We talked about going to London for a day, but in the end we decided to go the opposite direction - Cardiff, Wales.
We took the train west, following the locks and canals to Westbury where we changed to the Bath/Bristol/Cardiff train. What we didn't know about was the big rugby match in Bath - and Westbury was where everyone changed to the Bath train. The little 3 car train pulled into the station, already full with people standing in the aisles. Then the hundred or so people milling about the platform (including us) pushed their way onboard. Two more stations before Bath; each loaded with people trying to get on the Bath train. It's been a long time since I've been that close with so many total strangers. Everyone was in a good mood though, laughing and joking - apparently the train situation happens every. time. there's a match in Bath.
When we finally reached Bath we again boarded the big red hop-on and -off bus.
The city overview was interesting - the newer parts of the city are built on land reclaimed from the sea. City hall, courts, the BBC (Sherlock and Dr. Who are filmed here), all have beautiful views of the ocean from land that used to be ocean.
The original keep was built by the Normans around 1081.
In 1865, the 3rd Marquess of Bute began a 16-year restoration that turned the castle into the neo-gothic masterpiece it is today.
As our Castle guide said, anything you think is gold, is gold. 24K gold plate was everywhere.
Each room we visited had a theme, usually from the Bible. The ceiling, walls, tiles, windows, were all painted to reflect that theme.
It was amazing and gorgeous and outlandish.
The Bute's money came from the vast coal reserves they owned throughout Cardiff.
The 3rd Marquess was one of the richest men of all time, far richer than Bill Gates according to our guide.
And that kind of money can buy some impressive things. The Marquess' bathroom is a great example - hot and cold running water in the 1860's. Nice!
We also climbed the 44 stairs into the old Keep,
then the 30-something stairs to the upper rooms. (And I have the knee brace to prove it . . . . )
I drew the line at climbing the spiral stairs to the tower roof,
but brave hubby got some great pictures from there.
Evidence of older walls and buildings has been kept and used in the current Castle.
The wall behind the gift shop shows how thick the old Roman wall was;
and the red line around sections of the outer wall show the original Roman sections.
We spent a lot of time at the Castle - it was just so interesting! - and didn't have time to do much else.
We walked past City Hall,
where brides and wedding parties were constantly coming and going,
on our way to the National History Museum, where we had about 45 minutes to admire their collection of paintings and antique silver. Then it was back to the train station for the much more peaceful trip home.
Cardiff is another place where I really (really, really) wish we'd had more time. We'll need to come back and see the rest of the country too.
Brewery we spotted outside the train station. Brains and beer. How can you go wrong??