We visited Cardiff on a whim, one chilly weekend in December 2007. Tall and I were suffering a little from cabin fever in our first English winter, and decided that a cheap weekend away would be just the ticket.
We loaded up our trusty old car – Gordy, named after Tall’s grandfather’s favourite 10am tipple – and drove south-west, across the border into Wales. It was probably just our imagination, but the temperature seemed to drop a few degrees the closer we got to Cardiff, and by the time we arrived, Gordy’s seat warmers had had a pretty good workout.
Cardiff is quite a small capital city (the population is just over 340,000), and is really easy to get around both by car and on foot. The central shopping district was quite compact and the shopping wasn’t too bad. The Christmas Markets were in full swing, and to this day, Tall and I both drool in remembrance of the spit-roasted hog sandwiches we devoured there. Best roast pork ever. Seriously.
We took a tour of Cardiff Castle, which was rumoured to once be the home of King Arthur, and “admired” the interior design by William Burges. I say “admired” because we found it all a bit fussy and gaudy, but apparently he was very influential in the 19th Century. At night, the outer walls of the castle were adorned with twinkling coloured lights, which I’m sure would have made Burges proud.
Next to the castle is Butes Park, named for the family who own the castle. We took a brisk stroll along some of the myriad of walkways criss-crossing the park, and really did admire some of the pagan relics.
One of the girls from our hostel suggested we drive 15 minutes out of town to St Fagans, home of the (free) Welsh National History Museum. This is an open-air museum set on 100 acres of land that was gifted to the people of Wales by the owner of St Fagans Castle. They’ve rescued many old buildings from all over Wales and lovingly relocated and restored them for the public to see how Welsh life was lived many many moons ago. The day was incredibly foggy and due to low visitor numbers, the museum was very quiet and the atmosphere was eerie as we wandered around. It was definitely worth a lengthy visit, and well-worth making the trip out of town.
We never made it back to Wales, but enjoyed this little taste. The Welsh truly are the friendliest, and we hope to go back one day to spend a bit more time exploring the other regions.