Wednesday, August 5, 2015

things i learned in wales

Last week, I made my second business trip to Wales for an event at our facility located a few miles outside of Cardiff. I enjoyed this trip even more than my first one in November 2013, as I could be more independent both at work and around the city. The event provided an excellent opportunity to spend time with coworkers from all over the world (Mexico, Poland, India, Singapore) that I talk to weekly, but rarely get to meet in-person. Here's a few things I learned during my week in Wales:

  • Virgin Atlantic international flights are pretty nice, and a (free!) upgrade to premium economy is even nicer. My seat came with a bit more room, an individual TV screen, free beverages, two hot meals served on real dishes, and a little amenity kit with eye mask, ear plugs, and socks for the overnight flight. I giggled a bit when the flight attendant served our snacks, a little packet of pretzels from a company called Penn State Classic American Snacks (made in the UK... and apparently not affiliated with Dan's alma mater in any way).

cozy birdhouse | penn state brand pretzels

  • "Lemonade" is what British people call "Sprite." Here's a transcript of my exchange with the flight attendant when I learned this. (Please read the flight attendant's part with a British accent for authenticity.)
    Flight attendant: Can I get you anything to drink?
    Me: A Sprite please?
    Flight attendant: Is a lemonade okay?
    Me (inner monologue): In what universe is that considered a reasonable substitute???
    Me (out loud): Sure.
    Then she handed me a little can that said "R. White's Lemonade" from which I poured 150 mL of sparkling lemon-lime flavored soda. So... Sprite. Which made me wonder: How do you order an actual lemonade in the UK??
  • It rains in Wales. A lot. One local gave me this nifty tip for predicting the weather: "If you can see the mountain, it's about to rain. If you can't see the mountain, it's already raining." The downpour started during our drive from Heathrow to Cardiff on Sunday morning and didn't really let up until mid-day Wednesday. We passed the dreary morning exploring a very soggy Cardiff castle. We bumped into a few of our coworkers who had arrived a day earlier and were smart enough to snag a couple of umbrellas from the Poundland (English version of the dollar store). They were unfazed by the limited selection of patterns and proudly carried their new blue and white flowered umbrellas around the city. I think this was my favorite photo from the whole trip.

cozy birdhouse | a rainy trip to Cardiff castle

cozy birdhouse | a rainy trip to Cardiff castle

  • Braised faggots are a tasty dish. Especially if you don't find out until after eating them that they're made from liver and heart. I enjoyed mine served with mashed potatoes and mushy peas, though I did feel pretty weird ordering faggots at the canteen. Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is a serious lack of meat pies in the States. Why haven't we embraced the combination of beef and pastry? Yum.
  • Dragons are everywhere in Wales! Statues, symbols, signs, posters... everywhere! I particularly liked the big metal dragon perched atop the City Hall building. It's just such a cool symbol. I was particularly excited to find a silver dragon charm for my collection at one of the gifts shops (even though I was actually out for a jog at the time and had to carry it with me the rest of the run).

cozy birdhouse | cardiff city hall

  • When the rain finally stops, Cardiff is absolutely beautiful. I made a few treks through Bute Park, which is a huge green space right in the middle of the city with trails, paved paths, landscaped gardens, and huge open fields. My walk along the flower-lined paths beside the River Taff on sunny Wednesday was much more pleasant than my rainy jog on squishy trails the day before! After my brisk walk, I felt much better about indulging at our work dinner at Madeira, a Portuguese restaurant that served my enormous kebab by hanging it from a ceiling hook over the table.

cozy birdhouse | bute park in cardiff

cozy birdhouse | bute park in cardiff

  • When running the Cardiff Bay Trail, allow a few extra minutes for the drawbridge! On Thursday, our last night in town, I decided to tackle the 6 mile trail around the bay plus the mileage to and from the hotel. I made a running buddy on the route, a Cardiff native and father-of-two named Adam who is training for a local half marathon in October. I passed a couple of notable landmarks including Millennium Stadium and the terracotta-colored Pierhead Building, part of the estate of the National Assembly of Wales. The beautiful weather, flat trails, good company, and gorgeous views made it a very enjoyable 10 miles!

cozy birdhouse | cardiff bay

cozy birdhouse | cardiff bay

cozy birdhouse | millennium stadium in cardiff

cozy birdhouse | pierhead building in cardiff

  • And finally, British game shows are the best. During our vacation to London in 2013, Dan and I discovered "Countdown" which is a strange combination of spelling and "maths" quizzes solved by B-list British comedians. In addition to "Countdown" I also watched "Catch Phrase" (celebrities try to determine the common sayings illustrated by poor-quality computer animations), "Golden Balls" (game itself was dumb but the name made me giggle), and 1970's re-runs of "Bullseye" (my new favorite... a perfect marriage of darts and trivia).

My brain was pretty tired of trying to sound out Welsh (Cymraeg) words on all the signs around Cardiff (Caerdydd) by the end of the week, but I'm already looking forward to my next trip!

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