Cardiff EN version
English version of my trip and short stay in Cardiff.
Welcome to Cardiff and to CELT, the language centre!
What youre about to read is a serial about my two weeks stay in Cardiff. Im about to write it in English and in Slovak language, which is my mother tongue, and I wont be giving it to any native speaker to check and correct it. Why? Because Im not only going to talk about my journey, but also about the intensive language course Im attending to and I want those who are interested in learning English to be able to assess my level of English and any improvements.
I hope you will enjoy it.
Today was my first day at CELT. I am taking the general course and its going to be also intensive as Im going to have some classes in the afternoon as well.
The school was very easy to find thanks to the host family I live with (they are SO NICE!). I was shown everything when I arrived, today I was also driven to the school and everything was perfectly explained to me. I really had no worries about finding the place. I arrived early, so I walked around the city a little, but Ill talk about the city later.
Shortly after nine we were brought to a classroom and we took the test. It consisted of 4 pages, we were asked to fill one page, let it checked and then we eventually continued with the rest. Afterwards there was a short interview and that was it. Easy. At the moment I dont know which class Im in yet, but I was already told that Ill be in the advanced class (C1 level is the highest level they teach here in CELT, and I know that Im C1-C2, so no surprise to me).
After a break, that actually seemed to last ages, we were brought into the class again. We were told basic things (like how to cross the street or how important it is to arrive on time...) and finished for today. No learning for today.
Cardiff is a capital city of Wales, for those who didnt know that. If you want to know other basic information, google it. I want to write about my personal experience.
My first day in Cardiff was yesterday, when I came from London and met the host family. I was driven by the most important places and the family was so nice to talk to me about the things I would like to see and give me advices. As Ive already written, theyre very nice and helpful.
But my real experience with Cardiff has started today. Ive had the opportunity to walk the city in the morning. At 8 AM the streets are very calm. Scarce of people, shops just opening... peaceful and quiet. The streets are very clean, mostly quite wide and spacious.
Walking down the Queens street I suddenly saw the castle, which became the object of my todays walk.
What was interesting to me about the castle is the position. Its not situated on any hill, its not even on the border of the town, nothing like that. Its right in the middle of the city and when you leave a busy road, youre in there! Well... you first have to pay at least 10,99 pounds.
The castle area is surrounded by castle walls that were built about 100-200 years ago (my audioguide didnt kept the exact year as a secret, but I didnt remember it). Inside there is nice green lawn and not quite in the centre there is a small artificial hill on which stands the castle. Just like that. In the middle of a rush city, in the middle of a green grass. Perfectly weird! I loved it! But I think seeing is in this case much better than reading, so Ill put some pictures.
If youre interested in what else have I seen in the city, stay in touch. I plan to keep the page updated every day, I hope Ill manage that. Fingers crossed...
Second day at school was a real school day. The class (advanced level) started at 9:15 AM with 5 students (me included, some were missing) and a very nice teacher called Rachel. The lesson was really great! (And as believe me, through the years of learning Ive been to many lessons and have many teachers, so I can compare.)
What I especially liked was her ability to provide everyone the opportunity to talk and participate in the lesson. Also the way she explained certain expressions and words was very good and I really liked that she repeated the phrases weve learnt during the lesson several times. The other thing that I really liked was that she corrected our pronunciation so that our way of talking would be more natural. In general, the morning lesson was VERY good!
I cant say the same about the afternoon class, during which I was seriously bored. It wasnt because of the teacher or the lesson itself. It was because the afternoon class, as there is not so many students taking it, is attended by intermediate to advanced students and the pace of the lesson has to reflect it. I didnt know that when I applied for the lesson. I went to the director after the class, to see what can be done about that, she asked me to try another lesson and if it doesnt work for me, we will do something about it. Ill tell you tomorrow.
Today I walked through the city to enjoy the streets and the atmosphere of Cardiff.
