Monday, 19 September 2011

RIP Kelly the Cat

It's with much regret that I have to inform you all of the passing of one of the worlds most awesome animals. A week before we were due to visit my dad back in my native land of Yorkshire, Kelly the cat had gone missing and sadly when found, it wasn't good news.

Kelly the cat in his Prime

It was just weeks before we were due to visit sunny Yorkshire that he was still gathering mice for the new Kittens my dad had taken in, but he had also been getting a bit bigger and a bit slower - as all cats seem to do when they get a bit older - so it wasn't totally a shock when he did go missing. We went searching for him when we were over, checking up at the house he'd spent a week at before when he was being fed by two families simultaneously - the sneaky beast - but sadly we couldn't find him. We put up posters in local shops but kind of expected the worst, so it wasn't a big shock when his remains eventually showed up under a dividing bush between two houses across the road. The neighbour found his remains by the power of smell as you can imagine. Apparently the spot was next to one of his sun bathing areas and so by all accounts he likely curled up in a ball and never woke up, nothing seemed untoward at least, so it seems like natural causes. The best way out we can all hope for really, so that was a comfort.

That's the morbid bit over, so why was Kelly the Cat so awesome?

Cat sleeping

Well, first of all, he started life under the guise of a girl. We don't go rummaging around down there on our animals and we'd been told he was a she. I guess it's a tricky thing to know when the said feline has long fur. It wasn't long before a vet found the mistake, it's hard to be spay a cat that has no ovaries. Oops.

Kelly the cat

Thankfully, the name Kelly (as Kelly of the Stereophonics will attest) can be used for either gender without much bother so it was kept as initially intended - named after Leeds United legend and Republic of Ireland international footballer - Gary Kelly.

As far as cats go he wasn't one with a huge attention span, he was quite the live wire. We got him during my first year at high school and many a time I would be walking home from school and he'd meet me at the top of the road and walk all the way along side me back to the house, getting as far off the ground as he could whilst doing so by tight rope walking on walls, fences and gates, eager for some food and attention.

He tortured a fair few smaller creatures in his time, especially mice, but he also took on bigger competition. At least one time that we know of (which was witnessed) he had a face off for territory in the back garden with a fox twice his size. and won. Thankfully both animals survived the encounter though Kelly the Cat did come out of it with a cut or two. Similar cuts appeared once or twice over the years so he probably had other run ins with local wildlife too but we'll never really know.

Unlike the local wildlife though, his known run ins with humans was the exact opposite, well except my cousins leg but to be fair Kelly was given good reason to retaliate after being nudged out of the way so often with a foot. At home he always seemed strangely responsive to emotion, if you were feeling down he'd be over to sit on your lap and offer a purr. Strangely when my dad was going around the neighbours and the local area, the people he spoke to all knew who Kelly was, enjoyed him visiting their gardens and knew where his favourite spots were for prowling and lazing around.

Cat in the snow

Normally you find some people who despise cats in their garden but it seems either my dad lives near to people who are all just uber polite or who really liked having 'The Old Man' around since he seemed to use his own back yard as his main toilet spot, as it should be really.

And as he had been fertilising the garden for years, so it is he'll be fertilising the garden for even more because his burial was by the cherry tree in the garden.

An awesome cat and my best bud for many a year. I'll remember Kels as a crazy but kind nutter butter of a domestic tiger, he really was one of the family.

We're just hoping since they got to spend some time together that a little of Kelly rubbed off on the latest additions to my dads house, Nelix and Kes:

Nelix the kitten

Kes the kitten kills a tissue

Like their Star Trek namesakes, Nelix found himself branching out when he got stuck in the tree on one of his first adventures out and Kes has already tried flying the nest.

Nelix explores the unknown

Kes wants the camera

Kes even managed to leave the house one night and the only way out was a very partially opened 2nd story window. Thankfully both survived and will hopefully grow up to become awesome cats like Kelly.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Rest of our Cardiff Adventure

Torchwood Roald Dahl Plass MooOnce we had finished exploring Cardiff Castle, we headed back to our hotel to make use of the Spa facilities to begin an evening of fun and relaxation.

