunday night and I was so tired. I had thought the horseback riding was going to be roughly 2 – 3 hours so I was horribly and wrong. This resulted in some sour thighs. I managed to get myself to workout and then fell asleep right as my head hit the pillow. Today, I am beyond sore from the horse back riding! It is a chore just to sit down! And my neck and shoulders are sore – the other girls are too, we waddled to class this morning! Now I have quite a bit of homework today and tomorrow trying to get everything I can done before Dad and Grandma get here. I have a big presentation and paper due Thursday so Wed night we have to
rehearse. I also hate to inform that the day in the cold yesterday is getting me sick, I have a stuffy nose and a general cold. I went grocery shopping and got some sweet potatoes, oranges, two bags of these mixed vegetables and a bag a dried raisins which I tried over the weekend and are so yummy, and some tea and apple juice. It was a large day of grocery shopping for me but was well splurged I think, aside from that I owe the AIST team for Italy a big whopping check today!
How crazy is it to think about how close the election is?? The papers here are covering it pretty well and making it out to be quite the race. I read tonight that Obama was in Iowa and Romney was in Des Moines today?? Also, it is Guy Fawkes’ night here and lots of fireworks, I am taking a break at 6 pm to go up to the top floor to see all of the fireworks over London and that should be fun! Remember, remember the fifth of November!
In our HostelLove you all!