Saturday, April 7, 2012

Caer Paravel. Uh, Caerdydd. Or Cardiff.


I nearly called this post Wailing for Wales. Be glad.

As I write, I am sitting on a train at Paddington Station, having successfully found my allocated seat (a man over the PA advised all passengers with seats in carriage C-for-Charlie that no carriage C exists on this train, and to please find our seats in carriage E-for-Echo). It is twenty past six in the morning. I have had nearly five hours sleep and have forgotten to bring any earrings (the horror) but at least I made the train. Next stop, Cardiff. Well, actually, there are quite a few stops before Cardiff, and I have to get off and change trains at Bath, but in any case my destination is Cardiff.

That's what it says on my ticket.

I have arranged my things over two seats (I enjoyed hanging up my coat on the little hook) and I'm now watching the frosted morning go by out the window. So far I've seen rose-tinted stations in dawn light, a pretty stone church on the edge of a green, a bus depot for red double-deckers and a building that looked like a cross between a water reservoir and a castle. Now we're stopped in Reading station, which is undergoing major construction work, i.e. there is currently no Reading station building, only chipboard walls, scaffolding and cranes. I know the station reasonably well, and it's a bit strange looking out the window and realising it's not there. There is, however, a very determined pigeon walking along the platform that reminds me of a commuter.

Ooh exciting! I wondered why we were so long at the station... Someone without a ticket who was hiding in the toilet had to be removed from the train. So now five minutes late.

This may be a long post. And possibly a bit incoherent due to lack of sleep.

Wow. Just went past a small river that was steaming in the morning light. Unfortunately we're going way too fast for me to take a picture...

One of my fellow passengers is straightening her hair. I guess it's a good use of time and the train's power points. We're just going past a nuclear power station like the one in The Simpsons.

Now I'm on the train to Caerdydd (Cardiff) and trying to defrost my toes. It does not help that the vents are blowing cold air, and there is no little hook for my coat so I am very disappointed. It's a beautiful day but very cold. Bath looks lovely with all its nice houses made of pale stone and its churches and the two air balloons that are floating over it all. I will have to come back here and investigate further.

Right, I was in the wrong carriage. Lucky I realised this five minutes before we got to Bristol, which is where the carriage I was in detaches and goes places unknown. I am now in the correct carriage, which has heaters (both my feet are on the heater) and plush seats and coat hooks and automatic doors that go swish. No fold-down tables though, so I'm having to rest my iPad on my knees.

And now we're in a tunnel under the Severn river. I'm quite disappointed. I wanted to go over a pretty bridge (though I did get a photo of the Severn bridge from afar). It's funny how my attitude to tunnels has changed in the past year - in Sydney last May I was very excited to go in the tunnel under the harbour, but now that I spend most of my commute in tunnels, I've got used to them. I'd still like to go through the Channel Tunnel, though.

And now I'm in Wales. It's still sunny. A fellow passenger has remarked that she's never been to Cardiff when it wasn't raining, so I guess this is a rare event.

Hmm. I just saw a sheep that I'm sure was baying at the moon. Maybe it was a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Later that day...

My feet are rather sore. I reached Cardiff at quarter to ten, then took the bus to Cardiff Bay which is where the Senedd and the Millennium Centre are. They're both very impressive buildings, and I took lots of photos which I will have to update this post with once I figure out how to get pictures from my camera to my iPad. Cardiff Bay is enclosed by a barrage and locks, and I decided to walk halfway round the bay along the barrage. The entire circuit of the bay is ten kilometres, and while I didn't quite do that I'm sure I came close to ten kilometres walking.

It was a great walk, though. You go past the Senned, which is the seat of the Welsh Assembly and a huge structure that reminds me of the huge old tree in Pocahontas but enclosed in glass and with an undulating wooden roof. You'll probably have to wait for the picture... There's a Norwegian church and a very modern bridge over a lock, and a strange little cottage in very good condition in the middle of a wasteland. I wondered if it was something to do with filming, because the BBC studios where they film Doctor Who are also out there, and they were building a Doctor Who exhibition centre when I walked past.

The barrage is a long earth wall that keeps the water level in Cardiff Bay about twelve metres higher than the sea. I'd really like to know what the water level was like before they built the barrage in the 1990s, because the port seems to be built for this higher sea level. Must look it up. Three large locks with lifting bridges let boats in and out, and I spent about half an hour watching some boats go in and out of the Bay. A lock is basically two sets of gates that allow the water level to equalise so boats can move from one level to the other. In fact, the idea is pretty much the same as an airlock on a spaceship. I guess that's why air locks are called air locks... The gates on these locks are gigantic. Three yachts from the Bay went into the lock, the gates closed behind them, and then the sluices to the sea opened. The water came pouring out and boiled far below, and the water level in the lock dropped until the sea gates could be opened and the boats slide out.

Back at Mermaid Quay, I wandered through the Pierhead Building, which tells the history of the bay area (Cardiff was once the busiest port in the world) and has beautiful terracotta tile interiors, and then I bussed back into town and found the hostel. Early night tonight...

The rooms in the hostel are named after Doctor Who Actors. Mine is called Eccleston.


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