Saturday, February 21, 2015

Visit to Bath

After my Margam Park post a few weeks ago I promised a post on my trip to Bath and I'd planned to get it up within the next few days, but that clearly didn't happen. Other than keeping busy with work I've started tentatively (but excitedly) work on the article I'd like to publish based on some of my dissertation findings, so I've been spending a lot of my free time reading research and drinking lots of coffee, two things which I love to do! But having done that all morning I figured it was about time I get this Bath post finished!

It was just over a year ago that I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting up with Emily while she was in London. I promise you, if any friend of mine is ever in the UK I will make a very determined effort to make it to see them, however brief the visit--because why not take advantage of being on the same landmass?! So I was very excited when my friend and former roommate Kate texted me in November to let me know she'd be in London for New Year's! After doing some research she suggested that we meet in Bath, because it looked like a good halfway point between London and Wales, and because it looked like a great place to explore! It was a fantastic choice.

Roman Baths!
Bath has a fantastic architectural history, including the ruins of Roman baths and more modern baths and spas built to draw in to the hot springs that run below the city. It has loads of really cool buildings and we spent the afternoon on a free walking tour that basically takes you to all the main architectural highlights!

 This is Bath Abbey Cathedral--see the funny neck on the statue of St. Peter to the right? King Henry VIII had the statue beheaded, so when the head was restored they didn't bother to build up his neck properly again! This was my favorite fact from the tour.

One of the things that the tour guide really emphasize was that Bath's cultural and architectural history has really placed a lot of emphasis on outward appearance and on the superficial. Bath was historically a place to go out and socialize solely for the purpose of "seeing and being seen". In a similar vein, two of the city's biggest architectural highlights, the Royal Crescent (above) and the Circus, have a really interesting design history. The facades were planned and designed by one architect, but each house (there's 30 in the Crescent) within the facade was then bought by a private owner who hired their own architect to design the rear. This means the rears are a hodgepodge of designs and styles! I found this aerial photo of the back to demonstrate: 

Yes, that is the same building, from the rear! We took this photo on the grass that would be just off the right edge of the photo above. I love the symbolism of this stylistic/architectural choice of the town's cultural focus on outward appearances! Similarly, there's now a legislation stating that all new buildings constructed within a certain radius of Bath town centre must use Bath yellow stone (from local quarries) as the facade, to give an appearance of uniformity. And to be honest, it makes for a really pretty-looking city when everything matches like that! Unfortunately my camera was out of commission the day of this trip so I didn't get to take many pictures myself. But Josh and I definitely hope to go back to Bath in the future, now that we've discovered how close it is to us (an easy day trip) and how much there is to do/see in the surrounding area!

It was really great to see Kate, explore a new place together, and have a chance to catch up! I'm so glad our visit worked out.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Margam Country Park

It's been a while since I've done a post featuring some of our adventures, probably because we had a rather un-adventurous end-of-2014. But on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's, we took an afternoon to explore Margam Country Park, which was long overdue. It is barely a ten-minute drive away from us and I pass it every day on my way to work!

Like may of the sites we've visited that I've been fascinated by, Margam Park has a vast and fascinating history. There is evidence on the site of over 4,000 years of continuous habitation, including Bronze and Iron Age relics and evidence of extensive Roman occupation. Early stone crosses found on the site suggest early existence of a Celtic monastery. Still standing you can see the remains of a 12th-century Norman Abbey (above). There are also gardens still maintained from the various periods of inhabitants over the years. One thing that fascinated me the most, though, was that high on the hill overlooking the parkland, you can see what appear to be ruins from a similar period to the Abbey. After some research when we got home I found out this is "Capel Mair ar y Bryn" ("the chapel of St. Mary on the Hill"), which is believed to have been a building where members of the monastery who were tending the flocks in the hills could fulfill their devotional duties. It's now located on common land and we plan to hike up there some day!

We walked up through the monastic ruins and the gardens and found our way to the Orangery. In the late 18th century, the Orangery was built to house a large number of citrus trees belonging to the owner at that time, Thomas Mansel Talbot. It is now used as a wedding venue.

It's a beautiful walk from the Orangery up to Margam Castle, past a pond and through a woodland area and some more gardens. The "castle" (more of a giant mansion house) was built in the 1840s following the demolition of the original mansion when the Orangery was built. I'm not a big fan of 19th-century Romantic architecture, but I have to admit the building is pretty impressive just in its massiveness. And as you can see, we had beautiful weather for our walk--clear skies and a sunny day! Adventures like this remind me why I love living in Wales.

A few days later we took a trip to Bath, to meet up with Kate, who had come from Spain to spend New Year's in the UK! I'll do another post on that later because I think this one has enough photos in it! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

To my teenage self

I'm back this week for Writer's Workshop, and here's the prompt I've chosen:

Find a photo of yourself taken 10 years ago and display it on your blog along with a current photo. How have you changed since the day that photo was taken?

This is one of the few photos of me from ten years ago that I could find on my computer, and unfortunately all my photo albums are in boxes in my parent's basement 3,000+ miles away! Luckily for you though, I still have many of the photos from my earliest days with digital cameras on my computer, and I got my first digital camera for Christmas in 2004! I didn't take very many photos of myself of course, so what you're about to see is, I'm afraid, probably one of the most awkward photos of me you could have asked for. Brace yourselves...

Yep, that's 14-year old me, having been given a very unflattering makeover as you can see, with my hair frizzing beyond belief! So, how have I changed since then? Well, here's a fairly current photo of me, taken this past summer at the Bosherton Lily Ponds:

Now, it would be really easy to focus on the ways my life has changed in the last ten years, but I think that's all pretty obvious. So let's talk about a few of the ways I think I've changed and grown in my personality and attitudes.

