Ancient Ruminations on London

I have been slowly going through the old posts on my ancient LiveJournal, deleting most and saving some as pdf. There are a few, the rarest of posts, that are worth preserving, so I’ve been adapting or revising them to bring forward to this blog.

One such post was my answer to a question-meme, “If you won a trip to anywhere, where would you go, and why?” While I travel quite often now, that was not so when I wrote this on LiveJournal. This particular LJ post was written before I had ever been to Europe.

Anyone who’s known me for more than a week knows that I want to go to England more than any other destination; <lj user=’raptorgirl’> even gave me a London travel book a few years back as a birthday gift, The Irrevent Guide To London. I just need a travel buddy and a little lead time to put together the money and the vacation request.

It’s true, I used to go on and on about London. By the time I lived overseas, the money and vacation time was no longer a hindrance to going, and I realized pretty quickly that if I kept waiting for a travel buddy, I would never make it anywhere. So, I started traveling alone. And before long, I took that first trip to London- the first of many. By the time I finally made it to the UK, “The Irreverent Guide To London” was wildly out of date, but it was still a fun read. (And for those who aren’t hip to the LJ lingo, raptorgirl is the LiveJournal username of Vanessa, a dear friend here in Orlando. I met her originally when we were both students at the University of Central Florida, and it feels really weird that we’ve known each other now for more than two decades.)

I want to ride the London Eye. I want to see Stonehenge. I want to visit Stratford-on-Avon. I want to see that giant odd looking tower in Cardiff that figures so heavily in the early seasons of Torchwood. I want to see a show in Picadilly. I want to get drunk and lie in a field in Cambridge. I want to ride the Tube and mind the gap. I want to visit a very particular grave in Highgate Cemetary in London. Years of watching British television and reading British authors have given me a laundry list of things to do and see.

I’ve actually decided that I’m going to get there before I turn forty- that gives me just over a year and a half to get my shit together.

I’d like to see other parts of the world too, but that can all wait. London first.

All in all, I did pretty well on this list- In my first trip to London, I managed to ride the London Eye. (And again on a subsequent trip.). I took a day trip from Paddington Station to Salisbury to see Stonehenge. I went to Cardiff with one of my best friends on a subsequent trip to see Roald Dahl Plass, which was used for establishing shots as the Torchwood Hub. (Today is that friend’s birthday, actually- Happy birthday, Lorrie!) We went to the Doctor Who Experience on the same trip- alas, the. DWE has since closed. I’ve watched three different shows in Picadilly. I went to that grave in Highgate. I rode the Tube and minded the Gap. And I did so, so much more.

I didn’t get to go lie in a field in Cambridge, but maybe I’ll manage to do that after this pandemic wraps up. And while I still haven’t made it to Stratford-on-Avon, I did tour the Globe Theater in London, so maybe that’s close enough?

While I was wrong about the sequence – I was living in Germany before I ever made it to London- I did manage to see London before the deadline. Just barely. My first trip there was the summer before I turned forty. I’ve been back a couple of times since though, and there’s always more to see.

After seeing 28 different countries away from home, London is still my favorite place to visit in all the world. I miss it. I hope I can get back there sometime soon.

If you won a trip to anywhere, where would you go, and why?

16/52

Cardiff

On my last trip to the UK, we took a day trip to Cardiff by train out of London’s Paddington Station. This makes Wales my fifteenth country visited! (Not including the US.)

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Cardiff is a fascinating little city.  We didn’t see even a third of what the city has to offer, but we did take a stroll past this nifty clock down Queen Street.

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At the end of the street are the outer walls of Cardiff Castle.

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Through the main gate of those outer walls is the original Norman shell keep, flying the flag of Wales.

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The red dragon motif is everywhere, as the symbol of Wales.  It’s also the symbol of the Brains brewery, which makes a pretty tasty beer.  I had a Brains Green Dragon at lunch when we were back in London later in the trip, and I wish I’d had a Brains while we were closer to the brewery- I’ve been told that the flavor loses something in transit.

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Our goal for this jaunt to Cardiff was actually in Cardiff Bay.  From the Cardiff central station, we took a small local train to Queen Street a few stops from the main station, then changed to the smallest train ever to go to Cardiff Bay.  Seriously, it’s only got the one wagon and it just goes back and forth between Queen Street and Cardiff Bay.

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From Cardiff Bay’s little train station, it’s a short walk to the Bay.  You’ll pass  the very pretty Pierhead building.

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…and you’ll walk past the Wales Millennium Center.  If you watched Torchwood, this will look familiar.  This is an arts center which hosts events like concerts, opera, ballet, and so forth.  The dome is clad in steel that was treated with copper oxide, to represent Cardiff’s steel making history. It was designed to withstand the weather conditions on the Cardiff Bay waterfront.

Inscribed on the front of the dome, above the main entrance, are two lines written by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The Welsh version is Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen, which means “Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration”. The English is In These Stones Horizons Sing.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

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Walking further along the bay is the World Harmony Peace Statue. You hold the handle of the torch, and make a wish for world peace.

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After a little bit more walking, we arrived at the goal for this side trip:  The Doctor Who Experience, situated in Cardiff Bay until 2017.  The first part of the DWE is an interactive walk-through adventure with the eleventh Doctor in which you get to fly the TARDIS, so that’s pretty fun.  Also, you get to learn how to walk like a scarecrow soldier or a Cyberman.

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After the interactive part of the Doctor Who Experience, there’s an exhibition.  I took a bajillion photographs, but I won’t bore my non-geeky readers with all of those.  I selected just seven pictures to give you a sense of the place.  If you’re not into Doctor Who, just skip down to the picture that has me in it, and we’ll pick up the post from there.

The first picture is the outfit of Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor.  This was part of a row of outfits worn by each of the first ten Doctors.

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Similarly, the companions each had outfits in the exhibition.  Here’s Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith outfit.

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There were several TARDIS control rooms in the exhibition.  I’m pretty sure this was the fourth Doctor’s control room.

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…and this was definitely Nine and Ten’s control room, brought over to the DWE in its entirety after the regeneration into Eleven.  They cleaned it up a bit, but you can still see smoke and fire damage from Ten’s fairly explosive regeneration.

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No Doctor Who exhibit would be complete without  my favorite robot dog of all time, K-9.

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Most of the Doctor’s adversaries were represented, but I particularly liked this Cyberman.

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Of course, there were friends of the Doctor present as well.  Here’s me, hanging out with the Face Of Boe.

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Ok, that’s enough geekery for this post.  Once we were done at the Doctor Who Experience, it was time to walk back from Cardiff Bay.  I had to force myself not to walk like a Cyberman.

Cardiff Bay is really a very pretty place.  Here’s a view out from the dock.

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There’s a number of fascinating sculptures around the Bay.  This was my favorite- the Merchant Seafarers’ War Memorial, by sculptor Brian Fell.  It’s designed to look like both a face and the bow of a ship.

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Walking back up the wide sidewalks from the Bay to the little rail station, we couldn’t help but notice all the spiders that were out.  I think they were collecting food and preparing for the winter.

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Last but not least, on our way out of the Cardiff Bay area, this little cutie walked right up to us, flopped over, and demanded to be loved.  Who could say no to those little paws?

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Have you ever been to Cardiff? Did you learn to walk like a Cyberman while you were there?