So then it was back to London, where I spent a few days recuperating. Yes. Recuperating. Between tourist life and running for trains, running for trains with the pink suitcase, heaving 19kg suitcase onto train platforms and up stairs (thank you London Victoria and Ealing Common for the free weight training sessions), I was happy to spend a few very anonymous days in my favourite city.
Being a loyal Hiltoner, I had some Hilton Honours points in the kitty and booked myself a 3-day stay at the newly refurbished Double Tree by Hilton in Ealing Common. Though a bit off the beaten path, the hotel itself was quite comfortable, terribly clean and just of the standard I have come to expect from the Hilton brand. Special mention goes out to the Nespresso machine in the room, which just made the stay that much sweeter. I had the best sleep of the entire trip here – with no maniacal tourist life activity keeping me in the tight clutches of exhaustion.
I managed just to see a few people including the lovely Corey and the stay also included a lovely day trip to Bournemouth, to catch up with an old friend as he launched a new chapter in his life. But after a bliss-filled pitstop, I was off to Cardiff, Wales – a reunion with the city I first visited while still a poor post-grad. I love Cardiff though. While not as hectic as London, it has enough diversity, character and beauty to make it a great place to visit. My friends are also the warmest hosts ever, and there was to be no rest! Always eager to make sure her guests are properly entertained, our first adventure was to the Big Pit – and as the name suggests, it was a damn big pit.
The Big Pit National Coal Museum is an actual coal mine and the tour takes you 300 feet underground into the mine, where you get a vivid recounting of the life of the miner, including the evolution of mining, the risks, their domestic situations (wives had to put up with some smelly, dirty, gnat-infested men coming home from work) and the eventual loss of an entire way of life for the region, with the global emergence of natural gas and nuclear energy. I thoroughly enjoyed this tour, though not a fan of dark, confined spaces, and I managed to bump my head more than a few times in the low underground tunnels. But it was a highlight.
|Dreary, windy Welsh day. Great day for an underground coal mine|
|The Big Pit in Wales|
|This guy is showing off some of the gear I wore on my tour|
Of course after a morning in the mines, one simply has to go taste beer at the local brewery. But of course!
|Nothing beats a cold beer after a few hours in the mine|
I want to save the ghost walk for another entry so will end it here. That ghost walk…something special.