06.04.2013 - 06.04.2013 12 °C
This morning we bid farewell to Helen. She headed out on the 9:25 am train to London so she could catch a flight to Amsterdam in the afternoon. Our time with Helen seems like the quickest 12 days of our trip. We will miss her company. We hope that she did not take a cold along for the second half of her vacation. The rest of us have been hacking and coughing for the whole time Helen was here, which made us pretty quiet company by the time the evenings rolled around. Fortunately, Helen had brought some single malt scotch whiskey which did a lot to nurse me through my cold and made for a good night sleep. Hannah seemed to sleep well too, but I didn't see her take much more than a sip but perhaps when our heads were turned she took a medicinal dose too.
Unfortunately, for Helen, the best weather in two weeks arrived today. The arctic air and cloud cover gave way to sunny skies and temperatures, although far from balmy, much more suitable for an early afternoon walk. Abby decided to take a day off from sight-seeing today so that left just the three of us for more Welsh exploration.
We headed a short distance out of Cardiff to the village of St Fagans which is home to the National Museum of Welsh Life . It is an open air museum on the grounds of a 100 acre 16th manor house. On these grounds are over 40 structures from a wide variety of eras that have been moved here from all over Wales to the tell the story of how the Welsh lived out their day-to-day lives over the past several hundred years. In addition to the manor "castle," there is an active farm on site, a church, a couple of schools, a general store, bakery, toll house, post office, flour mill, a good number of farm buildings and homesteads, and even a cock fighting arena. Each structure was fully furnished to represent its era and there was an interpreter available to explain the history of the building. Adding to the atmosphere during our visit were several organ grinders playing throughout the park.
Since it was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the sight charges no admission, it is a popular place for locals to take an afternoon stroll with their families and a few were even venturing out for their first picnic of the year despite the cool air. On the grounds we got some of first samplings of the Welsh language. Only about 1 in 4 people in Wales has any facility in the language but a lot has happened in the last thirty to forty years to revive its use. All signage in Wales in bilingual and it is possible for any child to have their entire education in Welsh. This is quite the change from days gone by when all education was in English and a child was punished for speaking any Welsh in the classroom. We very much enjoyed our walk around the grounds and were especially taken with the variety of thatched roofs and the different materials use to create them.
After nearly three and a half hours of exploration we made our way back to our apartment to check in on Abby. I went for another afternoon walk in our neighbourhood, specifically to look for a shop to print off an exam for Abby. The architecture in Cardiff is quite eclectic. There is a fair bit of row housing but the fronts are much less uniform than what you would find in London. The new and the old sit side by side but seem to coexist in less harmony than they do in London or in some of the bigger towns of Spain. The new buildings seem to dwarf the old. It is a very multiethnic town with specialty shops for those of Indian, African, Caribbean and Eastern European backgrounds. There are also shops for each of these communities that specialize in wiring services to send money home to relatives. I was not successful in finding an Internet Cafe or office supply store that was open. It seems in Cardiff at least, many stores close up very early in on Saturday afternoon to get a jump on the weekend. I could have this wrong and perhaps it was due to some sort of rugby game that was on. By what we have witnessed so far, rugby is the national religion of Wales.
We wound up our last day in Wales with a quiet night at home, watching a bit of TV online and preparing for our trip to Ireland tomorrow. We are packing away the British Pounds for a couple of weeks, dusting off the Euros but will stick with driving on the left side of the road.