After breakfasting at our hotel, included in the price and very generously including cereal, fruit, eggs, cheese, toast, pastries...a huge suprise seeing a 'continental' normally implies toast and cornflakes, we left the hotel and strolled througgh the city to Cardiff Castle.
With archeological evidence suggesting that the site has been fortified for over 2000 years Cardiff Castle covers some of the most significant events of British History. In the main it is a relatively 'new' castle with most of the buildings and walls only dating from the 19th century, when the Marquess of Bute began building a new family home on the site in the form of a Gothic Style mansion. Excavtions revealed the remains of a Roman Wall which the Bute family had rebuilt along their original lines. In the centre of the castle yard in a Keep which dates back to the Norman Invasion of 1066. Situated on a high mound, with a still steep and somewhat precarious, stairway leading to the entrance it has served as a home, fort and a prison. The most famous prisoner was the son of William the Conqueror who spent the last decade of his life there and was clearly mistreated...dying aged in his 80s! During the Enlish Civil War in the 1600s, the castle was damaged beyond repair and sat empty for 200 years until the Bute family arrived. The tunnels and fortifications of the castle were used as air raid shelters for the people of Cardiff during World War II.
In 1947 the Bute family, who were hugely influential in Cardiff's history (I will bore you more about them later...) donated the Castle, it's grounds and the large adjacent park to the people of Wales and it has been open to the public as a museum ever since.
After a mad dash to replace a malfunctioning camera (Carolyn's not mine thankfully) we walked to the National Museum and Art Gallery. The gallery was full of pretty standard historical fair, apart from an exhibition/competition of Contemporary Art featuring artists from around the world. There were too many video installations but I did enjoy the work of Fernando Bryce who meticulously recreates historical documents using indian ink on paper. The images covered the period around World War I and the Russian Revolution.
On leaving the gallery we boarded the City Sightseer bus and rode it to the waterfront area. At one time Cardiff was the busiest coal port in the world, thanks largely to the Bute family who developed the coal mining industry in the mountains surrounding the city. (On a side not Cardiff used to have more millionaires than any other city in the world.) When the industry died down the docks feel into disrepair, but in the last 10 years have undergone a major redevelopment, much like the Docklands area of Melbourne. Now it is full for shops, eateries and public spaces. The biggest public space is called Roald Dahl Plass, for the author who was born and christened in Cardiff.
We had lunch at a kitsch-ly french chain restaurant, tasty and fattening and then strolled around past the Millenium Centre (an arts and theatre complex) and the main building of the Welsh Assembly. Befor heading back to the hotel we brought, what would prove to be the first of many, Welshcakes. Cooked like piklets but tasting like fruit scones...they are delicious pastry treats.
After returning to the hotel for a couple of hours R&R we headed out for dinner and stumbled upon a gorgeous tapas restaurant and feasted on spanish goodies including a bottle of wine before heading home to bed.