Thursday, November 3, 2016

Whistle Stop Tour (Part 2)

Two rather long months since my last post!  No, I didn't forget to post, I just got busy.  Yes, I know I always say I'm busy, but apparently I didn't know what busy actually was before, because things got a lot busier.

But I'm here now, and not busy (partly due to being sick, and thus not at work; and partly due to my Son's friends being over, ruling out having some quiet recovery time on the couch).  Things do seem to have calmed down generally, but there are still some busy weekends ahead, and of course I usually post on weekends.

Anyway, on with this post, which is taking me all the way back to July and my trip to the UK.  I go on trips to the UK semi regularly of course, but this time I promised some friends I'd take pictures so they can see what my hometown looks like.

I didn't actually get to go into the city center (except once, when I was drunk), so there's a lot of 'suburban' stuff to follow.

I'll keep the intro brief, as I mentioned it at the end of the last one, and also because this is going to be a long post.  Looooong.

So I flew to the UK, to meet up with my Wife who'd gone on a trip to France with my Mother and our Son.  The trip was fine, although the flight was miserable, partly due to a man half my size sitting next to me, who somehow managed to take up 4 times as much space, and partly due to a layover in Dublin, which has a lovely airport, except for the area in which I was waiting for my plane, which was draughty, uncomfortable and crap.  I was there for 4 hours - it seemed like 14.  Anyway, other than that the trip over was uneventful.

No, this isn't Dublin; this is a beach.  The day after I got there, Swansea had it's annual airshow, and we got there early.  So this was how it looked a few hours before the show...

And this is how it looked during it.  This was the same for much of the length of the beach.  We're seated about halfway along by the way, so if I looked in the other direction in that first photo sandy expanse goes on for almost as far.  I mention this as one friend once asked me in surprised tones on my mentioning a beach "Wales has beaches?"  Yes it does, and then some.  In fact there's another beach down below.

The airshow was pretty cool, but the forecast was for typical gloomy British weather, and then the sun came out, and stayed out, so I got pretty severe sunburn.  Yes, I took photos.  No, you can't see them.

Yes, I took a photo of dusk.  Why?  Because living in Illinois for several years, and not getting to go to the UK in the summers, I'd forgotten how late the sun sets in the UK (it sets pretty early in winter).  This was about 11:15 PM, and it was easily bright enough for my elderly cellphone camera to pick it up.

My friends in St. Petersburg* are probably rolling their eyes at this point, on account of the sun not setting there until 1am in the summer or something.

*The Russian one.

For reference, this is roughly the same view in the day (a few degrees to the left so the sun didn't blow everything out).  Yes, my Mother's garden is a little untamed.  I cannot confirm or deny the rumours of lost tribes living in it.

I also cannot confirm rumours of lost tribes living in the Dan yr Ogof cave system, though any spelunkers I know deny it*

The cave system is about 11 miles long, but only the first half mile or so is open to the general public.  I'm just posting the one photo here, as there are far better ones all over the internet if you want to go look.

We took my son along on the third or 4th day of the trip, as all my local family were working or busy.  He was surprisingly taken by the caves, although the real reason we took him was the dinosaur park that surrounds them.

*I don't know that I know any Spelunkers, but I also know there are no lost tribes... in Wales at least.

You can see that the weather is much more typical of a Welsh summer (though we'd had two days of sun, and the weather doesn't have an effect in the caves, so no complaints).

This last photo is interesting*, because one of the first photos I ever developed was taken in almost this exact place (back when photos needed to be developed, and were in black and white if you did them yourself) .  I have no idea where that photo is now  (My mother probably knows).  There are rather more trees in the newer shot, and I don't recall there being a Volcano there 35 years ago.  Same aquatic dinosaurs though.

*Interesting to me.  You can find it dull if you like.

OK, last shot from the caves (you'll need to click it to expand) - This is the Cathedral Cave, and it's pretty spectacular.  You can get married around the corner from this shot, although how you get to the location to do so without getting drenched by the waterfalls I have no idea.

Look, another beach.  This one is a bit smaller, though the other beach from above starts directly behind those rocks on the left.  This is Bracelet Bay, which I've always loved as it's a fantastic place for rock pooling and generally exploring when you're a kid.  Or at least it was - the best thing we found in the pools on this day was a dead crab.

