Published: July 21st 2008July 21st 2008
Cardiff castle, Wales
This medieval castle has been extensively rebuilt by William Burges, and is a feature in the heart of the city.
The Millennium stadium in Cardiff towers over the centre of the city, and would have to be the most incredibly placed major stadium in the world. When the train pulls into Cardiff central you are right in the heart of the Welsh capital, and all a traveller needs to do is walk out of the station exit and there she is! This monster of a stadium seats 72,000 people, and was the home of the FA cup final while the long delayed building process for Wembley stadium was being finalised. It was built for the 1999 rugby world cup in record time, and certainly is an imposing sight in the middle of the otherwise sedate and peaceful capital of Wales.
So here I am in Cardiff, dear reader
, as the UK adventures continue. Firstly, let's recap briefly to bring you up to speed. The journal left off in Dawlish where I spent a couple of nights with my kind hosts and had a special English experience. Devon is so completely different to London, and it was difficult to leave this peaceful town in the West country, however my friend's father commutes to Bristol for work and that just happened
Angels climb Bath Abbey
Ascending and descending figures on ladders carved into the abbey.
to be my next port of call. So I bid farewell to my travel friend until next time, and we shot up the motorway in his work van. We stopped off at the famous Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol which Islamabad Kingdom Brunel commenced, but was unable to finish as this legendary architect from Bristol was probably building railways or massive ships instead. Bristol is a happening city just 130 miles west of London, and the amount of construction currently under way is nothing short of astonishing. I think the city will be barely recognisable in the next five to ten years.
From Bristol it's only a fifteen minute train ride to beautiful Bath, an architectural marvel that is the pride of England. Bath has beautiful buildings everywhere and is perfect for strolling around with a camera, yet the city is also the home of the only natural source of hot mineral water in the British Isles. There are three hot springs and 1.25 million litres of water rise daily at 45 degrees celsius. The hot springs have been famous since Roman times, and William Shakespeare described them as "a sovereign cure." However, the recuperative powers of the hot
Roman baths, in Bath
Home of the only natural hot springs in the British Isles.
springs may have been somewhat overstated by local doctors, and one visitor to the hot springs famously commented that he had been "cured of more diseases in a week than he had ever suffered in all of his life." I love that line, and it's clear the legendary English sense of humour stretches back several centuries. I had a fascinating time during my day trip to Bath, and highly recommend this gorgeous English town to travellers in the region.
I headed back to the hostel that evening in the middle of a buzzing friday night for the locals at the local bar. Bristol is a youthful town, full of vim and vigour and teeming with students. It feels like a city of the future. However, I had to push on and next morning I was up early to pack and get to the station for the one hour train trip to Cardiff. This is my first visit to Wales, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to share the enjoyment. The centre of town is easy to navigate, and if ever you are confused about direction, just look out for the massive stands of the stadium that towers over
Millennium stadium, Cardiff
One of the world's great big match stadiums, and will feature prominently for football matches at the upcoming London olympics.
the centre of the city, and you'll quickly get your bearings again. The highlights of the city include a visit to Cardiff castle, which has been extensively reworked by the architect William Burges, who shared a passion for medieval architecture with his patron, the third Marquis of Bute. The Marquis was the richest man in the world at the time, and lived in the castle for six weeks of the year while he oversaw the coal mines he owned that first put Cardiff on the map. The massive expansion of the port to ship coal to the world was the making of Cardiff, and it's the youngest European capital city.
I boarded a bus in the afternoon for the half hour ride to Cassel Coch, another castle designed by Burges and financed by the Marquis. It's a quirky castle and well cool to boot, it kinda reminded me of the gorgeous Portugese palace at Cintra. Burges was fortunate in his choice of friends and was in a position to say about his rebuilding projects that "Money is only a secondary concern in the production of first-rate works." At the end of a long day exploring I trudged wearily back
Cassel Coch, near Cardiff
A beautiful castle only five miles outside the Welsh capital.
to the Cardiff backpackers for a few pints of Guinness and a bit of a chill out. This is the first stage in my travels where I have been travelling solo, and provides the perfect opportunity to read and reflect on my UK adventures so far. After careful consideration I've arrived at a verdict on Cardiff, basically all of you should be here now!
Hell is full of musical amateurs." George Bernard Shaw
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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