Caerleon was not what I expected at all.
The day actually got off to a lousy start. I had a great deal of trouble sleeping, and ended up being awake until the wee hours of the morning. This meant I slept past the tour I had planned on taking, but decided to just go out to Caerleon instead. I knew it was Roman ruins, and I heard there was an amphitheatre. I'm not as much a fan of Roman ruins as some people I know, but I was fairly certain I would regret not seeing them.
They were... not as impressive as I could have hoped. But then, they are from something like 2000 years ago, so I really should be impressed with what's survived. (As a note, I have no really good photos of what I saw there - my camera batteries ran out and it took me most of the time I spent there to get around to buying new ones. Strangely, they didn't sell batteries at any of the shops I ducked into, only the post office.)
The first Museum type place I went to were the Roman Baths. That, I will admit, was an amazing thing to me, as someone who is fascinated both by history and the ways we find out about history. They had excavated a lot of the place because of an attempt at building something on the site, and the excavations found a lot of interesting stuff. I won't bore you with all the details, but I will say I'm interested in how much we learn just by what people lose. Rings and bath items and toys and milk teeth, all found in the drains.
After that, I went to the amphitheatre, or what remains of it. There really isn't a lot there - just a really sunken place in the middle with some remains of the stands around it. But, it had this great feeling. Probably having several groups of students sitting in the area where the stands would have been helped, so I had to go in the middle and stage a mock-gladitor battle. Because I am nothing if not strange that way.
I did a run through the little museum, but it was terribly underwhelming. I get frustrated with that sort of thing - I think museums should work hard to capture your imagination and create a sense of what you're seeing. A few stone fragments with "excavated at X" doesn't really do it.
But, it was an interesting day that ended with a visit to a small courtyard that was full of fascinating art work. Most of it was carved from wood, with detail and skill that had me in awe. I spent almost an hour just walking around the place, taking photos and wishing I had a big enough suitcase to bring something home in. The pieces are amazing, and capture a great deal of the Welsh culture and history. There are wooden carvings of Roman soldiers, of maidens waiting for their lost loves, of dragons of various sizes, and even a bull head, advising that kissing him will bring you either Love or Fortune.
I ended the day by returning to Cardiff, and getting ready to get back on the plane. Sometimes it's hard to believe I was even there, being that I only stayed for one night. But then I can close my eyes and still see those lovely ruins, can remember the ocean and the green and the train, and I smile.