Torchwood and Tardis huntin'
16 Jun 2012
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Day 5: Cardiff
Sadly Tony cannot stay in the studio unit tonight – well he could, but it is pricey. He packs his bags and leaves them in Cynthea’s room after the girls leave. It is a free morning for the tour group before heading back to London around noon. The weather is rubbish, but a few head out to take the castle tour at 10am. Tony and Clare decide to head out for a walk anyway, there is a path beside the river and we head off on that. We don’t get far, the path is underwater further along, we have a choice, go back to the hostel to get back to street level, or climb over the wall. We climb over the wall. We head across the bridge to walk through Bute Park, but the wind is getting stronger and big branches are coming down. A big part of the park is under water too (the river is very high, running at 5.8m, but there is a good couple of metres or more to go yet before it breaks its’ banks). We decide the park is not the best place to be after all, and head into the castle grounds, but it is closed to the public, they are setting up for something tonight, if the weather holds! We give up, and as we head back to the hostel the rain comes down even harder. We decide not to stop in town for lunch, we will grab something at the hostel, but then find when we get there that the kitchen is not open until noon, when the bus is due to leave. Clare heads out again to get something from the supermarket as there is nowhere to buy lunch before the next stop on the tour. Tony and Cynthea re sticking around for the day, so don’t need to hurry out.
Some people arrive back late to take the tour bus to London, so there is no time to have another go at getting a group photo. Tony and Cynthea see the group off and head back into the warm and dry hostel. We don’t venture out much today, and news reports later feature gale force winds and much flooding to the west, and also in mid-Wales where we have just been.
We decide to stay on a few more days, and will just book the hostel a day or two at a time. The staff here are great, they tell that if we book through HostelBookers we will get the special rate of £15 each per night. There is a young Canadian couple in our room tonight, they are staying for a week. A mother and daughter (Canadian too!) arrive later in the day to stay a couple of nights. We meet a young guy from Timaru, about Amanda’s age. Liam went to Waimataitai, so doesn’t know our kids. That night there is a fireworks display in the castle grounds, we can see some of it from our room. We never did find out what the event was.
Sat 9th June
Blue sky and sunshine this morning, looks like it is going to be a good day. At breakfast the rugby is on, NZ are playing Ireland at Auckland in the first test match. It is a win to NZ and a few people are not that happy, there were some Irish fellas in the bar. The next match to play is from Australia where they are playing Wales in Brisbane. We don’t wait around to watch the game, we have tried to book for the Dr Who tour this afternoon. The tour was full, but we are on standby in case there are no-shows. We hope for that to be the case, not that we would want anyone else to be disappointed. However everyone turns up, so we ask if we can join the first part of the tour, a walk around the filming locations in central Cardiff.
The tour guide tells us he was an extra in several of the episodes, and he and a group of fans “stalk” the crew to watch filming when he is not working for them. We are shown many location buildings, and it is interesting to hear how the film crew deceived the audience. So, for the benefit of Dr Who fans, the Runaway Bride episode with Catherine Tate and David Tennant had a lot of outdoor scenes filmed here. The Queen’s Arcade was made to look like it was in London – they simply put an Underground sign out the front of it and, hey presto, it’s London. We went inside St John’s church that was used for that same episode, and in one corner of the church they have model medieval soldiers on the top of posts. These are way up high, and if you hadn’t been told where to look, you would have missed that a Cyberman has taken the place of a soldier. The tour group continues on by bus after about 40 minutes, and we head off to explore the city centre. We were hopeful they would take pity on us and “find” a couple of extra seats, but it was not to be.
The sun is still out, bit of a cool wind at times, but at least it is fine. We are wondering what the outcome of the Australia-Wales match is as the pubs are emptying out after the match. The locals are neither cheering, nor crying, so it is hard to tell who won. Perhaps it was a draw, but we later find out it is win to the Aussies. The city centre is vibrant, lots of people, plenty of pedestrian areas, arcades and malls, and the area is clean too. We have lunch and are walking around a bit more when a group on push bikes ride by. Most are naked, others near naked. The bike ride takes place annually to promote awareness of cyclists, and aims to get people to notice them on the roads when they are not naked. Tony is highly disgusted, hardly are wearing safety helmets! We see them again later as we leave an arcade. We spend some time in the park near the hostel, Cynthea is reading in the sun, not feeling to flash and hoping it is not going to turn into something worse – she starts work on Thursday. Tony takes in a few walks around the park, there are a lot of big branches about, and a few trees are down too. There is a river bus service from here to Cardiff Bay, so we will do that tomorrow as there are more Dr Who/Torchwood film locations down that way.
