Sunday, July 25, 2010

shy goddaugther

Had dinner with my sister, her husband (before he had to go to work) and her three kids. Afterwards, we went for a walk as the kids rode their bikes and big wheels. Every time we approached neighbors out on a constitutional, my goddaughter dropped her head so that her chin was touching her collarbone, which affected her nascent steering skills -- to the point she drifted off the sidewalk. Kinda cute, since she's only three . . . plenty of time to work on her being outgoing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

People Are Funny

Most mornings you can find me at the gym. I don't wear headphones there and I'm usually on the NordiTrek for at least half-hour, so I got time to kill.

The other day some guy gets on the NordiTrek next to me. No big deal -- maybe he liked that particular machine. He starts doing his workout. About 10 minutes into it, a friend of his (acquaintance?) walks up and starts chatting. They're shooting the shit, then all of the sudden things get juicy.

The friend, let's call him the NonExerciser, starts talking. He's babbling about some coworker that he and the NordiTrek guy know. I'm assuming they work at the same place. The
NonExerciser says that the coworker got fired. The NordiTrek guy doesn't know who it is. So the NonExerciser tries to explain him. This is where the story gets amusing (to me, at least). The NonExerciser goes through five ways to explain appearance of the fired guy, everything from what shirt he wears to his haircut. The NordiTrek guy just doesn't hear any bells ringing. So the NonExerciser drops his chin, brings it up, then says, "You know, the motherfucker with the buckteeth."

"Oh," says the NordiTrek guy, "that cat!"

I'm telling ya, people are funny. . . .

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I'm writing this on Friday about 5:30 p.m., UK time. The two-star hotel I'm staying in doesn't have Internet access, so I'll post this blog entry later -- probably when I'm back in the States.

Yesterday, Thursday, was mostly a travel day. I had breakfast at the hotel in the Portmeirion village, then caught the shuttle to the Minffordd station for my 10:05 a.m. train. Weird thing was, it headed back towards Liverpool; I got off a few spots before the Beatles' birthland at the Wolverhampton station, around 12:30 p.m.

The actual train to Glasgow left a little before 3 p.m. I was looking forward to it because it was Virgin -- I've heard good things 'bout their airline -- but it was a letdown (little legroom and the spots didn't have any racks, unlike the Wales Arriva line). On the plus side, a senior sat next to me and she turned out to be good company (even though she read from a Christian pamphlet). She lives in Glasgow, though I think she grew up in Wales, and was coming back from visiting a friend in south Britain.

The Virgin train rolled into Glasgow on time a bit after 7 p.m. I grabbed a taxi to my lodgings: don't laugh . . . it's called the Swallow Hotel. OK, now laugh!

The hotel is right off an interstate and half the shops around here are out of business with steel shutters closed down -- very gritty. Reminds me of South Philly, the part down by the shipyard and industrial parks.

After checking in, it was a bit past 8, so I got dinner in the hotel's restaurant. I ordered fettuccine in a liquidy tomato sauce with a coating of cheese on top.

I crashed a little before 11 after watching some telly. Of course, there's a Scottish channel.

Today, Friday, I got up before 8 a.m., then had breakfast downstairs: two pieces of toast, beans, sausage and OJ.

I hopped in a taxi around 10:10 a.m. and told the driver to take to the Glasgow Science Centre. Before I went in, I took some pics of local landmarks, including BBC Scotland, a blue bridge and an amphitheatre where there are evening concerts.

The Science Centre cost 9.95 to get in (not that I minded -- need to get rid of all these pounds before I go home), but it was bit of a letdown. It's geared more towards kids. My two nephews, ages six and five, would've loved it. Only thing that made me smirk was the stringless harp: invisible lasers create sound when you pluck it.

Leaving the Science Centre, I opened my Union Jack umbrella (can't believe this London purchase still works) to battle a drizzle. A cab took me to the Botanic Gardens.

A light rain began falling when I passed under the Botanic Gardens' concrete arch. I made a beeline for the Kibble Palace, a glasshouse that is awesome! Inside are circa 1900 sculptures of Biblical figures. Near the entrance is a leafy display with a circular pond as a base; in the pond are koi fish. Also inside the Kibble Palace are plants from Australia and South America, as well as carnivorous plants including everyone's favourite: Venus flytraps, though they're real small.