I can't adequately describe how relaxing a dunk in a swimming pool and some time in a sauna and jacuzzi can be after travelling and sightseeing for 72 hours, but my best effort would be the feeling of taking sitting down on the sofa with a long beer or glass of wine after a long gym session. The only minor downside to the pool at the Cardiff Novotel was that the pool is quite small (and also used for swimming lessons) so it was a bit cramped if you're trying to swim when there are several people in it at once. After we had started to get wrinkly toes and fingers we headed back to the room and got dolled up for the night.

In some smart casual clothes, we first had a pre-wander drink in the hotel bar to check on our phones the times and options for our transport to the airport the next day and feeling better about having some times to aim for the next day, we set off on our walk down to Cardiff Bay.

Waterway leading to Atlantic Wharf

On our way we walked passed the key sides that would have been the industrial docklands of Cardiff in the past which are now the open spaces that divide blocks of apartments and houses. The first waterway that we passed over on the road was a small stream, and there hiding under the industrial piping was a nesting bird and her young. It was all very cute.

Nesting birds

It was then back on the path until we reached our destination. The first thing we saw was a big water feature and across the road, the bumps of the Wales Millennium Centre and the Water Tower in Roald Dahl Plass made most famous by the Dr Who spin off series Torchwood.

The Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay

Cardiff was heavily used as a setting in the series and there Hub - aka Torchwood Three, sat over the fictional rift in time and space which ran under Cardiff and the Plass. The water tower in the show has a perception filter which is one of the ways that Jack his merry band of relatively short lived friends (for the most part), can enter the hub - via the lift on the slabs of stone in front of the tower.

Roald Dahl Plass Water Tower and Millennium Centre Panorama

Cardiff Bay

Photo into the Water Tower

Roald Dahl Plass Water Tower and Millennium Centre

As you can probably tell, I took lots of photos here before Norngirl got an itch! - the itch to be a kid again and ride the Carousel.

Carousel at Cardiff Bay

I tend to end up doing this sort of stuff one way or another so I just went along with it and we rode the magical horsies until the ride stopped. It was actually good fun. We must have looked suitably impressed anyway since the moment we got off the ride was flooded with people who came out of nowhere. maybe there really is a Torchwood hub under there!

After our ride taking in the view over the water and wondering what the Celtic Knot was all about, we made our way to look for somewhere to eat.

Cardiff Bay Panorama

Celtic Ring at Cardiff Bay

The first couple of places looked nice but it was Saturday night and everywhere was pretty much full. After a quick look we opted for Italian and headed along to Signor Valentino restaurant. The food and wine were nice but the view was better, it was a lively atmosphere, maybe a bit noisy when the stag and hens and other assorted drunken randomers were falling into and out of the bars down by the water front but it was a relaxed sort of busy. By the time we'd had our nice meal it had dropped dark and the light was shimmering over the water from the restaurant on the pier.

Cardiff Bay Bosphorus Turkish Restaurant

We made our way back to see the Roald Dahl Plass at night time and it looked even more impressive by night. I took a few photos of the same sights again but this time all lit up.

Roald Dahl Plass Night Panorama

I have to admit it took our slightly tipsy heads a moment or two to work out what the windows of words actually said on the Millennium Centre. Trying to fathom the Welsh was beyond us but we picked out the English version: "In These Stones Horizons Sing"

Wales Millennium Centre text at night

A wander up Lloyd George Avenue and around the corner later and we were back at our hotel, we had a night cap (mine being a diet coke because I wanted to really enjoy the spa again in the morning without feeling too out of sorts) in the bar whilst the music channels on all the TV shows were playing Amy Winehouse videos as she'd passed away earlier that day. Between that and the shootings the day before in Norway it was quite a tragic news heavy weekend. We'd had a really nice night though and tragic events aside I was feeling very happy and very glad we'd made the detour to Cardiff instead of flying home directly.

The next morning we woke up and hit the spa to get our last bit of relaxing in. Sufficiently hydrated, cleansed, steams and cooked and cooled, we checked out and took both ourselves and our bags on a whistle stop run around the last places we really wanted to fit into the trip, first we walked back into the centre of town with the back of Cardiff City Centre skyline which oddly seemed to include a giant phallus.

Altolusso building in Cardiff

St Mary's Street Cardiff

A few more streets later and we took a closer look at the outside of the Millennium Stadium, it was rather impressive sat against the river like it is.

Millennium Stadium and River Taff in Cardiff

Next was a mercy run through the high streets of the city...

