Wednesday, 12 August 2009

change of plan

Last Thursday Steve and I set out to visit Hidcote Manor Gardens – I was hugely impressed by these beautiful gardens when we visited years ago and we fancied a return visit now that we have rejoined the National Trust.
However, as we approached the M5, electronic signs were warning of long delays between J15-14 because of an accident. With only minutes to re-plan the route we stayed on the M4 and found ourselves well on our way to the Severn Bridge. By the time we stopped at Aust Services to look properly at the map together, Steve suggested that we’d come so far that we might as well carry on and visit Cardiff, which was one of the destinations on his list of things to do this summer.
So it turned into a different kind of day out – a city day instead of a garden visit. We had heard lots of good things about Cardiff’s regeneration particularly around the seafront, so headed for Cardiff Bay. I’m afraid we found it decidedly underwhelming and after wandering for half an hour headed for the city proper. There we visited the castle - with some trepidation, fearing that touristification would have spoiled it. We loved it and felt we really got our money’s worth (with his over-60 bus pass Steve went in as a "senior" teehee). The entrance price includes an audio-guide (narrated by the lovely Huw Edwards) which I used liberally but Steve refused to touch with a bargepole. The castle has roman walls (only rediscovered in the 19th century), a medieval keep and baillie and a newer castle block. The latter has real wow factor when you climb the stairs and find yourself inside a Victorian gothic fantasy of the romance of the middle ages – one of the small dining rooms with its gilded angel mantel-supports felt like being inside a fairground pipe-organ!
After that there was only time for a cup of tea in Howell’s Department Store before setting off for home. Ironically we then got caught in severe traffic delays because of roadworks at the Cardiff end and the Balloon Fiesta at the Bristol end and took the best part of three hours to get home! Maybe we’ll try Hidcote again this week.

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