Christmas Vacation

Ho! Ho! Ho! Christmas holidays are calling.

A much-deserved vacation from monotonous routine life.

As mentioned earlier in my previous post “Finally… London…“, we planned to explore more places in London and Cardiff – Capital of Wales.

Day 1: London – Dec 23, 2018

We boarded the train from Northampton and reached London Euston.

We took the tube from Euston to St. Pancras station and walked towards St.Pancras International station.

St. Pancras International has partnered up with Tiffany & Co. to unveil its first scented magnificent 43- foot Tiffany Christmas Tree which has over 1800 decorations in the heart of the station’s Arcade, offering a touch of sparkle, sophistication and magic for the holiday season.

Being a Sherlock Holmes fan, I could not miss the opportunity to see Sherlock Holmes museum. Hence, we took a tube from St. Pancras to Baker Street.

Sherlock Holmes museum was just 5 minutes walk from the tube station. There was a long queue to get inside the museum. We saw the displays of artifacts inside the windows of the London Beatles Store and museum while waiting in the Queue. A guard informed us that we were not allowed to carry hand luggage inside. We decided that I and my daughter will go inside first and once we are back, my husband will go in while we take care of the luggage. Many tourists were taking pictures with the friendly guard wearing the Sherlock Holmes hat.

The museum was three stories high. You are provided a brief narration by the staff upon your entry into the second floor. Afterward, it is a self-guided tour. Essentially you can see Sherlock and Dr.Watson’s room, their study, and wax figures on the third floor. Artifacts shown there like magnifying glass, caps, pipes, books, study table, etc looked historical.

From Bakers Street, our next tube destination was Oxford Circus station where we witnessed the Christmas lighting illuminated in Oxford Street and Regent Street.

Oxford Street:

Regent Street:

We spent some time strolling in both the streets enjoying the lights.
The Christmas lights were pretty impressive and will put you in a wonderful mood but it was very crowded. Children have to be taken care in the crowd lest they get lost.

Our final destination for the day was Kings Cross Station. It started raining. We proceeded to our booked hotel for a good night sleep.

Day 2: London – Dec 24, 2018 (Christmas Eve)

We heard a knock at our hotel door in the morning. A kind Russian woman had dropped in to give us ginger biscuits in the shape of snowflakes and wished us Merry Christmas. So kind of her.

Among the places to visit on this day was my Husbands office area situated in Canary Wharf, the business heart of London. Another reason to visit Canary Wharf was because this is where the song “Challa” from the movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan was pictured with Shah Rukh Khan in it. To reach Canary Wharf from our hotel we took the driverless District Line Railways (DLR) train.

I was fascinated by the tall skyscrapers and stunning office blocks. Loved watching the planes landing at the nearby London city airport (one of five airports in London), the DLR trains rumble by and the surprising array of life on the waterways surrounding the tall buildings. We strolled inside the shopping centers and had a fantastic time walking alongside the water ways.

Next destination was South Kensington. We went through the oldest subway which led us to the Museums – Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Science Museum. On reaching there, we had both good and bad news awaiting us. Firstly, the bad news. The Museums were closed on account of Christmas Eve. The good news was that we can now cover even more places in London which might not have been able to if we had spent time in the museum.

We took the tube from there to Piccadilly Circus which is located at the junction of five busy streets. This famous London landmark blazes with neon displays, which serve as a colorful backdrop to a bronze fountain topped by a figure of a winged archer.

We then walked from Piccadilly Circus towards Waterloo.

The Crimean War Memorial which commemorates the victory of the Allied Forces in the Crimean War unveiled in 1861 has a central position in Waterloo Place consisting of the statues of three Guardsmen, with a female allegorical figure referred to as Honour. It is certainly a striking and eye-catching memorial and we took a few minutes to have a close look at it.

Walked further from Waterloo towards Trafalgar Square. Bordering the National Gallery and Canadian embassy, it’s impossible to miss Trafalgar Square with its imposing statues and a lovely fountain at the center, that had a golden gleam against the setting sun. 

There is also a Nelson’s column, which stands imposingly tall. It was built in honor of Admiral Nelson Horatio who fought in the battle of Trafalgar. This place is easily accessible from Charing Cross station which is the closest.

Our final destination for the day was Stratford. We intended to call it a day after looking around in Stratford, as there were announcements being made that the train services would come to halt early due to Christmas Eve. We went to explore the mall next to the station and did a bit of Christmas shopping.

We were lucky to experience slight snowfall on the way back to the hotel. When we reached the hotel, the kind lady once again gave Christmas chocolates for my little one and both greeted each other Merry Christmas. My sincere gratitude to the Estonian lady for being so friendly and cheerful.

Day 3: Cardiff – Dec 25, 2018 (Christmas Day)

All Journeys are not smooth, especially around Christmas and New Years Day eve. There were no local bus or trains working except for a smattering of taxis. We did not take a chance and booked a local taxi early in the morning. The taxis were charging double the rate of the usual fare. Even then we were not certain whether the taxi would turn up or not due to the increased demand for them.

If Taxi had not turned up, we were planning to cancel our trip to Cardiff. Luckily, the taxi wallah arrived at 10 am and we set off to Victoria Bus Coach Station. We were relieved our plans need not be changed and that the journey was going forward.

The taxi driver showed us some interesting places in London while driving the car and the roads were empty too. Glancing out from the car window I could see the British gallery, Wedding gallery, Bond street lighting, British air force museum, Eaton square, which the Taxi Driver said is the second most expensive area in London, and the Elizabeth Street lighting.

