Tuesday, November 16, 2010

uk trip-- day 2-- cardiff

in bill bryson's notes from a small island he discuses the british attitude toward distance. he claims that in the u.s., most of us will drive 100 miles to get a good taco but that in the u.k., 100 miles is seen as an insurmountable distance. i think he's onto something.

my uk friends thought that i was mad to attempt going to bath and cardiff in the same day. in hindsight, i see that they were right about that. some thought that leff and i were nuts to attempt bath and cardiff in the same week. that's where i disagree and point to our great british railway adventure of aught diggity ten as proof that it is achievable. neither city is that far away from reading.

although i'm not sure if i'd go to either one for a taco.

leff and i woke early on our first full day in the uk as we had reserved tickets for the 9:30 am great western train to cardiff! jet lag be damned! we had a castle and a shed to see! (oh, and a doctor who exhibit. heh!)

groc had ordered his train tickets the night before so he was able to show us how the automated ticket dispenser at reading station worked. it's fairly simple but, wow, does it spit a lot of paper out at you.

(a tip: you can drastically reduce the amount of money that you spend on rail tickets by ordering online ahead of time. leff and i only spent 10 pounds per on the way back from cardiff!)

(another tip: if you are running late and about to miss your train, it is ok to open the doors that the platform attendant has already closed. you'll get tweeted at by the guy with a whistle, it will be mildly embarrassing (although not as bad as being shot a withering look by a briton) but it will be ok.)

double tickets are printed for each person as one ticket (ex: reading --> cardiff) is used for both entry and exit at both train stations. on the return, the second ticket (ex: cardiff --> reading) is utilized. it's a beautifully simple system that works quiet well if you aren't a mega klutz that always fucks up public transportation systems the first twenty times they attempt to get somewhere. you know, like me. i'm the person who understands the system in theory but always gets stuck at gates. sigh...

good thing that i like the way that welsh train stations look 'cause i got quite a gander at them from the wrong side of the gate.

i realized immediatly that i had underestimated the size of cardiff once i was able to exit central station. (uh, not that you can tell from these next two photos. those are just there for atmosphere.)

cardiff is, in fact, a big city! for some reason, i thought that it was about the size of a large college town. wrong. wrong wrong wrong. i'm fairly certain that i wasn't the only person who was surprised by this either. (although groc probably had an idea as he'd been to cardiff before. he may have been a bit surprised by the magnificent growth spurt that the city has been through though.)

we ducked into a charity shop near the station to get our bearings (also so that i could mark "go to oxfam" off my list of things to do. ha!) and decided that we should get coffee. immediately.

i noticed a starbucks and deduced that there must be a local place nearby. (starbucks is predatory and always trying to run smaller, better places out of business. ergo, if you can find a starbucks, you can usually find good coffee nearby in another shop.) we decided to test this theory by ducking down a nearby arcade.

oh, what wonders were waiting in that arcade! a whole ethnic food wall!

i cannot *tell* you how proud this wall of shit makes me to be an u.s. citizen. /sarcasm

a few exceptions: libby's pumpkin is nice. so is the frank's hot sauce. and pants says that bone suckin' sauce is good too. but other than that, shit. plus they wanted 7 pounds 50 for a box of froot loops. robbery! it's scandalous!

near the american behemoth, i spotted some foxiness.

but that was nothing compared to the terror of seeing a blinded dalek outside of a chiquito.

ok, i lied about the terror. but this is true: there are daleks EV.ERY.WHERE in the uk! i can't count the number of times that i was threatened with extermination.

near the dalek was a lovely little pancake shop that served delicious coffee complete with a tiny biscuit.

i'm a fan of the tiny biscuit. particularly if it happens to be almond flavored as this one was.

i'm also a fan of nutella pancakes!

after refueling, we set out to find cardiff castle. that couldn't be hard, right? it's in the middle of the city! well, we found john batchelor

and a whole bunch of other interesting things but no castle. it was making me quite irritable that i wasn't able to locate the damn place (it's HUGE! i have a fairly good sense of direction! arrgh!) so i admitted defeat, found the tourist center instead and asked for help. (they are quite lovely in the cardiff tourist center. drop by! they have maps!)

turns out we were maybe two blocks from the castle. (grrr! i would have found it if i'd just kept walking!) so we hurried along to the gift shop to purchase tickets.

inside the gates we were greeted by another red dragon.

i love welsh dragons. i also love welsh humor! case in point, admission to cardiff castle includes a short movie as an introduction to the site. standard procedure, correct? uh...well, the movie was very...strange. the "plot" centered around a girl who had a magical notebook that somehow caused her to hallucinate about past residents of cardiff. there was also a boy that ran around hallucinating with her. some romans soldiers were thrown in for good measure. maybe also pip from great expectations. although, why was he in cardiff?!

as the music swelled, the screen retracted into the ceiling and the lights came up, the attendant entered the room and told us to proceed through the tunnels. seeing the bemused look on my, groc and leff's faces he just said "the movie? oh, did you expect to be educated?" haha!!

the castle was magnificent! i kept telling groc that i needed to experience just one european style castle because all of my exposure to buildings of that type to date had been of the fiberglass variety which is just sad. he agreed even though he claims to hate history.

