For the first bank holiday weekend in May, we went to Cardiff. Our main purpose in going there was to visit the Doctor Who museum and see some of the sites from it and Torchwood, but it turned out there was a bit more to the city than just being a TV-set.
We visited the Castle, which dates from Roman times and is quite interesting to look around. There's a nice walk on top of the castle walls which gives you a good view of both the city and the castle, and if it's raining you can walk inside the walls instead. There's also a Norman keep which is on top of a motte (man-made hill) and is good fun to climb up. You can see the rooms where some of the castle's owners used to live, and even see a toilet that opens out onto the motte.
The castle also includes a Victorian mansion complete with furnishings which was pretty impressive. There's an Arab room in there which is incredibly colourful and has gold leaf everywhere. The stained glass windows have crystal balls in front of them to disperse the light up to the ceiling. In the small dining room there's a monkey carved into the wooden panelling which has a nut in its mouth. The nut is the button for a bell, and it's the first example of electricity usage in the house.
We also went to the Museum of Welsh Life, which is far more interesting than it sounds. It's outside Cardiff near a town called St Fagans, and covers a large area. There are all different types of houses, cottages and shops that have been moved there from different parts of Wales. Some of them have furniture and decorations in them too, so you can see exactly how the Welsh lived at that time. They also have some farm animals, including some extremely pungent pigs, and on the day that we visited they had a demonstration of sheep dogs working ducks which was great.
We had been urged to visit the bakery there so we tried some cheesy buns fresh from the oven which were delicious. Then we went to visit the castle and manor house that are also on the site. While we were walking through the gardens we saw two girls playing hide and seek while their parents were walking behind them. Then when the girls were away hiding somewhere the parents hid, and the girls couldn't find them and got really upset. It was quite funny.
Inside the house, in the butler's room you could see the newspaper laid out ready to be ironed so the man of the house didn't get ink on his hands.
When we got back to Cardiff we headed off to the Doctor Who museum. It was really cool seeing all the monsters and costumes close up. The clock work man still looked pretty scary. The cyberman moved when you pressed a button and told you he would delete you. The daleks said "elevate" and that they would exterminate you, and then shone green lasers out at you. The Waters of Mars man dribbled some water out of his mouth. And Kylie Minogue's maid outfit looks tiny.
There was all sorts of merchandise in the gift shop, including inflatable daleks, cardboard cut-outs of various characters including a weeping angel, a John Barrowman calendar and lots of signed stamp covers. Leah squashed a penny into a Tardis.
We dined at an Indian restaurant we had tried to go to the night before (it turns out there's a good reason why the Google Maps walking directions are in beta). It was a buffet, so we stuffed ourselves and then went to work on the dessert bar. It was just like being a small kid again.
On our last day we went down to the bay. It was a sunny day so we walked, going past one of the Doctor Who filming locations on the way (where the cybermans first appeared in the new series). The bay itself was full of life, with a funfair and some kind of samba competition going on. We saw the striking water tower and the Millenium Centre, which is where Torchwood is supposedly based. Down on the boardwalk, there was a shrine to Ianto (one of the characters).
Apart from Torchwood related activities, we went to the Norwegian Church, where Roald Dahl was christened. Inside we had some brunch, and outside it some samba dancers who were wearing very little must have been absolutely freezing. The little old ladies that came into the cafe didn't think much of the noise and lots of them came in and left very quickly.
Then it was time for a quick look at the Millennium Centre, which looked like it was going to fall over on you, before we headed back to the hotel and then the coach to London.