The trip from London to our destination in Wales, the grassy, coliseum-esque Roman ruins of Caerleon, took about three hours. The site was excavated in 1926 and the ruins are estimated to be from 1140. I think the most amazing part about being in Europe is finding out how history is truly intertwined and the longevity of the past.
After about an hour's drive, we landed in the little town of Caerphilly, known for the Caerphilly Castle which is the second largest castle in Europe after Windsor in England. If you ever do find yourself in Europe, this castle should definitely be on your bucket list. It's still mostly in tact, and the views and sights from the castle are nothing short of a fairy tale.
We then headed to St. Fagan's National History Museum. Unfortunately, museums tend to have a less exciting connotation than a castle does. Fortunately, this was no ordinary museum. For those of you familiar with Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, think of that times a million. This was more of a snapshot of Welsh life throughout the centuries, complete with a working farm and plenty of sheep, which outnumber the human population in Wales 2.5 to 1.
We were fortunate enough to have a ridiculously warm and sunny day for Wales and like any place that is used to rain, the whole place seemed to shine in the sunlight with all the bits of green, especially the gardens.
After exploring St. Fagan's, we made our way to Swansea for the night. Swansea is situated right along the ocean. The little town of Swansea was a wild one, full of Stags and Hens parties on a warm Saturday night. If you're ever looking for a wild night out and a beautiful European summer destination, Swansea is definitely the place to be in Wales.
The next day, we headed to "Big Pit," a coal mine in Wales that is used for tours now but was a working mine for nearly 100 years. We went deep underground in the mine shafts and got the whole tour of the mines by retired mine workers. While I have to admit, when I first heard we were going to a mine I was less than thrilled, it was actually one of the coolest things I've ever done. Hearing the stories of the hardships those men had to endure, and being inside an actual mine was definitely an experience I'll never forget.
After the coal mine, we stopped for lunch in the town of Monmouth, a tiny medieval town along the river.
Our last stop in Wales was to the ruins of Tintern Abbey. Tintern was a refuge for monks in the 1500's until King Henry the eighth ordered its demise. Despite the destruction, much of the Abbey still stands. Later in its history, Tintern Abbey became a frequent destination for the Romantics, inspiring that soporific poem by William Wordsworth you read freshman year.
Every room of Tintern Abbey is labeled as it was when the monks lived there near half a millenium ago. Wales may be modern, but it is in no hurry to change.