Simply Cardiff.

Cardiff is an interesting beast. On one hand there’s Cardiff castle and the various parks with all sorts of historic stuff just laying around, on the other hand Cardiff is undeniably a modern city which, like Bristol before it, has a distinct commercial and industrial feel to it. Various shopping arcades dot the center of town while smaller cafes and restaurants line the waterside area, warehouses stretching languidly across town and numerous buildings under construction add that industrial feel. It’s actually quite nice, I especially enjoyed the waterside breeze and nice cool weather while I was there, not being much of a fan of blistering heat the overcast windy day was absolutely heavenly.

As for the Cardiff ‘Castle’, it’s more two separate castles really, one more or less an elaborate palace and the other the old ruins of a much more ancient Norman keep sitting off to the side surrounded by a moat and built on a hill as was their style. Surrounding all this are the remains of Roman walls no less from an old Roman fort which was on that spot, needless to say there’s alot of history in that one little chunk of land. Right next to the castle is also a quite nice park with an interesting wall adorned with various animal statues (Never did figure out what one of those things was, looked like a mutilated dog of some sort!) with, among other oddities, the ruins of an old church… or was it a friary? On the grounds. To add to it all there are also the remains of other various ancient structures within the city as well as yet another castle, which unfortunately I did not get to see.

The palace is a rather fanciful building with all sorts of strange oddities and fantastical designs that make it seem like some sort of fairytale castle from the interior. No pictures allowed (Not that that stops some people!) and visit with a guide only. Indeed while I was there security had to be called because a man had left the room with the guide in it for a bit of privacy while talking on his phone, in the middle of the tour no less, and the guide with a sort of frenzied fanaticism called into her walkie-talkie military style that there was a bogey on the loose and to take him out asap… alright, not quite those words, but the ‘feel’ was there. This guide would have been right at home calling down artillery strikes in war zones and coordinating tactical espionage missions, I have to feel her talents were somewhat wasted guiding unruly tourists through a fantastical palace. Anyway, building? Pretty interesting, very colourful. My first introduction to William Burges too, eccentric architect extraordinary who’s work I’d end up encountering a few times.

All these neat little historic oddities have been carefully set aside and preserved while the city itself grew up around them. It’s a rather strange experience to walk down the steps from just having been looking through what remains of an old Norman keep, through the grassy field with a palace to one side and reconstructed Roman fortifications on the other, through the massive medieval styled gateway… and into the bustle of a living, breathing big city. Cars zooming by, businessmen talking on cellphones, shops and stores, Starbucks. You almost have to do a double-take to make sure you didn’t just step through a portal at some point or through some dimensional loophole. Very disorienting, but entertaining and convenient.

I enjoyed Cardiff. Not really my favourite of cities but it had a good ‘feel’ to it, cheesy way to put it I know but valid nontheless. Excellent hostel there too which I stayed at, easily better than many of the hotels I’ve been to. Now that’s quality. A quick google search reveals it was The Riverhouse Backpackers. Great location, extremely friendly staff, clean rooms, the works.

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