Cardiff St John the Baptist City Parish Church reach Sugarswirlz and Starbucks for Norngirl to get her next fix of Cupcake and Caffeine before a hurry back to the bus stop in time to eat our giant cupcakes before getting on the bus. Once on board the bus with our fellow passengers, we made the 11.7 mile trip to Cardiff Airport. The Airport reminded me of what Leeds Bradford used to be like, a little smaller than your average airport and not quite as well laid out as Belfast City. We made it back - eventually - on what was supposed to be a direct flight which, without prior notice (before getting to the gate at any rate) we were now told was also going to fly via Birmingham Airport to pick up more passengers. According to other regular passengers this was the 2nd time in 2 weeks the same flight had done this. So about an hour later than billed and an extra take off and landing later (even though we took off on time to start with) we arrived back in Belfast. Thanks for that BMIBaby.

It was a great football match inspired mini trip, hopefully the sort of thing we can do again in the not so distant future, not being delayed on a flight or bad things happening in the news mind you, no, the taking trips to new places and having a really nice time. I really liked Cardiff and would love to revisit the city at some point to really take in more of what the Welsh capital has to offer.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Visiting Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle was well worth the visit, the entrance fee was 11 pounds each for a regular ticket but worth every penny compared to a lot of other attractions I've visited in the UK and this is what we found.

Cows at Cardiff Castle

We'd only been in Wales a few hours but we were heading home the next day and so we wanted to enjoy all we could of the city during our flying visit. It was a Saturday afternoon and we had found ourselves having a drink outside the walls of this gem of a castle.

Cardiff Castle Walls Panorama

Cardiff Castle is a Norman Castle built on a site of Roman history, developed into a palace by some wealthy Victorians and a castle whose exterior walls were utilised in World War II as an air raid shelter. The Castle is owned by Cardiff Council and is a truly fine example of an awesome inner city tourist attraction which is keeping it's history alive. That's a brief summary but there is obviously a lot more to it than that. Our visit lasted a couple of hours and we saw most of the site, my favourite part was the walk through the walls that were used as air raid shelters and the view from the top of the keep of the Norman Castle and the amazing decorations inside the Victorian palace.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't been so if you're visiting Cardiff and haven't yet taken it in, click away now, but the best way to describe what your missing is with a few photos. By the way here is a link to the opening times and prices etc in case any of this wets your appetite (and no, like anything else, I'm not being paid to advertise, it just impressed me that much I had to share).

Here are some of the scenes you might see:

The grounds of the castle.
Grounds of Cardiff Castle

The view out of an embrasure of the keep.
Cardiff Castle Embrasure

Stained Glass in the Mansion.
Stained glass Window

The ornate ceiling of the Victorian Mansion's Arab Room.
Arab Room Ceiling

Mootilary madness.

A web of history.
Castle Window Web

And a bit of modern history with a walk within the walls.
Inside the walls

And the view from the top of the keep looking out over the centre of Cardiff.
View from the Keep

Monday, 5 September 2011

Checking In to Check Out Cardiff.

Cardiff - home to such Welsh things as a Norman Castle, the fictional ruins of Torchwood Three (seemingly the 3rd unluckiest world saving task force to monitor a rift in time and space in the Dr Who Universe) and the biggest Greggs vanilla slice I've yet had the pleasure to feast upon. This was my first time in Wales let alone in Cardiff and a new part of the British Isles to explore for the afternoon and morning we were there back in July.

Alliance in Cardiff

The reason behind our visit to Cardiff was to get home from London and back to Belfast. The usual way to get home would be to fly from a London Airport or get the coach and the ferry but thankfully we're not usual people. As we were only able to book the trip at the last minute (due to our trip being dependent on football results) the cost of the flights home from London airports had become a little excessive and we didn't fancy a long haul coach journey. The solution was literally only a few pounds more expensive than a direct flight home (if not including food and drink) but included visiting a city we'd never been to as well as enjoying a 4* Hotel room and complementary Spa. It wasn't a hard choice, as we were going to be paying almost the same money anyway, we might as well live a little.

So there we were heading to Cardiff on our £11.50 (for 2 people + booking fee) National Express coach which took us directly across England, over the Severn Bridge and into Wales. Before we knew it our coach had pulled up at Cardiff bus station and I put away my phone which I had been using to GPS track us on the map most of the way (Yeah, I gave in and got a contract phone for the first time ever – but, I did manage to never have to learn to use predictive texting and skipped straight to a keypad, VICTORY!).

