Cardiff: The Heart of the City… (Part 2)

PREVIOUSLY: I took a train ride across the country to Cardiff… where i let the fanboy within get the better of me… (Read it here) Now in Part 2… the geekiness get’s worse!

After discovering the entrance to Torchwood wasn’t there… and standing on the lift to see if it worked (don’t worry… nobody saw!) I decided to leave the Cardiff bay area behind and head back to the city centre. This took a while… not because it was a long walk but because i got seriously distracted. First off there was what i thought was a gift shop. It looked like a giftshop and it had things for sale… like little dragons and other bits of junk they sell in these places… ok so for all intents and purposes it was a giftshop… but it was the gift shop of to a much bigger, much scarier building…

It's called the millenium Centre if you must know

It really looks like a peculiar place… like weird things happen in there. Quite frankly inside it looks more like a cinema/theatre and that’s really what it is. I did find out one thing whilst i was in there though. Apparently this is where they record the music for Dr Who… Now having shamelessly pilfered several parts of the Dr Who Soundtrack over the years for use in my own radio shows this was rather a nice surprise and it only served to make the fanboy more excitable (don’t worry… things are about to get much worse…). I probably wandered around inside for far too long as it happened. I don’t even think there is much in there to see to be honest. They probably still have security footage of me wandering around like a lunatic.

But anyway i eventually left through the front doors and began heading back towards the city centre. And that’s when i saw the sign. Oh dear god why did i ever see that sign… the sign… oh dear god the sign… I don’t have a picture of it fortunately but it was a very geeky sign leading to a very geeky thing…  A Doctor Who exhibition. I saw the sign and i went for it… I followed Its directions into some shopping mall type of place. There were a few small cafe’s and a bowling alley or something in there as well as a small radio station. (It’s closed down now and become part of Capital FM i’m afraid…) But that wasn’t what i went in for.

Right in the far corner of the building, shrouded like the entrance to some mytsical circus attraction in the middle of a dessert… you know the ones… like that Mystery spot they once had on the Simpsons and you walked in and fell into some vortex… Ok I can’t find a clip but i’m sure you remember it… from back when the Simpsons was DECENT!!!  Anyway… where was i? Oh that’s right… Weird Mystery spots… So i wandered through and i found myself in what was essentially a paradise… for a self confessed Dr Who fanboy anyway. I don’t think i’d ever seen so much Dr Who in one room before… And that was only the giftshop!

Well i wandered over to the desk where the person running the show was… and he made it seem even more like a mystery spot! Here was this crazy old Welsh dude who just seemed pleased to see anyone. After I had paid and been given my wrist band (Which i still have to this day!) this chap pulled out a leaflet for Cardiff Bay and started talking about all the little bits of it. I think he just wanted someone to talk to to be honest so i just listened politely… but eventually he let me go and proceed into the hall of dreams…

SCARECROW!!!

Fortunately by this point i’d managed to get some life into the batteries of the camera by using the old trick of rubbing them between my palms for a while … and i took many photos like this… most rubbish because i was on my old cheap camera… that the batteries ran out again… this time permanently. Let this be a lesson to you all that you should always carry spare batteries…

I have no idea how long i was in that place for. It must have been a while… Maybe i was even in there for days… but it was still cool and i was in some sort of peculiar paradise for Dr Who fanboys like me… On the way out I had a look around the giftshop and ended up buying a mug with Daleks on it…

After i eventually left i headed back towards Cardiff Centre at last. The whole point of going to Cardiff was for one reason and one reason only which i’ll come too later. There still weren’t many people around but it was still a pleasant walk. To begin with i found Cardiff city centre a bit overwhelming. The roads were big and for the first time there was real traffic on them… It was mainly very large busses full of chavs. There didn’t appear to be many shops of a decent calibre either. There were a few random electronics shops, a Starbucks and a few other places but nothing spectacular. As it turned out that wasn’t actually the main shopping street that was just a street. I only ended up finding the main shopping street after i got lost in a department store… I think it was a Debenhams or something… but it was big and unwieldy and it was on the corner of the first street. It was the first shop i’d seen and as i’m always on the lookout for a decent sized, decent priced pair of pants, i went in and had a look around. I find it really difficult to get pants. I have a really awkward leg measurement which means that nobody really does my size. T-Shirts are another one… but i’m really picky about T-shirts so it’s my own fault… though i know what i really want: THIS!

Anyway, after wandering around this department store for a while i suddenly realized tha i was lost. At one point i think i ended up in homeware and somehow the ladies lingerie section… How i don’t know. But i think i saw a bunch of priests in there who were equally lost…

Eventually i found an exit and managed to get the hell out of there without too much embarrassment. And what do you know i’m suddenly on a pedestrianized street full of shops. Somehow getting lost in a department store had pointed me in the right direction and a decent part of Cardiff city centre. So i looked around these shops for a bit, mainly for pants… if i go shopping it’s usually for pants. The shops, like in any decent city centre, were good. Some of them were strange places i had never seen before and it was very interesting to have a look around. I think at one point i ended up in a ‘surfer dude’ type shop… hey… i could pull off the surfer dude look… almost. Just take my word for it. I didn’t find any pants but i ended up in a shopping mall type place with yet more shops… and a toy store. A toy store… you know what happens next. I let the child inside loose and had a wander around. I even bought a little figure that i thought i shared a slight resemblance with.

I spent a few hours looking around. It was cool… I came across a really weird record store as well. I’m not sure if they sold records or CD’s or what but they didn’t have sleeves or cases just little packets, which was intriguing. I didn’t buy anything from them though as it was also a bit dark and intimidating. I bought a postcard from another shop though… and managed to get lost in another department store. I don’t know how i manage to get lost in department stores… i just do.

