Some brick and stone work around South Wales. Some of it is old, some of it is newer but made to look old.
Talking to Britons, one of the things that came up is architecture and how they feel so tired of everything being made to match Victorian architecture, and wished for more modern-looking buildings. And of course, being American, I’m sick to death of modern architecture and love seeing buildings, houses, churches, that might only be 200 years old (or younger), but look like they’ve been there for a millennium.
Cardiff Castle stands in the middle of the city of Cardiff, just North of the city centre (I’ll use British spelling), quite easy to get to if you’re out on the town, just remember that they close at 6 and stop letting people in at 5. Definitely go see it if you’re traveling in the area.
From what I remember from watching Secrets of Great British Castles, Cardiff Castle stands on the ruins of an old Roman fort, and was originally constructed during the reign of Edward I. Talking with an Englishman at the bar one night, evidently castles of this sort are called “war castles,” built during either the Norman Invasion or the English conquest of Wales under Edward Longshanks. As you can see, it’s a motte-and-bailey style, but of course the original structure would have been made of wood.
Cardiff Castle is sort of looked down upon by locals specifically because it isn’t all original, though I don’t know why, if they were already building it in stone by the 1200s. The main problem is that the Marquesses of Bute started their own “restorations” in the 1800s cashing in on the gothic revival fad of the time (many wealthy noblemen of the time tore down castles built in the 14th and 15th centuries to make something more in keeping with what was considered a castle at the time). I believe there was rather a large stink raised about the demolition of the medieval inner bailey wall along with other buildings dating from at least the 1300s. The grounds of the bailey would have held extensive gardens, but now are just lawn.
There was a rather impressive collection of buildings on the outer bailey wall built (or restored) during the 1800s and containing rather impressive living quarters, said to be kept as close as possible to medieval dwelling conditions. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to take the tour, preferring to wander the castle grounds by myself and only leaving right when they closed. I’m still impressed with what I saw, and coming from a country where something built in the 1850s is considered old, Cardiff Castle is still properly ancient.
Rock Chapel, Blackwood. A converted church that is now a private residence as well as a B&B, the husband and wife team who own it are big supporters of the Wales International Documentary Festival. The chapel was my base of operations, and the graveyard outside provided much photographic inspiration over the two days of the festival.
As the chapel itself has been renovated and repurposed, so too has the cemetery outside. I’d make a joke about the neighbors being quiet, but actually they weren’t, especially at feeding time in the morning. I never knew sheep could be so excited over breakfast, but what they lack in facial expressions they make up for in the height that they can jump. I thought for sure I had more pictures with the sheep in the graveyard, so maybe they’re there and I’m not looking hard enough…maybe they’re lying in wait, ready to pounce…
I already started posting pics from Wales, but before delving into more of those rather bigger posts, I’ll share a few miscellaneous pictures with you.
I grew up watching British television, and though it wasn’t my goal while I was in Wales, I did get to catch a few episodes of Father Ted actually being broadcast on Channel 4 reruns (RIP Dermot Morgan, and now Frank Kelly). On my walk around Cardiff I went past the Doctor Who Experience, but was unfortunately too late to take the tour. I snapped a few pics of the exhibitions in the lobby, and of course you have to get one of the daleks! John Hurt was one of my favorite actors and I was looking forward to see him star in Terry Gilliam’s newest film before he was diagnosed with cancer. I always thought he’d make a good regular Doctor, but sadly that dream, like so many others, will never come about now. Since coming back from Wales I’ve learned that the Doctor Who Experience will be closing at the end of the summer, so I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t able to get further than the lobby.
I never would have considered traveling to Wales for a film festival if not for some generous offers of funding when I had just learned that Overwhelming Majority had been accepted. Unfortunately that funding fell through and I cancelled my plans, then decided very last minute that the opportunity to go was too good to pass up, even if it meant paying out of pocket for my plane flight. It was a gigantic leap of faith my part and I am currently accepting donations to recoup this expense, as well as help me get to festivals further on down the road.
Though only at the festival in Blackwood for two days, I was able to get to know some cool filmmakers from Britain, Scandinavia, and Belgium, as well as see some interesting documentary films. Probably the best part of the festival though, was being able to share my experiences with the interns, mostly film and journalism students from Cardiff University. They were all cool people and I found that I fit in pretty well there. I hope I’ll be able to get back to the UK before too long.
I brought the Canon 7 and the Olympus Trip 35, loaded with some classic black & white and slide films, shooting 4 rolls total. There is much more to be posted from my first overseas trip.
It seems that each festival I go to is a better experience than the last, but I don’t know that Durango can be topped. They treated the filmmakers so nicely there, and it being 6 hours away from me, I decided to stay for the entire thing, which was definitely worth it. I stayed in the General Palmer Hotel (living in Colorado Springs for so long, I could stay nowhere else) which looked largely untouched by time. There were lots of activities I to do around town (like a trip on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad), plus a special filmmakers only-lounge in the basement of the local Irish pub…assuming you didn’t watch films, and I did try to catch as many programs as I could. The best part though, was that the entire festival took place in the space of two blocks in downtown Durango, making everything nice and easy to get to. I forged some great relationships with people and will definitely be going back in the future.