Intro to Cardiff

May 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

When I last left you, I’d just had a terribly sleepless night on the Caledonia Sleeper, traveling from Edinburgh back to London. Mom and I arrived at Paddington Station completely exhausted, but we managed to drag ourselves upstairs to Paul for pain au chocolat and café au lait, which helped at least a little bit. Mom’s flight home was that morning, so she boarded the Heathrow Express, and I boarded a train for Cardiff.

I thought it silly to go all the way to the United Kingdom and travel in England and Scotland, but not Wales, so I was determined to visit Cardiff. Aside from a side trip to Tintern Abbey (more about that in a future post), I had no idea what to expect from the Welsh capital when I stepped off the train in Cardiff Central station.

Initially, I was surprised by how basic the station was, and that was my first clue that Cardiff is a much smaller city than I had thought. I had no trouble walking to my hotel, the Barcelo Angel Hotel. I was arriving around noon, so I thought I would have to drop off my bags and come back later to check in, but they had a room ready for me, which turned out to be just what I needed. Although the hotel is no longer the hot spot that it once was (when it hosted members of the Royal Family and The Beatles, for example), it was still the nicest place that I stayed in during my European adventure. I got a last-minute deal on Hotwire, and it was still more expensive than the hostel, but it was so worth it for a long hot shower and an afternoon nap on a huge, comfortable bed with a white duvet.

I woke up at least partially refreshed and headed out to explore. For a Saturday in the summer, the old part of the city seemed awfully quiet.

Cardiff Castle
My hotel was just across the street from Cardiff Castle, so I had a nice walk along the grounds, then turned into the heart of the old city, where the pedestrian-only High Street made wandering extremely pleasant.

St. John the Baptist
The main church in town is St. John the Baptist, which dates back to the 12th century, and is the second-oldest building in Cardiff, after the Castle.

High Street
Like the Scots, the Welsh are quite proud of being Welsh, and their green-and-white flag is on display everywhere. Fun fact: the name of the country in Welsh is Cymru, pronounced “come-ree.”

I quickly discovered that the old city is primarily a shopping hub, and since it was Saturday evening, and I didn’t have any money to spend anyway, I decided to look for something else to do. My guidebook pointed me towards Cardiff Bay, a former industrial site that has been reclaimed into a pretty bayside destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. There’s a bus route that heads into the area, but it didn’t look too far, so I decided to walk it. It was a nice stroll down Lloyd George Ave (probably about 30 minutes) through a new residential area.

Wales Millenium Centre
The Wales Millenium Centre is the most distinctive structure in this part of town. It is a performing arts centre that opened in 2004 as part of the revitalization of Cardiff Bay. The inscription on the front reads “In These Stones Horizons Sing” in both Welsh and English. I thought that the design was striking, I like the sentiment of the inscription, and I am down with anything that has to do with the flourishing of the performing arts. I was also told by some friends that the building has something to do with Doctor Who and Torchwood.

Of course, my guidebook failed to note that Saturday evenings in Cardiff Bay are beyond nutty during the summer festival. A band was playing and the streets were just packed with people. I needed to get some cash out, and I had to wait in line for 15 minutes at an ATM. I’m not a big fan of crowds, especially when I’m tired, so I pushed through the throngs of people until I reached the waterfront.

Cardiff Bay
Much more peaceful!

Norwegian Church
The Norwegian community in Cardiff dates back to Cardiff’s role as a major port city, and this picturesque building is the Norwegian Church of Cardiff. Author Roald Dahl was baptized here. It does not operate as a church anymore and is now an arts centre with a café.

The part of the festival that I really enjoyed were the food stalls along the path in front of the Norwegian Church. There were a lot of options with a focus on local products, but it shouldn’t shock anyone that I ultimately chose:

Cupcake
a chocolate-orange cupcake from The Little Round Cake Company. Again, the cake was a bit more dry than a typical American-style cupcake, but the flavour was terrific, and this cupcake was one of my favourites that I had in the UK.

After cupcakes and some time for photography and journaling, I decided to start walking back to my hotel before it got too dark. I picked up some snacks on the way and ate European chocolate and fell asleep watching cable TV. Perfect way to recharge for the full day of sightseeing ahead.

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Entry filed under: Cardiff, Churches, Europe, Photos, United Kingdom, Wales. Tags: , , , , , .

A Writer in Edinburgh Scenic Cardiff

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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.

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