After enough wandering around shops i decided it was time to go and do what i had to do. So i headed away from the shopping area and up a little to the museum. After crossing a few deadly roads (The deadliest roads in Cardiff yet!) I arrived at my destination. Now i’m sure you’ve all seen Cardiff Museum on TV… Whenever the BBC need a museum, no matter where it is… they use Cardiff for some reason. It’s been in Dr Who and it’s spin offs (As about fifteen different museums and various other places: see here and here…), Sherlock, a few other things… Most recently it inexplicably turned up in Upstairs Downstairs and Being Human. (Hint to the BBC… stop using Cardiff Museum for every museum… we can see right through you…) For some reason when i entered there was some dance troop prancing around in the centre of the lobby… (If this were Torchwood some alien would come along and vaporize them all…) I avoided them and made straight for their ‘History of Wales’ section where i was reliably informed there was a replica crown of the Welsh Princes that was used for the inauguration of Edward VIII as Prince of Wales in 1911. This was for my fabled dissertation that never was… the brilliant piece of research that got cut down in it’s prime. I figured that a replica crown of the Welsh Princes had to have something good in it. So i wandered through this bit and it had an awful lot of prehistoric stuff. It had the actual standing stone from outside a place called Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey (Which looks nothing like the replica they put in it’s stead… I’ll tell you all about Anglesey soon… just haven’t got around to writing it yet!) They had all sorts of others bits from North Wales which they keep down there for ‘cost reasons’ (Substitute: The National Museum of Wales can’t be bothered to build a proper ‘Museum of North Wales’ and all there is is Bangor Museum which is struggling as is…) Then we skip forwards to a little bit on the romans and then… virtually nothing. They had a bucket from the conquest and a few minor pieces… but that was it. Nothing on how Wales was conquered and no bits and pieces about Glyndwr or any of that… just nothing. And let me tell you this… there is no museum in the whole of Wales that has those things. None. Theres a small Glyndwr exhibit in Machynlleth where he was crowned but in the whole of Wales… that’s it (And it is really small and these days difficult to get to…)

I tell you, it’s like there’s some sort of conspiracy  to cover up anything to do with Wales between about 900 and 1500… In the whole country there is next to zilch. Nobody’s written any books for years (those there are are expensive and really old or for kids and simplified) I understand they teach kids the basics in Welsh schools (but nowhere else… surprise surprise.). Of course, you still have the Castles of Edward I which draw huge crowds year on year… but they won’t tell you much there… even the guidebooks are sparse on pre-conquest Wales. The castles of the Native Welsh Princes are forgotten and not promoted (How many of you knew there was one overlooking Llandudno that was abandoned because of Conwy? probably very few!) There’s Dolbadarn… where all that is left is the round tower. I don’t think anybody has even tried to reconstruct it by computer before so i had a go (It’s not quite to scale but i still based it heavily around archaeological evidence and a bit of common sense based upon the underlying geology!)

It possibly looked a bit like this (Designed using Google Sketchup, Not to scale)

It is like they don’t want anybody to know about this stuff. Like they’re trying to just sweep it under the rug like nothing happened. It is actually disgraceful, especially when not a week goes by without some new Programme/Book on World War 2 or the Titanic.The fact that my first dissertation study (about what i’m talking about) was casually swept aside like my research meant absolutely nothing only serves to bolster my opinion.

So after being disappointed that what i went for wasn’t there, i looked around the rest of the museum. It was ok i guess. Not spectacular, but alright. It’s just an average city museum really, like Manchester or Liverpool. Hardly suitable when it supposedly represents the whole of Wales (more reason for a National Museum of Wales North don’t you think?) They didn’t have any major exhibitions on at the time because they were renovating the exhibition space but they still had a reasonably extensive selection of arty things on the second floor. My time there was less than i would have liked given that i had gone all the way down there only to find the thing that was supposed to be there wasn’t.

So i returned to the city centre. I didn’t go and see the castle because it was too expensive (£10! rip off… Caernarfon’s only £2.50 with a student card… and it’s still cheap without) I didn’t see the park behind it either because i didn’t have time. The only other thing i saw was Cardiff market, and that was because i made a quick detour on the way back to the train station. It was an ok Market. Not the worst i’ve seen (That dubious honour goes to Chester…) A lot of it was really just small stalls selling tat for tourists (Fury rugby balls and dragon badges… mostly) but there were a few butchers and some other general stalls in there. What i couldn’t see though was a thing that makes a market… piles of fresh vegetables… piles and piles of them… like they have in Bolton (I’ve mentioned Bolton market before… check it out if you’re in the area). My wander through the market didn’t take long though.

All too soon my day in Cardiff came to end. I’d had fun being an absolute geek and wandering around the shops but it was time to go… back to the train station and back up north to where the mountains meet the sea and life was sweet… I was lucky to catch my train actually and it was only through my own paranoia and sense of checking everything that i did. It was about three minutes before the train arrived that they changed the platform it was going to arrive at… without an announcement. Luckily i noticed that the display had changed and decided to check the next platform along to see if that had my train… it did… mysteriously. So i got on my train which would ferry me back along the Welsh border and then along the sea to home… and they promised it would. They promised. Oh but train companies do break their promise… for the train bound for home didn’t go all the way home. It terminated in Chester… why i have no idea. It’s not like it was broken or anything. But because of this i had to run across Chester Station to catch another train which WOULD take me the rest of the way.

Note to self… next time stay in Cardiff for a bit longer… And is becoming the norm for these things i’ll leave you with a bit of appropriate music top sign off with. Enjoy.

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