Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Doctor Who Experience and Cardiff, boyos!

I'd now flown to another country I'd never been before - well, two if you count Dubai, but I don't really; that was just an airport - and now I was going to drive to one, going to Bath, England to Cardiff, Wales. It's also not a very long journey, slightly less than 60miles/100km. So, after my breakfast in Bath I tossed everything into the Vauxhall Corsa and hit the road.

Not a lot to describe about the journey, other than the route I took meant going over the Severn Bridge, a rather impressive structure that also cost me an impressive £6.40 for the privilege; I've now also had the experience of paying a toll in another country while never having done so in my own.

Anyway, not long after that I was in downtown Cardiff - though I got vaguely concerned by how very quiet it was on a Saturday morning at about 10.30am. But I headed down to the docks where I'd programmed TomTom to take me, since that's where the main reason I'd come to Wales was: the Doctor Who Experience.

Yes, I'd go to a whole new country just to see that; by all reports it was awesome, and I'm very big old-school Doctor Who fan, and am reasonably fond of the current version.

Here's what it looks like:

But I hadn't got there yet. I'd done my research and found there was a parking structure very close by that only charged £4 for the whole day - given that my hotel was in an outer suburb (Thornhill), I thought that I might as well spend the entire day in Cardiff proper and only bother to check in once I was done.

So, I found the place, parked and wandered toward where the signs told me the place was - and it was then I discovered there were people in town, they'd just come from a different direction. There was some kind of boat race thing happening in Cardiff Bay - lots of jetskis and racing boats and so forth - as well as a kind of fair/carnival thing.

I, of course, ignored all of this; I had a fictional Time Lord to experience.

This has two parts - a kind of interactive funhouse element where you go on an 'adventure' to help the Doctor; this was brilliantly done, with extra filmed bits done by Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor) and a replica TARDIS interior and other very cool props and projections (some in 3D) throughout.

The second part is the exhibition of cool stuff from throughout the entire life of the show from all the way back to the start in 1965 - mostly costumes and props. And it was awesome. Some pictures:

Creepy waxwork Matt Smith is creepy.

Couldn't resist Special Weapons Dalek. Size does matter!

Lego Dalek!

Possibly the most awesome thing in the collection: Bessie, the Third Doctor's car.

Now it was time to explore Cardiff. Some pictures of Cardiff Bay and the fair thing going on at the docks:

Cardiff proper was about a mile away, so I set off to see what I could find. As usual, I got to the tourist information centre, but didn't find any tours to join - so, I found a map that listed pretty much everything that a tour would go to, and went along the route myself. The downside to this is that I have bugger-all idea what a lot of the places I've taken pictures of are, but I'm not that concerned.

This is the Welsh National Assembly.

Oh yeah, the Walkabout Cafe. An allegedly Australian bar in Cardiff!

And the Kiwis get a place as well.

That last one is part of Cardiff Castle, which was my next destination. There I got an audio guide and went about seeing the place. The castle stuff itself is very cool;  parts of it date back to the 11th Century, and the more recent stuff is fairly impressive as well.

They were setting up for some kind of performance there, hence the structure on the left. On the right you can see Millenium Stadium.

The castle was used as an air-raid shelter in WWII, and they've kept some of it looking like that. I found this poster amusing.

These three are the views of the city from the top of the central tower.

There's also a section of apartments where the then-owner, the 3rd Marquess Bute, decided to redecorate in a Gothic revival style. He had the money to spend; his family had made a fortune as owners of the docks in Cardiff when coal became all the rage. It's...very well done, but maybe just a bit too full-on for my tastes. Though the library got used in Doctor Who, which is cool.

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around some more. I think I did more walking in Cardiff than I have anywhere else, at least on a single day. But I found lots of photogenic things.

Actually, these first two are part of Cardiff Castle.

There was a protest rally for Palestine going on in town as well.

And then there were these two. I wondered if Cats was being performed in Welsh (all signs have to be in both Welsh and English; I wish I'd taken a picture of one but it didn't occur to me at the time - though you can see that they have included the Welsh for July and August on the poster) and couldn't help but think that it could only make the wretched show better.

Then there were the apartments named 'Silurian Place'. I can't imagine it's a shout-out to a recurring race in  Doctor Who, but you never know...

And that was my day in Cardiff. After that I drove out to Thornhill to my hotel and kicked back for a while before a somewhat frustrating search for somewhere to eat - the first two places were so busy there weren't any parks, but I eventually found one that wasn't quite so packed, and ate there. Much like in Bath I found myself happy to just listen to people talk - the accents are magical. All throughout the day I'd found myself consciously listening out for people with Welsh accents.

Then it was time for bed.

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