The air smelled freshly as it rained yesterday, the sun was shining and the seagulls were shrieking all over the city. Even if you dont see the sea, you know that its near.
I walked down the main shopping street and turned left to one of many Cardiffs arcades. They possess almost a mystical atmosphere. Dim light, narrow corridors, all kinds of strange shops... just wonderful!
After I while spent in the maze of arcades and streets I got into the Cardiffs market. What a place! The types of shops and the friendly prices... my poor wallet.
I had to get out of there as soon as possible, as I have still a lot of things to see in Cardiff and lot of things to pay for... But Ill be back.
Todays update will be quite short, as Im too tired. Sorry...
The morning class was today as good as it was yesterday. We have done some repetition and continued with learning idiomatic phrases, phrasal verbs and correct pronunciation. And as yesterday I really felt that Ive learned a lot during those few hours in the class. Thank you, Rachel, for your great lessons!
As for the afternoon class... today was a little better and I cant say that I was bored, although I really neednt to concentrate too hard. After the class I went to see the directors to see what can be done about it. They were very nice and I really recommend to anyone who should have any problem at this school to go and see them immediately. Weve had a nice little chat about many other things than just the curse. At the end I was told to come tomorrow at lunch time, that they have to discuss it and see what are the options.
At this point I would like to say something positive about the overall attitude of the school to the student. I cant compare with other British schools, as Ive never been to any before, but I really appreciate the way they talk to students, their willingness to help and find a reasonable compromise and most of all the homely atmosphere. There wasnt a second when I would feel like Im just someone who should give them money and be satisfied with what they are offering. Its a great school!
As you maybe know, dragon is a national symbol of Wales. And as some of you maybe know, I LOVE dragons.
Dragons are everywhere!
Welsh flags with red dragon, dragons in names of pubs, restaurants and hotels, on a dust bin, on a cake... everywhere.
Well, I think that if there isnt much going on next week, I wont really write much into this section. The morning class is still perfect as it was and I wont attend the afternoon class any more.
The director suggested that I could have some one-to-one classes instead and asked me what topics I would like to cover during those lessons. We also agreed on the time of the first lesson, which will be on Monday, so Ill wait and see how things will go on now. But Im pretty sure it will be just fine.
I maybe have mentioned this already a little, but I start my day everyday a little sooner (30-45 minutes sooner than I should have) to take a short walk around the town before I start at school. I buy a coffee at KFC as they have one of the best prices here. In average a cup of cappuccino costs about 2 pounds, Starbucks is even more expensive than that, and KFC serves Lavazza for 1 pound 30 or so and Ill have the fifth coffee for free. Good for me.
I usually take the cup with me and walk through the streets that are just waking up. The shopkeepers are preparing their stuff in order to lure the money from their customers; busy people walk in a quick pace to get to their works; while others seems to be just like me wandering around.
The streets are rather different later in the day. Yesterday, the sun was shining and it was nice warm day. So at noon I went into a very small park opposite the museum (were is a free wifi) and sat down on green lawn. It was soo nice! And I must admit, that I have probably fallen asleep for a while... But as I have than looked around, I really wasnt the only one. Many people tend to spent their lunch break in a park.
In the afternoon the streets are full with people. Not as much as in London, but its quite a difference when compared to morning. Many are shopping. There are numerous shops in the Queens street and a huge shopping centre in the middle of the city. Ive tried some, but at the moment there wasnt really anything to my liking. Maybe Ill see something nice some other day.
Evening... well still something to find out as after school Im always too tired to care hows the city in the evening. But I still have some time to catch up.
My trip to Chepstow seemed to be quite funny from its beginning. There was some marathon or some kind of weird re-building going on in the city, so my morning bus turned completely different way as Im used to. But I have found my way to the station, bought a return ticket to Chepstow for about 6 pounds and told the surprised driver where Im heading. As Ive found out, that was just a short stop on the way to Heathrow...
