British Holiday Chapter 6: We drink in Cardiff

Cardiff Bay
We had big plans for this day. We were going to make Shed drive us around an area the size of Wales. But we were all three very tired, and we had private access to one of the best views in the city (our hotel room). We scrapped our big plans, and replaced them with "potter around town, then take some beers back to the hotel."

While we were waiting for Shed to arrive we watched John Lewis' falconer show their falcon to all the pigeons.
We didn't know what he was doing at the time, so it seemed weird. When Shed got there he explained to us that walking around with a falcon and letting the pigeon's see it is enough to freak their shit. And indeed, John Lewis didn't have a pigeon problem.

Anyway, we started the day with the antique shops in the Jacobs and Co. building. Or we would have done if it had been open. It looks pretty fun, and since it was Shed's idea and he knows his stuff, I'm sure it would have been. Next time, next time.
Jacobs And Co (Cardiff) Ltd.
We passed by Spillers records but we didn't go in (my fault). We went to the High Street & Duke Street Arcades in all their late Victorian splendor (again, my fault). There's a shop that sells buttons. Also, they had a dalek infront of the fancy dress shop. It's not possible to go a whole day in Cardiff without some Doctor Who stuff.
Yellow Arcade
Arcade with Dalek
The arcades are right by the castle. I may have mentioned the castle.
That Castle again
At some point, possibly the day before, we went into the Queen's Arcade, across the way. It's more of a mall (but the Lego store was fun). The old arcades are where it's at.

No, I take that back. The City Arms is where it's at.
The City Arms
Nice old place. It's a Brains pub, which isn't a bad thing if you ask me.
The others had Peroni, which is good. But I'm in it for the cask ale. That dark one you see is mine.
Two or three of these later (and a pickled egg for me. I love pickled eggs) we decided it was time to balance things out with some food. Of course, that meant nando's. There was one in town that even Shed hadn't been to [update: I was so wrong about this. this wasn't the Nando's Shed Hadn't been to. I am so sorry]. We resolved to fix this terrible oversight immediately.
Nando's Again
The funny part is that rakka, groc and I almost went to that Nando's on our first visit to Cardiff in 2010. We got crepes instead. The knackered party dalek (pictured here) was still there, and no less knackered.

Nando's makes a good hummus.

So, now comes the part where we went back to the hotel with some beer. We stopped at Tesco Express to pick some up. I think Shed amazed by our ability to direct him to the beer section, but we have our priorities straight. 1) get off the train. 2) find the booze store.
That's the hotel.
Anyway, we just hung around, listened to 6 music, drank the beer, and looked out of the window. You've already seen pictures of the view. Yeah, that was the afternoon.

As evening approached we convinced Shed that he had to take us to the Vulcan before it was gone. It's a little old pub in the way of a major construction project. There's been a campaign to save it, etc etc. I don't have any pictures of the outside because the whole place was surrounded by heavy construction equipment.
Never get out of bed before Noon
Genius but nobody knows it but me
The equipment was all going full blast while we were in there too. The flashing yellow lights and big diesel engines didn't do anything to keep the place warm though. It was fecking freezing in there, leading Shed to make some comment about how they should tear it down. Haha. Well they will, but very carefully. You haven't missed your chance to experience the Vulcan, you just have to wait until they move it to St Fagans.

Next time, we leave Cardiff (boo) and visit Bath and Pip (yay) and then return to London (yay).

British Holiday Chapter 5: We arrive in Cardiff, eventually

View from the hotel
Leaving the Strata SE1 wasn't easy. Not just because it was so cool. But rakka had busted her Oyster card the day before, so she couldn't get in the tube. It was too early for the E&C tube ticket office to be manned. For the first time since we'd been there, the streets completely failed to be crammed with cabs.

After some minutes of hoping for a cab, we went back to the Strata and had them call. A mini cab came eventually, around the back. We ran. He didn't take cards, I had not much cash. I hopped out at a cash point, and while I was doing that, rakka worked her magic. We were soon driving past buck house like we were in a grand prix. It would have been tremendously fun if we our train wasn't leaving in 10 minutes.