Sun 10th June
Another fine day, we hope it stays that way, but the forecast is not that good. It is overcast when we head to the river bus stop, but not raining, yet. £3 each gets us to Cardiff Bay, about 20 minutes by river. We had heard that the Bay was really close, but if the boat takes that long maybe we thinking about somewhere else. The Bay area has been very well developed over the past few years, and many buildings here are film locations for the Doctor Who and Torchwood (spin off of Dr Who) TV series. Tony has been on the internet to get a list of film location buildings, and sets about tracking them down. The area is not only famous as a film set, it is also where author Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was born, and he was christened in the little Norwegian Church near here, that also features in Doctor Who and Torchwood scenes. The Millennium Centre now occupies the original site of the church, and the church is now an arts centre and cafe.
The oval shaped Roald Dahl Plass is the location of the rift and also the Torchwood Hub (before they blew it to pieces in the second to last series). It is a bit difficult to imagine it as there is a bloody great circus tent in the middle of it all, but there is no doubt this is the place. The Millennium Centre and “Torchwood” water tower are unmistakable. For those fans who miss the “old” Torchwood, and in particular the Ianto Jones character, take heart that there is a huge wall on Mermaid Quay dedicated to the return of the characters that were killed off. This is Torchwood, and ANYTHING is possible. There are some particularly scathing comments to RTD (Russell T Davies), the producer and screenwriter of the series. It is obvious that the flippant remark that “just nine hysterical women are campaigning for the return of Ianto to the screen” is way off the mark.
Photos for fellow fans are up on Facebook
- Wales Millennium Centre makes numerous appearances (including New Earth)
- Roald Dahl Plass is (was) The Hub
- The Bosphorous Turkish Restaurant - where Jack, Rose, Mickey and the Doctor had lunch and tall tales in Boom Town
- Atradius Building, Cardiff Bay and St John’s Church, City Centre - Runaway Bride
- Norwegian church – appears in numerous background shots
- The Senedd Welsh Assembly – appears in numerous episodes, most memorably The Lazarus Experiment
We had expected to see Cardiff make more of its’ connections with the good Doctor, and there are a number of wee shops around the town with souvenirs for sale. There had been a small exhibition in Cardiff Bay, but this has closed its’ doors. There is a big new exhibition opening next month, so maybe we can come back to see that (Tony wonders if is the same as the one in London Olympia?).
We take a bus back to the city centre, and are surprised to be at the railway station within minutes, we were very close to the hostel after all. We decide to stay on the bus to see where it takes us, we head way over to the East and Cynthea wonders where we are going to end up. The destination is showing Cardiff Bay again by now, so we still have to get back past the castle. And that is were we end up getting off, we are also close to the National Museum. The museum will be closed tomorrow (Monday), so we take in the natural history exhibit. It is very well set up, but by the time that is done , so are we, and we decide to head back to the hostel. Tony sends a text to Emma to see about catching up for a drink.
Back at the hostel we meet up with Emma, she is a kiwi geologist who is working in Cardiff. We met last year on the tour of Turkey, it is good to catch up again.
Monday and Tuesday the weather is not too flash again, Cynthea is not feeling the best so she borrows the laptop from the hostel bar and works on her ancestry. Tony heads out for a walk around the area, this time heading south towards the railway station and Stadium Plaza. There is another riverside walkway across the river that goes past the stadium, so he takes in that. Someone has climbed over the railings and is on the water side, Tony is not sure if the guy is intending to jump, he could be drunk. His mate is there holding him, and trying to get him back on the right side. Eventually he climbs back through, and Tony carries on.
At the stadium car park Tony watches as a driver leaves the car park, and turns into oncoming traffic at a T intersection. Yes, a woman, and yes, she is blonde. To be fair it was a mistake easily made if not paying attention. Drivers leaving the car park can turn right to go south, or go left, directly into a T intersection controlled by lights, At that intersection they can turn east or west, there are two lanes for that. If the lights are red, then there is only room for one car in each of those two lanes at that intersection. There are yellow markings to stop people blocking the car park exit, but if the lights are red, cars can only leave if they are turning right. This dozey woman turned left, and waited in the southbound lane, facing oncoming traffic (she stopped because she thought she had a red light). Oops. She sat there for a moment before realising her mistake and quickly drove around in front of the two lanes, and carried on, through the red light. The other drivers were near wetting themselves laughing, but it could have been a different story if the oncoming traffic had not already been stopped at their own red light.
