Chasing her past, she stumbles into the future in Cardiff Wales

I know from listening to Hillary Duff that there's two things you need in life. Somewhere you belong, and someone to love. I've got the love, and I have never felt there's anywhere on earth that I belong more than Cardiff. Perhaps it's because I'm part Welsh? Perhaps it's because the city hall is inscribed with a declaration of the Welsh's love of music and arts? Maybe it's the vibrancy of a city on the verge of destruction, revitalizing itself? I'm not sure exactly why or what it is that makes me love this place so very much, but I do. Every time we go we make friends. It seems almost unlikely that in a city the size of Cardiff you can go out to dinner make friends with the waiter then run into him the next day in the market and he remembers you. We know now about his family, his brother, and his ambitions. I've been to Cardiff before, and I've explained what Hiraeth is. I now have similar love for Brussels, but Cardiff will always have a special place in my heart, a first love. I suppose some readers might say "Liv is just always fascinated with Europe. Everywhere she goes, she fall in love with it." Not true. I could never live in Paris, and after visiting Cardiff and Brussels, London seems a bit too much for me to raise my family. I'm not saying I'd ever turn down a job if it meant a stepping stone, but I absolutely love Cardiff and Brussels.

The train from Bristol to Cardiff Central is a short 40 minute ride, only made longer by the Bristol Channel which gets in the way. Enough time to use the toilet, and get your tickets out for exit. When you exit you are smack dab in the middle of central Cardiff.  A short mile walk gets you down to by the Atlantic Wharf where we were staying at the Mecure Lodge. A lovely hotel quietly hidden behind the old wharf and just a few feet from Mermaid's Quay, and the Millennium Center. We love the old wharf... It's a oddly hidden treasure most tourists probably never see.

This is when we knew we were back. Back in Cardiff, home to my forefathers, a place with a song in its heart, a kinship that runs through my veins- beckoning me, calling me, and here I was smack dab back where I belonged, again.

I stood outside the giant Cardiff water tower, looking upon my reflection like Alice in Wonderland; who had just stepped through the looking glass. Here was a land I had left a year before, back again like the reopening of a favorite book- ready for us to explore. Unlike last time where we spent only a few daytime hours in Cardiff, this time would be different. We were spending the night. We'd shop Queen street, get drunk off our rears  at the legendary Saint Mary's Street, and we would eat dinner under candlelight overlooking the bay in a famous star frequented restaurant, and live to tell about it tomorrow. We couldn't wait to get started!

We threw are bags in the room like children at the amusement park, barely able to contain ourselves for what was to come. Running to the music in our heads down the stone path of the wharf and into the famed Millennium Center area! Finally a sign we had arrived:
Brains beer. Unheard of in the States, impossible to get outside of Wales- and Sarah thought I was a complete nutter when we asked the bar-maiden in Bruges for the stuff... but here it was, perhaps the best beer in the world- Brewed right in Cardiff. (Go for the "bitter" it's "bittersweet" awesome!)

We were getting hungry so we decided to hit the World Famous Harry Ramsden's Fish and Chips. This place is legendary with its unlimited chips, sauces & amazing breadings. Unfortunately they were understaffed and it was still sort of a holiday so it took forever to get our food, but it was worth the wait!

You may remember this carousel from a previous blog thread. Oddly enough it's all there. Something I didn't notice last time was the little metal maritime anchors shaped in the shape of "8" attached to the "6" large stones next to the carousel. The 86 phenomenon had became real once again.

After lunch we headed over to the visitors center.  Lovely historical movies, and gifts like sheep whoopsies, stuffed dragons, and wool scarfs can be purchased at a fraction of what they charge in the tourist trap shops downtown by the castle. You can even rent a bike out front and ride throughout the city on two wheels.

Afterwards it was time to partake in the lovely local public transportation. They may have never finished a London-Underground-like subway system in Cardiff, but you can still get around with ease with their many public buses including a free one that circles the city. We got a day pass for the "local's bus" which is £3 a person and good for unlimited travel even to other areas. When In Rome, I mean Cardiff- ride like the locals. We rode back up to the central bus terminal and then transferred to a bus going to Canton, a small neighborhood in Cardiff. We were headed to Clark's Pies. World Famous Clarks Pies. Famous as in Tom Jones flies his private jet in from the States just to get some. Yes they're that darn addictive. I'm going to do a full write up on Clarkies in the next day so I don't want to give to much away. But here's a picture of the place:

We then took a walk through Victoria park, and onto the famous Pontcanna fields. We witnesses blood covered chavettes getting into a teenage fight, their fathers pulling up in a plumber's truck, half in tears and half in anger. Guess parenting is the same anywhere in the world. Looking at the beautiful park I could just imagine my kids playing here.

After a bit of thrift store shopping downtown and being thoroughly confused if UK clothing sizes are the same as the US we headed back to the hotel to drop off our shopping bags and get ready for something I've dreamt about ever since our last trip abroad. It was the one regret I had last time. Tonight there would be none. Saint Mary's street is legendary not only in Cardiff but all of Britain as the place you get pissed out of your brain. It's not uncommon to find people in costumes, wearing bunny ears and finding hordes of soon to be grooms and brides on their last night out in Cardiff. Tonight we were going out and getting drunk!

Indeed we did. The area was a bit more tame since it was a weeknight, but still plenty of skimpy mini-skirted barely legal girls and guys discovering adulthood through the beer of the tap, and the pavement they'll pass out on. It was this night our bartender introduced us to the "Dublin car bomb" a Guinness and Baileys concoction that you must chug before it curdles like an explosion. I suggested to the bartender that it would seem such a drink might be a bit offensive to some. He just shrugged his shoulders. When we finally left the pub- the lights were brighter and more colorful than ever. We stumbled out onto Saint Mary's street just as any slightly tipsy Welsh girls and found a bus stop. That's the beauty of the UK... you don't have to worry about driving, you just need to be sober enough to figure out which bus to take.

Of course the night wasn't over. It was time to hit Mermaid's Quay once again for some real Welsh cuisine at Demiro's. A upscale, romantic restaurant overlooking the bay, the Welsh Orchestra house and the water tower. This is where we met a lovely Italian man who told us all about his family. He made us feel so at home, I almost wanted to ask for a job the next day when we met him at the market. Demiro's is famous place often frequented by some pretty big names, and we joked how I would faint face first if John Barrowman or Russell T. Davies showed up that night. I probably would have choked. We started dinner off with Cocos a Bara lawr (Cockles & Laver Bread) and then I had Ffiled Ciw Iar Sir Gar (Carmarthenshire Chicken) and Shan had the Ffiled Hwyaden (Breast of Duck) followed up by Tiramasu and a big huge Ice Cream sundae on my part. (A sobering up craving...)
The night was coming to an end. It was almost midnight now which was cool in itself. Just blocks from the hotel, we didn't have to worry about trains, public transport or when they stop running. We took one last stroll down on the lower boardwalk in Cardiff Bay and down to the Torchwood door, which has been turned into a Llanto Jones memorial.

It began to rain as we walked back along the wharf and back to the hotel. This was one hell of a day. Amazing, crazy, and wonderful. It's everything a vacation should be, but we also knew it meant our vacation was coming to end. Tomorrow we'd head back to London, and the day after that board our flight to the States. It was tragic, and depressing in the same breath. This is when I began to tell Shannon I wasn't going home on the plane with her. She thought I was joking. I wasn't so sure that I was.


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