Diane and Paul Return to the UK - Day 7, Cardiff



So today, we had planned (multiple methods of travel: info on train and car rental) to go outside Bridgwater to Nether Stowey, where Coleridge wrote and took long walks and received visitors, including the man from Porlock, along whose path to Porlock we hoped to walk. But it was a 2-hour train ride, then a cab ride, with rain predicted so that our planned hike seemed a dubious bet, and we decided to stick around the Environs. We were too late for the Big Pit Welsh Mine tour, and tried to get the bus to St. Fagan’s, a historic outdoor Welsh village (the Plymoth Plantation of Wales, with about 400 years on Plymoth). But the bus didn’t seem to go on Sundays, so with tears in our eyes, we set off on plan “D” from the Cardiff Bus Station: the Welsh Museum and The Dr. Who Experience.

The Welsh Museum reminded me of Kelvingrove Museum

in  Glasgow, a mix of art and natural history. A museum guard greeted us and answered our questions, mostly about the Pre-Raphaelite. It said it was a very small collection, but we went there first and were excited by how much we found there, about eight all told, but two we were very struck by, a Rosamund by Rosetti and a large Burne-Jones painted with a llot of gold and silver paint that was to be one of a series, which he quit when this first was ignored. They also had a big gathering of Impressionists, collected and donated by two wealthy Cardiff sisters. Their most famous was the Renoir that the guards call, “The Blue Lady,” but I loved most a Van Gogh landscape with crows and rain, accompanied by a little cartoon narrative for children, imagining Van Gogh walking along, besieged by crows, then by rain, then it all melting to become the painting. Not sure how I feel about that. There was a room of “Welsh Faces,” including a full-figure portrait of a famous 18th century harp player. We also stumbled onto a wonderful exhibit of art books by woman poet-artist celebrating 30 years of her press, Red Hen. By now, our eyes had shut down, so we had to leave off seeing the rest of the modern, contemporary, and historic European works—not to mention the world’s largest leatherback turtle—and head out…

…to the DR. WHO EXPERIENCE!!! Please, keep calm and don’t blink. We had no idea about who Dr. Who was other than a BBC TV show. We each could recall 1-2 friends who were fans and hope if nothing else, we could gain cred for our first foray into Who-dom.

The “Experience” amounts to a group of people being led through a sort of Funhouse set of rooms which are real sets from the show: they all tend to be dark and windy with fog or smoke with screens beaming a face-shot of Dr, Who, enjoining us t “Keep Cool and don’t blink.” He was chained to a chair but sure getting us out would be no problem, as robots appeared, saying, “Exterminate Exterminate Exterminate!” We were led to a room of transport controls, and Paul steered mightily, along with 20 other people, no doubt all steering the same, and we got out into more danger. An eight-year old girl cried and needed to be carried. Dr. Who called us “Shoppers,” and we shoppers were then given 3-D goggles for things on the screen to come careening at us. This all went on for half an hour, ending with 3-D goggles being collected and our being released for as long as we wanted into exhibit after exhibit of Dr. Who information and displays: costumes (loved the celery boutenierre), makeup, monsters, robots, and uh, women who seem a very minor subset here. Nearly every fanatic was paired with an eye-rolling
partner, including a couple we met who had just been married in Alberta and a German woman living in Scotland whose husband waited in the parking lot. (She knew everything!!) Paul took trillions of photos, which we were allowed to do. More to come! Then we hit the gift shop, buying some form of a Tardis for anyone we could think of.

And went back to the Norwegian church where we shared a wonderful Welsh rarebit, very puffy and mustardy. And our cab driver back was a Somali, born and raised in Cardiff. We walked the city a bit for our last afternoon there and then went to a Rum bar names “La Revolucion,” where we actually had a Cuba Libre—with three year real Cuban rum (& not Barccardi, the pretender.) Then tapas and burritos—all out of paella. Our waiter,  Dinos, was a business major (undergrad and grad) from Greece, new at the job & bemused that we had asked for the bill, when he had been instructed never to use the word, but to use “check.” We laughed, too, and told him maybe he needs to work in the U.S. His wife has a degree in art, and it is very hard cranking out a living in Greece in anything these days, let alone art.

And that was pretty much our time in Wales, mostly Cardiffian, which we loved.

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