The Botanic Gardens also has a main greenhouse, which is pretty extensive -- has something like 10 rooms. Real humid in some of them. What caught my eye were petrified termite mounds and a plant that eats insects like ants. The plant is cup-shaped and its aroma lures in pests; once they go in too far, they can't escape the stick-sweet.

Next stop was the Glasgow Necropolis. On paper it sounded cool. A bunch of affluent, 19th-century Glasgowians paying homage to themselves with ornate crypts, but the rain was still coming down, so I ducked into a nearby religious museum, where the third floor gave me a good pic of the Necropolis. The museum also had a "Digging Up Glasgow" exhibit, which featured a 3,000-year-old arrowhead. Wow!

Afterwards, I walked several blocks to a cafe. I had to go that far because most shops were closed up. As a dried off in the cafe, I had a bacon cheeseburger and Old Jamaican ginger-beer soda.

The rain really started to come down now (about 2 p.m.). I tried waving a cab down but he pointed behind him at a taxi stand. I caught a cab that took me to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, a recommendation from that old bird on train yesterday.

The Kelvingrove Museum was amazing! They stress Scotland's history but also have other art, such as Italian, Dutch, French, etc. And on one of the upper floors, they had a small sculpture of FDR. Oh, and there were some modern art, along with exhibits dedicated to dinosaurs and Ancient Egypt (they had tombs from 2,500 BC, if memory serves).

It's about 6:30 p.m. right now. The plan is to get some fish and chips for dinner then try and crash around 9 'cause I gotta get up at 3:30 a.m. for my 6:55 a.m. Not looking forward to that. Three connections: Glasgow to Birmingham to Paris to (finally) Philly. Hope they're all running on time. . . .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Portmeirion, day 2

Yesterday, Wednesday, it rained for the first half of the day, so I did most of my touristy things in the afternoon and evening.

In the morning, I had breakfast in the village down at the hotel because the shops and cafes didn't open till 10 or so.

Around 11 a.m., I stopped in the Prisoner shop and bought a little Portmeirion travel bag. I wanted to get cookies and fudges for everyone back home, but I would need to get four boxes, and I just don't have the room in my luggage.

The rain finally let up around 2 p.m. (I had spent most of the morning in my room reading that Cure bio), so I headed down the road in the village to a cafe. Got a tuna salad on a roll; it was more like a tuna sandwich -- really good.

After lunch, I wandered around and took as many pics as I could, including on this hiking trail where I was looking for this plant with three-foot-wide leaves. I was snapping so many pictures that my battering konked out after about two hours.

I retired to my room and put on channel 5 at five o'clock for some Portmeirion programming, but I messed up -- they aired it at four, so I showered and hung out till 6, when they aired an old Prisoner episode. It was a good one, where No. 6 runs for No. 2's office -- lots of exteriors shot here in Portmerion . . . God, the producers did a great job of utilizing the land here!

At 7:15 I had the shuttle pick me up for dinner down at the castle (didn't feel like walking the half-mile or so). At the castle, there's a fenced-off field with a bunch of black sheep, some with horns. As I was taking pictures, a number bahhed and they approached the fence, rather aggressively, I thought. Weird.

For dinner, I had crab and some sort of mayonnaise concoction on a hard piece of bread for starters. The main course was duck over red cabbage, with mashed potatoes. To drink, I had a 250ml glass of chardonnay (I figured, if you're gonna be a fancy-schmancy place, might as well go the whole nine). For desert, I had pecans in a four-inch-wide pie crust, with a scoop of ice cream on the side. I should've taken a picture of it. Also on the plate were these edible colourings in swirls, and sticking out of the ice cream was a red oblong circle measuring six inches. It was almost too pretty to eat, but I wolfed down the plate regardless.

Real quick: the sun sets in England around 10 p.m. this time of the year. WHAT!?!

