I left LAX at 8:30am on August 31st toward IAD (Washington Dulles), and after some technical problems on the plane--delaying the trip about an hour--I was on my way to London!
Arrived in London at 7am on September 1st. After getting through immigration, I quickly exchanged my dollars for pounds and ran toward the Central Bus station. I had already bought my tickets online and I was supposed to be board the 7:55am bus for Cardiff. Unfortunately, I literally got to the station right as the bus was leaving... To make matters worse, I paid the 10 pounds to ammend my ticket for the next bus, only to miss that one as well! Beaten, I explained my situation, and luckily they did not charge me an additional 10 pounds. Finally, the third time I learned my lesson and waited outside looking for the bus with my number, since the overhead anouncer seemed to be delayed in announcing the arriving buses, and was difficult to understand (darn English English). I found my bus (two hours after I had originally planned to be on the bus), and was on my way to Cardiff at 10am.
The bus ride on the National Express was pleasant. I saw the pretty green landscape and scattered clouds, with occasional rain. During the three hours, I slept about half the time, waking as we approached the English-Welsh border.
The bus arrived at 1:10pm in Cardiff at Sophia Gardens, a beautifual massive park and temporary bus station. This location was 2.6miles from the university I would be staying. There were not any obvious taxis, and my phone does not have an international plan, so I decided to walk. Truthfully, that was my plan all along (weather permitting), and I had already printed a Google map with directions and reviewed the path to the school. I had no digital map, as my ipod needed wifi to work, but I used my Suunto watch's compass function frequently to confirm I was headed in the right direction.
The walk was very nice. I initially cut across Sophia Gardens, crossing Millenium Bridge, heading northeast. The park was beautiful, and bustling with bikers, trail runners, and picnickers. I made it to the main road, and after confirming with a local at a bus stop the street name, I was on my way. One thing that makes navigation in Cardiff difficult is the lack of street name signs. Only a couple streets appeared to be labeled, and even those were discreet. I learned often the easiest way to know what street you were on was to check at the various bus stops. Luckily, Cardiff is very walker friendly, and the 2.6 mile trip to the university was mostly a straight path. After passing the large Cathay Cemetary and another good size park, I finally made it to Cardiff Metropolitan University--Cyncoed Campus.
Upon arrival, I found the dorm office, and got my key and wifi password. I was very impressed with the room. Located on the second floor of the Fizthamon building, it has its own bathroom, desk and chair, bed, and plenty of storage space. There are also plenty of outlets. Unfortunately, however, my travel adapter did not work, and as I would need to charge my electronics sometime, I realized I would have to buy a new one, It was a bit of a panic for me because I could not just look up a general store Target or Walmart; the stores out here were quite foreign to me. And though Cardiff is a decent sized city, it has more of a close-knit village feel. There are modern parts of course, but much of it seems to be family-owned, specialized businesses.
In my search, I was able to find one seemingly reliable electronics chain on Google maps, Maplin Electronics, and after browsing their site, it appeared that they had travel adapters. It was another 2.2 miles away from the university, so I grabbed my small backpack, and prepared for the trip. I had received a detailed map of Cardiff at registration, so I marked where it was on my map, an proceeded to explore more of Cardiff, just Southeast of the university.
Everything went great until the last mile. I made too sharp of a turn, and actually ended up going about a half mile in the wrong direction. Cardiff's lack of street signs through me off again, but after a number of checks with my watch's compass, I finally found where I had gone wrong, and found Maplin! I was led to the adapter section, and though they had few US>UK adapters, I found one that worked. I then made the journey back, grabbing a quick sandwich on the way back. I arrived at my dorm around 8, and after a quick cleanup, I crashed in my bed, having walked at least 8 miles and having been up since the day before (other than the naps on the plane and bus).