We finally got to Paddington. Tipped the driver even though that's not done. He had broken many traffic laws for us, after all. With nine minutes to spare, I realized I had the wrong notebook out, and the right one, the one with the ticket confirmation numbers, was buried in my luggage. I got to be one of those people who just dismantles all their gear right in the middle of the floor, sweating and cursing the whole time. Finally, the information was found, the tickets were obtained, and we ran for the train.

We made it!

We got on at the wrong end, and a good thing too. By the time we dropped in to our seats, the train had started moving. Nothing like a tremendous amount of stress to start out the day.

You know what else is fun? When your train gets stopped for nearly an hour before it even gets to Reading because of work on the track. And it's a joy when this puts the train so far behind that the driver insists on taking a smoke break outside of Gloucester. And what are you doing outside of Gloucester anyway. How is that on the way to Cardiff?

Anyway, we finally got to Cardiff. Shed met us at the station. Tired and hungry, our first stop was Nandos.

This was my first time at a Nandos. Can you believe it? Neither can I. It's good'n'spicy, and I hear they treat their workers well.

Anyway, refreshed, Shed took us over to the Cardiff Museum.

M. Bison
"Hey, no photos. Hey!"
Plastic Champers
The Cardiff Museum, formally the National Museum of Wales, is cool, in that 'a little bit of everything' eclectic sort of way. It kind of reminded me of the Pink Palace in Memphis. But Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have never pursued criminals through the Pink Palace lobby. The Doctor has never fought monsters there (nor have any torchwood staff visited).
Shhh. We keep it raw on the set. 
Of course, I was never accosted by security for taking photos in the Pink Palace either. The little old dude that scolded us to not take pictures of the special exhibit would have been cute if he didn't keep saying it five times after we'd already put the cameras away.

Anyway, after the dinos, and the animatronic mastodons that I took tons of unusable video of, and the other special exhibit (about the queen) we came across the Neanderthal exhibit. Rakka and I amused ourselves by doing the sexy neanderthal thing next to them for some minutes.

Shed hadn't been introduced to the sexy neanderthal though. So we repaired to the nearest cafe nerd to watch at top (iphone) volume. Everyone was too polite to tell us to shut up.
Cafe Nerd.
The Cafe was near the castle. I love me a good old castle. But we've been in before, so we skipped it this time.
There Castle.
Finally, after all this rambling around, we made it to our hotel. Shed got us the hookup. The Radisson Blu Cardiff is probably the snazziest, and definitely the tallest place in town. We got the corner room on the top floor, overlooking the town, mostly, but you could see Cardiff Bay if you just looked opposite of where Shed was photographing (below).
Our host.
We ended up just hanging out, lording it over the town for quite a while.
Sunset, Cardiff
Shed had to take off, so rakka and I popped out to the Tesco Express and got some booze and foods. We spent the evening eating Pot Noodle and watching the sun go down.
This has been my desktop picture for a while
I can't tell you how much better Pot Noodle tastes on the 21st floor of a fancy hotel. Actually, I can. It tastes just as bad, but in an even better than normal way. Snub the whole tower full of  fancy-asses while being king fancy-asse. I'll sign up for that assignment any day.
Top Right. All the way top.
Tomorrow (trip time) we hang out in Cardiff with Shed. There are two pubs and some shops, and another Nandos!

British Holiday Chapter 4: Parks, Pubs and Rugby

I'm really very slow at writing these. This time I'm going to cover 2 days. They were pretty light days. Walked in some parks, went to some shops and pub, and watched the rugby back at the flat. It was big rugby: Wales took the triple crown. So let's get this post going. It's mostly pictures.

So... every time I saw BT Tower I took a picture. It's probably because I'm this much of a nerd.

Here's the first of many. You have to admit, it's a crazy old thing.
BT Tower
This was taken from outside of Paddington Street Gardens. The adroit reader and London native will wonder how you come to be passing Paddington Street Gardens on your way from Baker Street station to Regents park. We can put it down purely to my abysmal sense of direction.