I went to bed around 11, after watching a documentary on Pete Best, a footballer who I read about at Manchester United. Kind of a tragic figure. A child prodigy, apparently. He started playing professionally in his teens, but he was so good the fame went to his head. Later in life he went bankrupt and became an alcoholic -- liver problems ending his life at 59. On the more entertaining side, at the Manchester United stadium, there's a quote of him saying, "I spent most of my money on birds, booze and cars. The rest I squandered away."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Yesterday, Tuesday, I got up at 6:45 a.m. after a restless night sleep -- didn't want to miss my trains to Portmeirion. I settled my hotel bill, ate some Coca Puffs and drank a glass of OJ, then hopped in the cab for the the Liverpool Lyme Street Station. Interestingly, the cab drive was only six pounds or so (compared to 18 a couple days ago); this time, I gave the driver a tip . . . not much, only a pound a change.

I got to the train station super early -- my 1st train wasn't leaving until 9:15 -- but I didn't mind. Plenty to do. I withdrew 200 pounds from the station's Barclay ATM, bought my tickets for a couple days from now for going to Glasgow, and I read a Cure biography.

Real quick: Liverpool accents are insane. Real thick. Many times during my stay I had to ask Liverpudlians to repeat themselves. Craziness! John, Paul, George and Ringo weren't that way!!!

Anyway, my first train was on time. It was a Metro line that took about 40 minutes. At the next station I waited about 20 minutes for the next leg, which only took a half-hour. The last leg was the longest at about three and a half hours. I was worried that I might miss it because there was only a ten-minute gap between the 2nd leg and 3rd one, but my fear proved unfounded since England's rail system, unlike America's flight schedule, runs generally on time. Oh, and for those of you playing at home, the last two legs of the journey were on Wales' rail system, Arriva Trains Wales.

About 20 minutes into my last train ride, I started getting a little worried because most of the stops were in the middle of nowhere -- no shops and only sheep farms as far as the eye could see. I probably wouldn't have been biting my nails (figuratively) if back in Liverpool if both times when I was buying tickets, the agents never heard of the train stop near Portmeirion (Minffordd).

Thankfully, everything worked out in the end. The trek from the station to Portmeirion wasn't five miles but only about one mile. It was a nice walk, with the sun hiding behind grey clouds.

A little after three I walked into Castell Deudraeth. A driver took me into Portmeirion's actual village -- about three-quarters mile away. I checked in at hotel reception, then the driver drove a few hundred yards to my room in the village (called Cliff House). Very posh. Free Internet access, bottles of Welsh water, and a view looking out to the estuary. Oh, and the room locks with a skeleton key. How cool is that!

After settling in, I charged my camera's battery and wandered around the village. Wow, seeing Portmeirion on the TV show The Prisoner doesn't do it justice. It's something you have to experience. It's not a lot of land but the way the father of Portmeirion -- some architect -- laid everything out, you could walk around for hours and not get bored. I would've went down to the beach, but the high tides hit at four and it can get dangerous, so I didn't bother.

Around five I returned to my room and took those five CDs from Liverpool and put 'em on my computer. By the time I finished showering and shaving, it was dinnertime; my reservation was at 7:45, which I made when checking in.

The dinner was at the hotel in the village, and it just may have been the best meal ever (outside of my mother's Thanksgiving meal). It began with small white and wheat rolls (one each), then the waiter bought around a spinach soup in a small cup -- probably four ounces. I was gonna pass on it 'cause I only like spinach in salads, but I figured what the hell. It was awesome! Couldn't even taste the spinach. It had black specks in there. Pepper? Whatever, it went down like a good vodka. Tasted rich and nothing like I've ever experienced before.

Next up was the starter, delivered on a black slab. I had ordered thinly cut Welsh beef with six dots of butter, lettuce, tiny mushrooms and long carrots. I practically licked my plate clean but refrained myself.

The main course was lemon fillet of sole over spinach, and mixed vegetables in a bowl. I ate it all with delight, except I didn't touch the three thumb-sized mushrooms. Just couldn't get past the sight of 'em.

After I drank my glass of milk, I did something I never do at restaurants: I ordered desert. I went with chocolate cake (motif?) and ice-cream cappuccino. They were both out of this world! The cake was sorta like an ice cream with some white milky liquid in the center. And the cappuccino in a cup tasted so much like coffee I prayed I wouldn't be up until three in the morning.

