Cardiff's Millennium Centre showcases the city's dynamic side.
I'll explain the title of this blog entry as I go along, though it is hoped that these reflections make it clear as to what I am hinting at. Despite being on my very doorstep, this was my very first foray into Wales, and the first port of call was the bona fide Welsh capital city of Cardiff, a city of rapidly growing economic status, and the best piece of evidence that there's a sense of energy and dynamism about the country which may take some people aback. Staying in the Cardiff Bay area was a real plus, because the developments along Atlantic Wharf, including the striking Millennium Centre are bona fide tourist attractions in their own right, and it made for an interesting travel experience in itself catching the aqua bus along the river Taff from Cardiff Bay to Cardiff castle, which itself is huge, imposing, and perhaps the centrepiece of Cardiff's crop of tourist sights.
Cardiff castle, showing how well preserved the city's traditional edge is.
Further evidence that Cardiff is out to impress on the 'size matters' front is the massive shopping complex known as St. David's centre, which dominates the town centre, and dwarfs any other shopping plaza hands down. As an avid music consumer, I was more than intrigued, not to mention delighted, to have had the chance to pop in to the world's earliest established music shop (Spiller's records), and emerge with a CD which is to act as a timely reminder of that memorable episode. Evening entertainment was provided by a couple of hours of side-splitting fun at the Glee comedy club (loaded with witticisms), which is a fun-packed night out, and a fine way to round off a visit to the Welsh capital city. Driving north through Brecon Beacons the following day, a stop off at a waterfall made for a worthwhile diversion, and reaching the coastal town of Aberystwyth
for a lunch stop and a look around town was another piece of the jigsaw worth putting in place.
Ruins of historic significance at Aberystwyth.
The real tourist magnet came, however, in the shape of a project which its creator spent 50 or so years working on, and was then opened to the public to appreciate - the Italianate, colourful village of Portmeirion
, essentially a whimsical and appealing enclave of buildings, gardens, fountains and statues which won me over with its well-poised sense of charm. A stop-off in the (famous) castle town of Caernarfon
later in the day provided the final burst of photo opportunities, and upon reaching the lodgings in Bangor
later in the evening, the overall impression, halway through, was that Wales had already proved itself to be in possession of a solid identity all of its own which adds weight to their adherence to an undying national language and a country with it's very own set of cultural reference points.