Travel Letter Index

Visit to Cardiff

 

Before we left Derby station we noticed that the train we should have been travelling on was not on the list on the departures board. We knew this was going to be a start of one of those journeys that people mock the railways for. Little did we know that it was going to be just as bad coming back.

I will not include the details here but a journey that should have taken us about three hours took over six. Fortunately, we both had interesting books to read and mp3 players to listen to.

We arrived at the five star Cardiff Hilton at 4.30 and were pleased with our room which was at the front with views over the Castle and the gardens. The bathroom was very well appointed and the bed was one of the most comfortable I have slept in. We were on the same floor as the gym and the swimming pool so we didn’t even waste calories getting there.

View from our window - the art gallery is just to the right of the picture.

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Immediately after we had unpacked we went for a walk around the city centre and, as often, discovered that places are smaller than you imagine them to be. We found everything we wanted for that expedition and went back to the hotel where we had an excellent early dinner and retired to our room to gawp at the big telly. We’ll leave rainy Friday night city streets to young people!

Next morning after a substantial breakfast we did some phantom shopping. Shop but don’t buy because you are not really there. We found a fantastic kitchen shop but had travelled by train and so taking anything back would have been silly. We looked at clothes shops and bookshops and some furniture stores and then went back to the hotel. We also walked for miles to look at the architecture but really just kept coming back to views of Millennium Stadium.

One of the many photographs of a building that seemed to appear in view wherever you were.

After that we went on to our main point of the visit – apart from relaxation and indulgence – the Cardiff art gallery.

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We were not disappointed. We had read that the gallery has the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of Paris. There was so much to enjoy and we spent several hours drifting from one gallery to another. For me the most significant paintings were by Corot and Turner and this week end I have read someone’s comments that these two artists really led the way for the Impressionists without being part of any movement themselves. Looking at the Corot paintings reminded us of the delight we experienced when we stumbled across quite a collection of his works in the gallery at Rheims which we mentioned to you in our letter from there. I have been reading a book about Turner’s works and so to come across some here unexpectedly was a real pleasure.

The afternoon just disappeared and we were ready for the short stroll across the gardens back to the hotel and a chance to sit down and read for a while. Beryl then went to the gym and then we both swam in the 20 metre stainless steel pool. That was really enjoyable. After that it was time to pamper in the spacious bathroom and dress up to go out.

We had looked at lots of restaurants to eat in during the evening but selected one that seemed to be popular. When we went there just before seven pm and asked for a table the head waiter looked a bit shocked. He asked if we had booked and when we said no he explained that it would be well after nine o’clock before there would be a table vacant. Must have been good then. We had a list of others we had selected and went to a family friendly one nearby where we had an acceptable meal. We had a stroll around the town before returning to the hotel to immerse ourselves in our novels.

Next morning we leisurely read through the Sunday papers before going for a swim. After breakfast – the hotel dining room was really busy – we spent some time looking in bookshops before packing and leaving the hotel at 12 noon. The journey back was horrendous and best not mentioned in detail. After no trains, late trains, busses replacing trains, queues, walks from parking bays to platforms to parking bays we finally arrived home at 6 pm. So again the journey that should have taken three hours took six.

Cardiff was worth it though and we look forward to going again.

 

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