This weekend the flat mates and I took a trip to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. It was my first official trip off campus. We decided to take a Megabus which was ten pounds round trip, three hours there and three hours back. It was actually my first time on a double-decked bus so we decided why not sit on the top floor to have a better view. Lets just say the drivers of the UK make NASCAR look like child’s play. Fun fact: you do not have to yield to pedestrians like in the U.S. Our enthusiasm soon turned into misery as our questionably sane, and extremely talented driver whipped the giant bus through narrow streets and over the windy hills of the English country side. Another quirky thing the welsh do it park in the road. So not only were the streets narrow but the driver was swerving into oncoming traffic because of cars just chilling on major highways. Nina, who had to go to the front of the bus to keep from vomiting, said she saw two accidents on the trip there.
The destination was well worth the ride. We arrived in Cardiff a little after noon and made good use of our time stopping at Cardiff Castle first.
The first castle was built by the Romans in 50 AD because of Cardiff’s strategic location near the ocean and mouth of the Taff River. The main event however was the latest and intact castle which was renovated for John Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who by the 1860s was reputed to be the richest man in the world. He inherited vast lands that just so happened to have massive amounts of coal. It also helped he owned some railroads, the docks, the ships and just about everything. He transformed Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port of the time and a great center of commerce today.
Being as filthy rich as he was he commissioned many great castles and homes, about 120 and only lived in 6. While Cardiff Castle only housed the Bute Family for 6 weeks out of the year no expense was spared in it’s renovation by the gentleman architect William Burges.
After we had experienced the castle we went out searching for lunch. The city center was full of pubs, shopping, centers, hostels, hotels and other interesting shops. Below are a few pictures of the architecture. I apologize for not being a better photographer.
In wales they call the indoor corridors of shops pictured in the far right photograph arcades. They of course have tons of tea places. The Americans in our group, myself included, where annoyed by the hours of operation. We tried to eat at a particularly interesting coffee and waffle shop three times. Once at 4:20 pm on Saturday, 9 am Sunday and 3 pm Sunday and each time the shop was closing or about to close. We got our waffles anyway and waffles they were. I had a Oreo Truffle and Gelato Waffle with White Chocolate Sauce. I could only eat a fourth of it. It was aggressive. Julianna and Anni took on not only a waffle but a Chocolate freak milkshake. Together they finished all of it. They are my new heroes.
As you can tell by our group picture that some took our sugar commas harder than others. *cough *cough Nina in the bottom left.
I enjoy this picture because its a bad one of pretty much everybody. Don’t worry mom, we got real food afterwards. I wanted to go to a pub called the Goat Major but we decided on a much better place in the end. Funny story about the goat major, apparently when a wild goat walked onto the battlefield in Boston during the American Revolutionary War and led the Welsh forward at the end of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Ever since the Welsh had a cashmere goat lead the troops in battle because why not. I honestly think it’s fantastic. The Goat Major is an actual, official assignment.
Pictured here is William Windsor, one of the many lucky/unlucky goats drafted into the army. Proof I’m not making this up. Welsh history can be fun. We also had the opportunity to go to the Cardiff Museum of Natural History and Art. The highlights include Water Lilies by Claude Monet and a recreated of The Kiss from Dante’s Inferno. The museum was free and had exhibits ranging from French Impressionists to Moon Rocks. Time well spent.
After an eventful day and some pub hopping we all crashed in a hostel which was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It was very clean and very cheap. A one night stay only set me back about 20 pounds.
The next morning we traveled outside of the city to the bay, the commercial center of Cardiff. Being the typical tourists we are we took a water taxi down the river and into the bay.
The most notable parts of the day was seeing the National Assembly of Wales. This building houses parliament and was dedicated by the Queen herself. It marked a historic change as Wales was once again self governed.
For any Doctor Who fans Cardiff hosts many episodes of the show and has The Doctor Who Experience, the giant blue building below. The show is a huge part of British Culture and has been on the air on and off since 1963 till now.
All in all it was a great trip and hopefully the first of many!