Tuesday, April 24, 2018

England (and Wales) 2018, Day 9

The Clock Tower, Cardiff Castle
Off to Wales!  Our hotel in Worcester did not include breakfast so my niece thoughtfully suggested she go to a shop across the street to pick up some treats before we dashed to the train.  I was busy trying to buy advance tickets online to the Churchill War Rooms as we had been disappointed by the long line for entry the other day. Unfortunately, I had waited too long and the 10:00 am time slot on Tuesday was already sold out. I tried phoning my mother to see if she thought we could make 11:00 am work but eventually had to dash down the hall in my pjs - luckily, did not run into any other guests! However, this purchase took so long I had to throw everything back into my suitcase so we could meet in the lobby at the appointed time, and I left my brand new purple umbrella behind.
The 12-sided Castle Keep
I had spent a lot of time online figuring out our train tickets and this morning's particular route had been one of the trickiest for which to find a good price. I ended up using TicketClever which had us boarding at Worcester Foregate but switching trains at Worcester Shrub, just a couple minutes away, and making another connection before we reached Cardiff. The train ride was entertaining and my mother and I were entranced by lambs we saw frolicking as we sped past. All went well until we got out at Bristol Parkway, which is where we were supposed to make our connection to Filton Abbey Wood.
Looking down from the Norman Keep
I was heading to the monitor to check our platform but happened to ask a station employee instead, and he said there was no train to Cardiff at this stop. I asked if he was sure and showed him my ticket but he told us to get back on the train and go to another station. I dragged my very reluctant mother and niece and all our stuff back onto the train where we were all squashed into those standing. Luckily, someone else was going to Cardiff too and we followed her at the next stop, and only had to wait about 35 minutes for a train. We chatted with a friendly retired couple who were going to a huge flower show in Cardiff.

Looking down: 50 stone steps to the Keep entrance, then more to the top!

Once at Cardiff, we grabbed a taxi to the Tanes Guest House, which was the least appealing of any of our temporary homes. My mother had a single room, I shared a twin with my niece, and there was a bathroom half a flight down. The rooms were dark and depressing, and the bedspread was kind of icky. When there is no top sheet or blanket, one really has no choice but to use whatever duvet or comforter is provided but this was the only one where we really wondered how recently it had been cleaned. And why no top sheets in England anyway?

Another gray day but the bus stop was right outside Tanes and it took us right to Cardiff Castle in the center of town. It was lunch time but I really thought we should visit the Castle while the sun was shining. Remembering my sister's warning to feed my niece regularly, I stopped at a shop that was selling Welsh tea cakes and got everyone a chocolate chip one, fresh out of the oven. They were a little like round thick pancakes but sweeter - quite delicious - I should have bought half a dozen! The Castle itself was not as large or enthralling as Edinburgh Castle but was still entertaining. It had been a Roman fort, then a Norman fortress but in the 18th century it had been purchased by a rich aristocrat, the third Marquess of Bute, who restored it expensively and somewhat gaudily.
We also toured the house restored by the Marquess and his eager architect.  Some of the rooms were furnished, including the library, which was impressive but when have I ever seen a library I didn't like?  The sun came out, motivating my mother to join us for the climb to the Keep and then as close to the top of the tower as possible, where we enjoyed the view.
Cardiff through a narrow keep window
After the Castle, we had a snack at a nearby Caffe Nero, then walked to the National Cardiff Museum, which contains both natural history and art. We stayed there until it closed, then sat in a park across the street to enjoy the improved weather before we strolled back to the Castle area, admiring a very attractive, historic church, St. John the Baptist. My niece and I had been excited about trying a nearby restaurant called Café Citta, which smelled enticing but it was tiny and they told us they were full all night and closed on Sunday. Boo!
Happily, we had seen another restaurant in our wanderings called Gray's that had a varied menu, so we retraced our stops and persuaded them to find us a table even though we had no reservation (oddly, it never seemed all that full, so I wonder why the hesitation - we looked respectable, if casually dressed).  The food was great, and we loved our desserts: Sticky Toffee Pudding and Apple Crumble. Despite being in London since January, my niece had not discovered the joys of a well-made Sticky Toffee Pudding and she was most gratifyingly appreciative.   As we headed back to the guest house, we noticed that the families who had been out enjoying a Saturday were now replaced by a rowdier but harmless contingent who were out on the town.
The Welsh kings of Aberffraw adopted the dragon in the 5th century to symbolize their power after the Romans left Britain

Did anyone notice I posted Day 10 before Day 9?

Castle count: one
Church count: exterior only
Miles walked: 4.0

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