Castles, Burgers and Buys…Oh my!

We began our day with breakfast in the Executive Lounge at the Cardiff Marriott.  We filled up on yogurt, croissants, eggs and bacon before heading out for the day.  Breakfast in the lounge is one of best perks of having platinum status at Marriott.  It saves time and money (we missed out on this in Dublin due to the lounge being closed over the weekend).  After breakfast, we started down the street towards Cardiff Castle; one of our main goals for the day.  We always try to start with one or two main points that we want to see each day.  That way, we don’t try to stuff too much into any one day and, if we happen to stumble across something unexpected, we have room to accommodate it.

Such was the case when we came across the Kitchens store with its doors invitingly open.  Mom, Vicki and I had just topped off our cash supply at the local Barclays Bank and could not resist the lure of kitchen gadgets.  We were eager to see if the British had been holding out on any especially cool gadgetry and I had specifically been looking for the cute little tea spoons I had been using in the British Isles for years.  We spent about half an hour wandering through the aisles perusing items such as jam spoons and honey spoons.  These are cute little spoons that have a bend in them to hang on the side of the jar or bowl.  We also saw items such as oilcloth by the yard and many sizes, shapes and colors of cake boards that simply can no longer be found in the States.  I did indeed find, and purchase, a set of tea spoons and Mom proudly left with a new olive oil can and jam spoon. Vicki is the proud owner of a brand new egg separator as well as some bottle stoppers.  Luckily, the store agreed to hold our purchases, so that we didn’t have to take them on our tour.

Finally, we arrived at the Castle.  This was also the main starting point of the local HOHO tour (thanks to Mom for the Hop-on/Hop-off abbreviation.  I was getting really tired of typing that out for every city). We decided to go ahead and take the tour first, since we would receive a 10% off voucher for the Castle with our tickets.  We spent the next 50 minutes viewing the sights of Cardiff from the top of a double-decker tour bus.  Luckily, the weather was partly sunny and fairly warm.  After our rainy weather in Dublin, it was a welcome change (although we fully expected it could change at any moment).

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Disembarking after the tour, we entered the Cardiff Castle visitor’s entrance clutching our discount vouchers.  We purchased our tickets and walked through the gates into the Castle.  We collected our audio guides and watched the introductory multimedia presentation.  There is evidence that there have been fortifications on this site as far back as Roman times, about 2000 years.  However, most of the present castle is the work of the 3rd Marquis of Bute during the late 1800’s. Actually, the castle and grounds have been rebuilt and redesigned multiple times over the years, each generation adding or removing as they deemed appropriate. You can see the remaining bits of Roman wall, outlined in red, in the current castle walls.

Over the next couple of hours, we wandered along the wall ramparts, toured the mansion house and Vicki and I even climbed the 127 steps to the top of the Norman keep.

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Finishing our castle tour in the gift shop (funny how all of the tours finish up in the gift shop), we bought still more souvenirs for people back home (and us as well).  I can definitely report that Hayla and Sir William should not be disappointed with their haul from this trip.  Needing nourishment, we collected our Kitchens kit (see above) and headed towards lunch.  We purchased Cornish pasties from the Cornish Pasty Shop and took them to eat in the nearby park next to St. Johns Baptist Church.  Well, we thought it was a park at first.  It turned out to be a graveyard but there were plenty of benches, people eating lunch and pigeons (as well as the cutest kids chasing the pigeons).  Mom had the traditional Cornish pasty and I had one with beef and stilton.  Vicki, not being quite as adventurous, opted for pizza.

Refreshed and refortified, we headed into the local Cardiff TK Maxx.  Fortunately, we found this one to be much less crowded and with much better prices than the Dublin version.  There, Mom, Vicki and I found new change purses (All of these different currencies require something to put them in.).  We continued to wander in and out of various shops in the arcades.  We even wandered into the local Cardiff market where I purchased some of the local made “Welsh cakes”.  I had been told not to miss trying these by a Microsoft coworker who was along on my recent trip to China.  The cakes were good.  The looked a little like a flat english muffin but tasted a little like a flat cake donut with currants.  We also began to wish that we had purchased a casserole dish at the Kitchens shop and that we had access to a kitchen.  Many of the local meat and produce vendors promised discounts if you provided your own dish for them to fill with dinner.  That’s my kind of take and bake dinner.  We also stopped to have an afternoon cuppa at this point.  At least Mom and I stopped for tea, Vicki continued to wander around the shops.  After tea, I found a lovely hand-engraved, hand-colored print of Cardiff circa 1760 which I quickly added to my growing art collection (I think I now have enough pieces to qualify it as a collection.).

Pretty tired at this point, we returned to our hotel room to rest before dinner. Two hours later, we emerged refreshed and adjourned to dinner at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  There, we feasted on burgers that were perfectly cooked and fully 6 inches high.  We also had an excellent rocket, parmesan and sun-dried tomato salad with balsamic vinaigrette (rocket is what they call arugula here in Britain).  Stuffed to the gills, we returned to the hotel.  Time to pack up for the train trip to Windsor tomorrow.

Stay tuned for details of our train trip from Cardiff to Slough as well as our visit to Windsor Castle.

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