This weekend we were left to our own devices for site research and Bill, our professor, advised us to use our time to venture outside the scope of the program. Derek and I took the opportunity to follow through on some plans we had for Wales and Bath.
Thursday afternoon, we rushed from class to our homestays to Paddington. We ended up missing our first ticket window, but used the downtime to rest up and before long we were in Cardiff. From here, it gets pretty hectic, so I’ll break it down by day:
Friday: morning we headed to a nearby neighborhood so I could do some laundry. There was lots of graffiti and grans and everything was inexpensive. We found a cafe/diner and had an excellent English (Welsh) breakfast, complete with blood pudding. It was nice to see part of the city where people lived, someplace obviously not geared as much towards tourists.
We then headed out to the National Gallery. There was an exhibit of Mughal art–it was all fantastically detailed. I was surprised to find how much I liked some of the old-fashioned landscapes (the portraits didn’t do much for me) and then this really haunting oil painting by James Tissot called The Parting. They had some great Impressionist stuff (though the water lilies did about as much for me as the portraits) and puzzled our way through a Pop Art exhibit campaigning for the consumption of kelp via lavercakes. I tried to find some of the little boxed ones that were strewn over steps and podia in the exhibit, but didn’t manage to track any down.
From there, we strolled a bit through nearby Bute Park and from there found our way into Cardiff Castle. I’d never taken an audio tour before and I’d always thought a little askance at them, but it ended up being wonderful. There were tunnels all through the walls that had been used as bomb shelters during The War, and wide grounds, and a shell keep (think a cylinder without a top) on top of a huge, grassy motte (mound). It’s a really odd place, because it goes back nobody knows how long, at least to the Romans, had been attacked and rebuilt a few times, then restored to faux-medeval glory by a rich Victorian marquess and his virtuoso architect buddy, William Burges.
After the Castle, we walked through Bute Park, explored the downtown area, and went back to the hotel for some homework. We wanted to squeeze in a visit to Cardiff Bay, so we walked down that evening and took so long trying to find an inexpensive place on the tourist strip that we ended up sitting down at a burger joint at 9:00, half-delerious with hunger. It was a long, long day.
To read about Saturday, click here.