To spare Ed a possible heart attack, we travel to and from Cardiff (about ten miles) via taxi. Our first stop is Cardiff Castle. Per usual, I did no real research prior to this trip, so everything’s a bit of a surprise. Expected the castle to be Norman-ish and medieval. Turns out it is built on Roman ruins, and there was a Norman castle and a medieval one, but what we visit is a completely new structure built circa 1875 by the Third Marquess of Bute, the real money family in Cardiff – fortune based on coal, shipping, railroads to haul coal, etc. It’s the vision of Bute and his architect, William Burgess, of what a medieval castle would be like – but their result is over the top Disneyland. Other than the fact that there is just too much of everything, the details are magnificent, the artistry stunning. And the family only lived there six weeks a year. When the tax reforms came after WWII and the UK nationalized the coal mines, the Butes bailed and gave the castle and the grounds to the City of Cardiff. Probably a good deal all around.
There is a good piece of Norman and medieval architecture on the grounds -- the Keep. Built on a man-made hill using dirt from digging the huge moat, it is a stone fortress with living quarters, dating to the twelfth century. This replaced a wooden fortress. Ah, real history. Ed and I made it up the 100 tiny, steep stairs to overlook Cardiff. Expected to be able to see the river, or the sea, but only a pedestrian view of a not very attractive city. Nice parks to the north.
After the castle, we did the obligatory open top bus tour. This is not a lovely city. The bay and docklands, which I expected to be on open water, are newer buildings, urban-redevelopment, some on inlets, most on landfill. There were real docks in the distance, but not on the tour route.
Next, the Portuguese Bakery, just across from the Castle. Beautiful pastries which we purchased for several night’s desserts.
Next, the highlight of the day, “Polyphony down the Pub”. We wanted to hear choral music while in Cardiff. The area is known for it. When I Googled “choral music Cardiff”, PDTP came up – and it is amateur singers of polyphonic music gathering in a pub for a three hour sing. Amazing, fun and such wonderful music. I recorded some of the pieces. Since most had not done these works before, the beauty they produced was even more admirable. Of course, two pints of Heinekens for me only made it lovelier. There will be a PDTH while we are in London. Don’t know yet whether it will fit our schedule.