But we got to the park eventually. It had some gilt gates. Looking at them now they seem ostentatious in the extreme. The day after Paris they looked subdued. Almost plain.
Giltgate at Regents Park
Oh, did you know you can see BT Tower from Regents park? You do now.
BT Tower (again)
Also, there's these weird nobbles. I think they're probably basal shoots from the pine trees, but I could just be making shit up to sound smart. So never mind that bollocks. Look! Squirrel Drinking! Awwww.

Squirrel Drinking
And here we have a blurry picture of a Crazy Footed Quack Swangler. I could be wrong on the name. But, those feet are cray cray. You've got to give me that.
Weird Footed Bird
And so leaving Regents Park we headed down to Daunt Books. It is beautiful. It's a travel bookstore, so mostly travel books. But they have some fiction and other kinds of non-fiction that have pretty tenuous links to travel. I picked up a book about William Smith, the geology one. (Remember how I admitted to being a nerd earlier? Yeah...)
Daunt Books
Incidentally, Daunt is a block away from Paddington Street Gardens. If you let me navigate, be sure to wear good, comfortable walking shoes.

From there it was easy, even for me, to find the Nordic Bakery. A recommendation from santos.
Nordic Bakery
Santos had sent Rakka on a mission to sample the Rustic Oatmeal Cookie. It was good, but it didn't change my life.
Rustic Oatmeal Cookie
Of course, asking food to change your life is a pretty stupid thing to do. You just have to eat it so you don't die. Everything else is gravy. Which is also food.

Anyway. Cheese and Pickle. That's more my speed. Yeah. A Nordic C&P has more in common with an american one than a British one. But not that much. Because all the ingredients we a) really nice, and b) Nordic. The pickles were sweet without being gross, the bread was chewy and crunchy at the same time. Good stuff, good stuff.
Cheese and Pickle, Nordic style
After this bit of fortification, I insisted we go to a pub. Time for more walking. At some point we passed Harley Street. Did you know you can see... yeah, you get it.
BT Tower from Harley Street
We ended up at the Clachan in Kingly Street. Which was a nice respit from the crowds around Oxford Circus.

The sat us right in the middle of the room, and me with my back to the place. I never take a lot of pictures in these situations. Too many shoulders to look over. I did get this nice one of salad. Yay lettuce!
Now this fish pie looks absolutely disgusting, I admit. My lack of skill and equipment for low light photography can only take some of the blame here. But none of that matters, because it was fantastic.
Fish Pie
Rakka had a Chicken and Mushroom Pie which was even better. She's been trying to recreate it ever since. (She pretty much nailed it it the other night. She is talented.)

Something about the crush of the crowd at rush hour on the way home lead to Rakka's infamous breaking of the Oyster Card incident. It contributed to an interesting morning in a days time. More on that next post. Now it's time for Iceland and Rugby.

Yeah, you heard right. Next day we went to Iceland in the basement of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre and stocked up on prepackaged food and some ridiculous 'cider' then went straight back to the flat to watch the Rugby.
Iceland Food
Our hosts were both out of town, so we had the place to our selves. Perfect for a day in watching a sport I'd never ever watched before. But it was the 6 nations game between Wales and France. We had just been to France, we were going to Wales the next day. It was calling out to be watched.

And It was a very good game. The high stakes and good coverage made it a quite enjoyable afternoon. I'd recommend watching that particular game live to anybody interested in getting in to Rugby. Too bad you missed it, sucker.

Ok, tomorrow (in triplog time) we leave for Cardiff. So here's a couple parting photos of Elephant & Castle.

This is what the neighborhood sort of looks like.
Elephant and Castle
In the above I was standing under the train bridge visible from this window.

Airbnb at Strata SE1
Quite a bit of contrast. Dressed appropriately for inside that room, I feel pretty conspicuous when walking around outside, especially once I got away from the tube stop. It's funny though, how the conspicuously overdressed tend to congregate in these situations.

I was out that last night grabbing a late night snack from the shop under the elephant on a pole that I keep posting pictures of, a shop chosen because it was under that elephant, when a girl dressed for the club came up to me and asked directions. She had to walk past 20 other people to get to me, the guy in the bright blue jumper. It didn't even matter that I was buying kebabs with change from a guy under an elephant. (As usual, this was all going well until my american accent and total ignorance of local geography showed me to be completely useless to her, so she went away again.)