Tuesday, 25 November 2014

To Home and Back

Travels again, you may wonder as one does why the title of my post is "To Home and Back" 

While I live in South Africa and was born in South Africa my family originate from Scotland and I have always felt the UK and Scotland to be my REAL home.
Why haven't I emigrated ....... well that is a looonnggg story for another time.

So back to the post at hand, I have recently been to Cardiff for business but at the same time I always build in a bit of time for myself.

Lets start in London.......OH but let me digress a little bit at this point - I love the cold, I live in Africa where it is hot and when it isn't hot it is DAMN HOT, even in winter it is hot, maybe a bit cool but never cold, well that is for me anyway. 

So I love the UK and Europe because it gets cold... just love the cold.....

So as i said.... I started in London, I didn't take sunscreen or short sleeve shirts because it is cold.... reeaaallly???...... it was 24C on the day I got there, I walked london flat with my jacket over my arm getting burnt to a crisp doing some sightseeing - saw a big blue chicken cockerel and then .......

Marble Arch

Hyde Park

Carnaby Street

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

London Eye
Nelson's Column

Blue Cockerel Trafalgar Square

Westminster & Big Ben

Pret a Manger
Why a Picture of Pret A Manger; when Pam and I first went together to the UK it was frightfully expensive to eat (actually it is now even more so as our rather dubious currency is now sitting at time of writing R 18.00 to the Pound) and so I decided to have a sandwich for lunch for old times sake.

Then it was back to Paddington station and the train to Cardiff.....

Accommodations were at the Parc Thistle Hotel on Queens Street which was perfect in that it was literally 2 minutes from the office and right in the centre of all the goings on in Cardiff CBD and as well as it was an excellent hotel to stay at.

Parc Thistle Hotel 

View from my room to the office(cream coloured building)

Comes the first morning for work and I decide to go for a quick 15 minute stroll round town before going into the office, I've been to Cardiff before so know my way around a bit well I thought I did..... until this very moment ...... I spiralled into the twilight zone..... I made lost people look found.... I didnt have my city map with me, and the morning stroll turned into a sweating heaving route march to get back to the hotel to shower AGAIN and change AGAIN to make it to the office just in time for work - note to self.... never forget map again.....

It was all Work.... Work..... Work for the next couple of days.... However in the evenings I did get to bob around the town a bit and start preparing my shopping list... woe betide the husband that travels overseas and doesn't return bearing gifts as is written above the gates of hell... Abandon hope all ye who enter here

But comes the weekend and I had my sightseeing shoes on and it was off to Cardiff Bay for the day, I had heard it was a bit of a way out of town and while you could walk one should probably catch a bus, well who was I to baulk at a walk, so walk it was ..... weather was great - 22C and clear and off I went, it was quite a walk but really good to be out and active.
Road to the Bay

What a pleasant experience the Bay proved to be, a wide open Roald Dahl Plass with restaurants and exquisite architecture, Mermaid quay,  the Senedd building, Wales Millenium building, The Pierhead Building, Norwegian Church and much more...

Mermaid Quay

Wales Millenium building
Wales Millenium building

Roald Dahl Plass

Roald Dahl Plass

Pierhead Building

Senedd Building

Merchant Seafarers Memorial

Merchant Seafarers Memorial

Merchant Seafarers Memorial

Norwegian Church

Antarctic 100 Memorial

Antarctic 100 Memorial

Antarctic 100 Memorial

Lightship 2000

Lightship 2000

And "much more" presented itself in the form of the  incredible Dr Who Experience, for those unenlightened out there as to who Dr Who is follow this here link to catch up very quickly on all things Whovian... Dr Who or you could wait for a passing Tardis and the Doctor can tell you himself.


Dr Who costumes




Doctor Who's car

Scarf of the 4th Doctor

Weeping Angel



Face of Boe

So after a great day out i'm back at the hotel and need to buy a bottle of wine to take to a party I've been invited to that evening, so onto the internet to find an appropriate wine merchant who would be a purveyor of South African wines. And there just so happened to be one ...... JUST PAST CARDIFF BAY..... OH MY Gaaaawwddd I've just been there, no time to walk again, so onto a bus.

Haven't a clue where i'm really going, so hop off the bus at the designated spot in the middle of the suburbs and no store, wander around for a bit and eventually find it only to be told they only sell case lots ... that is 6 bottles.... I don't need 6 BOTTLES, just 2 - why the hell didn't they tell me that when I phoned them . 
So I ask where can I get some nearby - I'm running out of time at this point - just pop round the corner he says 2 minutes away.... yes by car it is... on foot its 15 minutes away.......

Fast forward.....

Got the wine and back to the bus stop
Now lets consider this; I caught the No. 9 bus from the CBD so logic tells me I should catch the No. 9 back; now coming from South Africa I NEVER EVER catch a bus .... EVER, so I am not too familiar with the whole process.

Sooooo i'm at the bus stop and the No.308 bus pulls in, stands for a bit, I look at the driver... the driver looks at me and then off it goes.