A little after nine I retired to my room -- watched some stuff on Portmeirion on YouTube, then turned on the telly. Channel-surfed, watching mainly a documentary on Tom Jones (didn't know he was Welsh), and fell asleep with MTV airing an early episode of The Osbournes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Liverpool, last day

It's about half past eight here on Monday night. I'm sitting in the hotel lobby, shuffling my 10-plus hours worth of iTunes' Beatles songs. Just got back about 15 minutes ago from spending the day down in Liverpool's city centre.

This morning I had breakfast at the hotel: sausage, toast and OJ. I then took the bus down to Albert Dock (about a half-hour ride). I snapped some pics then checked out the Maritime Museum. Pretty fascinating, they had a lifesaver from the Lusitania!

For lunch, I had an awesome chicken salad, shaped like a mountain. Lettuce as the base with the sides being shredded bacon, the chicken, Jersey tomatoes cut in half, and egg and avocado, both of which I didn't eat.

At 2:30 I took the 2-hour Magic Mystery Bus Tour. Pretty cool, drove past each of the Fab Four's childhood homes, and saw not only Penny Lane but also Strawberry Fields. The guide was very charismatic, and apparently he's friendly with Paul McCartney -- he had a pic of them two on his phone. Oh, and one cute anecdote he had was that one time when McCartney met the Queen in a public ceremony, she confessed to owning a few Beatles records. Sir Paul's quick-witted reply: "That's OK, I own a couple Queen records."

The tour wound up a block from the Cavern Club. Glad I took pics there 'cause soon after my camera's battery died, or in its words, it was "exhausted".

I then headed back to Albert Dock (less than a half-mile away) and ducked into HMV across the street from the Dock at a shopping centre called Liverpool ONE. They had a two-CDs-for-ten-pounds sale. Gotta hand to 'em, they really suckered me in. I picked up the soundtracks to the three series of Angela's Ashes (detective show set in 1980s London), OMD's greatest hits, and Kate Nash's latest, who I saw on the telly while in Manchester (the music video "Kiss That Grrrl"; oh, and her CD wasn't part of that sale, but it was seven or eight pounds).

For dinner I ate in the same joint as lunch, in Albert Dock. Got a bacon cheese burger and chips. This being Britain, the bacon was actually ham. Good deal: five pounds for the meal and a glass of milk.

Around 7:45, I hopped on the bus back to the hotel. Glad I spent the day down at the Dock. It may have been unbelievably windy, but at least I wasn't sneezing like yesterday and this morning because the hotel is right next to a park. Curse you tree pollen!

Tomorrow is the five-hour trains ride to Portmeirion in northern Wales. Gotta take three trains. The first leaves Liverpool at 9:13 am. Gonna try to go to bed at 10 tonight so I don't oversleep, in case the early morning wakeup I requested at reception doesn't happen. Upward and outward!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Liverpool, day 1

I know I've been doing this vacay diary the morning after, but I thought I'd do it tonight. The 2-star hotel I'm staying at is technically in Liverpool but about 15 minutes from the city centre, so nothing much going on around here. And it being Sunday, the few local shops around are closed up. Day of rest, and all that.

This morning, I checked out of the hotel in Manchester a little before 10 a.m., then walked a few blocks to the Unitarian Church (I'm a member of it in Philly). On my way there I got a little lost and stumbled across a film shoot: a taxi on a sidestreet corner with big lights and a bunch of people huddled around it. I was across the street and saw some guy, who was about 25 years old, with an earpiece in his right ear. I asked him if they were shooting a commercial, and he said it was for a "drama" called The Accused. I asked him if it was better than Life on Mars (an awesome detective show that ran for two series a few years ago), and he was quick on his feet -- said it was a million times better. After that little exchange I walked on but realized at the end of the block, at the light, that I was heading in the wrong direction, so I had to backtrack (grrrr!). Just as I reached the gaffer bloke, he put his index finger to his earpiece then asked me to wait a moment or two. An extra (some guy in a 3-piece suit with a briefcase) had to walk by on the same sidewalk as us; I guess the camera was facing the front windshield, since I saw the rear of the cab. After they shot the scene, the gaffer thanked. I told I wasn't doing it on purpose -- I missed my turn. He was cool about it. More I think about it, he was cool throughout. Wasn't overly aggressive at all . . . forceful but polite. Sucks they had to work on a Sunday, though.

