Cardiff: The Tardis of Wales

Wait, wait, I didn't post about Wales yet? The experience that transcended time and space? Let's talk Cardiff. For starters, it has a castle right at the top of the city.

The castle, being invaded by the alien sportscraft landing behind it.

If you're in Cardiff, you probably should take the time to see Cardiff Castle (above). There is a wall and some battlements and a keep (see below). The keep (below) is exactly as old and rundown as it looks. But the Castle (above) is a castle.

Once a hardcore Norman fortress, the keep is now flagging.
But I'm talking about the castle. You wouldn't know looking at the bleak stones outside, but some rich people owned it! A coal baron's acquired it and died, and his son, with all the whimsy of a medieval enthusiast, hired some decorators.He liked color and medieval-style murals. If you don't go inside, you will miss things like this:

signs and ropes telling you not to touch things!
Which is nice and all, but you also get rooms like this:
"The Arab Room" designed by a guy who dropped acid through a kaleidoscope!
They also have some birds that would be happier if they were elsewhere.

Owl, performing "Howl", by Ginsberg.
Or maybe he was just telling me his fav. tv show.
But you didn't come to Cardiff to see a castle or listen to the hooters. You came there to see the Doctor Who Experience. You might worry it's disproportionately geared towards children. And it is. But don't let details like that get in the way of finding a blue police box. The Experience was an interactive funthrough, part animatronics, part Matt Smith  in a video. We, the "shoppers" were trying to save the Doctor from...well, I won't give you spoilers. But at the end is a museum of props and costumes and all of the Doctor's worst enemies.
It didn't work.
They had all kinds of models to demonstrate the progression through the gazillion years this show has been on the air.

It was close, but I was not exterminated. 
You can't get to The Experience without passing through Mermaid Quay. Well, you can, but it's right there. It's a nice place to hang out and have a drink in the sunshine, and smell the mix of sea breeze and evidence of lax drug control.

I don't light up, but a torchwood.

If you watch Torchwood, you can see a plot relevant memorial on Mermaid Quay. If you don't watch Torchwood, you can see the memorial anyway, but it's totally a spoiler in the middle of the street. Warning: spoiler below.

Warning: spoiler, but you already looked at it.
And all around Cardiff you can see bits and bobs of the Doctor. The variety of Victorian and futurist architecture is pretty conveniently located for filming.

But sometimes you just need stairs.

You're a Pandorkica.
And there are just generally a lot of stores around the places that are fun to look at. There is a chain in the UK called Americandy.

An improbable astronaut. 
Have I mentioned I miss space programs?


Bath: when in England, do as the Romans

Bath is highly recommended. Showers are OK too. If you have functional eyes or a casual appreciation for history, you may want to go there. And you will probably find much to recommend. (Unless you're Jane Austen.) If you're a tourist, you'll find the city perfectly sized for a day-trip. If you stay for a couple days and make friends, you'll leave way too soon.

The city has lots of nice architecture that isn't anything like early colonial brick. 

Notable bits include an Abbey that has nothing to do with Abbey Road! 

Had I gone inside, I would've been a fan.

Bath also has the first semicircle in Britain!

The Royal Crescent, rumour has it, houses a Python.
By the size of the structure, it's a really big one.

But you don't go to bath to look at a crescent. You go to look at the bath. It wasn't recent, but maybe you've heard--the Romans were in England once upon a time. And when they were in England, they decided that the supply lines were getting too long to trek back to Rome for a daily bath. So they built amenities. 

Or at least they took a Celtic shrine site, and between year 60 and 370, built a temple and some baths. They left the tub.

Romans once bathed here. Possibly dyed green; certainly dead now.
 Actually the water wasn't green then. There was a big roof covering the whole thing, so that the Romans didn't have to stare at the 11th century abbey. Thanks to the roof, no algae grew in the bath, and bathing was more effective. Unfortunately, the pipes bringing in the water were made of lead. To make matters even healthier, this was a religious center as well as a spa. People with a chip on their shoulder came from all over to write petty curses in tiny sheets of lead--most commonly due to stolen swim trunks. The complainers then took the sheets and threw them into their enemies' bathwater to give them extra lead poisoning. Kidding. But they did throw the curses into the water, and sacrificed something. (If the lead curse sank, the gods heard them. If it floated, the laws of physics were obviously suspended, and someone turned into a cow.)

Cubist terra cotta warriors.
These columns used to hold up a floor, which was raised so that they could do something with the temperature. The Bath Rooms had names like frigidarium (cold bath) and caldarium (bubbling cauldron bath). Presumably the floor was not invisible then.

The really old bit pretty much cracked itself up, and the nice above ground strucure is Victorian, so you can't even stick an ankle in the water. In the museum you can see some old Roman things that have been archaeologed out of the ground. Like the Medusa.