Now; I don't know if I mentioned I am running out of time; so I ask a lady standing in the bus shelter when the next N0. 9 bus is coming through.... she looks at me like I am the village idiot and points to an LED display on the side of the bus shelter displaying all the buses coming and their relative minutes to arrive.
But there is no No. 9 listed yet and the conversation goes something like this:

Me: "There isnt a No. 9 Bus listed will one be coming along?"
Lady: "Where do you need to go?"
Me: "Back the the CBD"
Lady: "Well why didnt you catch the No. 308?" The same one that I just stared at!!!
Me: "I came on the No. 9 so I must go back on it" 
Lady: "No you can take the No. 308, 9B, or 9"
Me, actually the village idiot: " No I came on the No.9 so ..."  ...bit of a pause... "OK so when does the No. 308 or 9B come?"
Lady (with sad look on face) pointing to the LED sign: "Why wait for them when the No.9 is coming in 10 minutes" (it had just appeared on the list) 
Village Idiot: " Riiiigghhhtttt"

Finally I am back sweating like a wild pig in a stampede, stop for a quick beer with my collegue from Cardiff at the Corner House pub and then off to the hotel to wash and change, it had by now cooled down a bit - just enough to wear a jacket but when storming around the town I get hot very hot.

And so off to a really good party......
Interesting aside around the party... the persons house who was holding the function is located on an old Roman village so they are not allowed to dig down to make flower beds, they have to make boxes above ground level and fill them with soil to make flower beds.
Comes Sunday morning and the day is a wild chase around town doing shopping and visiting the Castle and more shopping until my feet want to fall off

Cardiff Market

Entrance to Cardiff market

Shopping Arcade

Sculpture near the train station

Queen street

Shopping arcade

Shopping arcade

Interesting Architecture

Interesting Architecture

Shopping Arcade

I have a fascination with these little street sweepers, they wonder around the streets cleaning continuously, keeping the town impeccable, why should it fascinate me.... well in Johannesburg the streets are liberally littered with dirt and detritus which is continually added to by people dropping stuff out of car windows or pedestrians dropping stuff while they walk...
Street sweeper

Queen's street

Pictures from Cardiff Castle

But I started the day off with a visit to the Made by Hand show at the Cardiff city Hall.
All I can say is that it was the most fantastic display of hand made artwork I have ever had the privilege of viewing, there was something for everyone no matter what your interest and tastes.
I also had the pleasure of meeting a jeweller Su Trindle aka Quercussilver whom I follow on twitter and also to meet a whole host of other fascinating people and view their work. 

On two occasions we also had  dinner at the most excellent Chapel 1877, it is a restaurant located in an old renovated chapel in Cardiff CBD, the food is excellent, the beer is excellent, the wine is excellent the ambiance is excellent, everything is excellent.

Chapel 1877
All to soon it was back on the train to London and another stupid maneuver....

 I hopped on "my train bound for london" but had trouble finding my seat so I sat in one of the unallocated ones and sat waiting for the train to go.... as it would be, the whistle blew and the conductor was closing the doors down the train when I happened to see an LED sign (i'm not too familiar with this LED sign thing going here) inside the compartment saying not London but .....NOTTINGHAM...... 


I left up like a person possessed grabbed my luggage and threw myself out bodily, erupting from the door to the consternation of the conductor and numerous other commuters on the platform......

Tum te Tum Te tum ..... wait for the correct train

Then finally off to London where as I am want to do; and given 5 minutes to myself I left my luggage in the luggage storage and headed for the underground and off to the tower of London to see the poppies at the Tower of London.

I knew about it from seeing it on the internet, but in no way could I have ever prepared myself for the epic display I got to see, but the most incredible part was the sheer vast amount of people who had turned out to see it as well and just how quiet everyone was while viewing it. 

But all in all it was the poppies, hundreds and thousands of them and I quote "888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filled the Tower's famous moat between 17 July and 11 November 2014. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war."

Then back to Paddington station where I stopped and purchased a Paddington bear, off to pick up my lugagge and hop onto the Heathrow Express......

Tum te tum te tum te....... OHHH MY GAAAWWWDDDD......

I've left Paddington Bear at the luggage storage.... 

Repeat maneuver of erupting from the train hurtle down the platform, rescue Paddington and back for the next train, I have by this point turned myself back into a sweating stampeding wild pig.

Paddington Bear statue 

Lost and then found Paddington Bear

Lost teddy bears seem to be my forte.... Deja vu - The big trek home

And then with a very heavy heart it was all over and I was back at Heathrow Airport for the journey back to South Africa


  1. Looks like you had an amazing journey to London. Must be a huge contrast to the weather in South Africa. Love all the amazing pictures you took of the attractions. My visit to London was very brief as I was there only for work purposes. Wish I could have stayed longer to see all the sights that you saw!

    Rudy Swanson @ Haaker

    1. Hi Rudy, thank you for your comment, Yup the weather is a massive contrast to South Africa, in Johannesburg we dont go much below 2C in the morning in winter with the afternoon back up at about 18C, summers for me on the other hand are hell with the temps going way into the 30's.
      Ive been in and out of the UK more times than i can remember, Having said that I would move back to the UK in a heartbeat or anywhere else for that matter