We reached Victoria Bus Station and were right on time to board the bus to Cardiff.

On the way to Cardiff, I enjoyed the Scenic beauty of nature – trees, brooks, meadows. We briefly stopped at Bristol and I enjoyed looking at the Bristol Bay and Newport Riverfront.

As we were approaching Cardiff, Signboards welcomed us in both languages – Welsh and English.

We reached hotel at 4.30 pm. At the reception, the in-charge person showed us the popular attractions that are at a walkable distance from the hotel. She also recommended us to visit the spectacular Caerphilly Castle.

She told us further that Dec 26th being the boxing day, most of the museums and castles will remain closed, but one can still admire them from outside. We thanked her for her helpfulness and went up the lift to our room.

In the evening, we freshened up and decided to explore the city. Cardiff Bay was just a 15 minutes walk from the hotel. Streets were very much empty on account of Christmas, but we enjoyed the quiet walk.

The revitalized waterfront at Cardiff Bay includes the Wales Millennium Centre, home of the national opera, orchestra, theater and dance companies, plus shops at Mermaid Quay. Architect Richard Rogers’ strikingly modern Senedd building houses the Welsh National Assembly.

The Wales Millenium Centre is home to the Welsh National Opera. Matilda the Musical was playing at the Wales Millenium Centre.

Roald Dahl Plass is a public space named after Cardiff-born author Roald Dahl to celebrate his life and works.  It is today an oval-shaped open space surrounded by illuminated pillars and gravel covering over the original dock area.

At the north end of the Plass is the Water Tower, high with an intermittent stream of water running down the metallic fountain. The tower is also known as the “Torchwood Tower” because it marked the location as an entrance of the fictitious ‘Torchwood Hub’ of the BBC television Doctor Who spin-off series.

The Pierhead Building stands as one of the Cardiff’s most familiar landmarks and was built in 1897 as the headquarters for the Bute Dock Company. The clock on the building is unofficially known as the “Big Ben of Wales” and also serves as a Welsh history museum.

The Senedd is the National Assembly for Wales.

Pobl Fel Ni (People Like Us) – boardwalk statues represents an immigrant couple symbolizing the arrival of many to Tiger Bay seeking a better life in Britain.

The St David’s Hotel is the first five-star hotel in Wales, having a sweeping sail-topped roof and a lofty atrium lobby.

Techniquest is an educational science & discovery centre, which also includes a science theatre and planetarium.

Mermaid Quay comprises a mix of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and services located on the waterfront.

Cardiff Bay View:

Christmas Lightings at Cardiff:

On our way back to Hotel, we saw the bronze statue of our Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, standing at Lloyd George Avenue which is a tribute on the 148th birth anniversary. This statue shows the important bonds between the two nations of India and Wales and the great relations for the Indian diaspora who have made Wales their home.

Day 4: Caerphilly Castle – Dec 26, 2018 

We planned to visit Caerphilly Castle in the morning. Buses to Caerphilly were limited due to it being a Boxing Day and the last bus from Cardiff Bus Station was at 10.30 am. But sadly we missed the bus as we arrived late at the bus station.

We then took a taxi to go to Caerphilly Castle near Cardiff Central Railway Station.

I had a child like curiosity and kept glancing outside the car window to see the wonderful sights of Cardiff.

Principality stadium:

Cardiff castle and Animal wall:

Cardiff castle is located in the city centre of Cardiff, but was closed as expected. I could though still see the beautiful walls from outside.

A trip by taxi from Cardiff to Caerphilly takes about 19 minutes.

Caerphilly is a town and community in South Wales, at the southern end of the Rhymney Valley. Famous for its cheese-making industry, the town of Caerphilly is home to a 13th-century castle, which is the largest in Wales and the second largest in Great Britain after Windsor Castle.

Tommy Cooper was a Welsh prop comedian and magician born in Caerphilly.

Tommy Cooper statue has a little bunny at its foot, which is super cute to look at. The statue is a great honor to a great Comedian with Caerphilly castle in the background.

Caerphilly Castle:

The fortress sprawls over a huge area making it the largest castle in Wales. Like the famous cheese, the castle has long been synonymous with Caerphilly. It dominates. Its large-scale use of water for defense and the fact that this is the first concentric castle in Britain in the late 13th century. Concentrically planned, walls within walls, the rings of stone and water defences are formidable even today. The Castle famous for its ‘leaning tower’ the tower that out-leans the Tower of Pisa.

The Marquess is displayed supporting Caerphilly’s famous leaning tower. The larger than life sculpture stands over 20 feet tall and shows the 4th Marquess, wearing a long flowing robe. His wealth and tenacity saved the castle from ruin, for the People of Wales.

The Castle looks imposing and is very well maintained. One can walk around the castle admiring its beauty and also enjoy feeding the various species of birds like Geese, Swans, Ducks, Doves, Gulls etc.

Time flew by looking at the elegant beauty of the castle. It was worth the visit and I didn’t feel like leaving this place.

But sadly it was time for us to board the bus back to Hotel in Cardiff.

The next day was followed by a hectic bus and train travel schedule, where we traveled from Cardiff to Newport by train. From Newport to Bristol we took a Rail replacement bus. And from Bristol to London again by train. Then from London to Northampton by train.

Even after reaching home, the beauty of the castle was still captivating my mind, and I decided to try sketching the castle, which you can see below.

That’s all folks! Thank you for patiently reading my long travel blog.

Until the next trip, wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year 2019.

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