in fact, here is a picture of him, you know, hating history. heh.

he says he was taking a picture of a plastic bat

but we all know better. heh.

shed called groc's mobile while we were in the tunnel and said that he was on his way into cardiff from work. that left us very little time to get to the keep and the castle apartments. we fairly sprinted through the remainder of the tunnels and exited to find one of my most favorite things on this whole trip, the cardiff castle keep.

it's built on an artificial hill and surrounded by a moat. it's also quite a climb to get to the lowest level. this was a bit problematic for me as i'm afraid of heights but i decided, fuck the phobia, put my head down and climbed the stairs to the keep entrance.

i didn't go all the way to the top as groc and leff did

choosing instead to climb to the mid level and them return to the grassy area of the keep

(groc's photo)

where i listened to number 55 on my audioguide

and took this video of the center of the keep.

if we weren't pressed for time i would've been content to stay there for a bit longer but everyone was excited to meet shed so off to the apartments we ran!

lavish is one word that might be used to describe the apartments. it doesn't quite go far enough, however.

let's just say, after i saw the asia room

i was dumbfounded. i waved to the two people who had been touring the castle at the same time as us and said something incomprehensible like "pffwahh! that! eeeeyeeeah!" and then left them to it. they later caught up and told me that i was correct in my summation. haha!

the rest of the apartments were a blur as we were trying to not be incredibly late in meeting shed. here are pictures that i took just so i could see what i dashed past at a later date.

i do really need to go back.

sadly, we were late in meeting shed (sorry, shed!) but he didn't seem too put out with us. (which was very kind of him!)

once we had added shed to our group we were off to forbidden planet international. these are some stickers outside of the shop.

leff purchased some doctor who tat but i stopped myself from getting both the atari mint tin that shed had spotted in the window and a scott pilgrim plush because, well, our luggage was only so big.

nerd alert! we are about to enter some seriously geeky territory! pause on this dragon guy and prepare yourself!

are you ready? ok! after forbidden planet (which, hey, geeky enough, amiright? ha!) we all hopped a train

(leff's photo)

to the cardiff bay area where...drumroll...the doctor who exhibit is currently located!

i'll admit it, i watched the david tennent era of "doctor who". who didn't? daiten is the hotness! i am not, however, a die hard who fanatic like the boys are. the boys being, of course, leff, groc and shed.

it was still fun for me to go to the exhibit though as all three of them were pretty enthusiastic about it! (even though shed had already been before.)

this water of mars guy spends an eternity drooling. it's worth a watch just to see how long it goes on and also to hear shed say...something...at the 9 second left mark. ha!

ah, the daleks. what did i tell you? EV.ERY.WHERE! they were also supposed to be untouchable. as in, you weren't supposed to touch the exhibits but shed did 'cause he's a bad ass that way.

daleks are loud. were you aware?

this is one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip as it shows three of my favorite men in the world all filming the same thing.

here's leff's version of the dalek insanity.

ok. break time again. check out these lanterns that were at the doctor who exhibit. i noticed them when i was resting my feet. i mention that now because in future updates the foot issue become a major thing. consider it foreshadowing.

so are you ready for even more geekiness? wait for it!

right! a lot of "torchwood" (that link is for you, dad. ha!) was filmed in cardiff. here's the elevator that captain jack took.
and here's leff standing on the step. (i told you this was geek territory. don't look at me like that.)

tip: the torchwood elevator is located across from the millenium center in cardiff bay if you're looking to geek out while you're in wales.

you know, near roald dahls plass which thrilled me to no end! (i'm not being sarcastic. i love roald dahl!)

another torchwood site is near the water. any guesses as to what this might be? anyone? anyone?
why, yes! it's the entrance to torchwood! it's also now the ianto jones memorial wall. here's a detail that i took just for you.

(a note to my dad: please don't try too hard to understand this. all you need to know is that it's super geeky.)

shed told us that the city of cardiff tried to keep the flyers from being posted on the ianto wall but that so many kept showing up that they now maintain it as a site. which is really pretty cool if you think about it.

geeksplosion over, it was time to head to the pub. shed recommended the waterguard and it was really faboo! they even had a silly glass that you could make americans drink out of! (thanks for thinking of everything, shed. haha!)

don't tell anybody but one of those silly glasses is sitting in my sink at the moment. that's another pub tradition, isn't it?

it was wonderful to meet shed in person (and to see him set up a wifi spot with his phone at the table. haha!)! i just wish that we'd had more time! leff and i were getting really tired and had to call it an early night. so we all braved the cardiff cyclone that was whipping around us and headed back to cardiff central.

in summation, cardiff is really a spectacular place. i feel as if we've only scratched the surface!

bullets? why not?
  • the british countryside is very beautiful even in november and even by the rail tracks.
  • the center of cardiff became quite crowded with shoppers before we headed to the doctor who exhibit. normally, i have anxiety problems in large crowds but the people in cardiff were so aware of their surroundings (which allowed for a natural flow of traffic with none of the starts and stops like in the u.s.) that i felt at ease.
  • tech will often bring people together. haha

in the next recap, groc, leff and i head to london! the national gallery! big ben and the houses of parliament! waterstone's! check back soon!

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