09 February, 2013

Cardiff, Wales

I seem to be falling behind on writing just a bit, but here at the end of another adventure I'm starting to wear down a bit.  Thursday was a mostly uneventful sightseeing day.  I met up with some friends for a very long lunch and then I caught the train to Cardiff.  I wasn't entirely sure what to expect of the Welsh capital, but it wasn't what I got.  Cardiff is lovely and vibrant and in so many ways feels young.  Please do take this all with a grain of salt, as I only visited the City Centre and parts of the bay. I saw fewer really old buildings and hardly any traditional pubs.  There were all different kinds of restaurants though, just about every type of food you could want.  Most of the buildings seems to date from the Victorian era.  I'm actually going to do this blog a bit out of order, as I know some of you will have zero interest in Doctor Who.  So the city. Part of what leads me to think of it as a Victorian city were the shopping arcades.  Off the main street in the centre I saw at least six different covered shopping streets and one fantastic market.  I was so busy soaking it all in that I didn't manage to take many pictures, but here is one that will give you the idea.

Can I just point out that all the "outdoor" chairs for that cafe on the right have blankets on them.  So while you sit under the heating lamps above, you can cover your legs.  I don't know why, but this delighted me to no end.

The main feature of the City Centre is Cardiff Castle.  Which I have to admit, didn't feel quite as impressive on first sight after Edinburgh.  You mean I don't have to climb an extinct volcano to get there?

However, the castle more than makes up for it on the inside.  What you see above is the are the walls that protect not only the Victorian Gothic Revial mansion but the original medieval Norman motte and bailey castle.

This 11th century castle was built on the ruins of a 3rd century Roman fort.  They still have some of the original Roman walls.

This is the mansion that was built for the Marquess of Bute.  Originally it was a Georgian style mansion but the third Marquess had it remodeled into the Victorian Gothic Revival.

I have to say, some of the rooms are just spectacular.   It's so over the top it's almost unbelievable. Here is a room called the Arab Room.  It was occasionally used as guest sleeping quarters.  Not sure I could sleep here.

Here is the main hall.

 Just look at that fireplace!  Every room I saw had a fireplace just as ornate.  Now to get to a lower level, the family would use these stairs.

Sadly I could only take pictures from the door.
Here is the library that occupies what would previously have been the grand hall before the one I showed you above was created out of several bedrooms.

If you look closely at the desk at the end of the room, you can see the legs are built around the radiators. The Marquess was very interested in the new central heating system and he had it installed in the mansion.  Guess that would keep your feet warm while you worked.

Then I went back out onto the green and headed for the Norman shell fort.

Yep, that's the view from the bottom of the stairs.  On the way up you had a couple of stops.
 #1 Front door/ground level
Then you climbed up the stone stairs you see to the left and looked out a window.  If you look at the picture above of the front you can see an arched window above the main door.  That was stop #2 with a good view of the surrounding green.

Then it was up some VERY steep wooden stairs and guess what, an even steeper, spiral stone staircase.  Oh and there was only room for people going in one direction so if you met in the middle, someone either had to go back down or back up.
But that brings us to stop #3, the very top of the central tower.  And I do mean the top, but worth it for the spectacular views of the city.

Ok so for my Doctor Who and Torchwood friends, this is the fun part.  The first thing I did yesterday morning was head down to Cardiff Bay and the Doctor Who Experience.  With clear sign posts leading the way, I first stopped at the Millennium Center near the front door to Torchwood.

There was construction going on right over the stone that would lead down to Torchwood, so I have to assume that Captain Jack is alive and well and hopefully recruiting.

Here's a quick shot of the bay from the Doctor Who Experience and the building itself.

 Let me just say, it was an absolute blast.  The tour starts out with an interactive adventure with the Doctor.  They don't let you take pictures in this part, so I'll briefly tell you the thrilling heroics you missed.  Matt Smith has recorded a special story where he gets trapped inside a second Pandorica. (he's rather annoyed that they had a spare and didn't even change the color)  So he now needs the help of us "shoppers."  First we help him materialize the TARDIS.  And there she was.  The doors open and you walk straight into Eleven's old control room.  Then the Doctor asks you to help him fly the TARDIS.  The floors move and the lights flash as smoke pours form the console.  Geronimo! Then we're captured by Daleks (the big colorful new ones) but they're distracted by the Cult of Skaro.  They fight each other and we escape, into a forest.  A very dark forest where the doctor seems a bit concerned about what's in the dark.  Oh yes, you guessed it... Weeping Angels. Barely escaping with our lives, we help the Doctor out of the Pandorica and return him to the TARDIS.  Three cheers for shoppers!  Now on to the museum.  I've pulled a lot of pictures to post, but please know, this is only about half of what I took.  Everything here should be self explanatory to my fellow Whovians, but let me know if you don't recognize anyting.  They had multiple versions of the TARDIS not to mention costumes for each regeneration.  So let's start with the entrance and some costumes and props first.

And now on to monsters.

Ok I know the Face of Boe isn't a monster, but he's not exactly a costume either!

And last of all, I think this was my favorite part.  Ten's TARDIS.  You almost expect him to pop through the door, toss his jacket to the side and Allons-y!

So in a word... Fantastic!

I managed to find out about one other very nerdy little thing.  The guy at the front desk of my hotel happened to be a big fan as well and told me about the Ianto Jones memorial.  So of course I had to go find it.  Here where they filmed the back entrance to Torchwood, fans spontaneously set up a memorial to Ianto.  Sorry if that's a spoiler for anyone.

That was pretty much my day in Cardiff.  I'd happily come back with more time to explore, but that's been true of almost everywhere I've been on this trip.  Shortly I'm going to head out to St. Jame's Park and wander around the outside of Buckingham Palace.  I have tickets to see James McAvoy in MacBeth tonight and that's the end of the trip.  I probably won't be able to load any more photos on my computer before I go home as it's quite unhappy with how many I've loaded so far.  The current photo count for this trip so far?  Just shy of 1400.  For those of you in LA, I'll be seeing you soon.  For everyone else, I hope you've enjoyed this trip!  God help me, but it looks like the next big one will be Barcelona in June.  Until then, safe travels!