Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wales Diary, Cardiff Bay Barrage

Cardiff Bay Barrage
I’d not been in this position before when traveling:  my evenings while in Wales were, by and large, spoken for with Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music concerts, but I’d nothing planned for the days.

I’d left the days open largely because of the weather, but also because I have a decided gift for getting lost, so I knew a good bit of time would be required to get what bearings I could.

The weather in Wales and, really, the UK, everywhere I looked, had been cold and rainy for days on end.  I’m not a stranger to that, as I’d vacationed in England in the wettest June in 100 years.  I’ll not say I was enamored of the idea, but I’ve learned you simply get on with it, that’s all.

My mental image for handling the weather comes from an early trip to the Scottish Highlands—it may have been during that wettest June, who knows? (The BBC broadcasters treated that June as if it were the legendary tennis match between John McEnroe and Björn Borg.  During the tennis match, by the way, we'd been visiting Waltham Abbey, and someone had a radio on, to our dismay.  The only thing I remember was one announcer saying to another how the players were “hewn out of rock.”)

But, as they say, I digress.  The lesson I learned in the Scottish Highlands was visual.  The rain stopped, and a car immediately pulled over to a layby, opened its boot, pulled out two folding chairs and, yup, you guessed it, a tea kettle, two teacups, and a Primus.  Water boiled in a jiff, no doubt biscuits along with it, and Bob’s your uncle.

OK, enough of this.  Here’s the thing:  it took me 17 hours to arrive in Cardiff, door to door (no delays, just the way it is—so now you see what I will do for the sake of art).  Moreover, I’d flown over on a red-eye, so you can be sure I was dead on my feet.

rape fields en route to Wales
BUT the sun was shining.  Not just “dry” weather, but sky-blue sunny.  Indeed, the clouds broke as the bus from Heathrow crossed the Severn into Wales:  do you know how rare that is?  I knew, from long experience, to take nothing for granted:  that blue-sky day could very well be my last.  My plan had been to do nothing whatsoever that first day, but, taking my cue from that car in the Scottish Highlands, I dropped my luggage and went out into the sunshine to walk the Cardiff Bay Barrage.

I wouldn’t have picked Cardiff as a “destination” on its own, but I discovered, in my short stay, that I was wrong, wrong, wrong.  The Cardiff Bay Barrage is but one example, a phenomenal reclaiming of waterfront and glorious greensward, to boot.

Sure, the Bay has its share of tourist-geared “amenities” (I highly recommend steering clear of the Red Dragon Centre mall), but the overall effect is grand, what with the Pierhead Building and Merchant Seafarers' War Memorial,

the Norwegian Church,

the Carousel,

and Ivor Novello looking back across the grand plaza to the Wales Millenium Centre.

What could be bad?

With night coming on, I opted to eat at the hotel, albeit not without a bit of dread.  But lo, fresh Welsh sea bass on a bed of wilted bok choy was on offer and quite nice.

Yet I’ll confess it’s the dessert I remember most, and it was old-fashioned Brit:  sticky toffee pudding with custard sauce.  A glass of half-decent wine, and I was set up for the night.

OK, so I had a teensy-weensy problem with my electronic devices.  Yes, I had my adapters.  Yes, I knew you had to turn on the switch at the wall.  But nothing worked.  This meant no camera, no ebook, no laptop, no iPod(!), no nothing, once the battery on each device ran down.

In the end, all was well, proving once again that I am no Einstein when it comes to how electricity works.  My portable surge protector was the culprit:  just doing its job, it kept tripping the hotel room's circuits.

Listening List

For a Spotify Playlist of the music of John Metcalf (composer and Artistic Director of the Festival), click on Wales Diary.

Scherzo from John Metcalf's Septet

© John Metcalf.

This is the first part in a five-part series entitled Wales Diary.  The second through fifth parts can be found at these links:  Cardiff Castle hereThe Covered Streets of Cardiff here, Art and the Aquabus here, From Celtic Village to Castle Gardens here.

A three-part series of posts on the Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music concerts I attended while in Wales, including listening lists, can be found at these links: Crossing a Bridge of Dreams hereAncient Instruments, Timeless Sounds here, and Worlds Entwined here.


Bente Haarstad said...

