Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dragon's Den

Last Thursday we (Daphne et moi) returned to Wales to see a play and take in a bit of the city. I'd never been to the Welsh capital before and when looking at the location of our bed & breakfast in relation to the theatre, I noticed that it was only a short walk away and better still, that walk would take us past both Cardiff Castle and The Millennium Stadium.

Now for those who have never heard of the stadium, it was built in 1999 at a cost of £121m which was pretty reasonable considering the £798m that it cost to build Wembley Stadium in London 8 years later. It has a capacity of 74,500 and is the 2nd largest stadium in the world with a fully retractable roof. Ok enough stats already !

Definitely worth a tour, I felt, and Daphne agreed. More about that later.

So at 10am on Thursday, I picked her up from her place and off we went......on a 241 mile road trip !! I'd picked a route that was 95% on motorways so, despite Daphne talking to me all the way, it wasn't the most exciting drive ever. But when we approached the Welsh border, I encountered a first for me.

Daphne stopped talking !!

No seriously, we had to cross the River Severn and this involved taking the Severn Bridge. This 3.2 mile long toll bridge was opened in 1996, although it's a one way toll and you only pay to enter Wales. Cheek.

Despite driving, I managed a few photos going over the bridge and even kept the horizon straight.....straighter than my driving I have to admit !

Half way across we entered Wales (the clue was that suddenly all the road signs became bi-lingual and sheep outnumbered people) and a few miles further on, we came to the toll booths and paid the £5.50 to enter "the land of our fathers". Well not mine....and certainly not Daphne's.

So really that was a silly statement to make !

30 miles later and my GPS (Sheila) took us right to the b&b car park in the centre of Cardiff and after throwing our overnight items onto our respective beds (in our respective rooms !!), we set off down Cathedral Road towards the theatre.

It was almost sunset and we both took the opportunity to take some photos of the stadium as we passed.....just in case the weather wasn't good the next day. I love the light at sunset.

We then met up with our friend and excellent actress, Sonia Beck, who was the lead in the play (Barkin') we were going to see at The New Theatre. She was ready to eat but we weren't and so we popped into a nearby restaurant, Truffles, and we had coffee while Sonia had fish and chips.

After that, Sonia headed off to the theatre and we explored a bit more of Cardiff's large and impressive pedestrian area. My phone app had shown there was a Hard Rock Cafe nearby but we spent quite a while tracking it down only to find it had closed 9 days earlier ! By then it was 6:50pm and the play started at 7:30pm and we had yet to eat.

This narrowed our options but as I knew there was a Pizza Hut on the way, we called there and thanks to an understanding server, we got our pizzas delivered in record time and were out by 7:20pm. A few minutes walk took us to the theatre and we'd only just settled into our seats when the lights went down and the curtain went up. Phew.

The play and performances were excellent and although I took photos of the cast during their bows and afterwards in the bar, I can't post them here as I've not asked permission.

Then it was back to the b&b for a good night's sleep.

Next morning dawned overcast and damp. We had intended leaving my car in the b&b car park while on the stadium tour at 11am but given the weather, we drove to a car park next to the stadium. We had a bit of time to spare so went up into the Cardiff Arms store and cafe which was the sole souvenir location for the stadium.

Now I have to say at this point that the Millennium Stadium these days is primarily used for rugby union games (as well as special events like boxing, speedway and concerts) and I don't follow this sport at all. So I was very disappointed that there were no specific stadium souvenirs on sale in the store at all.......just rugby ones.

I think they're missing out big time on a source of extra income.

Anyway at 11am, Tom, the young tour guide, met up with the twelve of us in the cafe and led us off to start the tour. We visited the press room and the home dressing room before finally getting out to see the pitch and stands. Having been to many NFL grounds in America and the Skydome in Toronto, I wasn't overly impressed with this one.

Things improved somewhat when we rode the lift to the top tier. We were shown into one of the private boxes which, to rent for a year, cost half as much as a semi in Yorkshire !

Then we went 'outside' again to see the pitch from this lofty perspective. We were shown to the VIP seats and Daphne immediately plonked herself down in the middle padded seat which Tom then said was where The Queen sat when she visited the stadium. Typical !

In this photo, you can see "Queeny" looking back at the camera, getting ready to practice her wave.

I didn't think to take a panorama at this point but as it happens, I've been able to stitch 3 photos together to give some sort of impression of the view. Enlarge it by all means......just don't examine it too closely !

