Quick UK trip September 2011

I’ve had the opportunity to attend a two day conference in London. But I figured making the most of my trip, and using the Friday & Saturday of my Dubai weekend to also see Cardiff, Wales.

My flight to Birmingham was extremely busy – just like all our flights to the UK. I saw the passenger numbers, and there was only one free seat in the entire plane.

The flight route took us over Bahrain, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, before Europe. I managed to get a window seat, and enjoyed watching a lot of the country side. Afghanistan especially, looked incredible. It seemed to have an amazing variety of scenery. I particularly loved the harsh and mountainous terrain.

A sure sign of a good flight is when it seems to take no time at all – which this flight did. A good movie helps for at least part of the way.

Once I got through Customs at Birmingham, I somehow sparked the attention of a security guard. He asked many questions about my reason for the visit, my line of work, UK itinerary, and how often I visit Australia. He seemed happy enough with my answers to let me through after only a couple of minutes – no rubber gloves needed. I must have an untrustworthy face. When I was leaving Brisbane International Airport last time out of the 8 of us family and friends, I was the only one to get special attention from security, which involved a pat down. The guy was impressed with the Liverpool stickers adorning Myles’s suitcase – so perhaps he did spared me further attention. (And I suppose he did have soft hands so it wasn’t a total loss – joking).

I pre-booked my train tickets to get to Bristol Parkway on the way to Cardiff on the web. Everything was incredibly simple to get me there. One slight glitch occurred when I overlooked the fact that I was getting on the train an hour earlier than planned. I blame jet lag, or being stupid. When the ticket collector explained my mistake he was kind enough to lend me his phone to call my boss who would pick me up at the other end. Talk about English courtesy.

In just two days traveling from Birmingham into, and around Cardiff, I’ve already marked off quite a few of the items in my game of British Bingo:

  • “innit”
  • egg butty
  • “one should”
  • fancy a pint.

I’m still waiting to hear mentions of:

  • core blimey
  • pukka
  • “guvnor”.

So far I’ve visited the National History Museum, St Fagans; the absolutely awe-inspiring Wales Millennium Centre to see Welsh National Opera perform Don Giovanni; Millennium Stadium (which I can prove with an “I entered the dragon’s lair” lanyard). One disappointment of this fine tour was the stadium’s hallowed grass was completely gone. The pitch was well into the process of being removed by an industrious team of four diggers. Well I originally thought it was a downer, until our tour guide proudly announced the slurry of mud we were seeing was such a rare opportunity. 😉

I also had a good look around the city centre. Sadly I missed visiting Cardiff Castle, due to the very popular “Cheese Fest” being held inside the castle walls this weekend. This (National) festival had so much interest the queue going inside began a few hundred metres down the street. It would have been nice to see, but perhaps I may come back some day with the rest of the family.

Wales has a rich and proud mining heritage. The mines produce coal and, judging by signage in the Welsh language, an excess of consonants.

The weather has been a real treat. Apparently I brought the weather with me. The week, and several weeks before I came there were many consecutive days of rain. I’m glad I could bring this for the people of Cardiff. Take it as part-payment for allowing me to have an enjoyable visit to the city.

Tomorrow we hit Old London Town, so I’ll be sure to have more updates then.