The rain set in again, so it was a bit too wet to do much more than sit in the lounge and talk to other travellers, it is a great atmosphere here. The hostel would have to be the best yet, and it is obvious the staff all love working here.
Wednesday is Cynthea’s last day in Cardiff. There is still no place for Tony to go to so he will stay on a day or two more. Some more Helpx emails are sent out. The hostel here has vacancies, but not for temporary staff.
We had a picnic lunch in the park, but the weather turned cool again, and threatened rain, so we headed back, taking the long way around the park. By the time we got back it had warmed up a bit more, and we didn’t need jackets. A kiwi couple from Dannevirke are in the TV lounge, and one of them makes a comment about how cold it is, Tony gives him a hard time, but they have been in Aussie for a while, and spent the last three months in Thailand. In our dorm room it is still just us and the Canadian couple (Patrick and Meech, short for Michelle, perhaps?), so there is plenty of space for us. Tony is certain there is underfloor heating on (it is supposed to be summer!!), the bathroom floor is warm underfoot, and so is the hallway. The rooms are very warm at night (room heaters had been on our first night here, Tony turned them off when they weren’t needed to dry laundry).
Cynthea leaves today to go to Brackley for three weeks. She takes the train around 4pm and should get into Banbury a bit after 6pm. A signal failure at Oxford meant the train stopped there, and is delayed about an hour. Passengers heading to Cardiff are advised to go through to London, and then back out, adding a good three hours to their journey. Some take the advice, and a few minutes after their train leaves there is an announcement that normal services are resuming. Oops. Henni and Michael had been waiting at the station for over an hour, so hopefully it wasn’t too cold.
Tony sent off more emails for HelpX work in Wales, and west England. We had a good time just chatting to others in the TV lounge. There is just the three of us in our dorm. Tony hasn’t booked a room for tomorrow night yet, the girls tell him there are three beds left, and will keep something for him (even if it means a mattress on the floor in the old gym). There is a bit of a break in the weather, so Tony heads out for a wander, heading to the west of the city for a change. It is a very different scene to the city centre, lots of people, and they seem happy enough, but the area is pretty dirty and run down looking. It seems obvious that the council spends it street cleaning budget on the city centre to keep it looking good for the tourists.
Friday 16th June
The hostel is quite full tonight, there are no special offer beds available, but the girls on reception offer a discount to Tony on the weekend rate, and it will cost £20. The Canadians we have been sharing a dorm room with for the last week left today, as did a few others Tony had gotten to know. Tony heads down to reception and they have reorganised the dorms, a few of us have to shift rooms, but we all know each other, so that is great. Tony is sharing with Liam from Timaru, Rhys from Wales, and a couple of others that have been here a while. There are five stag parties and a hen party in tonight, so it could be a bit on the rowdy side.
The weather is pretty wet again today, but the good news is that Tony has had a reply from his emails, and is to start Monday at a B&B in Capel-Curig, north Wales, at the base of Mt Snowdon. The B&B is very busy, and it will take a bit of reorganising to fit him in (for a bed), but Tony sends a reply to say he will be fine with that. It is beautiful countryside there, a lot like home. He spends the morning organising travel, but it is not straight forward. There is no north-south route, and the train travel options have him going to Bristol, changing to Birmingham, changing to Crewe, and changing again at Llandudno. Then two buses are then needed to get to Capel-Curig. There must be a simpler way, and Tony finds a bus service that changes at Birmingham, and goes to Llandudno. He decides to take that (£50!!, but cheaper than the train), and stay the night at Llandudno, a hostel there is £20 including breakfast. Tony books everything, and a few minutes later gets an email from Alice in Capel-Curig telling him she is going to Llandudno Sunday, and he can get a lift back with her (a day early). A shame that the bookings are already made…
Rhys is in the lounge and he and Tony get talking, he works as a navigator and is on shore leave after several weeks at sea. His home is Swansea, but he prefers Cardiff, and is meeting up with mates tomorrow. We both have laundry to do, but not enough for a full load, so we share the machines and the cost. We spend the afternoon having a few beers in the hostel as it is hosing down outside. Euro2012 football is on and we watch a bit of that, even though neither of us are really interested in it. The laugh of the day had to be the “breaking news” that there is to be an investigation by the organisers because someone in the crowd threw a banana on the pitch during a game. They are having a lot of trouble with the fans and racist comments, money noises etc, but seriously, a banana on the pitch warrants an investigation AND is considered breaking news??? We wonder what use spending (probably) thousands on an investigation will actually achieve!
