A Day in Cardiff

I went to the capital of Wales for just a day, and devised a Cardiff-in-one-day sightseeing plan. It’s only an hour away from Bristol with plenty of connections to England by train and bus. I arrived by bus and started my self-guided day tour in the rain.

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the backdoor of Cardiff castle, as seen from Bute Garden

The bus station is in Sophia Gardens, so take a stroll there, and over the bridge to Bute Park and you’re in the city centre in ten minutes. Stop by Cardiff Castle and meet the bird man – he carries a pet owl and falcon around to keep the seagulls out. Walk around the castle walls – there’s lots of interesting architecture and plenty of stone animals to be seen.

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the many facades of the Cardiff Castle wall

Next, explore the Castle quarter. There you can find the Cardiff Central Market and a handful of other arcades and covered lanes. St. John the Baptist Parish church is worth a visit. Take a slight detour east to see Chapel, the 1877 church now used as a trendy bar and restaurant.

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Chapel Bar & Restaurant still looks more like a chapel

Hop on the 5 minute train to Cardiff Bay from Cardiff Queen street, where you can take pictures of the Wales Millennium Centre and Roald Dahl Plass. Mermaid Quay has bars and restaurants, and I got a coffee out on the pier at Coffee co. lounge. Stop at a local pub, like the Cardiff Cottage or Cambrian Tap, and try a pint of Brains.

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the Cardiff Castle is tiny compared to nearby Coch or Caerphilly

If you’ve got more time or your own transport, perhaps you can also go the two places I missed: Castle Coch and the medieval Caerphilly Castle, the largest castle in Wales. Send me a postcard if you go – Arnarholl 1, Reykjavik 116.

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Thank you, EasyJet

Getting out of Iceland always requires a long-haul flight, and New York and London seem to be the main gateways out of here. But, with the boom in tourism the last few years, more and more airlines are flying to Iceland, from a growing list of cities across Europe and North America. But blah blah, the point is that it used to cost atleast 30.000ISK for a cheap one way flight, until Iceland Express started operating 10.000ISK flights to London. But that was maybe one seat on one fight a week, and now theres Wow air doing a similar thing, but EasyJet started flying to Manchester for only 40 pounds (8.000ISK) and when one can avoid any or all of London’s airports AND save money one a one-way ticket out of winter, I was sold.

the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool's ferry port

the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool’s ferry port

I have never been to Manchester, and Liverpool is less then an hour away. They’re both big name cities, but smaller and cheaper than London with the same goodies and Britishisms you need. I couchsurfed in both towns, with a commune of students and artists (and everything inbetween – I think there were 15 residents) in a converted warehouse on the docks of Liverpool, and with a public transportation planner in Manchester that was obsessed with bicycles and beer. And there was alot of beer, as I learned at the Indy Man Beer Convention. Then there’s the soccer teams, and the Beatles, and Wales and Isle of Man!

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention is held in the empty pools of the Victoria Baths

The Independent Manchester Beer Convention is held in the empty pools of the Victoria Baths

I’d never been to either, nor had any clue how to get to them, but its a travel friendly corner of England here, and trains, buses and ferries connect Liverpool and Manchester to Wales and Isle of Man. Isle of Man was a wonderful surprise, a pastoral island filled with pastures and farms, ports and lighthouses, stone walls and sea walls. It was backpacker friendly, bike friendly, and horse friendly… what more could one ask for?

this heritage steamtrain is one form of public transport on the Isle of Man

this heritage steamtrain is one form of public transport on the Isle of Man

I nearly got into a PhD program in Bangor a few years ago, and always thought it was somewhere near Bristol, but its at the very north west tip of the coast of Wales, where a local train can take you past Viking ruins and Medieval castles in a little more than an hours journey from Chester. Chester is a quintessential English town that borders Wales, and I also felt ignorant to have never figured out where or what it was.

the famous clocktower of Chester

the famous clocktower of Chester

I visited Bangor and Conwy in Wales, Conwy on the suggestion of a couple of friends. There a castle and a walled city filled with public houses, a tiny port, and the smallest house in Great Britain charmed the socks off me. Bangor was a quiet and quaint student town, and I could have definitely lived there with Anglesey, the Irish sea, Snowdonia National park and the biggest mountain in Wales all in the neighbourhood. But for now, a weeks visit will have to do. And thanks to EasyJet for this unexpected trip to some places I’d never planned to visit.