Yep, another recent weekend away, but I’m going to write this up in a different way to the previous ones. Watch out for posts coming on Cardiff Castle and the Doctor Who Experience too… (please note this is not meant to be an exhaustive list!)
We were lucky when we visited City Hall as we were allowed to go up to the first floor landing area as well as look in the entrance hall. The areas we saw are beautifully designed and really felt like a grand municipal building.
I’m going to give the museum a mixed review. The gallery part is upstairs and houses some really great artworks, including some stunning examples of Impressionist and Modern Art, as well a good mix of other historical art. There’s a good selection which illustrates Welsh artists’ role in the history of art.
I’ll admit I was at the museum late in the afternoon, but (given the opening times are advertised as 10 till 5), I was surprised before 4.40 to be shooed out of a natural history gallery by a visitor service assistant. In a none-too-friendly way, I might add. As I left that gallery, I discovered that the whole place was fast emptying, suggesting everyone was being sent out of galleries.
I did (after that) see one small sign on the information desk which stated that the galleries close at 4.45, but I didn’t feel that was adequate. To be honest, I feel that if a place says it’s open till 5, it should be – employ your staff past five o’clock if you need to. It left a bad taste in my mouth, especially as I haven’t had a response to my feedback form since.
River taxi from Bute Park to Cardiff Bay
Back to the positives… A ride down a river of any city is a great way to see it from a different angle. To be fair, another angle on the river Taff does take you almost under the Millennium Stadium, but after that the view is… well, interesting. It’s definitely worth the half hour ride into Cardiff Bay, arriving from a different angle than by bus or train. Getting to see the spread of the development is worth while.
Cardiff Bay itself
Since the barrage was built in the late 90s, the area has been regenerated and has all sorts of things to see and do, including plenty of eateries, sculptures and walks.
National Assembly of Wales (Senedd)
After passing through the inevitable airport-style security, I was accosted almost immediately by one of the helpful attendants, who gave me a useful overview of the building and directions. The main attraction is going into the viewing gallery above the assembly chamber. The chamber is modern and functional, but what makes it stand out is the funnel shape built in wood above the chamber, which goes right up to the roof and brings lots of natural light in.
As many modern parliamentary chambers, this one is circular, which (I feel) avoids some of the more combative elements of places such as the Palace of Westminster. It was also nice to see interactive screens in front of each seat in the viewing gallery, giving visitors a chance to delve more deeply into what is being debated. As it was a Saturday when I visited, I didn’t see any action, but it was still fascinating.
Other features of the steel, glass and Welsh slate building are the large committee rooms to one side and the meeting rooms for the more ‘important’ members on the other side. All in all, definitely a building to visit.
This imposing redbrick building is one of the keystones of the old Cardiff Docks (or Tiger Bay as the area was also once, pejoratively, known as). The Pierhead was built in the French-Gothic Renaissance style in 1897 as the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company (later the Cardiff Railway and later still subsumed within Great Western Railways) which ran the docks.
A fantastic audio-visual introduction in the main hall introduces the visitor to the history of the building and the area, including the building of the barrage which lead to the Cardiff Bay redevelopment, ending with the blinds going up, leaving a view onto the National Assembly (which now owns the Pierhead itself).
Upstairs there are various offices which recreate some of the history and use of the building, as well as other fascinating exhibitions. The place is a celebration of Cardiff and Wales.
Wales Millennium Centre
I visited the WMC purely for a nose around. Lots of people are familiar with its grand frontage with the words: Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen, which means “Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration.” The English is In These Stones Horizons Sing. I was interested to see what the inside was like. It was buzzing with people and atmosphere, including some live street dance happening, people chilling in the cafe areas and other people hanging around in the matinee interval. The spaces themselves meander throughout the building on different levels and make it a very pleasant place to hang out.