United Kingdom Stories and Tips

On to Cardiff

Animal Wall, Cardiff Castle Photo, Cardiff, Wales

After a Sunday lunch in a nearby pub, Annie took Jane and I to Piccadilly station. The station has been all renovated since I was there last and it really looks nice. We were comfy and the train wasn’t crowded as we left Manchester, about 3/4 full. I feel a bit wheezy but the smoke at the party last night was a bit thick at one point. The weather did turn overcast and a bit rainy but when you’re in transit, you don’t really mind. We arrived in Cardiff after dark, around 8:30 I think.

Jane lives in a lovely little flat in the top floor of a Victorian terraced house not too far from the city center. It was a bit of a struggle to get the suitcase up the stairs but not too bad.

Getting to Know Cardiff

Today’s weather could go either way. Jane has to work in the morning until 1:30 so I’ll meet her in town after that. I think I might be getting a cold. I do feel a little ick just around the edges today and still have that slight wheeze.

I caught the bus and decided to have breakfast first. That sorted, I went to Cardiff Castle to catch the hop on hop off city tour bus but I just missed the 11 a.m. departure. I peeked in to the castle compound to take a couple of photos but didn’t bother paying to go in as I had seen the interior in 1993 on the tour. I browsed a little in the gift shop and then went for the bus.

The Castle sits on a site where fortresses have been built back into the Roman days and the old foundations can still be seen in the castle walls in some places. The 3rd Marquess of Bute hired an eccentric architect, William Burgess, to restore and rebuild the family castle. He turned the interior into an extravagant and over the top replica of what they figured the middle ages at the Castle might have looked like. It’s worth a look but prepare yourselves for an assault on the senses. Not all the rooms are opulently lavish, the library is actually very tasteful.

The city center contains some large civic buildings, with dominant domes and clock towers and made of white Portland Stone. The town hall is the centerpiece of the three buildings, with one building housing the National Welsh museum and the other the Law Courts. The university building is down in behind. These are all early 20th century buildings.

The coach passed a pretty little church that has services only in Welsh and then headed to Cardiff Bay. This area was derelict for most of the 20th century but a major restoration project, similar to the Albert Dock in Liverpool, has been undertaken over the last 20 years. There are now expensive flats, hotels, restaurants and a science and technology center. There is also a massive millennium arts center here which houses the National Opera as well as dance and theatre companies.

Back up to the city center past the huge new Millennium football and rugby stadium which replaced the Cardiff Arms rugby stadium a couple of years ago. Off the bus and over to the Queen Street pedestrian shopping area. Old Victorian buildings, trendy shops and malls. I got some money out of the wall and walked around the block. A lot of the buildings in Cardiff are a darker gray stone with the pale white stone up the corners and around the windows as a trim.

I met Jane and we walked to the David Morgan department store for tea and cake. We browsed a Welsh gift department in the store and then walked over to an old church called St. John the Baptist.

The current church on this site dates from the 15th century. They have a model of the church inside made entirely of matchsticks and they do have a little tea room in the back but it was closed as are most attractions on Mondays. The church itself was open and we had a look around it. It was a lovely church with a 130 foot tall late 15th century square tower. It’s right in the city center and a short stumble from the Castle. It’s in a small square surrounded by buildings and an indoor market where we went to have a look at a souvenir booth. There was also a stall that sold china and porcelain and was very tempting. The market had of course the usual fruit, vegetables, meat and fish stalls as well as many other goods.

We also stopped into a cyber cafe near the church and caught up on email. We returned to the flat late in the afternoon. I do think I’m definitely getting sick but hopefully I can hold it off with Tylenol and some cough medicine.

A bit more exploring to do yet.
Another nice day! I went into the city center earlier than yesterday, too early to get into the big National Welsh Museum so I walked around the park behind the civic buildings taking pictures. There’s a lovely rotunda that has a war memorial in it, and it’s surrounded by trees in full pink flower with beds of yellow and red tulips on the ground.

The museum opened at 10. It’s free but special exhibitions may cost a small fee. I paid for the one that was on, the "Science of Star Trek Federation" which focused on the scientific side of the Star Trek series. There were about 30 interactive displays on various things from trying to dock and orbit the Enterprise to a space station and a transporter booth. The transporter booth was very cool. You stood there under one of the stations and watched yourself on a screen as you "disappeared" into a sparkle of ions and reappear in a room or tunnel somewhere.

I found the café and had a rest and a snack, not feeling very well. But I continued on and went up to see the paintings and the displays of porcelain and china. They have a nice collection of Impressionist and post Impressionist works and some modern Welsh art as well. They also have a number of Rodin sculptures including The Kiss.

The museum also has a natural history section and an archaeology section. I only popped my head into the medieval and middle ages part of that and discovered a room of tall slabs and celtic crosses which were about 1000 years old or more, some dating back to Viking invasions. I did ask and was allowed to take a couple of photos.

Outside the museum in the park/garden there is a mini ring of standing stones. This denotes that the national music festival has been held in Cardiff. I walked back toward the castle and Bute Park, a huge park behind the castle which was probably part of the Castle grounds at one time. There’s an old arboretum and you can get some good pictures of the castle from the park side. Back across the road to examine the stone critters on the animal wall along the Castle street side of the Castle. These are figures of animals carved as if they are climbing over the wall towards you.

It’s quite warm by now. I went back to St. John’s where I was going to meet Jane and went inside to wait in the cool interior. We decided to have our lunch in a very modern style café that was part of an exhibit and competion set up in the old city center library that focused on a promotion to find foods and products that were classic "Taste of Wales". The event was successful and they’ve kept the restaurant, Blas, going. I had the most delicious Welsh rarebit topped with ham and leek, Jane had hers topped with sticky onion. We decided to take the bus to see Llandaff Cathedral which is a little out of the way in a charming village with the same name though it is incorporated into the city of Cardiff. Charming probably means expensive. We found the ruins of an old Bishop’s palace first and then went over to the Cathedral itself.

It’s down a steep little hill and is very old but there has been a lot of renovation including a great ugly concrete arched thing in the middle of the nave with gilt carvings all over it. It really looks out of place. There are also a lot of new bits built that also look odd, not really built to mix in with the older surroundings. It’s obviously a working cathedral but I’m afraid I didn’t like it very much.

We were planning to go for a pint at an Australian pub near Jane’s but I was really fading, between the sun and not feeling that great so we went straight back to the flat.

Been to this destination?

Share Your Story or Tip