Thursday, July 7, 2016

Seeing Red in Cardiff

What do you do when you have just flown across the Atlantic, slept for only 3 out of the last 48 hours and then caught another flight that brings you to Cardiff, Wales. Well, if it is the day of the Wales/ Portugal Eurocup match-up, you simply keep going. Even if you are bit cross-eyed from exhaustion, are continuously reaching into your purse for pounds but pulling out euros and have often stated that soccer is athletic equivalent of Sominex (seriously, if the score is so often a tie, why even bother). You keep going because Cardiff is a place you haven't been and who knows when you will return.

So that is what I did, even if it meant risking falling asleep on the bus ride into town and ending up in a place where the language was possibly more unintelligible than Welsh. This turned out to be an unfounded fear because the people of Cardiff are one chatty, friendly people.  The bus driver told me all about his visit to Miami as his one other passenger was narrating the drive as it related to his own life (ie: And that is where I bought my car, that is the pub I go to, that is where my wife works).
At my stop, the duo pointed me in the direction of the castle, mentioned a couple spots I should visit and said something about not wanting to go home.

It was only 11am but it was clear that the theme of the day was going to be red. People were going about their work day dressed in red jerseys, hats and the occasional feather boa. The game was not scheduled to begin until 7pm but these folks were ready.

After a short walk through the city center, my first destination was obvious.  It was the big gothic castle, the one that just happened to be next to the football stadium. The game itself was taking place in Lyon, France but this minor inconvenience did nothing to discourage the scalpers gathered nearby. This was to be the site of the city's largest (and very sold out) watch party.  I had no illusions that I was going to be able to stay awake until game time (much less during the game) so I strolled on by.

At the castle, I grabbed an audio guide and tried valiantly to keep up with the 2000+  years of Norman and Roman history that were unfolding before me. In my somnolent state, it was a challenge but even if I would have certainly failed any quiz on the subject, I was enjoying both the scenery and the beautiful day.

The castle's tunnels served as shelters during WWII and the current exhibition strives to recreate this period with air sirens, old timey news reports and other assorted cacophony that was frankly getting on my nerves.

Much more to my liking was the Norman Keep, which were actually the hilltop outer walls that had once protected the smaller buildings therein and now provided peace, tranquility and a nice view of the city.

But my very favorite part of the whole complex were the castle's apartments. Commissioned by the third Marquess of Bute (or as I preferred to call him, the Marquess of Booty) in 1848, they were big on the wow factor.

Everywhere you looked, there are wood carvings, gold gilding and vibrant explosions of color. The apartments are currently used for wedding banquets and meetings of heads of state (Obama's been by) but to quote the guide lamenting the Brexit vote "we used to host the heads of the EU here too, but I don't think they will be coming around anymore."

By the time I had concluded my visit to the castle and had lunch, it was almost three pm and it was clear all work had ceased in the city of Cardiff.  The game was four hours away and people were now firmly into tailgate mode.

These little girls watched as this guy was conducting man on the streets interviews with every sports fan who ambled by and were positively giddy when the interviewer chose to question them as well.
Ironically enough, I had come all this way to find myself smack dab in the middle of a massive Budweiser promotion.  Some marketing person, who is either brilliant or just really lucky that Wales got as far as they did in the tournament, struck upon the realization that their brand color fit in really well here, so every corner had people giving away free Bud shirts, coupons for free beers and city maps pointing out where to redeem said coupons.

I'm not crazy about Bud, even less so about watching guys run up and down a field for close to 2 hours not scoring but if I was to stay up for this thing- which, let's face it, was the thing to do here- I was very much in an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" type situation.

So join 'em I did...

Lacking tickets to the stadium viewing party, I went to watch the game at a pub, where it became clear why the bus driver was talking about not wanting to go home.  It was because everybody was talking, or better said singing about not wanting to go home. This was their soccer chant and they loved it so very very much. On and on they sang about not going home.  And I don't know if it was the free Bud, my sleepless state or the red ink was chemically treated to seep into my pores but soon enough, I too was singing along.  Not only that, I was actively rooting for this team, screaming along anytime they came close to the goalpost.

And then they lost, 2-0, reminding me why this is such a sucky sport.  But the people of Cardiff were undaunted, they continued to sing about not wanting to go home (although to the best of my understanding, this was exactly what their team would be doing) and smile and drink and cheer.

I was glad I had stayed up and was grateful to be a part of this celebration.  These people were fantastic. The only difference between them and me was that after having seen the castle, wandered the city, drank more Bud than I ever would at home and watched an entire soccer game, all I wanted in the world was to get on that bus and go the fuck home.

1 comment:

  1. Another great post and beautiful city! I miss the travels although not the zombie sleepless feeling you wrote of. Hope you are not running low on places to discover because I thoroughly enjoy reading about them and seeing pics of fabulous destinations especially now that I am so much more earthfooted!