As usual on tours, there was a cup on the presentation plinth for us to hold up and pretend we were the winners of some game or other. Given that I was dressed for the weather conditions, my attempt to recreate the event was sadly lacking in authenticity.

There were still several steps to get up to the very top and as we had time, and I still had some air left in my lungs, we did just that. At the top, I passed my camera to Daphne and she took this photo of me and I took the next photo as I wanted to show the size of the unmarked pitch by isolating the lone groundsman.

This was about the end of the tour and once back outside, we headed off into the city centre to explore a bit more and get some lunch before the drive back to Leeds. We went into a market and spotted some food items which might raise a few eyebrows for foreign readers of this blog.

From the top...faggots. No, I'm not even going there.

Next, dragon sausages. Well we were in Wales.

Finally, chitterlings. You've never heard of chitterlings ? Here is the wikipedia description and I think it says it all.

Chitterlings (sometimes spelled chitlins or chittlins in vernacular) are the viscera intestines of a pig that have been prepared as food. In various countries across the world, such food is prepared and eaten either as part of a daily diet, or at special events, holidays or religious festivities. It is often criticized for its flavor and odor that are reminiscent of feces.

Ok no way in this lifetime are those things EVER becoming part of this fat boy's daily diet. In fact my idea of a meal from hell would be a plate of chitterlings covered with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Oh dear God.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, I don't want to leave this post about our time in Cardiff on such a 'nasty' note. So here is a photo of the outside of an 'Irish' pub which gave us a smile.

Then it was back to the car but before we left the city, Daphne wanted to visit a couple of places which she has already mentioned on her blog.

With her finally happy and safely strapped into the passenger seat, we headed back up t'motorway to Leeds, passing freely over the Severn Bridge this time (a much better idea) and got home about 10:30pm.

It had been a tiring but very enjoyable 2 days and in true awards style, I'd like to thank a few people; Daphne for letting me go with her and helping to max out her credit card; Sonia (and her fellow actors) for providing excellent entertainment play wise; the cook in the Town House b&b for managing to serve up bacon which could've been used to resole my shoes; Tom, the Millennium Stadium tour guide, for coming back to open the self locking door of the changing room when I'd stayed behind too long taking photos; and last, but by no means least, the loud and obnoxious teenage girl with 2 kids already in The Old Library restaurant who was obviously a candidate in waiting for an upcoming Jeremy Kyle (aka Jerry Springer) show.

All in all I liked Cardiff and we never even got to see the harbour.

Hwyl fawr and maybe next time........


jay said...

Yeah, what is so difficult about cooking bacon??? Or is it that everyone likes it done a little bit differently?

You're right about the souvenirs at the stadium, they ARE missing out. I might have bought a stadium souvenir, but never would buy a rugby souvenir, not now that MIL is no longer with us. She'd have liked 'em, not me.

As for chitterlings... ugh. Hold the chitterlings, pass the parmesan, say I! Oh, but I do like a nice hot faggot!

jay - said...

Oh, and the Severn Bridge reminds me of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which I usually pass over during October. Missed that, this year.

Daphne said...

Would you like black pepper on your Chitterlings-with-Parmesan, sir? - - No, I thought not!
It was of course a struggle for a taciturn person like me to keep talking in order to help you keep awake whilst driving, but I was prepared to put the effort in and I'm glad you appreciated it.
Seriously, it was a lovely trip - great post!

rhymeswithplague said...

Here they're known as chitlins...and so far I have managed to avoid them. Also, they stink to high heaven.

rhymeswithplague said...

So when ARE you going to Sebring?

The verification word is "yantlike" which is a little like "yank-like" which is a little like you, six months of the year.

Bom said...

Hi! I found your blog via thedeppeffect. How fortunate of you to be enjoying your retirement years by really living. The dragon sausages look good. We have chitterlings where I'm from so I'm okay with them. What exactly are faggots?

Silverback said...

RWP - I'll be there on 7th Nov.

Bom - Faggots are a kind of meatball and are traditional in the midlands and north of the UK.

They are made from meat off-cuts and offal, especially pork. A faggot is traditionally made from pig's heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavouring and sometimes breadcrumbs.

Thanks for visiting.

rhymeswithplague said...

A very bon voyage to you, sir. And don't try to smuggle any chitterlings aboard your jumbo jet, unless you intend to use them for flotation devices.

Milo said...

Thank you for the memories!

I was born in Wales.

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