Me too I would like to go to Wales and Cardiff. Nice report, and the norwegian church was interesting. A bit similar to those I know, and a bit different. The wood is usually not horisontal on the churches around here, but the church tower was as I know them..

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

"And Bob's your uncle." How I love that expression! I can just see the couple with their teacups in their camp chairs, sipping tea. Makes me want to do it right now – and I don't even drink tea! Well, not often, anyhow. Pales beside my beloved coffee, but I suppose it would be easy enough to "Bob's your uncle" some instant!
Sounds like a wonderful time and good on you for taking advantage of a rare blue sky day and getting out and seeing the sights.

Suze said...

Sue, this post was great for me because it felt (I'm sitting here with a blinking cursor ...)

Okay, the words and phrases that are coming to mind are 'down-to-earth,' 'regular,' 'intimate,' but I know none of those are quite right.

'Accessible' doesn't do the trick either but I guess I just felt happy to read a post about weather and tea and food and the spot of bother with devices and your 'long experience.'

I guess I also feel a big piece of my heart in Wales, though I've never been, and felt granted the gift of it through your words.

I don't know, I just really liked it. Special mention of the image of the carousel.

Scott said...

Susan- What a nice pairing of Scherzo Septet 2 with this post. Whimsical,cheerful uplifting. I can kind of see him returning with some things from the garden. I like your gift for getting lost and your attitude towards weather. I think many of will agree,I'm grateful for what you do for the sake of art.
John McEnroe was one of the commentators at the French Open this weekend. I remember his fierce competitive spirit and the wars with Borg,Connnors and Lendl. Although very opinionated, what struck me about his commentary was his passion.
I liked how from experience, you took nothing for granted,and went out into the sunshine.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Susan:
We are delighted to learn that, even allowing for the vagaries of the English, and Welsh(!!)weather, you found much of interest to occupy you during the daytime in Cardiff.

It is many years since we were there, having previously usually only been there in the evening, having driven from Herefordshire, for the Welsh National Opera, but we do understand that, mainly on account of a massive imput of money, and the regeneration of depressed areas, it is now a very diverse and vital city. We should much like to see the new waterfront.

Mark Kerstetter said...

Yes, the Metcalf scherzo is a nice accompaniment to this. How odd to see those people pull over and boil tea by the road! (I love that paragraph.) Really like the delicious carousel photo but even more the Norwegian Church - such simple clean lines, so striking. Way to seize the sky-blue day!

Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Sue,
how well I can see Wales through your eyes! Thank you for describing it so invitingly. Rape-fields are utterly beautiful, and a blue sky is the best background to deepen its bright colour! Weather: no subject :-) - I really think we might have met long ago in the wettest summer in Scotland once - you know what they told us, without blinking an eye? "Actually we needed the rain", they chirped - standing knee-deep with their Wellies in water! That has become a family-saying...
But the lesson you learned is valuable: Make your tea as long (and quick) as you can -- and enjoy it, as life, - do it under all circumstances.
You had a long way to Cardiff - but evidently it was worth the trouble. And half-decent wine is better than none. (I had sticky toffee pudding too in London).
Your diary might convince me to travel to Wales (the only part of that beautiful isle I haven't seen yet).
Thank you so much for this post!

Brigitta Huegel said...

PS: Typical - all eyes...!
I discovered the music only after reading the comments.
But then I listened. Beautiful!

Friko said...

Oops, did your surge protector trip any other room's circuits? I wonder if they are still cursing this strange American whose armoury of electronic gadgets blew all the fuses?

I am so glad you had a great time in Wales, you might come back another time. You should have come a bit later, during our mini heatwave. But blink, and you miss it, we're back to cold and damp and miserable.

Let's hope that means that July will be kinder.

klahanie said...

Hi Susan,
As you may well be aware, we had a few day recently of actual decent weather and observed that strange glowing orb in the sky.
Alas, at the time of writing this comment, the weather has gone back to its dismal best. And summer seems to be the warm part of the British winter.
Okay, no more digressing from me. Wales is a wondrous land and many a pleasant surprise is on offer. Your visual delights of Cardiff have proven this.
And now, to take my mind of the weather, I shall immerse myself in your listening list.

