The last two weeks were a flurry of activity, some more successful than other.
We had planned on meeting up with Jade and Eric during their visit to the UK, specifically when they popped over to Cardiff to visit the Doctor Who Experience. However we managed to completely misunderstand each other as to dates. Our plan to spend Thursday in Cardiff before heading off to Eastercon was perfect… except that they were in Cardiff the previous Thursday and flying out by the time John and I would be there. Nevertheless our tickets and hotel were booked so we had a little mini-holiday instead.
We arrived in Cardiff early afternoon and dragged my massive pink, sparkly suitcase to the hotel. It was just ten minutes from the trains station but we had loaded the bag with my art as well as stuff for TAFF and in so doing managed to obliterate one of the four spinny wheels on the poor thing.
By the time we go there we were a little tired and grumpy, but nothing cheers one up like a clean and quiet hotel room. We freshened up, unpacked minimally and set off in the direction of town with enough time for a little wander and a bit of lunch before our Doctor Who Experience ticket time.
Downtown Cardiff is a warren of arcades, which confused our map apps but delighted me. As is traditional when in a new city (or any city really) John made a beeline for the friendly local game store. Located in the Castle Arcade it is called Rules of Play and turned out not only to be a great little shop with but also next door to a very nice delicatessen called Madame Fromage. Now that may not sound terribly Welsh but it had a menu advertising Welsh Rarebit and Lamb Cowl. We ordered both and were very happy indeed with the results, the coffee helped quite a bit as well.
Fed and coffee’d we were ready to make our way to the waterfront. The bus that was supposed to take us up to Discovery Quay actually stopped a few blocks short due to some construction going on. Luckily it wasn’t much of a walk but we were a few minutes late and had to go in the next timeslot to the one we had booked which gave us a bit of a breather to relax and look around a bit, and to notice how it seemed pretty busy for a place that is going to close down. Subsequently I looked it up and it turns out that it is less a popularity problem and more that their lease is up, so here is hoping they find some way to keep it going.
When it was out turn we joined the queue and were given lanyard badges with embedded crystals that glowed when stuff was happening. The conceit of the beginning is that something is attacking the timeline and you have to retrieve three time crystals for the Doctor, large overhead screens at each juncture display recorded videos of Capaldi communicating with the guide and the group from his TARDIS console room. The monsters along the way include most of the current favourites and all in all it is cheesy fun with a couple of solid scares along the way.
Once done with the adventure part you enter into a reproduction of the original console room, perfect for photo opportunities. There are a couple of other consoles from different eras, a Dalek Invasion of Earth corner, and even some period BBC studio sets and props. This section ended with a green screen area where visitors could don a fez or scarf and ham it up a bit.
Upstairs is the costume and props section, separated roughly by type: monster, companion, Doctor, villain, etc. Seeing the evolution of some of the recurring monsters side by side is a treat, and there are a couple of interactive bits. At the very end are costumes from the most recent season (which I have not seen) and a couple of bits from the then-upcoming Season 10.
And of course there is a little shop as you exit, and a pretty good one. It has a fair number of items I haven’t seen elsewhere as well as many of the usual suspects you would expect. As a bonus there is a little gallery/waiting room adjacent to the shop which doesn’t seem to have any signage but turned out to be full of wonderful Chris Achilleos art from the Target Books novelizations.
I bought things and gawked at things and eventually we set back out into the world. We headed back towards town but did so via Mermaid Quay, which is of course home of the Torchwood Hub entrance. We were pretty tired by this point so we mostly saw that in passing and continued on past Ianto’s Shrine (which was surprisingly impressive but could use a little love) and so back into town.
Back at the hotel we took advantage of the pool and sauna facilities for a couple of hours, which really hit the spot after the long day. Then back into town for some really frikkin’ good burgers from The Grazing Shed. So good. So so good. No idea what “tidy” means in the local lingo but it is not tidy in the American sense, juicy and messy and delicious burgers plus actual fountain root beer by some miracle. It was entirely satisfying.
We got to bed early and slept the sleep of the just.