In Scotland, people said, "Why would you go to Cardiff?"...they were genuinely puzzled. Bernie and I wanted to be in Wales and Cardiff seemed as good a destination as any. Although it does not have the ancient ruins and the dramatic history of other places, Cardiff turned out to have its own charms.
The Sandringham Hotel wasn't one of them. The Queen has an official residence called the Sandringham. Our hotel wasn't even a poor relation. It was a bit like the city of Cardiff, a bit worn, a little tired with a grander past somewhere. (Think Faulty Towers.) At first we thought we had made a dreadful "booking on-line" mistake. The curtains favoured their own thick coating of dust. There was a splatter on one wall that could have been blood (we have active imaginations) and the carpet hid unknown former crunchy life forms. However, the bathroom and the Wi-Fi worked so Bernie and I laughed nervously and determined to make it an adventure. Except for young people frolicking back and forth all night down the street outside our window, the Sandringham was okay and the staff were super friendly.
You can see Bernie here, happy to have survived the night, in front of the the Keep of Cardiff Castle. Cardiff was the site of four different Roman Forts from the 50's AD. Cardiff Castle was home to many aristocrats until it came into the hands of the Bute family in 1766. The Second Marques turned Cardiff (on the sea) into the world's largest coal exporting port. The Third Marques was by the 1860's thought to be the richest man in the world. He had more money than the Rockefellers. He hired the genius of architect William Burgess to transform the Castle Lodgings to the opulent interiors Bernie and I toured. There are rooms with a definite Arab flavour and others decorated more in the Italian fashion. Cardiff Castle became a Victorian Welsh Camelot. The Fourth Marques completed the renovations and changes and the family donated the Castle to the City of Cardiff in the 1930's. The Roman wall has been restored around the castle and you can go up into the keep. The view of the turrets of the Castle and the grounds is magnificent. The beer we enjoyed from the restaurant on the grounds was fine, too.
We had a tour of Cardiff on one of the "jump on, jump off" busses.
We got off the bus at the port where you can walk along a stone walk that borders the water. The port is still (although little used) a port. We had thought we might like to dabble our feet in the water but decided against it partly because there was no access and partly because the water looked icky. We did see the Norwegian Church that Roald Dahl attended as a child. There was an amusement park with rides for children and the breeze from the ocean felt good.
At one time there were thousands of ships carrying coal in and out of the port of Cardiff. Then the coal mines depleted and today the number of ships which come from Russia carrying coal to Cardiff is, in a year, what used to depart within the week.
Cardiff, today, struggles. It isn't a rich city but there plenty of sights for the couple of days we were there. Under the Roman wall, a replica of the London Underground as a bomb shelter was complete with the sounds of the Battle of Britain. It let one imagine the feeling of being in the tube tunnels and hearing the bombs landing nearby. The memory is poignant now with Remembrance Day so close.
The picture to the left is a rugby match Bernie and I stumbled onto following her curiosity. The fellow at the ticket gate let us in to watch for a few minutes. The match was between teams of 18 year olds and it is a ROUGH sport. Bernie and I had no idea of the rules except that there didn't seem to be any and piling on anyone near the ball was fair game. Hockey players back home assure us hockey is just as rough. I'm no judge but these young men didn't have any protective gear...yikes.
The next day Bernie and I left Cardiff in overcast rain. The only real rain we had on our holiday. My Walmart rain "coat" made a definite fashion statement but it did keep me more or less dry. By the time we got to Bath...the weather was nice again.
I've been married a long time and often write about everyday events.