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wshaffer
London to Cardiff 
13th-Aug-2014 02:43 pm
fan
Well, we haven't to Bath yet. The weather forecast has been looking a bit chancy, so we decided to stay in London where we could do plenty of things indoors if the weather required it.

Monday morning, we took a stroll through Whitehall and Westminster, looked at the queues at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, and decided to come back sometime when we'd booked advanced tickets. So, instead we went to the British Library. Which is awesome. They have all kinds of amazing stuff: Jane Austen's writing desk (and the manuscript of Persuasion)! The only surviving medieval manuscript copy of Beowulf (plus some draft pages of Seamus Heaney's translation, which give some sense of how hard he found it to get the opening right)! Handwritten sheets of Beatles' lyrics! Plus more gorgeously illuminated manuscripts than you can shake a stick at.

After lunch and a nap, I went to the National Gallery, to indulge my love of 16th and early 17th century painting. I particularly wanted to see the three Caravaggio paintings there. I particularly enjoyed seeing "Salome receives the head of John the Baptist" - I like the way Salome is looking away from the severed head with a slight expression of disgust, while her maidservant peers intently over her shoulder. I also got a kick out of Domenichino's "Saint John the Evangelist", in which two little cherubim struggle to hold up enormous books for John to write in, while the distracted saint stomps on an irate looking eagle which appears to be thinking about making lunch out of the cherub on the right. Plus, when you enter the room from the entrance opposite this painting, the first impression you get is of being mooned by pudgy cherub butt.

Yes, I love early 17th century Italian painting for all the wrong reasons, but I do love it.

Tuesday, we went to see the Tower of London (having booked tickets in advance). We spent a good portion of the day there. There's a pretty cool exhibit about coinage and the royal mint, plus a really nice collection of royal arms and armor. I hope some of my armor photos come out well. And we stood in line to see the crown jewels. Which are definitely impressive. If I had to pick only one exhibit, I'd choose the armor over the jewels, but the jewels are definitely a one-of-a-kind collection.

Later, we crossed the river and visited the Golden Hinde, a reconstructed Elizabethan sailing ship. We joined one of the guided tours, which was organized around the conceit that we were a batch of new recruits and our guide was an officer showing us the ropes. It was both fun and hugely entertaining. I don't usually go for guided tours, preferring to poke around at my own pace, but in this case I'm glad I made an exception.

Today we took a train to Cardiff. We visited Cardiff Castle, which is an interesting agglomeration of different time periods. Lining one wall of the gift shop/cafe is a remnant of Cardiff's old Roman wall. In the middle of the complex is a semi-ruined Norman keep, which you can climb to the top of for some pretty nice city views. And then you can tour the part of the castle that the Marquess of Bute used to live in. Which is basically an illustration of what happens when a Victorian coal baron with a taste for medieval gothic architecture gets to indulge himself. It's a bit ludicrous. Carved and painted ceilings, stained glass, more coats of arms than you can shake a stick at...I hope some of my photos come out. It's very impressive.

We had dinner at Mint and Mustard, a very good Indian restaurant. (We've been to a couple South Indian restaurants here in the U.K., and the food is like nothing I've ever had in the Bay Area.) Our waitress asked if we were on holiday, and then, in rather mystified tones, asked, "If I may ask, why did you come to Cardiff?" My answer was, "the castle and the Doctor Who Experience," which seemed to be a satisfactory answer.

So, tomorrow we'll see the Doctor Who Experience. And if it doesn't rain on us too hard, maybe do some more sightseeing.
Comments 
13th-Aug-2014 10:05 pm (UTC)
You may recognize some of my photos as being from the Tower's armor collection. ^_^

I'm glad to know the Golden Hinde is interesting to visit. I've always meant to check it out, but it's never quite been high enough on my priority list (or relevant enough to my research). At least now I have an answer to the question of "is it worth my time?"

One would expect waitresses in Cardiff to assume that all American tourists are there for the Doctor Who Experience . . . .
14th-Aug-2014 04:40 pm (UTC)
Yes, I had noticed some of your armor photos.

The waiter where we had breakfast this morning was clearly much more in tune with the habits of visiting Americans: "Are you from the States? You must be here for the Doctor Who Exhibition. We get loads of Americans here to see the Doctor Who Exhibition. It seems a bit odd, but I suppose if we went to the States, we'd all go see The Big Bang Theory exhibit."
14th-Aug-2014 03:27 am (UTC)
Anonymous
I think older nephew would like to come along next time you visit England - sounds like his dream trip, except for the Indian food :)
14th-Aug-2014 04:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I kept thinking that he'd have loved seeing the Tower. And lots of the other stuff, too, but the Tower does a great job of keeping history buffs of all ages entertained.
14th-Aug-2014 07:06 am (UTC)
It sounds like you are both having an appropriately wonderful time, and I look forward to hearing Daniel gush about it at length. I would argue, though, that according to most literary sources (that I'm familiar with) Bath is notoriously rainy. If you need to spend much of your visit in the rain, it's reasonable to count that as part of the authentic Bath experience.
14th-Aug-2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
I am coming to the conclusion that trying to plan around the weather forecast is pointless, since it isn't that accurate to begin with, and the weather does regularly shift from sunshine to downpour to sunshine again in the space of half an hour. So, yes, I expect we'll pick a day next week to go to Bath, and I expect we'll get rained on a certain amount. And it will be both fine and authentic. ;)
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