Britain Day 3–To Cardiff!

I’m a day behind and I’m sorry–I just don’t have time to post every day because I’m having fun, dammit.  Below is my post for 27 September.

——-

I’m on the First Great Western train from Paddington Station in London to Swansea, Wales, stopping off at points west, including Cardiff Central, which is my destination.  For the journey out, I booked a first class seat and I’m sitting here typing on a table, with my laptop plugged into an outlet in the wall, and it’s VERY VERY QUIET in this carriage.

First class on First Great Western train to Cardiff 9-27-14

Spiffy. I like first class. :)

Photo: Elizabeth West

Going back, I’ll be on standard class *sigh*.  Returns are more expensive — silly, as it’s the same route, so I chose not to go first class going back to London.  I’m sure there is some reason for it, but I haven’t figured out what it is yet.  It’s not a long ride so it’s not a big deal.

Out the train window, there’s not much to see.  When you get to a station, all you see is the station, and most of them are located in industrial districts.  We’re heading toward Reading.  My seat is facing backward, which isn’t what I thought I booked, but the carriage is practically empty.  If I’m in the wrong seat (it was hard to tell), I’ll just switch when/if someone kicks me out of it.

England is green 9-27-14

England from a train. It is very green this time of year.

Photo: Elizabeth West

This is not the first time I’ve ridden the British rail system–a relative took me to Brighton the last time I was here.  The trains used to be run by the government but they’ve all been privatized now.  It’s clean, it’s nice, and I wish to hell the toilets on airplanes were as large as the one in this carriage.  Maybe first class is on planes–that’s out of my budget and experience (someday).

It’s cloudy but the sun is peeking through, which is making it very difficult to see my screen.  I’m going to stop writing this soon and just look out the window and take snapshots if I can.  I haven’t worked much on Secret Book, but then I’ve only been here for two days.

More impressions:

  • It’s hard to type on a moving train.
  • When you go through a tunnel, your ears pop as if you’re going down or uphill (I’m guessing it’s the air pressure).
  • The bacon butty, the most British of all sandwiches, is delicious.
Bacon butty on train to Cardiff 9-27-14 GOOD

With HP sauce, of course. (Americans–HP is like A-1 but tangier and more delicious.)

Photo: Elizabeth West

We just passed a freight train near Newport, which was on an adjacent track.  I’m seeing signs in Welsh now.  It’s my understanding that U.S. passenger trains have to defer to freight trains.  The U.S. is something like 39 times the size of the U.K., and why the hell didn’t we get trains like this set up before it got so expensive to do so?  I’d gladly pay extra tax to get something like this.

Trains rock.

 Photo:  Vermatt / Wikimedia Commons

  • The people in London are as nice as I remember them. I had to ask a couple of people where to go from Richmond Station and at Earl’s Court.  They were very helpful.  The whole tube/train thing is starting to come back to me now.
  • First impressions of Cardiff? BUSY.  Busy traffic, busy people, tiny buildings all smooshed together. But it looks pretty lively, and I think I’ll like it.

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I just got back from the Llandaff Ghost Walk.  Here is the trailer for this unique tour.

There’s an option to purchase a walk plus a twilight supper.  I did this, but I was the ONLY one who did. So I got treated to a lovely meal at the Mulberry Street Restaurant on High Street in Llandaff, just down the road from the Llandaff Cathedral where the Walk begins.

Carmelized onion and goat cheese tart on a bed of rocket. Almost too pretty to eat. Tiny, but richly delicious.

Carmelized onion and goat cheese tart on a bed of rocket. Almost too pretty to eat. Tiny, but richly delicious.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

The staff at Mulberry Street was lovely; they took very good care of me.  Tom in particular recommended a place for Welsh cakes.  I’ll try his suggestion.

Then, it was on to the Ghost Walk.  This tour takes you around the district of Llandaff, a village that occupied the site before Cardiff was built around it, near the Llandaff Cathedral.  Author Roald Dahl was born there.

This tower looming over you in the dark of night, against a cloudy sky faintly glowing from the lights of the city, is seriously spooky.

Image:  coolplaces.co.uk

Our fabulously entertaining guide John Hutch and his trusty steward Pete Simmons (who brought up the rear and was available to help if anyone had to leave the tour) took us down past the Cathedral and around by the River Taff near the weir.  He showed us where the river used to run, which corresponded to one of the more pathetic ghosts.

John told us thrilling stories of the Welsh equivalent of a banshee, tales of ghostly horses galloping up the old Celtic trade road, and another that I won’t reveal because it’s seriously creepy and I don’t want to spoil the Walk for you.  I wasn’t scared (it’s extremely difficult to scare me with stuff like this), but I really loved hearing about all the history and the spooky stuff.  I’m not a horror fan for nothing.

The walk is a bit strenuous coming back up beside the Cathedral, and there’s a lot of standing around while you listen to the tales, so you want to make sure you’re in good form before you go.

My favorite part was the old Llandaff graveyard.  To get to it, you had to make a U-turn through a gate that only admitted one person at a time (like a stile, kind of).  I think I smacked the poor person behind me with it.

I like cemeteries–they’re quiet and peaceful, most of the time.  This one was covered in brush and weeds.  Here and there, the leaning tombstones pop up at you out of the dark when your torch (flashlight) hits them. They dot the land around a huge yew tree that grows in a stone circle, where you can sit and rest your feet.  It’s the last stop on the Walk, which then ends where it began, in the shadow of the great Cathedral.

Personally, I experienced no ghostly phenomena, but plenty of people have.  If you do, make sure you tell the steward because Cardiff History and Hauntings will document your experience.  Your story might even end up being told on the Walk.

8 thoughts on “Britain Day 3–To Cardiff!

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