|Departing London Paddington. That wasn’t our train.
After only the usual amount of difficulty (street entrances to station closed; delays on the underground track; not knowing how to use the train tickets because we weren’t given printable tickets – just a confirmation number; walking towards the wrong train because for thirty foolish seconds I trusted my mother’s intuition rather than actual data) we made it to Cardiff.
First thing I saw when getting out of the station was a Burger King. Oh God save us.
|In spite of that, Cardiff definitely has some cute areas.
It was mid-afternoon so after dropping our stuff at the hotel – more about that later – I suggested that we go find a place to get some lunch. We walked towards the National Museum, where my mother would be meeting her tour bus tomorrow, so she would know the path. Good thing we did, because the Welsh evidently do not believe in street signs.
I had noticed the extreme difficulty of identifying one’s position in London; but in London at least the street signs exist. When I eventually find one, I cannot read it from the other side of the street, and I’m not sure which of five wiggly roads at the intersection it refers to, but at least it’s there. In Cardiff finding a sign is like hunting for Easter eggs. Green ones. In a forest. And sometimes they’re not green. They’re invisible.
We found one road name painted vertically on a lamp pole, which no driver would ever be able to read; then at one point we spotted a tiny strip of labeling on a building across the road, with letters in about 18pt font. We burst out laughing.
‘You have to know where you are,’ said my mother.
|However, in studying the map I did find this gem. Is this street really named after the Doctor Who aliens?!
The Burger King was an accurate bellwether of the food choices in this section of Cardiff. Fast food – dark unappealing pubs – or, for some reason, Italian restaurants. I like Italian food fine (what of it I can eat) but I’ve had it twice in the last week and that’s really enough. We found the Museum without finding lunch.
Whereupon there was a tizzy because she couldn’t establish where outside the Museum to meet the tour guide; she thought she had read both ‘Museum Avenue’ (which runs to the side) and ‘on the steps’ (front, obviously).
Never mind that it’s not that bloody big of a museum, so you could just stand at the corner and look for tour buses.
Finally I cracked out my gadgetry – by which I mean my Rube Goldbergian combination of US-based phone and portable wireless transmitter which allows me to get online and make calls without emptying my bank account directly into Verizon’s coffers. I checked her email, got the contact numbers for the tour guide, and promised to put them in her phone so that if for some reason she couldn’t find the tour, she could call him.
Then I told her to forget lunch, because we’d come to Cardiff a day early to see the castle. I remembered reading it closed at 5:00, last entry at 4:00; and I wasn’t going to miss it. So in spite of the knot in my hip and her painful shins (no, I have no idea why extensive walking would make your shins hurt) we limped as quickly as possible over to the Castle. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far away.
We scooted up to the ticket counter at 3:56, to discover that I was an hour off and it closed at 6:00. So we had two hours to explore.
…And gosh was it worth it. I wish I’d taken my good camera.
|Sorry for the poor quality picture – but I wanted to show you how the Castle is just plunked down in the middle of the city. Every city should have a castle.
At the castle we ate some chips – sorry I mean crisps – so we survived until we were able to get some Welsh “cawl” (stew) at a pub. Good enough. Tasty chedderish cheese on the side. Really good local ice cream for dessert.
Then back to the hotel. Our room had no toilet paper – which does not bode well for the attention they paid after the last guest – so we stopped by Reception to get some. Where the nice fellow told us that someone had called up from my mother’s tour company saying that there hadn’t been enough sign-ups, so the tour was cancelled (moment of horror!) – but never fear as they had transferred her to a similar tour with another company.
Another larger company, whose buses practically had their own lane outside of the museum. Problem solved.
Oh, I promised I’d tell you more about the hotel, didn’t I? Well, it was…a very straightforward place.
|No beating around the bush here.
In cheap hotels horrible decor is a necessity. In fact, I would have been disappointed otherwise. But…still. Let me show you these curtains.
If you’re eating anything, stop now.
Here you go.
|Oh my God.
‘They’re like Muppets,’ she said.
‘Mangy Muppets,’ I said.
‘I don’t want to touch them.’
I had no snappy retort because I was laughing too hard.
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