(Click on the above slide show to view as a web album.)
Tuesday we drove south to RAF Fairford. We've been listening to the Harry Potter books on cd. The version we're listening to is the UK one, read by Stephen Fry. We finished Prisoner of Azkaban, but only had the US version of Goblet of Fire, so that's what we started listening to. No disrespect to Jim Dale (the British man who reads the US audio editions), but we gave him two hours and by the end of that time, Larry and I were ready to fall asleep, lulled by the monotonous tone of Mr. Dale's voice. We marveled that someone could actually make the book boring. We gave him a try. We really did.
The trip to Fairford was long, but smooth. (It took over four hours to get there from Harrogate.) We had dinner at the bowling alley on the base.
Ryan amazed us that night by actually sleeping in the rollaway bed in our room! (The last time we had a rollaway, Ryan ignored it and slept between me and Larry.)
The next morning we had breakfast in a tiny little cafe tucked inside the base's community activity center. The center itself was undergoing renovation, and looked deserted. As we walked over the cement floor, currently stripped of its carpet with residual glue stuck on the ground, I said to Larry, "There was a time when I would have thought this was weird!" However, we rounded a few corners, and found the minute oasis of coffee and food in the midst of the dark community center.
After breakfast, we headed to Cardiff. Along the way, we saw an, "Adverse Camber" road sign. I'd seen this before and it left me scratching my head. After a quick Google search, I found it has to do with how the road slopes from the center to the side. If this gets going the wrong way, and a vehicle gets going too fast, things can get ugly.
The border between England and Wales is over a body of water, the Mouth of the Severn. There's a really neat bridge that spans it. (Unfortunately, there's a 5.10 pound toll to get across!) It took us a couple of hours to get into Cardiff and get parked.
It was a gorgeous day, sunny, but quite cool with a breeze. My first thought was that Cardiff is a lot more European in feel than England and Scotland. The sense of being in a foreign country is heightened by all the signs being both in English and Welsh. (Welsh is really crazy-looking. Way too many consonants all together. )
Our first stop was Cardiff Castle. http://www.cardiffcastle.com/ (If you want to see some Welsh, click on that link and choose "Cymraeg." There are also some great photos of the inside and outside of the castle. Go to the site and click on "present" to see them.) We hadn't been to a castle in a while. A tour of the castle was included in the price of admission. The tour started up on the castle wall. Ryan was tired and not at all cooperative. We had to remove him from the first couple of rooms of the tour. (Larry and I took turns.) Eventually he settled down and was quiet and good. (I suppose it's expecting a bit much for a three year old to be quiet during a tour!)
After the tour, we walked over to the keep, which was separate from the residential part of the castle. It was fun to climb up to the top and look around.
Of course we stopped in the gift shop. The Welsh flag is a red dragon on a field of white and green. I love it! It was hard for me to control myself in the souvenir department.
We had a late lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (of course). We got Ryan an HRC collectible bear wearing a dragon costume (Dylan the Dragon, I was told was his name). From talking to two of the employees at the HRC, I got the impression that Welsh people are very passionate about their dragon, and have a strong sense of national pride.
Cardiff is home to the Millennium Stadium. http://www.millenniumstadium.com/3473_3515.php Larry suggested we take a look at it. They had a tour starting just as we got there. It turned out to be very interesting and informative. I'm glad we went on the tour. It's something I never would have thought to do, but it turned out to be fun.
Of course we stopped at Starbucks and bought ourselves a Cardiff mug. (We also made a stop at WHSmith to buy the UK audio version of Goblet of Fire. ) We walked around the pedestrian area a bit before heading back to the car.
I really enjoyed Cardiff. Wales is somewhere I'd definitely like to come back and explore.
That night Ryan made sure Larry and I didn't sleep to well. He must have lulled us into a false sense of security that first night! The second night, he took forever to settle, then kept moving back and forth between our bed and the rollaway. Then he was up around 4am, and didn't go back to sleep until after 5am!
We had some breakfast, checked out of the hotel, got some gas, and were on our way to London. We did what JoAnna and Ryan and I did last year: drove to the tube stop at West Ruislip, and took the tube into London. This worked out well. Ryan was great on the tube.
As sunny as Wales was, London was the opposite. It was stereotypical British weather: cold, grey, drizzling, gloomy. That didn't dampen our spirits, though.
We pretty much went back to London so I could see The Globe Theatre. It was definitely worth it. We had a late lunch first, then Larry kept Ryan while I took the tour of the Globe. It's a re-creation. There's nothing left of the real Globe except a placard noting its original location just one street over. However, I very much enjoyed the tour, and even got to walk across the stage!
After the tour (and a quick Starbucks stop), we headed back to the tube, then back to our car, then back to Harrogate. It was a long drive (about four hours), but fairly smooth, except for some bad traffic in the beginning.
I'm really glad we got to see Cardiff, and took one last jaunt to London. I still can't believe we're leaving the UK in less than two weeks! I will definitely miss it.
ps - Today we were channel surfing, and saw there was a Tom Jones concert at Cardiff Castle! It was fun to see it, since we were just there!