Barely 2 weeks after my first lone adventure to Newport, I returned to Wales yet again – this time to its capital city – Cardiff, and not alone – but with a gang of 8 other comrades !
A quick 40 minutes train journey from Bristol, and we arrived at Cardiff station…… Unlike the first time, now being more familiar with the Welsh language, I wasn’t in for a shock on seeing the signboards. Wasting no time, we followed the boards that read “Fford Allen” ( meaning “Way out”) , or ‘Fraud Allen’ as Bharat and I preferred to call it, and walked down to the taxi stands. Since most of us hadn’t had any breakfast, we decided to split up. Borat, Santosh, Ramappa, Reuben and Anand Ramakrishna stayed back and headed towards the adjacent mall to grab a bite, where as Rakesh, me, Akansha and Ram took a taxi towards the Cardiff Bay to enquire and book tickets for the Speed-Boat ride (that our mates had raved and ranted to us about) .
The first sight of the bay was itself absolutely captivating !!! The water was clear blue and placid, and a hazy mist was hanging over it in the horizon ! There was a promenade lined against the bay, and being quite early for a winter morning, we had almost the entire place to ourselves ! After strolling around a while and artistically experimenting with our cameras, we found the speed-boat office. Unfortunately, the official informed us that the rides were all booked for the day ………and that we need to book atleast 2 weeks in advance, if we fancy a place 😦
Nevertheless, we quickly formulated a ‘plan B’. We decided to go for the less adventurous, but equally exciting ferry service across the bay to a place called Penarth – that constitutes of a series of panoramic hillocks and cliffs lined against the sea ! The boats were only at 12 noon and 1pm … having more than an hour in hand, we decided to have lunch first.
By then, the rest of the gang had joined us and we walked down to the nearby ‘Red Dragon’ mall – a real huge structure, but with a tiny doorway leading into it, that we literally had to circumvent the whole mall to actually find it !
First stop – the huge arcade and Entertainment centre, to play some bowling ! But thanks to our tremendous good fortune, we realized that all the lanes were booked too !!! Time for ‘Plan B’ again, or rather a Plan B within a plan B [ plan B.B ???] ! Off we went to the arcade section, hoping to play some video games………
And that was where we came across the roulette – a gambling device with some sort of an intrinsic magnetic power, that just pulls people in ! The funda was simple……you throw a 10p coin in, shoot it with a lever, if it falls on certain marked areas of a spinning disc, you win some coins back ! All of us took turns playing …….Some of us won, some of us lost miserably…..but one thing in common was that all of us got hooked ! Trust me – gambling may contain no caffeine, no nicotene, no morphine, but its one hell of an addictive activity ! Fortunately, this was not Las Vegas …..and the stakes were not too high – just 10 pence at a time……but that didn’t prevent people like Anand Ramakrishna in donating a huge part of his fortune to the roulettes. Thankfully, for me, it was a net profit. I had spent a little under 1 pound and won back about 1.5. Not bad at all!
An hour later, having tried our hands at many other games, and managing to drag Anand off the roulette, we were all prepared for our next challenge – the ‘Spicy Route’ restaurant. This place is known for its exquisite multi-cuisine menu – that among other things, includes almost every other Indian dish that you would fancy (….and had been missing since ages) – right from chats to sabji to masala dosas to biriyanis to butter chicken !
There was a board outside that said that you could treat yourself to an unlimited buffet for just about 6 pounds per head ! [ Honestly, what more could we have asked for ….. ]
WE WENT in, WE SAW, (…we folded our sleeves) and WE CONQUERED !!!
In 45 minutes flat, with hardly a word spoken in between, the job was neatly done ! [ I personally couldn’t stop wondering why God had given me just 1 stomach, where as the cow that I regularly used to see sitting right in the middle of CMH Road back home, had got 4 !!!].
Truly, the restaurant managers had very badly under-estimated our collective might ! It was quite certain that the next time we go there, there’d be full-sized colour pictures of us on the board, with a small subscript reading ‘No entry to the these glutonous pigs !’
That done, we rushed to the docks and caught the ferry to Penarth. Costing just about 3 pounds for a return ticket, it was an awesome deal ! As the boat slowly glided across the sparkling blue waters of the bay, the operator gave us a running commentry describing the sights around us and the history associated with most of them. We really didn’t listen much to him, as we were indulging in our own sort of fun ! While the Brits were all primly seated in the neatly arranged rows of wooden benches, we travelled by the manner we were most accustomed to travelling – on the footboard ! Throughout the 40 minutes journey across the bay, we ran around the boat and took turns on the coveted spots on the footboards …….acrobatically leaning across and enjoying the open sky and the breeze, while our seats lay vacant !