I got into the bus, resisted the temptation to tell an obese, severely dyspnoeic lady with swollen ankles to loose some weight and there we went. Shortly... because just after the station the bus was stopped by some man and most of all barriers standing in its way. Most of the roads were closed in Cardiff and the driver hadnt known that. I must say, it was a really good idea for an English learner like me to sit right behind the drivers. I dont recall hearing so many interesting words!
After an hour the bus left me in Chepstow with sun nicely shining above me. I smiled at the nice world and took a sympathetically looking street leading somewhere. As is Harrison singing, if you dont know where youre going, any road will take you there. It led me correctly to the place of my interest, the Chepstow Castle.
Briefly about the Castle: the building of this Norman castle began in 1067 and nowadays it is the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain. Many parts were built until 1188 and others were added or rebuilt by 1278. The castles importance declined after the end of the war between England and Wales and except for occasional attacks it didnt serve its defensive purpose. Later, in the 17 th century it was left to decay.
I walked in through the gateway, found out that it was my lucky day as today was free entrance, and after I crossed a souvenir shop I found myself in the remnants of a kitchen. Unlike other castle kitchens Ive ever seen, this one was rather spacious and what is more with huge windows! Nice place, I can imagine enjoying the work there. But I must admit, that the cross vaulted wine cellar was even more impressive...
Ive passed the original wooden door dated back to the 11 th century to the Great Hall, the oldest part of the castle. I dont know why, maybe because everything is quite well preserved, but I could almost feel the history soaked in those walls...
Up the wooden stairs into several restored rooms with colourful wall paintings and wooden furniture. Some might not like the fact that its all so shiny and obviously new, but as there are few rooms like that in the Chepstow castle I think its a good idea. Visitors can imagine as it probably could have looked like back than and than go back to see the ruins.
A mildly steep path led me to a huge tower with wonderful gothic windows (on the safe side of the castle, the river side) and partially preserved wall paintings (partially restored). Magnificent! Castles Ive seen were either cold, stony fortresses or a overly decorated buildings that seem defenceless. In the tower of Chepstow castle I could see both strength and beauty creating a majestic complex.
After that I had a short walk around the castle walls and up and down several narrow staircases and ended up at a closed gate. There wasnt much left to see in the castle. So I just ate my lunch at the castle lawn watching numerous families with little children spending their afternoon in such a nice place and left shortly after.
Chepstow town, that I had walked through before the bus took me back to Cardiff, is small and lovely. There is a well preserved stone wall from 13 th century, few nice churches and nice narrow streets going up and down the hill. But after seeing the castle... you know. So after a short walk I got into the bus and with a content smile returned back to Cardiff.
Chepstow castle is beautiful place to see.
A FEW BITS AND PIECES
Well, my stay in Cardiff has reached to its end, so I think its a good time to summarise.
The language course: I think that this course was one of the best ones Ive ever attended. Usually some teachers seems to have problems with advanced students, as if the didnt know what should they teach them. Rachel, the teacher weve had, is different. She has been teaching us how to speak more naturally and how to emphasise or weaken things we want to say by changing the structure of the sentence or by stressing particular words. She has pointed out the collocations, nuances in word meanings and improved our pronunciation. What I especially liked was that not only has she explained all the new things, but she also repeated the phrases or words weve learnt that day or days before over and over again. At the end of the course, I really felt that this was helping. Im now more aware of what Im saying and how Im saying it, I have broadened my vocabulary and learnt some useful idioms and phrases.
As for my host family, I cant compare with any other, but I think that I have the best host family in the world! They were so nice and friendly! They always made sure if I was all right, if I didnt need anything, asked me whether I wanted some tea or something to eat. They were interested in my day at school, when I got a little ill, they kept asking me whether I didnt need anything and whether I felt better. They took such a care! And when I was coming to Cardiff and even when I was leaving it, they gave me a ride from/to the station, although the Saturday that I was leaving was really busy for them and it made their life a little more complicated. Thank you Wendy, thank you John!