There is this cave there though.  Three things there a plenty of in Wales: Caves, Castles and Beaches.  I forgot my Phone the day we went to Oystermouth Castle, so no photos, but there will be a different one along below.

Anyway, this cave.  It's one of my favourite caves.  It's not very big (there's another small bit through a gap to the left, but this is basically it), but when the light is right you could almost imagine Excalibur sticking out of that stone in the middle.  Needless to say the lighting was not right... but now I want to paint it as if it were, with a sword sticking out of that stone.  Bugger.  Christmas project for me!

This is the last photo of a beach, I promise.  This one is just an interesting rock formation on the far side of the cave.  I don't think I have the camera pointed up, judging by the rocks in the foreground.  That rock in the center is almost as tall as my Son if I remember rightly.

Random Streets of Britain: Part 1.

This is Gloucester Place in Swansea.  To the left is the Dylan Thomas Little Theatre (Were I performed in Under Milk Wood when I was a teenager), and toward the end of the street the gray building peeking out above the darker red car* is the Exchange Building on Cambrian Place; probably best known for doubling as Victorian Cardiff in the winter in the Doctor Who episode The Unquiet Dead. I'll spare you more Doctor Who related photos, but there were a lot of them, for reasons mentioned later.  

Anyway, this particular day we found a treasure hunt thing online, and being that we had no plans, and my Son was watching entirely too much TV at Granma's, we decided to head off and do it.  It took us around much of Swansea's Marina district, a fair bit of which had changed since I was last there, but much of it was still familiar.

* The green sign above the same red car is of an anchor, not a deformed penis.  I have no idea why my Phone's compression makes it look like one.

Random Streets of Britain: Part 2.

Some random part of the Marina.  Like a song from U2, this street has no name.  I suppose it's technically a quay and not a street.  Well, you can walk on it, and there are buildings there - Street enough for me.

This is actually on Gloucester Place too, to the right of that first shot.  It's a gallery these days I guess (it used to be a church), but it was closed when we were there.

This is the Bridge behind the Pumphouse.  The Pumphouse is a pub, and was directly behind me in that first street photo.  It was an actual pump house once, but now they just pump beers.

This bridge does not in fact cross the Marina, though I suppose it did once.  It is one of at least two bridges I know of that go nowhere in Swansea - the other is behind me in that second beach photo at the top.  In the case of the second one it's because it was either too expensive, or of too much historical significance to destroy*, but too run down to still work as a bridge.  I'm guessing this one is the same, though its been like that as long as I can remember.  I think the paint is new since I last saw it - I remember it being black.

* This varies depending on who you ask, and how cynical they are.

Random Streets of Britian: Part 3.

Uplands Crescent in Uplands, Swansea

You may think I'm posting this photo because I've gotten drunk in that pub on the left (I have! But not this trip), or maybe making reference to the tanning place given I had terrible sunburn.  Wrong I'm afraid.  Expand the image and take a look at the rusted sign to the right.

No, I have no idea either, but it's wonderful. (EDIT: The sign is apparently regularly changed - a friend just sent me a shot of it saying 'Trump is not welcome in Uplands', so this photo is already capturing a moment of history)

The reason I was here is actually behind me, as this is opposite the Uplands Diner.  Breakfast ahoy!

2 sos, bacon, egg, chips, and beans with a slice of buttered bread and a half cold cut of tea.  Delicious.  This is not the last bacon in this post...

This is Morley's Lane (I may have spelt that incorrectly), which runs along the west side of my old school.  That green fence is fairly new, but otherwise it's basically unchanged since I went there.

This was me taking my Son for a walk down my memory lane (literally in this particular case).

Also on the walk, a fair bit further, was Heol Las Park, which has changed significantly since I lived locally.  The two shots above are exactly as I remember them though - except for the used condom on the bank.  Fortunately my Son completely missed it, so I didn't need to explain what it was ("A milk filled water balloon!  The milk has gone off!"  See, I was prepping this eventuality in my head).

This is the pump house (and nearby drain) from the Scott's Pit mine.  It really was a mine, but I don't think it was ever an extensive or successful one. Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time in and around this area when I was a kid*, but it's mostly blocked off from the public now.  My Son was more interested in the cows and horses in the adjoining fields.

