Perhaps it's a bad sign when you arrive at the train station of a new city and immediately are confronted by this:
Upon researching a little bit, we discovered that a man named Samuel Arthur Brain founded a brewery here in 1882 and it still runs today with several types of alcohol and a heavy presence in South Wales. But still -- if there's a zombie apocalypse, I'm not going here.
We came into the Cardiff by train the night before and could not for the life of us find the bus stop! Eventually we went into a Radisson and asked them to call us a taxi for to take us to our hotel. It was a guesthouse where I thought we had a room with 5 beds and we ended up with an apartment! It was nice for the 2 nights we were there.
We planned one full day in Cardiff to start with Cardiff Castle because we had heard really good things about this castle and we were not disappointed! In fact, I think this was our favorite castle of the whole trip.
It came to the Marquis of Bute in the mid-1800s, Victorian era. He and his wife were Scottish and they redid the whole inside in a style known as Victorian Medieval Revival - a.k.a what the Victorian's thought the Middle Ages SHOULD have looked like but with their more modern conveniences as well (a flushing toilet!). The old Norman keep was also restored to a certain extent although it is still a ruin and there are remnants of Roman walls.
The inside of the castle is stunning! It's also full of symbolism. Apparently the Marquis and his wife were both very educated and particularly interested in ancient things. She was reputedly fluent in 8-9 languages and the castle is covered with stories and inscriptions in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and things from the Bible and mythology and literature. Despite being a Welsh castle though -- no Welsh!
One of the ceilings with pictures from the Zodiac
Lots of stained glass
The nursery was my favorite. Along the top were painted tiles with nursery rhymes and stories represented.
Aladdin and the lamp
Jack and the Beanstalk (the Giant heads on pikes -- maybe not something I would put in our nursery!)
The picture is bad but this is an invisible man -- can't remember the story -- but you can see him if you look closely at the trees. His chin is resting on the bird and the leaves give him a crown.
Megan on the animal hunt in the great hall/ room
Just more amazing paintings and ceilings
The rooftop garden didn't have any flowers. Because of a short season they just don't keep it up for visitors. But the walls again were amazing. This time they were pictures from the Old Testament - the life of Elijah, with the descriptions written in Hebrew.
One of the views
The Marquis and his wife were very religious. And so they rejected Darwin's work. These monkeys are eating his book. The one below is trying to read it and can't get it.
The lovely library
The ceiling of the Arab room -- absolutely spectacular!
And the floor.
One of the stairwells. There's an alligator on this one. There are animals all over the castle and the kids did an animal hunt that they really enjoyed.
A toilet that flushes!! I don't blame them for incorporating modern things into their medieval castle. I would too!
We love our spiral staircases!
Those are the ants in the library carved into a table. Everything was so detailed.
Seriously this is one of our favorite castles ever -- and that's saying something! But it's not just because of the inside. You have other really interesting things -- once we left the castle itself we explored the grounds and went up into the ruin.
Abby shooting arrows out of the window slits
Abby's zombie pose
Another arrow shooting
Mandatory stocks pictures
You can walk along the top of the fortress wall on the opposite side of the castle. When we got over there, we were surprised to find that you can go in the wall. During World War II, the mayor or whoever of Cardiff went to the current Marquis and asked that they use the walls as bomb shelters for the people of Cardiff. He agreed and they knocked in a few places and added ramps for people to be able to access the insides quickly. They had a kitchen and cots set up and of course lots of war posters. They had speakers in the walls that were piping in the sounds of planes flying and bombs dropping and stuff. It was really loud but it was an amazing experience to think about that really happening and to be able to talk to the kids about it rather than just looking at a museum piece.
Megan held her ears the entire time but she didn't complain. She thought it was interesting too -- just loud.
On the bottom floor of the visitor's center / gift shop they had a smaller museum about war in general with uniforms and exhibits about most of the "modern" wars that Great Britain has been involved in. That was Chopper's favorite part because he's really interested in military history and the kids enjoyed the dress up. William actually sat and watched a presentation on guns with me too!
After the castle we found some lunch and then decided to go out to St. Fagan's. I had read about it in some books as a living history park basically -- it's acreage that has historical buildings and stuff on it. It sounded awesome but when we got on the bus to ride out there we discovered that the last bus going back into Cardiff was at 4:50 so by the time we got there we only had an hour. If I had known that, we would've packed a picnic lunch and gone out earlier rather than spending time in a restaurant. What we saw there we really liked and we would have loved more time to explore. Back in the spring I read "How Green Was My Valley" which is by a Welsh author and about a coal mining family in the Welsh mountains. It was neat to see what housing would have looked like for that time but again, so so small. There was such a contrast between the castles that we've been in and the average laborer's home. I can understand better why royalty and nobility isn't really favored.
The inside of their thatch roof
The pig pen
Thatch on the outside
They had a cock fighting pit -- the kids decided to recreate what that might have looked like. Wasn't hard to do.
I just love the sheep everywhere!!!
Megan was in a great mood today -- perhaps it was getting away from the crowds and the cities.
When we got back to Cardiff we were kind've at a loss -- it was too early to go back to the hotel and go crazy and we weren't really hungry from our late lunch so we wandered into Bute Park and were pleasantly surprised to discover that there are statues all over the part carved from old trees and stumps. It turned out to be a fun place to explore and run and be free!
At the end of the day we decided that one day in Cardiff was perfect. As far as the actual city goes we were just not impressed although we really really enjoyed what we did with our day. But I don't think that we would want to go back -- it didn't seem like there was a lot more to do. And for some reason, we struggled with the public transportation in this city -- it wasn't as easy to get around it seemed like. In fact, we got on the wrong train the next morning as we left for Birmingham. In our defense, our train was the next one scheduled to the platform so somehow that was not the case. We didn't discover the error until we were about halfway to a different destination and they came through checking our tickets. On the bring side, because we had to change trains to get where we were going, we went through the Cotswolds and the scenery was beautiful. And we didn't have a deadline to meet -- just another hotel and another city! The only bad thing is that was the end of our time in Wales and I would like to go back sometime and go to North Wales and see the small cities, castles, and National Parks there.