I arrived a little early for the Unitarian service. Fortunately, I member of my church, Anne, has a friend there and she told them about me. Some lady -- can't believe I forgot her name -- gave me a tour. Pretty fascinating: they've owned the corner property since the 1600s, I believe, but their original building was destroyed in WWII during the Blitz. Since then, they've rebuilt it. Their sanctuary and rooms are on the 1st floor; they rent out the above floors of the semi-skyscraper to corporations.

The service was nice. I think the UK Unitarians are more aligned to Christianity than back home, but you couldn't tell by this service. One thing I liked was that the guy who led the service at one point read a kids' book called Little Croc; gonna have to pick that up while I'm here in England . . . I think my 4-year-old nephew will like it since the Little Croc in question likes to be bad, though at the end of book the croc leans to play nice (well, mostly).

After the service I had tea and scones with about 10 of the congregation (around 20 people attended the service), including Anne's friend. The scone was good: I was told by my tour guide to put butter and marmalade on it. Good advice -- it was delicious. The tea was dead-on, too. Probably the generous teaspoon of sugar had something to with that. And I usually only have hot tea when sick!

The train to Liverpool was pretty packed, but no big deal 'cause it's only a 50-minute ride. (Really weird: back at the Manchester train station, I had to pay 30 pence to use the toilet.) At one point we passed a couple sheep farms. Pretty cool. . . .

I got into Liverpool around 3 pm. The taxi to the hotel was a lot less than in Liverpool (18 pounds vs. 60). When I got here, I made my way down to the local laundry, which was a 10-minute walk. That whole episode was a story in itself. The laundry only took pound coins, so I had to buy something at the local Tessco (a supermarket), then I forgot the detergent, so I had to go back to the Tessco. On the plus side, as I was folding the last of my clothes, I spoke with a nice woman who told the do's and don't do's while in Liverpool -- more on that tomorrow.

For dinner I tried finding a place to get a burger, but my hotel doesn't serve food on weekends, and the pub around the corner had its kitchen close just before I arrived. So I walked a couple blocks and ran into a pizza joint. Their menu had garlic bread. I ordered it and was surprised that it was a pizza -- tasted just like garlic bread. By that point, it was 8 p.m., so I devoured it.

For the past couple hours I've been in the hotel's reception area. I had two screwdivers and am now working on my 3rd or 4th Beck's (though, in my defense, each bottle is 275 ml, which is a little more than 9 ounces). Alcohol = a l-o-n-g, loquacious blog post. When in Liverpool. . . .

Manchester, day 2

Yesterday, Saturday, I had continental breakfast here in the hotel -- ate as much as could since it was 11 pounds. Then I lounged around in my room until about 10 or so, when I went to Manchester Art Gallery. How could I not. It's right across the street! (Can see it from my window.)

I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It doesn't look like much from the outside but they utilize every inch. Kinda cool how they have pop art in there, like the cover to a Smiths LP. But what really got me was the Victorian room up on the second floor. Never knew artists from that time used such bright, vivid colours. A lot of those paintings reminded me of Maxfield Parrish.

For lunch I had a salad in the Art Gallery's restaurant and got a green apple for an afternoon snack.

Around 2 p.m., I took the tram (a.k.a. MetroLink) for a 20-minute ride out to Old Trafford -- a suburb, I think -- to see Manchester United, probably England's most popular football team. It took the hour tour. Pretty impressive. The stadium fits over 75,000 and tickets are sold out immediately; they can't expand any more at this location because homes and train tracks are behind the stadium. Oh, what else was cool was that the field is actual grass. Damn, now I really wanna see a football game.

I got to really hand it to Manchester United. They have a well-oiled operation. Before the tour you can peruse their museum's three floors (plenty to see since the team is over 100 years old). You start at the top and when you get down to the 1st floor you just have to wait for your tour guide; not a long wait since tours start every 20 minutes.

The tour ends in their shop. It's about two-thirds the size of your typical Modell's in the States and has every piece of merchandise you could think of. I picked up a scarf, a birthday card for my nephew, and a porous black jersey (their away colour, I think) -- the other colour was yellow, but I already have a yellow Australia jersey. What was cool about the jerseys was that they had several designs; some had Manchester United on the back, others, like mine, didn't.

