I happened to be in Cardiff for St. David’s Day (*snaps* for nice timing). St. David is the patron saint of Wales (think St. Patrick in Ireland), and his feast day is a national celebration. Seemingly everyone in Wales wears a daffodil to show their pride, but the crowd in the capital city becomes a bit unique.
At the St. David’s Day parade (a small but earnest affair, and so well-mannered it was almost unrecognizable from an American parade… there wasn’t even any shouting!), I saw waves of people wrapped in Welsh flags, dozens of people in daffodil hats (kudos to the girl in the green shirt, I see what you did there!), a handful of tiny 4-year old St. Davids, a dragon or six, and one woman wearing a leek headpiece (I took a creepy stalker shot of her for proof, even though she wasn’t in the parade).
I should probably mention that the daffodil and the leek join the dragon and the St. David’s cross as national symbols. Add in some traditional Welsh costumes (think pilgrims in red plaid) and one lone guy in a Welsh kilt, and… wait, one more thing: Giant paper-mache torsos of St. David and several anonymous (to me) people who were presumably Welsh. That was a bit odd, but quite festive.
Around the corner from the parade, I visited the National Museum Wales. I really appreciate how most UK museums are free (London aside). Some of the content at the museum I couldn’t care less about, frankly, but there was plenty to catch my attention. The section on prehistoric Wales was impressive, and I was awed by artifacts dating from 3000 BC, and that modern upstart, Celtic Christianity, in the 900s AD. My view of art galleries goes something like this: 1. Do I like the painting/statue? 2. Do I recognize the (famous?) artist? 3. Do I care? So I skipped the “modern” room and gravitated toward the impressionists and post-impressionists, spending a respectful amount of time in front of Monets (love!) and Rodins, and wondering why I’d never heard of the artist of a painting of Cardigan Bay whose waves seemed to sparkle in the sun, when certain artworks by renowned artists just bore me.
There are historic buildings (cottages, flour mills, stables, a medieval church) restored and relocated on the premises, as well as St. Fagan’s “castle” and beautiful grounds. I am dubious of the “castle” status of St. Fagan’s, as it just seemed like a hugely expensive manor house to me. I guess if you’ve got enough money you can call it a castle if you want. This goes with the classic question, “What is art?”… “What is a castle?” Towers, turrets, history, and impressiveness are categories I would offer, but that’s just me.
My hostel (Vagabonds) was in the shadow of Millennium Stadium, and I went a tour of it with the group. Truthfully, I don’t care much about sports, but it was pretty cool to see the stadium, home of the Welsh rugby team. It was interesting to hear how it has to adjust to accommodate football (soccer) players (basically, rugby players think they’re tougher than any other sport, and I wouldn’t start a fight with one of them!).
Finally, Cardiff Bay. Views of the Millennium Centre (and entrance to Torchwood, for those who are interested)– that’s the big building with giant words and slate from North Wales on the side– Roald Dahl Square (no giant peaches that I could see), the Welsh government (National Assembly) building…
…And of course no visit to Cardiff could be complete without the Doctor Who Experience. Most of you can skip this section (if you’ve never seen the cult British TV show Doctor Who, which is filmed in & around Cardiff), but any Whovians will appreciate all the props & costumes I got to see. The experience itself, led by Matt Smith’s Doctor, was fun (I bet kids especially would love it), but no spoilers!
Yeah, it was pretty cool.