As my legs began to receive an increase in blood flow, I felt my senses awaken as we walked towards our hotel in what was turning out to be quite a bright day, we even saw a bit of sun.

I love being somewhere new, that satisfaction and intrigue of seeing something for yourself and knowing that when you walk around the corner of the street, there in front of you will be something you've never seen before. We were in fact looking for our hotel though and a scan of the map earlier in the day was enough to have us set off walking in the exact direction we needed to walk. It was a fair old walk with a bag on your back but nothing compared to our wandering around London and sadly I didn't take any photos at this point in the day.

Cardiff is quite compact, especially the City Centre and it's hard to really go wrong or get lost walking around it. We made it to our hotel, a little tired but in good time and were soon checked in. Our room was very nice and had a very comfy bed. Sadly I forgot to take photos at this point too but I hear from people at work who have also stayed in Novotel hotels before that if you drop off to sleep in one Novotel hotel room (like the hotel we were in in Cardiff) and someone came along and moved you to another Novotel hotel in any city in the world, you'd wake up and think you were still in the same place until you looked out of the window. After we'd settled in we headed straight back out again to discover what this city had to offer the flying visit tourist.

The first thing we came across was the railway bridge that spans over Bute Street. In big letters was the word Brains. I'd never been to Wales let alone Cardiff before, Brains was new to me and new to Norngirl too. At first we pondered, did they mean Brians? or is it just pronounced in a Welsh accent to make it sound like something other than the organ in you head? Turns out that nope, it's Brains, named after Samuel Brain and his relative Joseph Brain. They must have had to rub their Brains together for that one.

Advertising never works on me *cough*... but in my defence, this time it was the complex notion of filling my mind with Brains. This somewhat zombie themed thirst needed quenching but that would have to wait a while. First we were to find some food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Whilst looking for a suitable source of food and drink, we came across Alliance, a rather tall piece of street sculpture.

Cardiff Street Sculpture - Alliance

At first I was intrigued but I had absolutely no idea what it was except a piece of public art that seems so fashionable in this day and age. In retrospect - aka, after Googling it, it turns out the sculpture is simply just a hoop and an 'arrow' made of stainless steel but more interestingly the hoop rises and lowers in relation to the arrow in accordance to the tide in the bay, oh yeah and it apparently lights up at night. I'm not quite getting the point though, maybe like the sculpture itself, it's way over my head. I mean if you're going with a nautical theme of the tide, surely it should be by the sea. where that sort of information could be useful? If it's not accurate then what's the point, it might as well just bob up and down randomly. On the plus side, glow in the dark seem like a bright idea.

Like some of the more 'abstract' art in Belfast at the moment (like the balls on the falls) it seems a bit like sculpture for sculptures sake with wishy washy explanations for it's conception.

Thankfully, something I do really like was nearby. Greggs. YUM! My favourite fast food shop which sells all the usual unhealthy but delicious things I have a weak spot for. A stake bake, drink and the most gigantic Vanilla Slice in the world I've ever seen later (which were delicious as always, even if it probably added to a gazillion calories), we were making our way up the street towards Cardiff Castle.

Cardiff Castle Walls Panorama

We found the Castle easy enough, it's hard to miss and rather impressive! (more on that in the next post). Knowing that we were very close to the castle, we decided to make use of some of the spare time and found a bar. We decided on one of the chain's that you get in most cities in the UK, Revolution. Why? Because it was open, opposite the Castle but most importantly, it served the Brains we craved.

The Brains were nice and hit the spot but they maybe didn't live up to the hype we'd imagined between seeing the sign and giving it a try. Norngirl's psyche was seemingly infiltrated by the sound of the hen parties living it up with cocktail making at the back end of the bar and got stuck into an interesting Birthday Cake flavoured vodka shot.

It was nice just relaxing with a drink, we sat on stools with a warm breeze blowing in and the sun shining on the castle walls outside and the music being played was great. My favourite band - The Eels - were being played over the bars speakers. The Eels' music usually appears in movies without people realising they've heard their songs (if you've seen Shrek or Yes Man, you've heard the Eels) but rarely on the radio or in a bar, so when it started to play it was like they knew we were coming. Cardiff was really endearing itself to me.

Sufficiently chilled, we headed over the road to explore Cardiff Castle... To be continued.


Related Posts with Thumbnails