Tag Archive: United Kingdom



The Castle looms at the end of the Main Street. From Bath Spa Station, we bought a “Group Save” return train fare for only £86 for 5 pax. The promo deal works so long as we hop on the train off peak hours. Not bad for an hour’s train ride out of Bath. And Cardiff is so manageable. From the train station, we just walked out and took a left at the first corner and walked along that main road towards the castle. I’d say no more than 10 minutes walking. The Castle is where you can board the hop on, hop off red bus. My tip? Forget that. Just do the Castle and then perhaps the Museum after. Just another ten-minute walk. Then head back to the same Main Street to walk back to catch your return train. You can browse through a couple of churches, some good restaurants and a few shops. But do take your time in the Castle. It’s the highlight of your Cardiff visit.

Cardiff Castle packs 2,000 years of history. Your admission ticket includes an audio guide and takes care of introducing you to Wales’ leading heritage site. The Roman fort was built around 55 AD, but the original motte and bailey castle was built in the very late 11th century by Norman invaders. Norman architecture and Victorian elements have been incorporated and thus transformed the Castle to what it is today. Some of the lavish interiors even have Gothic, Mediterranean and Arabian designs. And how about those falcons (or dragons?) on the vast Castle grounds?

The main hall with its intricately designed ceilings, arches, murals, fireplace and chandeliers may look a tad eccentric with a good mishmash of many elements here and there. Like not a space was spared to display power and wealth. But the study hall cum library remains my favorite. There’s a quiet elegance seeing how those books were lined and neatly stacked in those shelves. God knows how many monarchs and blue-blooded men and women have gently flipped the pages of those old books. And it looked so regal to have picked a book to read, chosen a seat to occupy and while away the time while intermittently looking out the elegant glass windows. Perhaps with a cup of tea, pinkie up for good measure.

The mishmash may be explained by the castle’s long, complicated history. Ownership passed many families and generations, where major renovations have been introduced with each set of owners from Norman invaders to Kings to Earls to Marquesses until 1947 when the Castle was given to the City of Cardiff. Today, it is Cardiff’s topmost attraction and houses the “Firing Line Regimental Museum”. It is also a favorite and default events place for many of the city’s many festivals, celebrations and other musical performances.

Did I say Firing Line? The Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier lies underneath the main entrance and we took the opportunity to claim some chairs here to rest our aching leg muscles after doing the castle rounds. More so if you climb the Keep’s Tower. On display here are the Queen’s collection of Dragoon Guards Museum and the Royal Welsh. Two men, obviously ex-soldiers, offered to make a presentation about the significance of these collections including the artillery used by the guards. Out of curiosity, I tried one as you can see in the photo above. No big fan here.

We did take the hop-on, hop-off bus. Rode it right in front of the Castle and ensured an hour’s “joy ride” with audio guides. If we had time, we could have gotten off to take advantage of free museum admissions. Outside of that, nothing much drew interest. By the time the red bus passed near the Cardiff Central Station, we were ready to have our very late lunch at the Prince of Wales restaurant which we passed earlier. Then back to the station to board our train out of this Welsh capital. Not bad for a day trip from Bath which cost us only £17 for the train, £13.50 for the Castle and £15 for the hop on/off red bus. You may skip the red bus when you visit and just linger at The Castle, then walk to the Cardiff National Museum near the City Hall and Cardiff University. How about that? Just £ 30 for a day trip in this Welsh capital!

Touchdown, London


It has been a while since I visited London. Back in 2000, there was a teenage goddaughter and her family whom we visited. Soon after, I was back on a business trip in 2003. My goddaughter is a full-grown adult now, ready to march down the aisle to meet the man of her dreams. How time flies!

I arrived to the same London I remember, except only that there’s the “Harry Potter” phenomenon and London Eye attraction adding to those sites from Canterbury Tales, palaces, and Westminster icons. We arrived nearly midnight in Central London. Still sleep-deprived, we managed a very productive first day outing the next morn. The usual drill: Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Borough Market, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, British Museum, Tower of London, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and London Bridge. Oh ok, add Dragon Alley and Bridget Jones apartment to that.