Rubye Jack said...

It looks like it did indeed turn out to be a beautiful day and then with places like that stunning white church and psychedelic carousel what more could you ask for. I'd never heard the expression "and Bob's your uncle" before. I looked it up and will file it away for future use - that's how much I like it.

Heidrun Khokhar said...

What a remarkable and even amusing account of your journey! today I keep coming across tea in blogs I read and it's tempting me to head to the teapot. My daughter just taught me about the toffee delight. yum!

Dixie said...

Lovely music - Scherzo! I felt as if I was traveling along with you! And one of those beautiful, beautiful days when you can't resist the great outdoors. Seems you had a wonderful time.

A gracious 'Thank you' for following my blog post!

Susan Scheid said...

Bente: Interesting about the wood ordinarily being vertical, vs. horizontal. I wonder why the Wales church was different. I do always enjoy coming your way to see the photographs from Norway. Thank you so much for the window on your world.

Cathy: Yes, what is it about that expression that is so appealing? And for me, the funny thing is I do have an Uncle Bob. And I have no doubt you would be able to “Bob’s your uncle” some instant.

Suze: Perchance it’s a bit more relaxing just to ramble along on a travelogue, for once? It certainly is fun to write about it (and what would I do with all those digital photos I took if I couldn’t share them with you here). Spot of bother is another excellent phrase, BTW—wish I’d thought to use that in the post.

Scott: So pleased you enjoyed that Scherzo. And about getting lost, you may be amused to know my talent is so great at I’m able to do so even with a compass. As for McEnroe, yes, passion he has aplenty!

Jane and Lance: Yes, from what I have been told, Cardiff has experienced a tremendous rebirth. I gather that some things planned have not been completed—the economic downturn must surely have affected that, but overall, I was amazed how much there was to do and see. The waterfront is splendid.

Mark: I will never forget the sight of those folks pulling over. I thought, is there some emergency? I felt I could almost hear the squeal of brakes. The carousel is very jazzy, indeed, and I love the Welsh names on the horses. The Norwegian Church is a lovely building, and it apparently has art exhibitions and concerts, among other things (and of course has a little cafe).

Susan Scheid said...

Britta: Priceless story you have of your wettest summer in Scotland. It’s very likely we passed by one another there . . . Like you, until recently, we’d been to every other part of the UK except Wales. Our first visit there was two years ago, a trip to the Brecon Beacons. Absolutely beautiful countryside and lovely towns as well. PS: So glad you came back and enjoyed the Scherzo.

Friko: It was actually the folks at the hotel who figured out something was tripping the circuits (though hopefully only to my room). I then was able to put two and two together to figure out what the likely culprit was. They were much too nice to curse out loud, but I think they were very, very glad not to see me come down to the front desk one more time to reset the switch (or whatever it’s called).

Gary: “And summer seems to be the warm part of the British winter.” That had me laughing out loud. But, you know, the UK is a wonderful place to visit, no matter what—among other things, walking out in the countryside there is like nowhere else—your beautiful Peak District, for one (which I now know as the result of winning those lovely books!).
Rubye Jack: Yes, “and Bob’s your uncle” is a phrase with an almost inexhaustible supply of uses. The church and, you’re quite right, psychedelic carousel, are definitely, two highlights of a highlight-filled waterfront.

Heidrun: Isn’t that funny that it’s tea day in blogland as you read? Sticky toffee pudding is definitely a delight—particularly when accompanied by custard sauce.

Dixie: Thank you for dropping by, and glad to make your acquaintance, too (thanks to Gary!). So pleased you enjoyed the Scherzo. It was indeed a beautiful day.

Suze said...

'It certainly is fun to write about it (and what would I do with all those digital photos I took if I couldn’t share them with you here).'

I'm really glad you did, and continue to. You're a subtle observer with a carefully-developed eye and you help me to see (and hear) so much more than I otherwise would.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. what a 'great mini tour' around your departure, arrival, crossing that boundary into foreign land of Wales and then the walk out to the Barrage.

I was in Cardiff probably about 15 years ago before all these changes occurred .. and you've enticed me with your stories around the town - I'll need to go back .. especially to see Llantivet Major et al ..

Cheers Hilary

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