Finally, before we could be thrown overboard, our boat reached Penarth,and we got down to have a look around the beautiful town and possibly visit the famed ‘Pebble beach’ there.
We quickly moved towards the giant ‘Locks’ that stood arrogantly at the mouth of the bay, standing as a wall against the fury of the sea beyond ! In Netherlands I guess they call these ‘dykes’…..but to me it looked no different from one of the dams back in South India – except for the fact that this one had the sea on one side and the bay on the other.
Next, we started trekking towards the Penarth beach, but this meant we had to scale the small hillocks and cut right through the extremely beautiful Penarth town, and descend again, onto the shores…..but just as we started out, we were frozen on our tracks….by a marvellous, curvaceous beauty who stood right there in our path in sheer aristocratic elegance ! We wondered what her name was ….it was Santosh who first gave us the answer – Aston Martin !!!
I just couldn’t believe my eyes ……Over the years I had touched a Rolls Royce, posed with a Maserati, sat inside a Porsche, leaned against a Lamborghini, visited a the showroom of Ferrari ……but never before in my life had I come so close to an Aston Martin – the original Bond car !
Boy, it was love at first sight ! We were all just so knocked-over by the car and went on to give it the sort of papparazzi treatment that not even Angelina Jolie could have possibly attracted ……as for the next 15-20 minutes, 4 cameras, 4 mobile phones clicked and shot the car from every possible angle, and with each of us taking turns posing with it !
[ Rakesh with the Aston ]
We had to ask our way down to the beach all along, and thanks to the courteous and hospitable nature of the locals , we got down there in about half an hour. Must admit – the Welsh are real nice people – extremely polite and helpful, always smiling if we approach them [….typically a lot different from the English ] ! The journey enroute was extremely beautiful …and presented some spectacular areal views of the bay and the city of Cardiff that lay across.
Finally we were at the Pebble beach – aptly named ‘cos the beach entirely constituted of pebbles, not sand !
There was a bridge that went that stretched into the sea …….we headed there first and shot some group photographs ! Some of us wanted to stay back on the bridge, while the rest of us took the stairs down to the beach ! Since it was low tide at that time, the waters were a neat 150-200 metres away, exposing the reef !
Waiting for nobody, I plunged ahead, and charged towards the waters in full fury …..the next thing I know, there was a loud SPLASH ! ……..and then another !!!
Before I could realize it, my Rs.3000 Reeboks were nearly sinking in thick, sticky, dirty mud !!! The impact had been heavy and the mud had splashed all over my jeans as well 😦 …..Only then did I realize that it was just the first 50 metres or so that constitutes the pebble beach, the rest of it better be called ‘Dirt beach’ or ‘Marsh beach’ ! It was sort of like quick sand …you put your foot at the wrong place and it sinks about half feet into the mud !
[The state of my Reeboks ] 😦
Having seen me take the plunge, the others got wary…. Akansha and Ram were smart enough to remain where the pebbles were …Bharat, Santosh and Ramappa did brave ahead but by skilfully stepping on strategically located stones. As for me, I had nothing more to lose, so unhesitantly went ahead……
A while later, after getting calls from Rakesh and Anand who were still high up on the bridge, reminding us that we had a boat to catch, we headed back !
It was a mad rush ……to make it worse, we lost our way ! Reuben navigated us with the help of the map we had and somehow, just as we were speeding our way down the slopes, we could see the boat pulling into the docks…the timing couldn’t be better than this ! All panting and exhausted we barged into it.
Once on the mainland, the shopaholics took a shopping break in one of the boutiques, and quite a while later, we rushed to the Cardiff castle in two taxis but the place had already closed by the time we got there.
Having still some time in hand, we walked down the High Street into the main city centre shopping area of Cardiff. The city centre, needless to say was quite active and buzzing – with the usual weekend shoppers buzzing into the usual stores, and the usual street-side musicians grooving their tunes out loud and the usual bunch of teenagers dancing to them !
However, what was unusual was that there was a huge acrobatic ride that stood nearby..It was sort of like a giant wheel, but had only 2 carriages, that would hurl about in every possible direction whilst rotating – even upside-down !!!
Bharat, Santosh, Rakesh, Ramappa and Akansha were brave enough to try……where as the rest of us felt quite comfortable having our feet on the ground !
Having done that, we walked down to the train station and got back to Bristol.
[The Cardiff gang !!!]