UK (12.8.09 – 12.12.09)

Monday and Tuesday were entirely uneventful days that consisted of too much internet and not enough substance. This is due in part to the fact that I watched a horror film and consequently have trouble sleeping now. I fall asleep in the early hours of the morning, and subsequently sleep too late into the day. I am working on fixing this poor sleep schedule. On Wednesday, I went to ask about the possibility of setting up a bank account, and then I ventured into Central London with the hope of taking care of some Christmas shopping. I was unsuccessful, and came back empty handed! Once back in Balham, I went to the store and bought food so that I could make dinner for the family, as my aunt was out for the night.
On Thursday, again, I woke later than intended, and puttered around for a while. I went to the post office and sent off the package of Christmas presents for my family. I left the post office and headed for the station, ultimately bound for Cardiff. I arrived at about seven, got something to eat, and then got lost while searching for my hostel! Clever!! I did end up finding it though, and shortly after arriving, I set out to see the city by night. I walked streets lined with shops, and ended up going into Primark where I got a wool scarf, a wool hat, and knee high socks, which I was seriously pleased about. I walked further and saw a bit of the Cardiff Castle by night, but after two hours of walking around, it was colder than when I had set out, so I returned to the hostel. I was able to fall asleep around 1:30, which is significantly better than the 6:30AM at which I fell asleep the day prior.
On Friday, I woke early because breakfast was from 7-9AM, which I think is far too early for breakfast to end, considering it’s a hostel! I packed my bags, ate some breakfast, checked out, and headed into the city center. I walked around the outside of the Cardiff Castle by day, but didn’t go in because I had been advised by the hostel staff that the Castle is not worth paying to see, and instead I should go to Caerffili Castle.  After walking around and deciding to give the National Museum a miss, I headed to the docks. The sea was hardly visible due to the thick fog that cloaked the bay. It was calm, beautiful, and bloody cold. I returned to the station, and headed out to Caerffili to see the Castle, which is the biggest and ‘best’ castle in Wales. As soon as you exit the station, you can see the castle, so off I went to go and see it! The castle had and inner wall, and an outer wall, as well as a moat, which combined to create almost impenetrable defenses. It was built in the 14th century, and it has been well cared for in recent years, having had much restoration work done. I toured the grounds for a while and then decided that it was time I headed back for London, so I did exactly that.
I was only home for a few hours before heading out to Brixton to go to a venue called Hootananny, to go and see Pauline Black, who was the singer for The Selecter (a two-tone ska band from the late 70’s/80’s). I showed up earlier than necessary because the show was a mere £3, and I was worried that it would sell out. The website had said that doors were at 8, but they didn’t let anyone in until 9:30. The opening band were called The Tootones, and I could criticize them, but I’ll just leave it at this: they were terrible. The DJ that played before the show and between sets was fantastic, spinning absolutely fantastic traditional ska and reggae. Around 11PM, Pauline Black and her band took the stage, and the next hour and a half were absolute heaven. That woman has the golden voice of a Goddess. They opened with ‘Three Minute Hero’ and finished the set with ‘On My Radio,’ playing a perfect mix of old classic Selecter hits, new songs, and perfectly executed covers. For the encore, they came out and she started with a cover called Total Control, followed by ‘Too Much Pressure,’ a Selecter hit, which led into Toots Hibbert’s ‘Pressure Drop’ (one of my favorite songs of all time), then back into ‘Too Much Pressure.’ She finished the performance with a heart-breaking rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry.’ I was able to snag a set-list, to my absolute delight. After the show, the DJ started spinning again, and I stuck around for a few songs hoping that perhaps Pauline would emerge, but as it was getting late, I decided to leave in order to catch the train home. I got to the station to discover that I had missed the last train, and for a few minutes, I panicked, unsure of what to do. I couldn’t find a night bus that would take me anywhere I was familiar enough with to be able to walk the rest of the way home, so I ended up getting a taxi.
On Saturday, I managed to wake up by 10AM, a staggering feat considering the sleep trouble I’ve been having lately. I began throwing my suitcase together, preparing to leave for Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands. By 11:45, my bags were packed, and I had made myself some lunch, so out the door I went, headed for Stansted airport for my 2:30PM flight!

Now, it’s picture time!

Cardiff’s High Street all done up with Christmas decorations

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle’s clocktower

Cardiff Bay, hidden in fog

… and again

The Lightship 2000 that sits in the Cardiff Bay

Caerffili Castle

The entrance to the castle

A devastated but still standing castle turret

A replica of a trebuchet that would have been used to defend the castle

Pauline Black and her band

Pauline!

She looked so sharp; she had on the most fantastic suit!

Setlist!

Gran Canaria is up next… but it won’t be up for a few days because I’ve only just gotten here!

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