We took the train west to Wales early Saturday morning, our first rail ride together since our move to the UK. After arriving in the capital city of Cardiff at 10 a.m, we checked into our hotel then crossed the street to tour the city’s most famous landmark, Cardiff Castle.
After the Romans abandoned their castle post in the 4th century, the grounds lay dormant for 700 years. Then shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Normans moved westward toward Wales and, recognizing the strategic location of Cardiff, built a wooden keep on top of the center hill. Years later the structure was replaced with the stone keep that stands today.
|Handmade Welsh cakes|
Cardiff came into its own during the Victorian era when Wales' vast supply of coal was mined and shipped from Cardiff Bay buttressing the Industrial Revolution throughout the empire. Today, downtown Cardiff is a hubbub of shops and restaurants with covered arcades offering quaint diversions off the main roads. While most arcades are a labyrinth of small shops, one is primarily food vendors, including a stall where buttery oat Welsh cakes are rolled, cut, then browned on a hot griddle. The aroma is sin itself.
Lunch consisted of two local favorites: Welsh Rarebit for me and Glamorgan Sausages for Rex. These meatless sausages were a delicious blend of leeks and cheese lightly fried in a bread coating. My rarebit was toast with a creamy cheddar cheese and Worcestershire sauce that reminded me of a dish I make called Tennessee Sin. It’s possible that 19th century Welsh coal mining families who immigrated to West Virginia and Tennessee brought the basic recipe them. The flavors then took root and morphed over the years into the dish my family knows today.
|Dragon sightings are common throughout the city.|
Cardiff is a well-woven blanket of its own history, incorporating new architecture like the Millennium Stadium alongside 2000 year old castle. And regardless of English influence, it never let go of its Welsh roots. Street signs, billboards and tourist brochures are in both Welsh and English - there are even Welsh TV programs. And you'd have to be blind, drunk, or both to miss the pride in their fabled dragon. Depictions of it are everywhere.
A short but sweet visit, our trip to Wales was a great way to get our train legs. If time permits, we'd like to return and see more of the countryside - preferably the land so beautifully described in one of our favorite books, Richard Llewellyn's How Green Was My Valley.
For more pictures of our trip to Cardiff, click here.
It’s the little things . . .
Some candy machines in Cardiff come equipped with little bags to stash the sweets. That's gotta make a lot of parents happy.