After finishing all my university duties in Bangor, I was soon on my way to spend a few days in the capital of Wales – Cardiff! Therefore, this blog entry focuses on those few wet but exciting days in the South of Wales. This blog post will not tell you what I did in Cardiff chronologically, but rather according to different sights and places – since I went so some places several times because they were so nice. 😉 I hope you enjoy reading it!
Cardiff City and the Cardiff Story
After a four-hour train ride we arrived in Cardiff and soon went out of the hotel to discover the city. Cardiff has two main areas which are and are made attractive for tourists – the city centre and Cardiff Bay, ‘made attractive’ because within those areas there is free WIFI! (which doesn’t work properly….). On the first day we were mainly walking around and discovered for instance the Cardiff Market, a Jamie Oliver restaurant, a chapel now used as a bar and restaurant, the Cardiff Story (an exhibition about the history of the city), a shop selling ‘poopy’ cushion and a huuuuge shopping centre – St. David’s, a synagogue now used as an office (O.O). Have a look at the pictures below to see it.
Bute Park was one of our first destinations, it is Cardiff’s biggest (I think :-D) but definitely most famous park close to the city centre, right next to the castle. Before entering the park you will find a wall decorated with a number of unusual animals such as an anteater or a lynx, have a look at the photo showing the board with more information about that. It was a very nice welcome to a beautiful park with many things to discover. It hosts a number of animal statues inside as well, so you can go for an animal hunt, or do the fitness trail (a number of fitness equipment can be found and used in certain parts of the park), looking for the house where actually people live in, or even go into the park so far that it makes you think you are already outside Cardiff in a nearby forest.
One major attraction of Cardiff is certainly the castle, which is located in the city centre as well. The castle walls are currently covered with flags showing players of all teams participating in the Champions League this year and a dragon protecting a trophy replica. I totally love this idea, I think it is very nice to look at and it indicates how important the Champions League final is to the city! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. On the 3rd of June the Champions League final will take place here – in Cardiff! I won’t be there though, I do not have a ticket but it might be worth going there to watch the game in one of the huge tents in the castle area- however, 1000 Euro per night is ridiculous. Anyway, back to the castle – The castle area is huge and hosts a number of places, such as the shop with the exhibition, the mansion part of the castle, the more fortress type of castle and a bomb shelter. Before entering the actual castle we went though an exhibition showing the Welsh armies in different wars, where one statue of a Dodo caught my attention (yes, I always pick the weird things out of the stuff I see).
After that we first went to the mansion part of the castle. It strongly reminded me of Penrhyn Castle due to its beautiful furnishing, have a look:
The fortress type of the castle is what you usually see when you search for ‘Cardiff Castle’, it is located in the center of the area and provides a nice view over the city.
Our last destination within the castle area was the bomb shelter, which was a long corridor and they were playing sounds which made you feel like there is actually going on a war above you. On the walls there were some interesting and funny posters and caricatures, have a look:
National Museum of Cardiff
The National Museum of Cardiff shows artifacts of natural and art history, so it is a kind of combination of the Viennese Naturhistosches and Kunsthistorisches Museum. However, it also has a big focus on the development of planet Earth. Here again, I have picked out the most awkward stuff to a amuse you (trilobites wouldn’t be very interesting, wouldn’t they?).
The Millennium Stadium or Principality Stadium (that’s the name of its sponsor) or National Stadium of Cardiff is the stadium of the Welsh Rugby national team, but it is also used by the football team as its home ground. Unsurprisingly, it is probably my favorite attraction in Cardiff, together with the Dr Who experience. It is located in the city centre and we were told during the stadium tour that they had t odecide whether they would like to build it in the city centre (with less parking opportunities but close to the people) or outside (with many parking opportunities but far away from the city centre) – and we were told the decision was an easy one – and a good one, in my opinion. The stadium looks a bit like a big ship from the outside, on the last day of my trip they were already preparing for the CL final and I could take a nice photograph showing the Real Madrid flag. The stadium tour was very interesting, especially having a look at the two very different dressing rooms (Juve will have the better one), the VIP area where the trophy will be raised and the view from the very top of the stadium. We were also told that the stadium has its own falcon (I think), which is brought to the stadium frequently to keep birds away from building nests. The stadium is definitely a perfect choice for the CL final.
Cardiff Bay is the other tourist area apart from the city centre. There you can find a number of attractions such as the National Assembly of Wales, the Millennium Centre, the Roald Dahl Plass, the Water Tower (entrance to Torchwood hub), Techniquest (a technical museum particularly interesting for children), the Pierhead Building, the Norwegian Church. The Techniquest was particularly memorable, as we managed to build a bridge, which is considered to be ‘very difficult to build’ and were surrounded by French lower secondary students, Cardiff seems to be very popular for a visit in France. Please have a look at some pictures before reading about the Dr Who Experience next 😉
Dr Who Experience
For those of you who have never heard of it ;-): Dr Who is a very popular and long running British TV series about a person (the doctor) who is able to time-travel in his ‘tardis’ (the phone box). I am not a hard core fan of the series, but I think it is very funny (but trashy ;-)) and the Experience is a must-do in Cardiff. The Experience is an interactive experience through some of the most iconic sets of the series – unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs during that interactive part – and the visitor group has to find three crystals to help the doctor with some enemies. I was one of three, as I found one crystal in the graveyard full of weeping angels. It was really cool, I can highly recommend it. 🙂 After that experience we could go through a museum with quite a lot of exhibits, including a number of different Daleks, Tardises (is that the plural of Tardis?) and other monsters, even Groots’ parents were there! Have a look at the pictures to get an impression of that! (And find even more in the Cardiff Gallery!) 😉 I would really like to do the Experience again one day – with Tilda Swinton, so please take her as the next doctor ok?
To conclude – no I won’t sum up everything because there is no point to as you have read it anyway – I had a great time in Cardiff, the weather was not perfect as it was raining most of the time – but those who know me know that I totally prefer this over high temperatures. In general, I have to say that I can’t complain about the weather in Wales. To me, it is perfect. I can’t be the only person who wants to go to the UK because of the weather? Back to Cardiff: It is not a huge city, you can cover all tourist attractions in a few days, so it is very nice for a short trip – and you can get everything you could want from a city trip: museums, a castle, a football stadium, entertainment and nature. And shopping of course. At least that’s what I want from a city trip 😉 The restaurants are rather expensive though, so you better take some money with you.
I hope you liked my Cardiff report, my ERASMUS stay is coming to an end very soon, but I am planning to publish one more blog entry about my whole experience, so there is more to come still! 😉