Medusa needed a shave; Perseus obliged with a Sweeney Todd cut.
This mysterious face was discovered around the baths. It's called the Medusa because of the fashionable snakes-for-hair look. This seems bizarre to anyone familiar with Medusa, lady gorgon, who wasn't actually reputed to be a bearded lady or married to anyone closeted. This is pretty clearly a dude. But there are some other theories floating around. Something about Oceanus, a water god, or a Celtic sun god, or that time your uncle got drunk and tried to wear a Christmas wreath.

Enough about the bath of Bath. There is a city, too. And a very nice free walking tour that doesn't even want tips.

Walking tour talking point: soot.
 Fun fact: If you walk around the city of bath, you see a lot of very pretty pale stone buildings. But some eons ago when those chimneys (everywhere with the chimneys) were burning coal, there was a lot of air pollution. They hadn't invented cleaning in those days, so the city of bath used to be covered in soot and dirt. This house has been carefully left caked in dirt and soot to preserve the visual of a bygone era.

Inevitably, you'll get bored of all the pretty buildings and shops that are closed when you need them and streets teeming with American tourists. Escape on a nice river walk!

It's a nice controlled river. As you can see, the sky is more washed out than the banks. 

Not to be arch.

And don't forget Jane Austen. As I mentioned, Austen-tacious used to live here. She kind of hated her time in Bath. And by 'kind of', I mean, she agitated to move back to wherever it was that she grew up. Her parents said no--then her father died suddenly. They moved promptly back to wherever. Not that I'm suggesting anything untoward. I'm just saying that everyone ever told me to avoid the Austen museum. There is one, though. Might even be more informational than this blog post.


Street Art Sweetheart

Love it or hate it, street art is a cultural thing.
And in Shoreditch: street is street as f.

Art is dangerous in England.

Beware The Silence!


lasercats acid trip?

I assume they misspelled Les Mis.

Papering leads to an interesting interactive collage.

Happy street.


And that was about it for my hour of wandering. Actually, there was a ton more, but some of the quality was closer to ghetto blaster up there.


I saw the sign(s)

I feel like signs in other countries require translation, even if they're in English.

If you are amused, go that way.

Bad 90's pop groups strictly controlled.

Warning: Slip n' slides
(this is an internet classic, right?)
I, too, am alarmed.

Instructions for squads?

I kind of want to know the zebra's story.
No more amusement. That is all.


Special: Fourth of July in London.

A few days ago there was a massive celebration in Trafalgar Square for Canada day. I wondered, would America get a party? Answer: lots of tavern specials on burgers while their screens play "American movies," or, as one Brit put it "movies."

While I couldn't find the scale of celebration I was looking for, I did go around and photograph everything American I could find. I wasn't looking for propaganda, but--
At the British Library, it's not just CCTV that's watching you.
And Sam looks a little scary, but you can still go some places in London and swell with pride. Mostly if you go to the science museum.

I saw this and felt all kinds of patriotic! Too bad we scrapped the space program...
On the bright side, we totally fooled the Brits with that landing a spaceship in Arizona gag.

Pictured: the reason you can't find
4th of July celebrations in England.
I searched on for something American. And! I found a really good object to commemorate the 4th of July, or rather October 19, 1781:

In the Victoria-Albert museum, we have the Lafayette vase! Which was given to Lafayette by someone, and has a picture of General Cornwallis surrendering to G-Dawg Washington.

Unfortunately, the Ben Franklin House was totally sold out. But that's ok, because I feel like I'm pretty close to the historical aspect at all times. I am running around London with a Th: Jefferson's Monticello waterbottle, after all. 

So after finding some history, I realized it wasn't enough to get into a proper 4th of July spirit. What I really needed was a field, a pool, beers all around, some burgers grilling, and a whole lot of fireworks exploding. 

I didn't find anyone drinking beer in red cups* 

I didn't find a pool. 

I didn't find any fireworks.

But I did find something better. 

Much, much better. 

Five Guys: a great subtle way for everyone to celebrate July 4th
without really coming off as pro-America.
Five Guys: like me, started in Virginia. But this is the first ever Five Guys in the United Kingdom!!! It's in soho. Kind of a big deal. I'm not the only one who thought so.

The line, part I. They thought so too.
And the line went on...
The line, part II. Queuing: the British hobby.
And on...
The end of the line.
This was a lot of people waiting for burgers. Was there an incentive? Free burgers? Free anything? Nope. Not even a little.  

Refresh my mind, how much is a Bacon Cheeseburger in Cville? Less than 8.75 pounds, I think...
So I didn't actually wait in line for an hour to get a burger. 
But seeing the grand opening happen really made America day more American.

*Red cups are impossible to find across the pond, and much coveted. If you travel to the UK/Europe, pack your own beerpong set in your luggage, and you will make all the friends.