I (mostly) love my curly hair.

That's right, I've said it--something anyone who knew me when I was fourteen would be shocked to hear. At that age, I always kept my hair long enough to pull it back in a ponytail, and never wore it down--my friends would actually steal my hair ties and scrunchies to try and keep me from pulling it back. But most days now, I love my hair, especially since I've cut it short! While I still may be irritated by the frizziness and fluffiness at times, I really love its unpredictability. Yes, I still sometimes think my life would be easier with a different head of hair, but I'm reminded how much I love it when I wear it straight for more than just a day--by day two, I'm bored with it!

I embrace my "secret talent"
In college, while playing a game where we had to suggest one another's "secret talents", some friends decided that mine was definitely "taking things too far"--and this is true! It's not that I don't have a verbal filter, but it seems to get toned down in social situations. I'm highly likely to put my foot in my mouth or tell a joke and only afterwards realize that the people I'm with may not share my sense of humor--like at my work Christmas dinner when I was waiting at the bar to be served and told my colleague, who I'd only met once before that night, that I just needed to "take my tits out" to get served sooner (my exact words). Only once I'd spoken did I realize I wasn't sure if he knew me well enough to realize it was a joke, and had to quickly clarify (luckily, he'd caught on). As a teenager, I was so conscious of my "awkwardness" and always afraid to say or do the wrong thing. I would spend hours replaying those moments I could have done differently, moments which, in reality, the other parties involved would probably barely remember (yet I can still remember them now). But now, I embrace the fact that "taking things too far", or letting go of my verbal censor, is a part of me--and laugh along with everyone else in these moments without any embarrassment.

I like cake.
I used to use this fact--well, the opposite of it, "I don't like cake"--any time I had to do one of those "two truths and a lie" icebreakers--and it was one of my truths. Those days are no more! I think my family is still probably adjusting to this one because I hated cake from my first birthday all the way up until my twenty-first. I don't know what changed my mind, really--I just remember trying a piece of cake at an event of some kind at college (because who turns down free food?) and actually liking it! I'm still a little picky about what kinds of cake I'll eat, but it's definitely a change! 

I think if my fourteen-year-old self met me today, she'd be jealous. Not of the cake eating thing, but of seeing someone who wears her crazy curly hair as confidently as she laughs at her own "foot-meet-mouth" moments. And if I could meet my younger self, I wouldn't tell her anything about the future and I wouldn't try to tell her anything life-changing. I would just tell her, "If you like who you see in me, hang in there--you'll get there."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

20 pieces of me

Drawing inspiration again this week from Kat's writing prompts. I've really been enjoying them so far as a way to get my writing engine going, even if it's just writing these silly little pieces. And I especially loved this prompt.

Five Things. List 5 things we don’t know about you, 5 things you’re knowledgeable about, 5 things you know nothing about, and 5 things you believe.

5 things you (probably*) don't know about me:

1. I have "double-jointed" elbows.
2.  The first concert I attended was a James Taylor concert with my parents at the age of 12, and I loved it! My most vivid memory is of lighters going up during one of the songs and my dad having to explain to me what was going on.
3.  The only speeding ticket I've ever gotten was on a college spring break road trip through Nebraska with some friends, and we were rocking out to Katy Perry's song "Peacock" when we got pulled over.
4. I spent my 21st birthday like any college student would--on a canoeing trip with my friend Allison, which included capsizing our canoe and being rescued by a pair of men with a cooler full of beers weighing down their own boat.
5. I once had a job that required me to wear a full-body Tyvek suit and a full face mask, as pictured below. It's not as exciting as it sounds though; it involved cleaning and cataloging lots of old, moldy microfilm reels in a flooded basement and killing lots of cockroaches.

*Disclaimer: This was a tough one because I know it's mostly my close friends and family who read this blog and therefore people who know quite a bit about me! So sorry if none of this is news to you!

5 things I am knowledgable about:

1. Sewing and quilting
2. Dementia, specifically behavioral and social therapies and person-centred care.
3. Competitive springboard diving
4. Christopher Columbus and the early Spanish colonization (NOT "discovery") of America
5. UK Immigration laws and policies

5 things I know nothing about:

1. Buying a car--yep I'll admit this, I know very little about what to look for when purchasing a vehicle, which is why I appreciated Josh's enthusiasm and knowledge when it came to buying my  first car!
2. Rugby--something very stereotypically Welsh. Josh played for years but doesn't watch it so I've had no reason to or interest in watching/learning about it!
3. Computer programming and coding
4. The stock market
5. Knitting--if you gave me a pair of needles and some yarn I'd be at a loss as to where to start. It's something I've considered learning but I already have too many hobbies and too little time & money to sustain them!

5 things I believe:

1. I believe that self-care is incredibly important! It's easy to overlook your own needs when things are busy and to prioritize other people's, but I believe you can only be your best self when you're taking time to take care of yourself.
2. I believe in connecting with people. I love meeting people and talking to people, and not just in the sense of making friends--I also love those little one-time interactions you can have with people in airports, coffeeshops, on the train, etc. I love finding a connection and sharing it with someone you didn't know five minutes ago.
3. I believe the only people who can truly judge a relationship are the people in it--and I try to live by this belief and be non-judgemental, but I am far from perfect.
4. I believe in laughter as a positive coping mechanisms.
5. I believe that we all have more in common than we realize, but it's often easier to see the differences.

As soon as I started writing this list all I could think of was the Savage Garden song "Affirmation", which I loved when I was twelve. I'd kind of forgotten about it until I heard it on the radio last week on my way to work--and again this morning, two Tuesdays in a row on the same station! So for anyone who wants to give it a listen and have a flashback to the early 2000s, here it is!