I’m aware of how lucky I am to have a wealth of friends and family come to the UK to visit me during my brief stint abroad. Of course, they’re just using me as an excuse to travel, but I like to pretend it is because they miss me! Holly came to visit in October and my cousin Dash and Nana Sharon will be visiting in just a few weeks! Of course, most recently the ever so lovely Emma Raines came to spend her reading week with me in London and Cardiff.
She departed on a red-eye from Vancouver on Friday and I met her in London the following Saturday morning. Seeing someone from home warmed my freezing heart, which may have just been freezing due to the overly air conditioned National Express bus… but nevertheless, it was warmed with love. We dragged her too-giant-for-a-week suitcase through the Underground… got a little lost in a park… and then finally found our hostel.
This week we spent the night in Safestay– Holland Park. It is a castle in the middle of a beautiful park (with real trees!). This is by far the most comfortable and adorable hostel I have ever been to and I wholeheartedly recommend staying there. The only issue is it is a little out of the way… but who cares when you’re IN A CASTLE! Once we were settled in I took Emma around iconic London. I love that I can now be the tour guide!
Turning the corner towards the Houses of Parliament, I decided to wrap Emma’s scarf around her face to make Big Ben a big unveiling! I guided her down the street quite indiscreetly… We got many photos taken of us. I swear to god we are going to be a new meme.
We had an early start on Sunday- wanting to explore as much of London as we could before taking the train to Cardiff in the evening. According to my phone, we walked 18km. PSA, don’t walk 18km in gumboots! They are not meant for long distant walking!
We began our day in traditional tourist fashion with a boat ride down the Thames. I like to pretend not be a “tourist” but sometimes ya just gotta own it.
We walked over Tower bridge to Maltby St. Market. Still hidden from the other ghastly tourists (besides us), Maltby is an adorable little street full of local food vendors. I bought small crop olive oil from “the Gay Farmer” and we shared a beautiful waffle with fresh berries. Having whetted our appetite, we were ready for a full Sunday roast lunch which we found at the Folly. It was humungous and delicious and very expensive (but hey, whatchagonnado?)
Completely full, we waddled around the city until finally catching our train back to Cardiff and retiring to an early bed.
In the morning, we somehow found the will and energy to take another train to visit the city of Bath. We were both very tired but excited to explore a new city, and me being the history and museum nerd I am… I was especially ecstatic! The Roman Baths were obviously fantastically preserved and presented. One of the first British museums that I have had to pay an entry fee for, I still think it is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a history buff.
The city itself made me feel slightly uncomfortable. On one side of the city are beautiful historic buildings and on the other are soulless new buildings pretending to be historic. They almost reminded me of Los Angeles- and not in a good way. Too much beige! But hey! I got to have my first Cornish Pasty so I’m not too bothered.
Tuesday was our first real day in Cardiff. I was technically in school that week, so I left Emma to wander while I was in class. After I was done, we walked around city centre and had tea at the Barker Tea House- my favourite place for ambiance… less for food. Then we went to a place I’ve been meaning to go but just hadn’t… the Cardiff Story Museum. It is tiny! Only a room- but what a room it is! The Cardiff Story used their limited collection to tell a detailed history of the city with great multimedia displays, colourful and playful decoration, and visitor participation areas. If you’ve made it this far down the blog, you must be committed and already know that I’m a museum nerd, but I really love when a museum goes the extra mile to make its visitors feel welcome.
One step further than a museum-appreciation nerd is one who would nerd out over museum renovations. Well, that’s me. And either unfortunately of fortunately for Emma, I dragged her along on a tour with my conservation peeps to see Tredegar House’s renovations and get a private tour of their scaffolding.
I’m glad that I got to show Emma a taste of my new world in Cardiff. It’s not all tea houses and castles but also a lot of pest management and humidity monitors.
After our endless crazy busy days, we finally had a night to catch our breath and be absurdly girly with face masks, nail polish, and chick flicks. I love being shallow sometimes.
But the calm ended, and the storm (Doris) began again. Catching a 7:30am train to London, we finished off the iconic sightseeing, went to the British Museum and John Soane’s House, and saw the musical “Half a Sixpence.” The musical was great, although I was semi-distracted because I received a course planning email from the UBC office right before and had to ponder their suggestions (seems like I can do an Anthropology major and still graduate on time!).
This weekend, we stayed in the hostel, Palmer’s Lodge. Like Safestay, this one was situated in a historic house. We stayed in the attic and it was marvellously Harry Potter. It was much more convenient than Safestay, and terribly cute and welcoming… but the beds were very uncomfortable. I would probably stay there again though- plus, free coffee!
On our last day we went to Platform 9 3/4, the British Library, the Museum of London, and toured around my favourite areas of East London. I got a disappointing Vietnamese bowl from a street vendor. I will never learn not to buy Asian food from White people. I’m so desperate. So, so desperate.
It was a very hectic week for us and I’m so thankful for her visit. The world can seem like such a small place when we get into our routines… but when you realize that half your life lives on the other side of the planet, it can seem a little bit bigger. As I post this blog, Emma is flying over Iceland. I will see both of them soon… Emma when I arrive back to Vancouver in May, and Iceland when I visit my homestead in April.