Cardiff, as I mentioned many times before, was beautiful.
My first glimpse of Cardiff was the ocean. Stepping off the plane and heading towards the train station, the sight of the ocean, so close I felt I could touch it, caught me by surprise. It's not that there's no ocean in Edinburgh. In fact, it's about a 2 minute walk from here, if I walk very slowly. But I wasn't really expecting it in Cardiff, and it caught me so suddenly that I was gasping for breath. Beautiful, beautiful, and I was content.
I did do one of the bus tours, but I found it very unsatisfying so I won't linger on it except to say I don't find them worth the money. But, it ended right in front of Cardiff Castle, and I was very excited about that.
It's not really a castle, at least not as I think of them, having been spoiled by Edinburgh Castle. It's got the high walls and turrets, but little of that is original. When you get inside, though, you can see the grounds, the remains of the Norman Keep (upon its high mound, complete with moat), and the Manor House. And it's really the Manor House you're paying to see.
The Keep is interesting in and of itself. It's a very very very big round tower with an amazing view of the city stretching out for miles. You can see why the Normans would have built it there, and why the whole area has been the site of military occupations for so long. The Romans had a fort at Cardiff Castle, and the big walls in the 'back' of the grounds are rebuilt from their original foundations.
The grounds are beautiful as well, with peacocks and other exotic birds to see. The whole area was lush and green, and that's the big thing I remember from the trip: Cardiff was so much greener than Edinburgh.
But, as I said, the star of the attraction is the Manor House.
Unfortunately while I was there, a great deal of reconstruction work was going on, and that does affect the quality of the tour (which just means I have to go back). My recollections are that the place was owned by the Big Family That Ran Cardiff (the Butte family, if I recall correctly). There's a lengthy story about it, but basically at some point of the owners decided "Eh, to heck with it", and blew an awful lot of money on the place. Each room is decorated with its own interesting and unique theme, there are stained glass windows with pictures of historic figures that have some relation to the area (including some that I had studied, which made my Historic Fangirl Heart go squee), and there are some rooms that are so detailed and intense that it's hard to even be in them for any length of time. In fact, the wife of the man who decided to blow all that money insisted on keeping some rooms plain, because she couldn't stand every room being so intense.
To put some of the decadence in perspective for you:
The dining room table, which is round, has a perfect hole in the center. The table actually pulls apart at that point, and there is a shelf beneath it. It's a bit odd, especially since it's inside and there's no reason to think it's an umbrella.
It's for the fresh grape vines that the gardener brought in every day at dinner time, so the family could pick their grapes off the vines.
Yeah, that decadent.
There are, sadly, no photos allowed, or I'd show you pictures of the beautiful mantlepieces, the hand carved screen for the musicians in the dining hall, or even the scary face carved above the doorway of the smoking room, to keep the women away.
Guess instead you'll just have to go and see it yourself.