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