It is a pity that Big Ben and parts of Westminster Abbey and Cathedral are up for major restoration work. No photo op with all those scaffoldings. The Nelson’s Column still stands dead Center of the Trafalgar Square. It was teeming with tourists the time we visited. And you’d find them again at the British Museum amidst the Nereid Monument, Elgin Marbles and around the Rosetta Stone.

London’s and Westminster’s major attractions maybe all must-see’s but we enjoyed Borough’s Market best. It was a very late lunch here after a 3 hour walking tour and we weren’t just bushed when we got here. We were hungry! Hard to resist those empanadas and Argentinian steaks in a bun! Walking around the market, we likewise didn’t miss the Scotch eggs, asparagus and doughnuts!

By the time we were back at the hotel, we were very tired. All of 18,000 steps in a day. Skipping dinner, I called it a night early. Phew!

Porteña at Borough Market

Europe: Then And Now


Back in 1986,  I traveled to Europe for the first time. Alone.  At the time, I was still smoking and it was sheer torture to be in flight or around airports and train stations all of 21 hours.  Every chance I got, I filled my lungs with nicotine like it was the last stick I’d smoke.  I read the instructions over and over, matching them with the signages I passed, hoping I’d find my way to Bradford, England without a hitch.

 

 

The London stopover ended with my safe landing in Heathrow airport.  From there,  I took the train for Bradford.  Not an hour or two to check out the London sights  That had to wait for much later. I was expected for dinner somewhere within the halls of Bradford University.  From the tropics,  I had my first taste of snow when I got out of the train station in Bradford.  I wanted to run and throw my first snowball.  That had to wait too.  At the time, I was simply too eager to get inside Charles Morris Hall and sit by the fire to warm my fingers which were threatening to freeze.   As I “thawed”,  I met my new friends from Saudi Arabia, Italy, Finland, Brazil, Ethiopia, Burma, Solomon Islands, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan,  Poland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Cyprus.  I have lost touch with all of them.  Hopefully, with this blog I can find some with greying hair but with the same smiles I still fondly remember.  These friends introduced me to varied flavors of the Orient, African, Middle East and Western cuisine:  from the Indian tandoori to the Italian pasta (back then, I only knew the spaghetti with meatballs), to Sudanese cabbage with rice stuffing yummy dish, to Brazilian beans and more beans!  Oh my,  too much beans.  Where are you guys?  Zeze, Raoul,  Rebecca, Lita,  Salik, etc.

 

 

I nearly cried when I saw Buckingham Palace.  I saw Big Ben at sunrise and sunset with coffee in a paper cup ,  seated on a bench somewhere. Always, I would be found reviewing a map.  I would imagine  myself taking the “Tube” as Londoners call their subway,  and visiting the popular London sights.  I also imagined which subways to take to go to the West End to watch Les Miserables and how to find my way back to our hotel.  When I crossed the English channel to go to Paris for the first time,  I was dripping with excitement.  Eiffel Tower was not really much to see the first time i saw it.  I was more awed by the Champ Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.  By the time I reached Italy,  I could hardly sleep ……… spending my nights planning on how the next day would be spent.  There was just so much to see and so much food to try. I was young then,  and my taste buds were still waiting to discover new cuisine. I can relate to Peter Mayle’s first adventure with  French food.  Even freshly baked bread was new to me then.  I discovered wine and cheese for the first time too.  I even learned which wine glass is for what……..a far cry from those days when my wine glass was good for any wine, red or white , sparkling or not.  More than that,  I discovered what life is all about.  I turned many pages since then.  And my life, as a book,  now counts many chapters and sequels.

 

 

I visited the same sights over and over again. I worked, and worked hard. I saved, and saved good.  I traveled,  and savored every minute.   Through the years I have taken pictures of some favorite sights and found how they now compare.  I will throw in more recent pictures here from time to time , if only to lay down a better comparison between then and now.  The unwanted pounds. The unwelcome lines.  But who cares?

 

Check out the photos and see for yourself.

 

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