People always talk about (joke about or even complain) British food. However, I really cant say anything bad. I had coffee or tea for breakfast, cornflakes, nice warm toasts, butter, jam,... simple and tasty. Im used to have the main meal during lunch, which is different from the usual British customs. But as Im terrible in keeping good habits of my country and even at home I sometimes eat some crap or dont eat at home during the lunch, I was completely OK with this. A baguette or some tesco pasta in a plastic cup could be bought for less than 2 pounds and were usually just what I needed. The dinner became my main meal during these days and except for one evening I always dined at my host family. And I must say that I was satisfied all the time! Potatoes (and not only chips), rice (and not only plain, sometimes with curry or other spices), meat (grilled or fried chicken, minced meat...) or fish, boiled vegetable... Always healthy, always tasty, always enough. And just in case no one envies me by now, after we ate our dinner some ice cream with fruit or chocolate, or home made welsh cakes, or some fluffy cake, or other delicious dessert appeared on our table! So should I judge the British food based on this, Id say that its perfect!
Weather was mostly rainy, but that is to be expected when youre spending your time here. However, Ive had several sunny and warm days, and with the exception of one day, the rain didnt usually last very long. But I always took my brolly with me, you know, just in case...
Shopping was something I was told about several times and everyone talked especially about shopping in London. Well... shopping in London is according to me nothing special if we talk about shopping in regular shops. (Camden Market is a COMPLETELY different story!) Too many people crowded in the shops, endless queue for the fitting rooms, normal or even higher prices than we have in Bratislava (I dont mean the Primark now)... no I really dont understand why people go to shop in London (when they dont go the the Camden Market). Cardiff shopping, on the other hand, provides mostly the same products as Ive seen in London, for the same or even lower price, with significantly less people in the shops and free fitting rooms. Much better choice!
With public transport in Cardiff (that means buses and buses only) you can rely on one thing: there will come some bus and it will take you somewhere. And thats it. After a few days Ive understood that it has no sense to look at the timetable. The buses came and went regardless the written schedule and at one stop there was something completely different written on paper timetable and something different was on the electronic one. (Of course the bus arrived at ignoring both of them). Also the place where you will arrive is not always 100% ensured. Once my bus turned left instead of right and continued without hesitation and on some other occasion the bus driver suddenly shouted, that the this is bus number 44 not 45 (it has changed the number during its way!) and that those who need 45 should get out on the next stop. Public transport in Cardiff is therefore always a little adventurous. On the other hand, I really loved that it wasnt so impersonal as it is in Slovakia. Everyone needed to buy or show the ticket to the driver, everyone greeted the driver politely on the way in, the driver always waited on the people running to the bus, and everyone always thanked (!) the driver on the way out and the driver always greeted them! I really loved it.
I havent been to many pubs in Cardiff, actually, Ive been only to Pen and Wig one, but that was really nice. The custom is to order at the bar and find yourself a place to sit afterwards. Also all the pubs in Britain are strictly non-smoking, which I liked. What I found surprising was that every pub seemed to tap at least 5-7 types of beers (ales and lagers included)! (Yeah, Ive been to one, but Ive passed many other and could see the bar from outside). Our country is supposed to be a beer one, but you can really say that about a regular pub, can you? Ive tasted several types of beers during my stay in Britain and they were all quite good (some were drinkable, some were really tasty). One beer was as almost as created for me: it was a Cardiff beer called Brains with a dragon in the logo. Brain and dragon... well...
In general, Cardiff is a wonderful place to stay and CELT is a perfect choice for your language course if you want to attend any in UK. Ive had a PERECT time in the UK and at this place I would like to express my gratitude to EVERYBODY who made my stay in Cardiff this great.
Ive fulfilled one of my big dreams. Lets dream another...