First Impressions: Cardiff

I’m sitting in a coffee shop (obviously), and it’s a lovely sunny day with a brisk wind. The coffee bar is called “Field of Beans” which makes me — oh, wait, it’s raining now — makes me immensely happy. I’m drinking a cappuccino, something I never drink at home, because — hey, it stopped raining but it’s super overcast now — because ordering a cappuccino makes me feel sophisticated and European instead of awkward and Midwestern.

Oh, hey, it’s raining again. And the sun just came back out.

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If you made it through that jangled bit of introduction, thanks for sticking it out! I just wanted to give you a sense of the weather here in Wales. “Changeable” doesn’t really do it justice. “Hyperactive” might be better (or “capricious” if you’re feeling 19th century). Luckily, I got a big, blue umbrella and a cozy UW-Madison scarf for Christmas (Thanks, Korine and Andy!), and they’ve both proven essential.

Dreary though it is at times, the Cardiff weather has already sort of endeared itself to me — something about the shining cobblestones or the moss growing on everything — and it definitely hasn’t stopped me from exploring. On my first weekend here, I wandered around Roath Park appreciating its lake and watching people feed masses of swans and geese.


From Roath Park I walked to Cathays Cemetery, which had caught my eye earlier with its imposing size; Wikipedia tells me it’s actually the 3rd largest cemetery in the UK.

After a few meditative minutes in Cathays, it started getting dark, so I made my way home. The neighborhood around my residence hall seems suburban—pleasant, with Victorian architecture continually demanding that I stop and admire it.

As you might have noticed by now, Cardiff is aggressively walkable, a trait I love. In January, the sun sets around 4:30 pm, but the city is safe enough that I feel comfortable staying out until 10 or 11. On my first weekend, though, I was still too tired and uneasy to last past 6. As I headed home, a wet rain* sprung up, dampening the pavement — but not my spirits.

Almost home.
Almost home.

*As I was privileged to overhear in a coffee-shop conversation between locals, Cardiff deals in two types of rain: rain, and wet rain. Rain is the ordinary precipitation we all know and tolerate. But wet rain is a different beast. It’s these tiny, misty droplets that seem to come out of nowhere and are barely noticeable on your skin, but by the time you get wherever you’re going, you’re shivering and soaked through. In case you were wondering if Brits discuss the weather a lot: they do.