*You would think this would be prime real estate for a spotty teenage me to hang out at, drinking beer snuck from a friends house, but I don't recall ever doing so. I think I just hung out at his house, and snuck the beer in his back garden.  This may be because (if memory serves) some kid found a detonator from a WWII UXB there.  It may have killed him, but that may be me confusing him with a different kid who died after sniffing glue  I was about 7, things are hazy.  There is a tale of someone who definitely died in an explosion further down though.

Random Streets of Britain: Part 4

This was shot from a random side street just off the place where St. Mary's becomes High Street in Cardiff.  I just thought it was an interesting looking building.  I don't think there's anything significant about it beyond that, although the panhandler sitting outside it was a bit of a dick about me not having any change (I really didn't, having just spent it all in the Spar across the street).

There's an Escape Room right behind me, and a Costa Coffee behind my right shoulder.  The Costa wasn't bad, I don't know about the Escape Room.

More Cardiff.  I think this is High Street.  We were actually there to try a Brazilian restaurant at the other end of St. Mary's called Viva Brazil (which was excellent), as well as to go see the Doctor Who Experience.  Me and the wife have been before, but my Son wanted to go, and that's a good enough excuse to do it again.  No photos of that though (I took plenty), because they're easy to find online.

Two contrasting views of Cardiff.  The second one is an old disused train station we found.  The new station is just beyond the fence at the end.  Well, I say station; it's a platform with a ticket machine. Progress!

This is one I took when we were actually visiting the Doctor Who experience.  If you're in to all things Who you'll likely already know that just to the right of center is where the Doctor has a meal with the alien going by the name of Margaret in Boom Town, and just to the right of that is the main entrance to Torchwood, which is now a shrine to the characters killed in the show (mainly one in particular).  There's a plaque there explaining that this is a memorial to a fictional character.

Then, to the right of that is Roald Dahl Plass, which was considered the secondary emergency entrance to Torchwood.

And yes, that's an awful lot of Doctor who in one photograph, even excluding the Experience museum just to the left of this shot.  Mostly this is because Doctor Who is predominantly filmed at a studio right off the bay here, so I guess filming just up the street is cheap.

OK, no more Doctor Who, and on to Cardiff Castle, which we toured the following day.  I don't think I've been to the castle in 30 years, but since it's a castle it really hasn't changed much.  They're sort of known for that - though Oystermouth Castle had changed a lot.  I'm not going to post a lot of Photos of it, because, like many things in this post, you can find better ones online.

This is the Lioness at one end of the Castle's 'Animal Wall', which has sculptures of 16 animals like this along it's length, sculpted by two sculptors about 40 years apart (the two sculptors, not each animal).  In the background is the south west clock tower of the castle.

More Animal Wall.

This is the interior space of the castle.  In the center is the main residence (not a residence any more of course), with the Keep to the right of it.  To the far right is a Trebuchet, which I believe is a recent replica. Despite my saying little had changed, the modern Tourist center to the left of the image (actually just to the right of the Trebuchet, as this image wraps around) is 'new'.  It's built into an earth bank so as not to impinge on the Castle proper.

While digging on the site of the tourist center they found this, which is now contained within it's building.  It's a Roman wall, dating back just shy of 2000 years.  Yes, there have been fortifications on the castle's site for a while*.  And no, this isn't the last Roman thing in this post.  Odd how things keep coming around like that in this post now I think of it.

*by a while I mean just shy of 2000 years, if that wasn't clear.  Which it should have been.

This is a shot of a ceiling in the Residence.  The Residence is about the most absurdly opulent place I've ever seen.  This ceiling alone is probably worth almost the same as all the houses on my street.  Yes, that's actual gold leaf, and the gold leaf is basically everywhere along with hand carved and hand painted sculptures and friezes.  I'm only posting this one picture, because Google images exists.

If you're ever in Cardiff though I do recommend the tour of the castle, just to get a real sense of how nuts it all is.

Bacon again.

I made sandwiches out of it.

Look, British Bacon* is not the same as the bacon you get here in the US.  You can, if you know where to look, get 'British Bacon'  here, and it's close.  But it's close to the sort of bacon you get from reputable butchers, rather than the mass market crap you get from the Supermarket.

