Travel theme: Silver

Another great travel theme from Where’s My Backpack this week (click here to see more entries).

Inspired by Ailsa’s photo of The Spire in Dublin, I thought I’d share with you a photo of our own silver statue in Cardiff Bay.

The Water Tower

The Water Tower isn’t usually covered in strawberry stickers, they were added to celebrate the Cardiff Festival. As the name suggests, it’s actually a water fountain. When it’s in full flow, all the local kids dare each other to see who can touch the silver panels before the wind changes and they get soaked by a wall of water. The Water Tower is also the entrance to the fictitious Torchwood in the popular TV series. It’s quite amusing to watch fans of the show jumping up and down next to the fountain, expecting the floor to open up underneath them ūüôā

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the sea. On the one hand, I have a phobia of it which developed when I was a small child. My dad took me down to the beach one day and I was taken by the current. Neither of us were able to swim at the time, so it was a scary experience. As an adult, I’ve managed to pretty much get over my fear by taking part in activities such as scuba diving and body boarding (I can now swim). I’ve grown to love the sea, and in return it has provided me with a place to relax and reflect. I grew up by the sea, and have lived on the coast for most of my life. I feel secure knowing that the sea is nearby. When things get too tough and life feels claustrophobic, I run to the shore and look out to the horizon. It makes me feel better.

The only time in my life that I haven’t had the sea within reaching distance is when I lived in Austria. Living in a landlocked country felt suffocating, and I had to make do with standing on top of mountains and looking out to the distance to feel the same sense of freedom.

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Above is the sea where I grew up in Lancashire, although the promenade wasn’t as nicely developed as this when I was a child.

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Although we don’t have any beaches where I now live in Cardiff, we still get to enjoy the sea. The Cardiff Bay Barrage separates the sea from a freshwater basin.

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea. Click here to see more entries.

Cardiff Bay

After telling you about the Cardiff Bay Barrage, I thought I’d better show you all some of the things that it was built for, as well as some of the older buildings in the area that are important parts of the local history and culture.

Wales Millennium Centre
Wales Millennium Centre

The Wales Millennium Centre is famous as the home of the Welsh National Opera, but there are actually a lot more events and activities that go on there. The carvings on the front of the building, which are also the windows, reads ‘In these stones horizons sing’.

The Pierhead Building
The Pierhead Building

Probably the most noticeable building due to it’s bright red colour, the Pierhead Building was built in 1897 and is the former headquarters of the Bute Dock Company.

The Senedd
The Senedd

The Senedd is where it all happens. It’s the building of the National Assembly for Wales and houses the debating chamber and committee rooms.

Norwegian Church
Norwegian Church

As the name suggests, the Norwegian Church was built as a place of worship for the Norwegian community that once supported the docks. Cardiff’s most famous Norwegian resident was the author Roald Dahl.

The Water Tower
The Water Tower, with the water switched off
Merchant Seafarers' War Memorial
Merchant Seafarers’ War Memorial and St David’s Hotel and Spa in the background
Scott Antarctic Memorial
Scott Antarctic Memorial

One of my favourite facts about Cardiff is that this is where Captain Scott departed from on his last voyage in the SS Terra Nova on 15th June 1910.

Cardiff Bay Barrage

When I moved to South Wales fifteen years ago, my first experience of Cardiff was on a day excursion with my university. We were loaded onto a coach, dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere and told to meet our lecturers in the city centre a couple of hours later. Luckily for me, other people in my group had actually visited Cardiff before and knew where the city centre was. Who knows where I would have ended up if it hadn’t been for them.

I soon learnt that the building site in which we had been abandoned was to become Cardiff Bay, a huge development of shops, homes and businesses with a grand opera house as it’s centrepiece. As I listened to the Welsh students telling me about how one day the area would be the place to be seen in Cardiff, and how it was going to attract thousands of tourists, I looked around me and to be honest wasn’t convinced.

Fifteen years on, the Bay is exactly what all it’s supporters said it would be. We have our very own opera house in the Wales Millennium Centre, we are governed by the newly-formed Welsh Assembly that has made it’s home in the Bay and there’s even¬†a Doctor Who Experience.

None of the development in the Bay would have been possible without building the Cardiff Bay Barrage. The Barrage, which stretches all the way over to Penarth, has caused a lot of controversy since the idea was first thought of. Opponents felt that creating a freshwater lake purely for aesthetic reasons was impractical, could cause damage to surrounding properties and would certainly prove to affect local wildlife in the long term. It didn’t just cause arguments here in Wales, either. Apparently even the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher got involved (she was against the barrage, and in a rare event was actually beaten down by another politician).

Looking over to Penarth from the Cardiff side
Looking over to Penarth from the Cardiff side

Whatever your opinion of the building of the barrage, it’s here now. With a typical Welsh can-do attitude, the people of Cardiff have made it their own and use the barrage positively. In 2008, after yet more problems, the barrage path opened to pedestrians and cyclists (and skateboarders, rollerbladers and kids renting go-karts – watch where you walk!). The dream of this scenic route was to provide an alternative commute between Cardiff and Penarth that would cut out sitting in two miles of rush-hour traffic. Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable winds and the delayed opening of the path, not many people seem to use it for that purpose.

Enjoying the sun on the barrage, with the copper roof of the Wales Millennium Centre in the background
Enjoying the sun on the barrage, with the copper roof of the Wales Millennium Centre in the background

Take a stroll along the barrage on a sunny weekend, however, and you will find it bustling with locals and tourists. Starting behind the Doctor Who Experience, the path includes childrens playgrounds, a skate park, cafe and visitor centre. My favourite part, though, is definitely the locks that let the boats in and out from the sea to the Bay. I could stand there for hours watching the whole process again and again.

Lock number 1
Lock number 1
You can just see the masts of the boats waiting to come in above the massive gates of the locks
You can just see the masts of the boats waiting to come in above the massive gates of the locks
Lock 2, ready to go
Lock 2, ready to go
Up it goes...
Up it goes…
... and the boats sail through
… and the boats sail through