The stag parties start arriving early afternoon, and we watch them arrive. One guy is in a wheelchair, now THAT is going to be interesting to watch when they get in pissed as farts in the wee small hours (there is no lift in the hostel). One group comes down dressed as Borat in the lime green mankini (hand us a bucket!). The wheelchair group arrives back downstairs, and the dude in the chair has a pair of antlers on, yes, he is the groom. Oh boy, this an accident waiting to happen…
More groups arrive into the bar, and it is really noisy. Rhys and Tony go to take their beers into the TV lounge, but one of the hostel staff gives chase and turns them back to the bar. Apparently we are not allowed drink in there – news to us, we have been having one or two quiets there all week, and so have a few others. We sit outside on the deck, it has stopped raining here for the time being, but we notice that the river is well up, it has risen over a metre in the last three hours. There must have been a good dump of rain up north. We have a pizza from the bar for tea, and then Rhys disappears off to the room. Tony thinks he has crashed for the night, but when Tony heads up to the room around 11, Rhys is just going out to hit the bars. James is in the bunk below Rhys and tells him not to get too drunk, he doesn’t want him pissing the bed when he is underneath.
Saturday 16th June
As expected it was a really noisy night, with lots of people coming and going along the corridor all night. Some of the guys from our room come in around 3am, Rhys gets back at 6am, and Jim doesn’t get back at all, we don’t see him again, and he didn’t have any luggage to come back for. Rhys tried to be quiet getting into the top bunk, but then he decided to get undressed once he got up there, and all the coins in his pockets fell out. That made a hell of a racket on the metal bunk and wooden floor. James is here for a training course and is away to that by 7am.
Breakfast is quiet, despite the full hostel. Seems they are still sleeping off the night before. Rugby is on, and NZ are playing Ireland. It is a much closer game than last week, and the Irish boys staying here are getting very excited, especially when they are leading. Tony watches the last half hour or so, it is pretty tense in the room as the game is drawn 19-all with just minutes to go. NZ takes a drop goal in the final minute, and the Irish boys are not happy chappies. Tony doesn’t rub it in too much.
Rhys surfaces around lunchtime, and we are talking in the bar waiting for his mates to pick him up. The wheelchair groom turns up, and is sporting a bit of a shiner. We are near wetting ourselves laughing as he tells us that when they got in around 3am the boys pulled the chair up the stairs, with him still in it. Unfortunately they let go of the wheelchair part the way up, and he did a face plant at the bottom. We asked if he was ok, and he said his biggest worry (after explaining it to the missus) was that his nose could have broken in the fall, but he said he thinks it is all ok.
The rugby is on again, Wales is playing Australia in Melbourne, and Tony is in a dilemma who to root for. It is another close game, and there is a lot of grief over the refereeing. We lose satellite cover for quite a while because of the rubbish weather, once again it is raining very, very hard. Rhys’s mates arrive and the TV reception comes back so we can get to see the last twenty minutes of the game. Australia wins in the last couple of minutes, it was very close. We tell Rhys’ mates about the dude in the wheelchair, and there is much hilarity. The girls on reception tell us we are evil for laughing at someone else’s misfortune. Rhys and his mates leave, and the rain keeps coming down, they are forecasting a month of rain in 24 hours. Just as well the stop banks on the river are high!
The rain stops late afternoon, and Tony heads out for a walk to double check where the bus leaves from, and to get tea. The river is flowing high and very fast, and he can see there are seagulls landing on the water, being carried down stream, and then they fly back upstream and do it again. Cannot figure out if it is a game, or there is easy food to be had. There are a lot of swallows about too, Tony hasn’t seen them here before, so he guesses that there are many insects around for them.
Tony is having tea when James arrives back, muttering that the people taking the training course have set homework on a Saturday night, he is not impressed. Tony meets a couple of others in Cardiff for the night. The lads come to town just for the night most weekends. They are really hard cases, and one of the guys is particular about how he looks, he hangs his Tshirts on hangers, and has even brought an iron with him. His mate, and those of us in the room, have much pleasure in taking the piss.
Tomorrow Tony is going to North Wales for a couple of weeks.