The thing about the mass market crap though, is that it's phenomenally delicious, and I can ONLY GET IT IN THE UK (and probably Ireland and Denmark).  So I eat a lot of it while I'm there.  It's also cheap.  Unbelievably cheap**  I think we got 3 lbs of it for the equivalent of $10 US.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with US bacon, but there's room in the world for multiple kinds (and no, this is nothing like Canadian Bacon, which is also delicious of course).

* It's actually Danish Bacon.  I don't think there are enough pigs in the UK to satisfy demand.
** If Brexit does fail to happen, it will be because someone finally realizes it will mean the price of Bacon will skyrocket or something.  Brit's are known for loving their tea, and their booze, but we really, really, love Bacon too (and cheese...  Really like cheese. Except my mother, for some reason).  OK, enough bacon already.

Random road between my Mother's house and my Grandmother's.  Those trees have grown a lot in the last few years - it's a really pretty road.  Sadly the hedges on the left have grown a lot too, which rather limits the amazing view to be had on that side.

Random Streets of Britain: Part 5

I'm not giving you the name of this one, since my Nan lives there, but this street is really damn narrow, and that hill there is a lot steeper than it looks.  The white house on the left there was the site of a suicide many years ago (but in my lifetime).  Apparently the owner went into the attic, and blew himself up with a bunch of explosives.  No, I don't remember the type of explosives, or any details really, I was about 9.  I could ask I suppose.

I do remember there being bits of Roof all over my Nan's garden. Now I come to think of it, I guess it's entirely possible it wasn't all Roof.  Ew!  Glad that never dawned on me sooner.

Random Streets of Britain: Part 6

This is the street alongside the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon.  Why take a picture of the street instead of the museum?  well, firstly because it;s quite a pretty street, but also because the whole damn village is basically the museum.  I mean there's an official building, and people do actually live in the village (there's a school 2 minutes walk behind me), but every other building has a symbol on it denoting that it's of historical importance.  It's a really pretty village too.  I wish we'd had time to look around a bit more, but unfortunately we were on our way to London, and had to return the rental car in a pretty tight time frame, so we zipped around it pretty quickly and didn't get a chance to visit the Roman Baths there.

We did visit this though, which is the amphitheatre.  Gladiatorial combat happened here (at least I would assume so - the museum implied as much).  It's smaller than you might think, but a lot bigger than it looks in this photograph.  Also, and again, Gladiatorial combat!

Random Streets of Britain: Part 7

We're almost done, I promise.  This is Cartwright Gardens in London, where we stayed for 2 nights before heading home.  The sun is out.  This may be obvious, but I've been to London a number of times, and I don't recall it ever being anything other than overcast, so this wa sa big deal for me.

British Museum!  We had two destinations in mind this trip to London; the British Museum, and the National Gallery.  I wanted to do the gallery, and my Son desperately wanted to see the Egyptian exhibits at the museum.  I have been here before, but this atrium area has been completely redone since I was there last.  I had also forgotten how ridiculously big the space is.  I mean look at it!  there are 4 sides like that, and of course it all looks smaller in a photograph.  No shots of the Gallery though - but obviously there are plenty online.

And this is the main entrance!  With people for scale.

And that's basically it.  We left for the US the next day on different flights that arrived at the same time.  Somehow I got on a plane that had time traveled from 1999, and thus had no entertainment on demand.  I didn't know that was still a thing on transatlantic flights.  I feel I was overcharged as a result, as the flight cost basically the same as the one going the other way that had all the bells and whistles.  Still, though decidedly boring the flight was pretty uneventful.

OH, I did get to see Concorde though.  Not in the air, obviously as they're all grounded, but at Heathrow.  Oddly there's just a Concorde sitting on the tarmac there, minding it's own business.  I thought they'd all gone to museums, but this one is tucked away at Heathrow.

Oh, wait there was one more thing...

"Look honey," says my wife, "It's Lara Croft in '96 and 2016!"

We're well suited.


  1. Ankara'nin en iyi kurye sirketi olan
    kurye ankara hizmette
    sinir tanimiyor...

  2. I must say this is amazing blog for the British Museum, and the National Gallery kindly do share more stuff like this..