My experience of it was really weird, as I kept seeing it with a kind of double vision. On the one hand, it's a fairly small city, poorly planned, ugly buildings, and very much in transition from a working town to a tourist town, with all that implies. I can easily see how people would hate living there. On the other hand, I loved the Taff, and the Bay, and the touristy stuff like the castles and the Armadillo. And, of course, the Torchwood connection made everything interesting, even the corner shops and street names and dearth of drinkable coffee. Although to be fair, I had two drinkable coffees in Cardiff, which is one more than London, and a 200% improvement over both Tynemouth and York.
Anyway, I ended up loving Cardiff in all it's tacky glory quite a lot. Even the tourist junk was funny. I have a mood ring from Caerfilly Castle, and 'I <3 Cardiff' underwear! Hahaha.
I kinda missed out of updating about a few of the other highlights of the trip, so here's the abridged version.
First, Hope and I met up with rahael for afternoon tea in London, and it was huge fun. Not only did I get to eat a gluten free banana cake, but Rahael is smart and funny and has a large store of anecdotes, ranging from the fascinating to the hilarious.
Then, continuing the theme of fangirls who are good value, we went to connotations in Tynemouth. There I got to put faces to several LJ handles I'd seen around the traps, catch up with the latest fannish gossip, play games, and I'm sure you can imagine the other shenanigans a bunch of fangirls might get up to. :)
However, the real star of the show ended up being the hotel. It looked just like the one in Stephen King's The Shining. Other features included showers with water that unexpectedly cycled between hot and tepid, until the final day of consistent almost-warmness, and, of course, the wait staff, who were the surliest I've ever encountered. One of them actually flung a bowl of soup across the table at poor Derry. Another could not both fill a request for cutlery and take a food order at the same time. Taking food orders in general was clearly an extremely trying task. Fortunately, the Connotations crew just LOLed and considered it part of the ambiance, but I'm not at all surprised the con is going elsewhere next year. Hope and I dealt with it in the time honoured fashion of Aussies everywhere: we got shitfaced (but as we are high-class, we did it on Pimms and lemonaide. Mmmmm. Tasty.) ETA: Hope's comment fic captures the Park Hotel experience perfectly.
Next up was York, which was chock full of Historic Things. Vikings and Romans and whatnot. I enjoyed it immensely. A highlight was the 'Ghost Tour' we went on. Now, I know the look you have on your face -- yes, it was an utterly hokey tourist-gouging affair. But here's the thing: it was basically live theatre, as a slightly disreputable guide took us on a walk and told us tall tales of the city's gruesome history. This could not have suited me better if it were tailored for me. In short: AWESOME SOCKS. I love tall tales, especially when told by disreputable rapscallions. Throw in a spot of murder and plague and I'm in heaven. Four pounds well spent, if you ask me, and I'd recommend the tour to anyone in York for the evening. The tour guide in the top hat and tails is the one you want.
After York, it was off to Cardiff, where we met up with emeraldsword. She whisked us off for lovely Indian food, and we shared tales of the surly Connotations wait staff, and of deadly Aussie fauna. That ended up being something of a Theme. :)
While in Cardiff, I also got to catch up with Q, which was lovely, but far too short. Clearly, I will have to go back to Britain next year! Q had the 'honour' of going with us to the tackiest mall in world, which houses the Doctor Who exhibit. Seriously, the mall had no toilets, four restaurants, a cinema, an electronic games hall and a radio station, but no shops. It had frescoed walls, moulded to look like York. Also? The Doctor Who shop had daleks in every shape and size, but no K9s or scarves. It also had hardly any Torchwood stuff.
Seriously, the level of marketing fail exhibited in that one mall was astounding. I was ready to fling my money at them, at the merest hint of anything even marginally cool, and I ended up with one dalek drinks coaster and a pack of Torchwood playing cards. I only went back and bought a dalek because my brother asked for one (admittedly, there were two cool daleks -- the radio controlled one I bought, and an inflatable one, which I was tempted by... but resisted on the grounds I have nowhere to put it. Keeping such a thing in its box would just be sad).
Cardiff! I tell you, it fascinated me with its stunning about-faces from utterly naff to utterly cool. The Armadillo is so cool. The Doctor Who exhibit, which is right next door, is totally not.
My fascination led me to undertake a brief scholarly study of the Cardiff population. I can tell you now that it's made up as follows: 20% Welsh, 40% English, 20% assorted tourists, 20% Australians. The Welsh, of course, blame the English and Australians for the level of naffness in the city ("fucking tourists," I heard several of them say as they walked by Hope and I looking at our map), but honestly, the locals have the matter well in hand -- the astonishing glories of Cardiff Castle being a case in point. :)
On the truly glorious side, Hope and I went for a day trip to the Boeshane Peninsula (I would look up the spelling of the real name, but I'm so jet lagged, I can barely move. ETA: Merthyr-mawr Warren; and it really is glorious). We did it cross country, using the survey map, and it was gorgeous the whole way -- winding lanes, tiny old churches, ruined castles, the river, the forest, horses in fields, old stone bridges, kissing gates, stiles, and of course, the golden sands and twisty trees of the coast. So beautiful.
I'm definitely going back to Wales.
Best holiday ever! Can you believe that it didn't rain once? It was like the holiday gods were smiling on us.
And now, I'm off to bed in an effort to sleep off this jetlag before work tomorrow.
This entry was originally posted at http://cupidsbow.dreamwidth.org/326