Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to Cardiff, Wales occurred in June 2016. This was in conjunction with a broader tour of southern Britain to include Stonehenge, Bath, Salisbury, Bournemouth, and Portsmouth, which were all great stops full of history, great tea shops, and Nando’s! This was the only trip to this part of the United Kingdom during our six years stationed in Germany (2013-2019).
BLUF: During late-June 2016, we began our Fourth of July week-long trip to the UK in Cardiff, Wales. With its medieval castle, its ties to the Doctor Who universe, and those amazing Welsh accents, we really enjoyed our tour of the city. While Wales is not often thought of as a destination within the UK, I highly recommend a visit to the land of The Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd.
Today’s AAR takes us through my trip to Cardiff, Wales.
Wales—”Cymru” in Welsh—has always held a fascination with me. Whether it is the extra-long vowels keeping sentences going (or “go-o-en”) for hours or being the all-to-often-forgotten fourth constituent country in the United Kingdom (English, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are the other three), I have always wanted to visit Wales. Luckily, while stationed in Germany, getting to and from the UK was pretty easy. Rather than flying into the small international airport in Cardiff, we landed at LHR and drove to Cardiff to start our long Fourth of July 2016 tour of western and southern Britain.
Cardiff is a city with many brick buildings, pedestrian walkways, and a large waterfront and harbor area. At the center of the city is the Cardiff Castle, an 11th century Norman-built walled fortress. Through the centuries, the castle grounds have been expanded and reworked, and today, you can tour the grounds and make your way to the top of the central keep for good views of the city center. With most of its fortress walls still intact, we really enjoyed this tour of Welsh history.
Next, we made our way to Roald Dahl Plass, the public square dedicated to the Cardiff-born author Roald Dahl. Dahl is known for writing many classics of children’s literature: James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox (check out the excellent 2009 film), and others. Roald Dahl Plass also includes the Senedd (Welsh parliament building) and the Wales Millennium Centre for performing arts with its dual Welsh-English inscription from Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, “in these stones horizons sing.”
For any Doctor Who fan, Cardiff is full of amazing tour spots. First, underneath Roald Dahl Plass is Torchwood, home to Captain Jack Harkness and his crew of alien and general weirdness hunters. Specifically, the Torchwood 3 headquarters harnesses the energy of the spatial-temporal rift, which runs directly through the Plass, and helps the team monitor alien activity. The rift also recharges the Doctor’s TARDIS. We had a great time wandering around the Plass remembering great scenes from both shows and building up our excited for the main event, a trip to the BBC’s Doctor Who Experience.
Housed in a 3000 sq/m building, the Doctor Who Experience featured costumes, sets, alien prosthetics, and classic models of Daleks, Cybermen, and the TARDIS. After a small interactive movie adventure hosted by the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), we made our way into the large exhibit halls to view all the amazing items. Joe and I really enjoyed seeing all the sets and props. We posed for lots of pictures with some classic Doctor Who villains and took away some great souvenirs.
Sadly, the Experience closed in September 2017. Hopefully, the BBC will re-open it at some point whether in Cardiff or another location. Still, visiting the Experience was the highlight of our trip.
In sum, the land of the Red Dragon proved to be a very satisfying stop for us. Not only did we see a great medieval castle, but we also enjoyed some great Doctor Who and Torchwood locations and memorabilia. When next in the UK and looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, I highly recommended Cardiff.
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler