I had arrived in Bournemouth and settled in with my new adopted UK family in a home-stay. The first night I slept amazingly all alone in my very own room. Sleeping in hostel dorm rooms really makes you appreciate having a room to yourself. The peace and quiet of not sleeping in the same room with up to ten-ish people. Usually you get at least one snorer in the bunch, the bunk beds are creaky, and people tend to come and go all hours of the nights depending on the hostel. Usually I try to pick hostels that don’t have a party reputation to minimise this. That being said, ear-plugs and an eye mask do make for an amazing sleep.
The first day of university was splendid. I met the rest of the nurses in my group and got given a huge book of homework. The beginning of a huge amount of study to do in my own time essentially. The nursing council estimates around 120 hours is plenty of time to learn all about the ins and outs of the fabulous NHS system. Luckily the uni course is mainly able to be done through distance learning meaning I only have to physically attend the uni for three days during the month-long course.
So the rest of the week alternated between studying like a good wee girl, and heading to the beach with my new American friends to work on my tan. I even got a bit (well maybe a lot) sunburnt on one of the beach days after being a bit slack with the sunscreen. My excuse was thinking that the English sun would be nothing compared to the harsh New Zealand sunlight with the thin ozone layer thing. I learnt pretty quickly that the English sun is indeed just as nasty with some really strange looking tan lines in odd places.
I was learning lots about the English health system. In extreme detail. Way more detail than I ever remember having to learn for the NZ system. In fact I often had to research about the NZ system to complete some of the answers. Working on the course-book was tortuously mind-dulling and time-consuming with the occasional interesting tibbet of information. Every answer had to be hand-written to prevent any ‘copy and paste’ happening with of course no plagiarism.
The following week it was time for a break. For a whole seven days I treated myself to another wee travelling adventure. First I started with Bath for a couple of days. Bath is a lovely English city set over on the west side of England just next to Bristol and Wales. It is where the Romans initially settled and built the famous Roman Spa Baths. It is definitely worth visiting while in England. Filled with canals, swimming pools, roller-skating rinks, and gorgeous stonework which sets it apart from anywhere else in England.
My favourite was having a swim in the above pool. It is pricey to go at £28 for two hours but I felt it was worth it. Lying in thermal water under a hot sun was amazingly relaxing and refreshing. Plus the showers and changing rooms are really fancy making me feel like I was living the high life instead of my usual frugal backpacker lifestyle.
The hostel I stayed in was called Bath Backpackers. Not too bad for a hostel I thought. The ten-bed dorms are divided into male and female which I do personally prefer as a lone female traveller. Aside from being a little bit grungy, which I think was more from the age of the building with wear and tear, the location was fantastic with being only five minutes walk from the train station and right by the town centre. Always a big bonus when carrying a heavy backpack. There was also a Thai restaurant and a Nepalese one right next to the hostel itself. I sampled both and found them D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.
Next up on the destination list was Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. Only an hour away from Bath by train. Cardiff is again another really pleasant place to go visit. Especially if you happen to be a Doctor Who fan.
Now I have a bit of a confession to make. Only just last week, I may have jumped onto the Doctor Who bandwagon and become one of the geeky fans. And it is all the fault of one of the American nurses I am living with – Jaime. I owe her a big thank you. I knew of the programme growing up as my mother and brother are big-time fans. I only saw the frankly terrible cheesy special effects and looked no further. But thanks to Jaime, I looked past that and saw what really makes Doctor Who interesting to watch. Being set with a sci-fi theme and futuristic timings and happenings makes it impossible to predict what will happen next which is just what makes it so gripping and thrilling. The writers have fantastic imaginations. Becoming a newbie fan was kinda the reason I even decided to head over to Cardiff.
And the cool thing was that the vast majority of all the people I met in my Cardiff hostel and made friends with, were also Doctor Who fans coming specially to Cardiff too. Admittedly they had all been fans a wee bit longer than me.
So for those who are wondering what the big deal with Cardiff is, well you might be interested to know that Cardiff is where Doctor Who is filmed by BBC. As a result there are lots of little Doctor Who themed things around the city including the Doctor Who experience and tours. Apparently the walking and bus tours were excellent with showing dozens of places where filming for the show had taken place, as well as pointing out various Doctor objects around the city that you wouldn’t have noticed until pointed out to you. I hadn’t watched enough of Doctor Who to make it worth doing one of these tours. But I did go to the experience which was a huge highlight of the holiday for me.
First off on arrival to the city, I started with a guided tour. It’s my favourite way to kick-start my way into a new place. You get to learn your way around, know a little bit of the history, and figure out the good touristy stuff to go see. I did my tour as a cycling one through Cardiff Cycle Tours. This is a small one-man company run by a very nice bloke. I did enjoy my tour, and by doing it on bike rather than foot, I felt like I got to see so much more of the city.
Later that night I went and saw the Rocky Horror musical at the New Gallery Theatre. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I even sat next to a drag queen for the performance. I didn’t realise as this was my first Rocky Horror show, but you are actually meant to dress up for it like the characters. As I walked into the show, I did wonder why there seemed to be transvestites in scanty lingerie everywhere.
The next day I visited the Doctor Who Experience. Now this was very very cool. The experience submerges you into the Doctor Who world with pretty realistic simulation rooms and Daleks. At the end is a museum with lots of interesting costumes and monsters within the show. It was a definite highlight for me and totally worth going to Cardiff for. I found that although I was a relatively new fan, the experience just got me really excited for watching the rest of the newer seasons. I spent the rest of the day wandering round Cardiff before retiring back to the hostel to watch some more Doctor Who.
Following my Who themed day, I then did a day-trip to another city near Cardiff called Swansea. I mainly wanted to visit there as I had a couple of really lovely old workmates from there. I checked out a castle and a glass of Pimm’s in Mumbles bay before riding a public bus around the Gower Peninsula. I was stunned at how beautiful the countryside was with gorgeous rolling green fields and amazing views of the ocean. I found it odd though how the livestock weren’t fenced in and just seemed to wander across the road forcing the bus to slow down and wait a couple of times. The country lanes were also rather narrow with tall green grass on either side. The bus had some fun manoeuvring in the tight space whenever there were cars coming the other way.
Saturday was another castle-themed day for me although within the Cardiff area. I went and saw Caerphilly castle as well as Cardiff castle.
Then for my final Cardiff day, I spent it at St Fagans Welsh museum learning about Welsh History. St Fagans is a pretty cool museum. It is set out as an open-air museum with large beautiful gardens and green trees between exhibits which are all outdoor examples of older Welsh life. It helped that it was a warm sunny day. Otherwise I don’t think it would be a nice museum to visit with shitty weather. It was quite probably one of the most excellent museums I’ve been to with plenty of friendly staff floating around everywhere filled with fun historical facts.
The hostel I stayed in while in Cardiff was called River House Backpackers. It was the best hostel I have ever stayed in. And in fact River House is considered the best hostel in the whole United Kingdom for over eighteen months now. It is even worth considering coming to Cardiff just to stay in the hostel if you aren’t into the Doctor Who stuff. I am pretty sure part of the reason for their hot reputation is to do with how free delicious food is available each night. One night it was apple crumble with ice-cream, another night was home-made guacamole with corn chips and cider. Etc. That was the best guacamole I have ever had. Plus the hostel itself is family-run, super clean, and really nice high quality facilities. It’s the kind of hostel where you can tell a lot of love and care has gone into it. The only thing I could nit-pick at was that the rooms were quite stuffy and hot overnight. But that was more to do with the time of year.
It was with a sad heart that I left River House Hostel and it’s food behind.
And headed back to Bournemouth to do some more homework.