Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Castlerific Cardiff


On Friday, I left London on my own. I caught the train from Paddington station (complete with stand selling Paddington Bears) to Cardiff. I arrived in Cardiff around 2ish and checked into my hostel which was just across a canal from the Millennium Stadium. I then headed down towards the bay to see the Doctor Who exhibition. This was pretty cool, but also a bit disappointing. I was expecting a lot of behinds the scenes info and insight, but instead it was just a collection of props and costumes. It gave the feeling that all they'd done was bag and tag stuff after they'd finished each episode. After that I wandered around the bay area taking in sights like the Millennium Centre, Roald Dahl Place, the outside of the Welsh parliament, a boat lighthouse, and a few other things before heading back to the hostel. In the evening I went to a nearby cinema and saw the new Star Trek movie. I enjoyed it a lot, although I was quite aghast when they blew up Vulcan. They got a lot of the small details right, like the noises the communicators make and the earpieces they used. Also Kirk doing the Kobayashi Maru was well done.

On Saturday I spent the day wandering around Cardiff Castle. This castle is a mix of eras and is built on a site that way back when was a Roman fortress. The walls were rebuilt in the 19th century to follow the then recently discovered remains of the Roman walls. There was meant to be a pageant on the history of Wales presented by various groups of school kids while I was there, but rain postponed/relocated this event. I had dinner at a Japanese restaurant with one of the people staying in my room, and then went and saw Wolverine. It was OK, but nothing great. Back at the hostel I spend a while chatting with a Danish girl who had the bunk beneath mine.

On Sunday I got out of Cardiff and visited a few castles. The first was Castle Coch which, like Cardiff Castle, was once owned by the Bute family. It was restored/rebuilt by them in a kind of romantic style that is more what Victorian era people thought medieval castles were like than what medieval castles actually were. It was a small castle that was kind of cozy, and was located by itself surrounded by woods. While waiting for the bus to the next town I had a roast lunch at a pub which was quite good.

Next was Caerphilly Castle. This was not as well kept as the other castles, and had not been rebuilt, so you got to see more of the original castle. Caerphilly Castle was a proper fighting fortress, with multiple moats and defensive walls. This was my favourite castle in Wales. Getting back to Cardiff was a hassle, as I just missed the bus and then had to wait two hours for the next one. This was particularly annoying as part of the reason why I went to Cardiff for the weekend was to avoid public transport hassles in London. That evening I just relaxed at the hostel as the cinema had run out of movies I wanted to see (they had Coraline, but only in 2D).

On Monday I had planned to visit the history museum, but on arrival there I learnt that it was closed on Mondays. So instead I wandered around the downtown area for a little while before settling down at the train station to wait for my train. I got back into London around 6ish, and met JP and David, a friend of his, at Canary Wharf for dinner at a nearby pub.

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