Sunday, February 26, 2006

Finish of Wales (a.k.a. Day 2 - The Next Morning)

The two guys that we decided to let join us were called Duncan and Steve and they were from Scotland (we only had to ask their names because they were fully clad in kilts and the Rugby regalia – including a full size Scottish flag). These two were the beginning of a fun night. We got on well, talking and laughing and after we’d finished our pint we were already friends. They had come to Wales that morning on an overnight train, packing only what was on their back and a toothbrush in their tall sock. It was a fabulous idea I thought, but hard-core to be sure. They had been doing it five years and they came with two of their friends as well… we’d meet them later. Duncan got us another pint and mentioned that they’d been drinking since 1030am when they’d arrived (we later found out that this was merely par-for-the- course for the Scots this weekend… wow I didn’t even realise I was making a golf reference when talking about Scotsman! Funny!)
We drank and sat and laughed and talked until later two more kilt-clad Scots arrived and joined us – John and Mark. Mark sat down, introduced himself and pulled out of his little kilt bag, a small wrapped parcel quickly removed something from it and when Steve wasn’t looked in dropped it in his beer and erupted into laughter… it was a chicken kidney… and it was disgusting. He’d wrapped it up to drop in people’s drinks all night… and had apparently been getting a lot of enjoyment out of it. We sat and talked some more, laughing and observing the drunken Scots while attempting to revel with them (and after a couple more pints starting to find it much funnier than before). Eventually we decided on a group photo with Duncan and Steve, who afte the first shot (taken by a couple seated at the table next to us) looked at each other, shrugged, and mooned the camera, complete with nut shot. It was hilarious, and the man and woman who took the picture were –not horrified- but laughing so hard, and commented with quick wit, “You need a haircut!” To which we all erupted again in laughter. What a night. It only got funnier from there.


Eventually we left the Old Arcade and headed for an Irish bar that was rumoured to have live music, but didn’t… We walked in, got drinks, I talked with about a half dozen random people, mostly Scots and we all proceeded to drink more and dance to the Irish tunes playing over the speakers. It was a great time, and then, suddenly… there it was… the hard strumming, of the Proclaimers. I don’t have to tell you what happened… but I will. The Scots when berserk; they were jumping and dancing and yelling and singing, it was fantastic, just brilliant! After the song they changed to the themes of the countries in the 6 nations tourney and all of the bar was singing loudly (though we didn’t know the words we went with the 90% how you look and yelled right along)! What a night. Scotsman use their elbows a lot while dancing, and you’d be surprised how many people want to know what’s under their kilt (even in the UK!) Mark, by far the cutest one of the four, had his kilt lifted at least twice by separate people (one older woman in her 40s and one girl probably 17) and both times he laughed (though looked rather uncomfortable with the younger one, due to his girlfriend back home). The night was unforgettable and amazingly fun, merely solidifying the feelings of Steph and myself, that Scots are some of the best people the Earth has to offer… well at least the younger, non-angry ones.

The next morning we got up and were slow to get around due to the night of drinking with Scotsman, but we were still really happy to be up and about. We went down to breakfast at the normal pre-9am time and had a chat with another Kilted Scotsman staying at our B&B. The Full Welsh Breakfast is the same as the Full English, but they ask you how many eggs you want… maybe that was just the place we were staying.

After breakfast we started our trek back into town to see the sights figuring we’ll try and catch the game on at one of the pubs when it started later that afternoon. Our first stop was Cardiff Castle. Wikipedia has it described well:
“Cardiff Castle in Wales was founded by the Normans in 1091, on the site of a Roman fort whose remains can still be seen. The castle's most famous occupant was Robert, Duke of Normandy, who was imprisoned there by his younger brother, King Henry I of England, from 1106 until 1134. In 1158 it was the scene for a daring kidnapping carried out by one Ifor Bach (Ivor the Little). The Welsh took it again in 1404, under Owen Glynd┼Ár. In 1488, it came into the possession of Jasper Tudor.
During the 19th century, a new mock medieval castle was built to the design of William Burges, architect to the Earl of Bute, as a fairytale residence. The castle was later given to the city of Cardiff by the Bute family. It is now a popular tourist attraction, and houses a regimental museum in addition to the ruins of the old castle and the Victorian reconstruction.”

The castle was even more recently home to a concert by the Rolling Stones. This would have been amazing – there is so much open space in the castle walls and the backdrop for the concert there would have been incredible. What a space. It was beautiful. We entered and had to get a picture with one of the red dragon sculptures that were scattered throughout the grounds, and then headed up to the mound. The mound is where the original castle that (as you now know) was built by the Normans stood. The Norman Keep was really cool and had lots of complete floors and stairs and towers. It was really awesome. I claimed a room on the floor right before the rooftop lookout. What a cool room that would have been. Steph let me claim it but claimed one of the rooms in the main castle.

There was a tour at 1045 so we walked over to where the tour was to begin and hung out with a bunch of Spaniards and others waiting for the tour to start. It was let by this nice woman who took us into a half dozen different rooms designed and built during the Victorian period. Everything had to be extravagant, and it was fantastic. It was too much to believe. There were wall murals that were larger than life sized re-enactments of battles in the huge dining hall, Turkish inspired windows in the smoking room with the devil over the door to scare away the women from trying to listen, a smaller dining room with a left handed spiral staircase – we learned that most all spiral stairs curve anti-clockwise because the knights would carry their sword in their right hand and therefore won’t tear up the walls, will be able to strike coming out of the stairs; but this staircase curved clockwise rather than anti-clockwise which indicated it was built for a left-handed knight, a rarity to be sure! It even had a children’s playroom with the walls painted (by a guy from Ohio) filled with dozens of childhood stories, including one with the invisible man – who wasn’t so invisible – it was an optical illusion, you could see him if you looked closely at the branches of the trees around where he ‘stood.’ It was one of the most amazing castles; I’ve never seen it’s equal. After the castle tour (which was over an hour) we left and walked around the city some more admiring the Welsh and Scots all out in full force.
We decided to wander around and enjoy the mingling of the two teams and get the full effect of the Six Nations Rugby flavour. We walked by a pub called the Prince of Wales, so I took a picture and this Scotsman pulled his pants down… he wasn’t the first as you now know…

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