June 28, 2011 Comments Off
We had plans for the evening to do the Bizarre Bath tour, but we thought a drive into Cardiff would be good for the start of the day. It was about an hour to get there, which wasn’t too bad considering we could get in a tour of the waterfront, the main castle, which had high recommendations, and perhaps stop somewhere interesting on the way back if we had time. It also gave Sasha and I a chance to see the Doctor Who exhibit, since we are both terrible geeks.
It was a very quick drive over, with only a slowdown at the toll gate for the bridge. The GPS was invaluable for driving here, since the signs were largely in Welsh for place names. I could see why the Welsh have been angry at the English for so lone since apparently the English have stolen almost the entire country’s supply of vowels. They did leave a large collection of “L”s apparently since they use about ten in each word.
Yulia was ecstatic at seeing another language here, and attempted pronouncing all the place names that she could find. I eventually had to stop her after running out of tissues to wipe up all the spit that that left on the dash and windshield.
We got to Cardiff, and found that the Doctor Who exhibit moved to London a month back. We were joined by a few frustrated English tourists as well, but since we will be in London in a week or so we can catch it then.
We walked down to Roald Dhal Plas, and along the waterfront for a bit. We saw some wild Swans with newborn swans swimming along the waterfront. The view was beautiful across the harbor. We caught a quick lunch at a place called “Salt”, which was basically a very upscale pub, but cheaper than the ones in Bath, and then headed back to tour Cardiff Castle.
The GPS twisted us around town for a bit, then right into a massive traffic jam. This was Saturday, and we couldn’t figure out what would cause so much traffic all at once. We crawled around corners and forced our way into merging traffic, and then I heard them. The sound was unmistakeable.
Turning the corner we could see the streets packed with screaming drunken sports fans. Scarves for several countries were being waved, horns were blaring, and the stadium was right across from the castle.
This was going to be fun.
After a few minutes it was obvious that we were going to have to pay for parking at one of the sporting car parks, everything was full elsewhere. We found a lot near the castle for £10, and the girl there told us that is was not just rugby, but a motocross, and some third thing in yet another stadium, all witting blocks of each other. Joy.
We got the last spot in her lot, and walked through the park to the castle. The castle itself was magnificent. It was in beautiful shape, with mixes of Roman, 15th century, 17th century, and 20th century changes. Amazing architecture all around. We went through the wall tunnels, which had an audio track of their use as bomb shelters from WWII, walked the parapets and towers, and climbed to the top of the Keep, which was in surprisingly good shape.
The main manor house, which is still used today, is gorgeous. The last family to live there made a series on unique architectural changes including a guilded library, grand dining, small dining that contains special tables to hold live grape vines for dining, and art, armor, and the like.
We took a long time at the castle and once we were done decided to head straight back to Bath so as not to miss the evening tour. We got to our B&B, cleaned up, and took a short rest before heading into town. On the way back to park in town, I took what I thought would be a shorter route to the parking spots, which means that it of course took longer and led me to the wrong spot. Yulia and Sasha head to the Pub to meet the tour, and I ran the car over to the correct location then Ran down to meet the girls at the pub.
I actually ran fast enough that I beat them there, and posed nonchalantly against a railing as they turned the corner. We were just in time for the tour. This was a comedy walk, with no history involved. Basically the guide made fun of Bath, told jokes, and did street magic tricks the whole time. I can’t recommend it enough. It ran pretty long though, and by the end, around 10:30, we were starving. This led us to our next problem to solve, there isn’t much to eat that allows kids past 9:00 or so.
We walked about for a bit, and saw a mediocre pizza place, lots of bars, and finally saw lights on in an Italian place. It turned out to be Jamie Oliver’s restaurant. I loved his show, and was pleased that at least the food would be healthy. Yulia and Sasha waited in line while I ran off to move the car closer to the restaurant. We got our table by the time I got back, and were pleased that the price was pretty reasonable for a celebrity place.
We will be on our way to North Wales in the morning. It shouldn’t be too long a drive.
Or so we thought.
June 28, 2011 Comments Off
We almost slept through breakfast, mostly because we were fighting jet lag all night and were a bit smashed by morning. But we managed to get up in time to catch everyone and had some cereal and freshly cooked croissants. I stuck to the non-wheat based cereals and whole milk to keep up with my low-carb, high fat diet. I also ate a half-bowl of fresh butter, using a few corners of toast to choke it down. Mmmmm.
We got out and drove the short drive to the park and ride, to catch the bus into bath. It saved us on a bunch of parking, and made life a lot simpler. We were dropped off right in the center of town, in the shopping district we walked through the night before. This was pretty convenient, and we walked slowly through the street towards the Roman Bath in the center of town. As soon as we got close, I could see the exact spot where we took our picture a few years prior.
Excited, I ran over and stood on the spot, broken tile marking the location like our earlier picture. Yulia was wondering what I was doing, but understood once she saw the location. Sasha couldn’t remember any of our visit so long ago, but knew the picture that we have in the hall from Bath before, and posed with us there. We got another tourist to snap our picture, and our first task for Bath was done.
We walked around the streets examining the random shops, not really with any plan at all. We thought about catching the Roman Baths tour first off, but the lines were mad so we skipped that until later. Just taking in the view of the streets and architecture, with no specific plan was great. bath is really one of the best wandering towns we have seen, neither too busy nor too empty.
We walked over the famous covers bridge, along the river, around and inside the back streets past Sally Lunn’s (the oldest house in bath, famous for the Lunn Bun), and then grabbed lunch at a nice pub called the Huntsman. As usual, the pub food was cheap and great.
The city of Bath offers a free guided walking tour, so we headed over to catch that. We caught it just in time, but about two stops into it, we found that it was much too loud in the streets to hear the guide, and went shoe shopping up the main street instead, (please guess if this was my idea…)
We ended up finding a great deal on a pair of Converse for Sasha. Double-laced in a cool blue two tone. We check out what was in several other shops but we getting pretty beat by this time. We found a good rest spot at Cafe Nero, and sat upstairs for a rest. We found an open wifi connection there, and Yulia was able to use Skype to call her parents in Russia. With only a three hour difference it was a lot easier to catch them than from Seattle.
After a quick coffee house nap, we caught the Spa Tour just before the closed the doors for the evening. This was a great time to be there since the crowds were much smaller and you could actually get up close to the roman exhibits. Sasha was fascinated by this. We had taken this tour on our first trip years ago, but the baths were empty for cleaning, and much of these new exhibits weren’t complete. These had all the excavated stones lofted into as close to the original locations, with a facade to show the original look of the Roman structures. You really got an appreciation of how advanced this was for the time.
At the end of the tour, you can show your ticket at the Pump House to drink a glass of the mineral spring water. I was actually looking forward to this, as it is a famous part of the tour. Sasha couldn’t manage more than a sip. Yulia and I finished ours completely. As expected, it was hot, silty, and tasted of a cross between rust and dirt, but how else would you expect bath water to taste?
We closed the place out then headed up for dinner. Halfway back to our place was a busy pub called the Hare and Hound. We came there and found it at about half the price of our pub, and busy as well. With dinner we ended up chatting with a few families near us, then joking about how bad English food is, with us disagreeing, since this pub was really amazing for the fish and curry we had.
They recommended that we take the Bizzare Bath tour the next evening, which was rated very highly, even by locals. It started each evening at 8, right at the Huntsman Pub. We thought that sounded like a great idea, and they started giving us directions to the Huntsman. We told them that we knew the place, and they were a bit shocked. We were happy to surprise a few locals on our first day there, and were ready for the tour the next evening.