Back near my hotel, I hit a seafood restaurant called Live Bait. Very posh. The food was top tier, but it pissed me off that I asked for mineral water and they brought me bottled mineral water. I should've said something before the girl opened the bottle but I was reading and she kinda blindsided me. Still, I should've said something. Brings me down a bit that you always need to have your defenses up. So sad that people are always looking to take advantage. I don't think I'm gonna go to anymore posh places; I'll stick with taverns and good ol'-fashioned English food. Maybe a pub burger tomorrow in Liverpool for dinner. . . .

To cheer up last night, I went back to my hotel (got there around 9) and watched the last two episodes of Doctor Who's current series on the BBC website. Kinda cool, since I can't do that in the States, what with the license fees they pay over here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Manchester, day 1

Yesterday I took the train from Cardiff to Manchester. Glad to get out of Cardiff -- the National Rail website said the train was 32 pounds, but when I got there the surly lady at the counter said it was 56 pounds; apparently, you have to buy an advance ticket on the website for the cheaper price. Grrr. . . .

I arrived in Manchester a little after 2 pm. To save money I decided to walk to the hotel (Google Maps said it was a 11-minute walk), but it turned into an hour 'cause I kept getting lost. Streets would run a couple blocks then either run into a historical building or be renamed.

The hotel is very nice. Much better than Cardiff, where at one point the card to my room stopped working, the free WiFi in the lobby one night kept giving me all these unusual security protocols (too boring to go into), the DVD player in the room wouldn't open (not a problem, since I have my laptop with me),and when I arrived they asked me which paper I'd like delivered to my room -- they wound up charging me for it.

In the afternoon, I wandered around. Stumbled across a Theatre Library where a production of Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest is being performed until the third, but all tickets are sold out. Bummer.

I had dinner about five blocks from the hotel. Oh, the hotel is in downtown Manchester where almost everything is within walking distance. I ate at some Italian joint located on some small sidestreet that could double as an alley. I was jonesing for pizza. Fought the urge to get pepperoni pizza and instead ordered a folded over pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and (maybe) ham and olive oil.

Afterwards I trekked it to the Comedy Store. Apparently, there are only two in the UK; the other one in London. It was stand-up night. They call MCs over here compres, I believe. He kept asking if anyone was from another country. I kept my hand down after seeing him roast a couple Aussies, a drama student, a copper, and a guy in the front row wearing a pink shirt.

There were four comedians, with a half-hour intermission from 9:30 to 10 pm (the show started as 8:30 and ended at 11). Some funny stuff. Most of the humour British-based, obviously, though the headliner was a Canadian expatriate who was very Bohemian with his dozen jokes about mushrooms. And he did joke that Canadians are like Swedes by being too careful. Made me wonder if Canucks' carefulness is an asset, since they're the only country world not hit really hard by recession because they have strict financial regulation.

Another thing I noticed about all five comics was they're differentiating between England's North and South. It didn't come as a total surprise to me because there was dialogue in the great UK show Life on Mars about it. But hearing those stand-ups touch on it really drove the point home. Kinda weird, since England's only an island. Guess there's competition everywhere.

Wow, I don't think most people go to a comedy show to get all heavy, but I can't remember any of their jokes!

Friday, July 2, 2010

from Cardiff to Manchester

Today's a travel day. It's about a three-hour train ride to Manchester. I have until noon to check out of the Cardiff hotel -- not in a rush 'cause I'm more interested in Manchester's nightlife than anything else. (Right now it's about 9:30 a.m.)

All right, yesterday I spent most of the day down at Cardiff Bay. I didn't get down there until about 11 am -- I was in no rush . . . it's a vacation for bloody sake! Anyway, the Millennium Centre was a sight to behold with its ginormous marquee in Welsh. The Roald Dahl Pass was a bit of a disappointment: it's just a circle, plus labourers had it blocked off so they could set up for (this weekend's?) Cardiff Festival.

For lunch I ducked into a pub that was promoting Curry Thursday. Curry, yellow rise, Indian bread and a drink for 4.99. I made the mistake of asking for lemonade; she gave me a Sprite -- you'd think I would have learned my lesson from the previous day's lunch. Overall, it was good meal.

For the rest of the afternoon, I lounged around the Bay. Glad I did. There were little things I missed the first time around: like a sculpture honoring Cardiff's seamen who died during wartime, and the Visitor's Centre, which was housed in "tube". Once again, pics later.

My travel book said the St. David's Hotel had a good menu. So I hung out in their lobby from about 4:45 to 6 p.m., but when I went in there the bartender said dinner didn't start till 7. I didn't feel like waiting so I went back to the Bay and was going to hit a French restaurant but decided on a Turkish joint. Good choice, if I do say myself. I ordered lamb (salty but good), sauteed potatoes, house salad and milk. And not too bad of a price: 14.90.

During dinner, it started to rain. I was going to take the train but it looked like I had to catch a connection, so -- like in the morning -- I walked to the hotel; it's only about a mile. Luckily, I had Union Jack umbrella that I bought my last day in London.

Back in the hotel, I dried off then headed across the street where, like the night before, hopped into some convenience store for an ice-cream cone (got a different one this time). I ended Thursday by watching The Queen starring Helen Mirren, a Netflix DVD I brought with me from home. Seemed fitting.

I fell asleep to a Welsh TV station. Believe it or not, they have channel where the programming is all done in Welsh -- no English. Craziness!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cardiff, day 2

Couldn't get online yesterday because of problems with the hotel here in Cardiff, Wales. Anyway, let's backtrack a little.

In London, the dinner at the Italian joint was awesome. Football was on, so the packed place were feisty. I had vegetable lasagna, mashed potatoes, garlic bread and Lipton iced tea out of a bottle. Not too bad -- came out to something like 11 pounds.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I took the train from London to Cardiff. Glad the station was only three blocks from my hotel. And I found out why trash cans are few and far in-between in London: to cut down on terrorists dropping bombs in 'em. Smart.

The 2-hour train ride to Cardiff was uneventful. When I got here around noon, I decided to walk to the hotel since it's only three-tenths of a mile, but I couldn't find it at first. Kept walking up and down five-block St. Mary St., looking for it. Finally found it with the help of locals. I missed it because it's in the middle of the block, squeezed between two businesses. One of those buildings that's not impressive in the front, but it's bigger on the inside -- hey, just like Dr. Who's TARDIS!

My hotel's in what's called Cardiff Centre, so there are many restaurants and shops. I was in the mood for pizza but couldn't find a place that served slices, so I settled on joint where I got 2 meatballs and garlic breads; I asked for lemonade but the waitress gave me a Slice -- must be a UK thing 'cause that almost happened at the Italian cafe in London.

Then it was off to the Cardiff castle. Really impressive! I think I liked it more than the Tower of London because it wasn't so overwhelming. I'll post pics when I get back home, though unfortunately some turned out rubbish 'cause you couldn't use flash photography inside the castle. One that did turn out well was a window called Philadelphia. Apparently the family that lived there were uber religious and Philly is connected with the Bible . . . from John the Baptist, maybe?

For dinner, I ate at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, although it wasn't that good -- food left under the burners for too long. My thinking for going there was that the following day I'd be down at Cardiff Bay, where there are a bunch of posh restaurants, so that'll be an expensive meal. On the plus side, I had Chinese tea at the buffet and it was -- um, um -- tasty.

After dinner I went walking, looking for some club, but I left the second of my 2 maps back at the hotel, so I got a little lost. I didn't venture too far into that neighborhood. A little on the poverty side. Lots of businesses and homes "to let".

I got back to the hotel around nine and put on the telly. The BBC had one funny programme on called Mock of the Week, which was quite funny. Set up as a game show, it's basically a vehicle for comedians to make fun of the news. I think the producers are the same Brit cats who did Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which was quite evident in the last bit called "Things We'd Like to See", where the six comedians approached the mike for each topic, the first one being "Lines we'd like to see in the Bible" -- you won't find that on American television!

Right now it's a little before 10 a.m. on Thursday. It hasn't rained since I got there (there was a little shower in London my last full day there in the morning), so hopefully the sun reigns.