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Day 6: Thursday, Sep. 24
Caerphilly Castle, Cardiff, and Return to London

Thursday morning it was time to pack up and leave Llanedi. We got back on the M4 and headed west. Just north of Cardiff is Caerphilly, the home of Caerphilly Castle. The is the largest castle in Wales, and dates to the 13th century. I had to see at least one castle while in Wales, and this one was both interesting and convenient to Cardiff. To get from the highway to the castle we followed signs that apparently were intended to show us much of the town before depositing us in a parking lot across from the castle. After touring the castle, and lunch across the street, we headed back to Cardiff.

When we returned the car, Avis found some damage to one wheel, but we were just thankful that the tire hadn't blow out. We took the short walk back to the train station, and got on the next train to London. A loo adventure in Paddington Station delayed us a bit, but we made it back to London in time for British hamburgers.

Although the Caerphilly Castle grounds are extensive, they are surrounded by an even larger park. There were more people in the park than in the castle. It was a beautiful sunny day, and there were many mothers (nannies?) with baby carriages and small children about.
Feeding the ducks and geese was a favorite activity of those enjoying the park.
The castle is mostly in good shape, following extensive restoration. The leaning tower on the right is being left that way, as a reminder of its history.
The large lakes and moats around the castle give it more protection than most castles enjoyed.
Restoration work is still proceeding near the leaning tower.
Across from a damaged wall is an example of the kind of siege machine that might have originally damaged it.
An inner lake is now just a peaceful setting for water birds.
The castle is well-explained with signs and exhibits.
The exhibits in the center of the main structure trace the history of the castle from its beginning, along with the history of the area.
The upper reaches required the use of stone spiral staircases. This may have helped to prepare us for the climb to the upper galleries at St. Pauls Cathedral the following day.
View of part of the town of Caerphilly from the wall of the castle.
Away from town: a more rural view.
This is the top of a portcullis (the spiked iron gate that drops down to bar intruders trying to enter the main gate). To drop it, the defenders kicked out the two wooden blocks holding it in place at the level of this floor.
Jennifer outside the Great Hall. The large windows were not part of the original castle, which was much darker inside.
Inside the Great Hall: shields of noble families are on the walls, and chairs for modern-day presentations are available.
Some of the furniture recreates a much older construction technique: no screws or nails.
Some of the more badly damaged part of the castle...and a flood light nearly hidden near the ground level. It must be an amazing sight at night.
We had noticed rectangular cut-outs near the top of some of the walls. Eventually we realized they were for the beams that held up protected wooden walkways such as this.
An old castle tower, with a jet contrail in the sky above.
Replicas of siege machines are displayed inside the outer wall.
In addition to the trebuchet and a similar large-rock-throwing-machine, there was this huge crossbow. To cock it, a grown man had to stand on a beam attached to the rope. It propelled a large fat dart, rather than an arrow.
Jennifer, next to the massive front gate. It's made of oak and studded with iron rivets.
Lunch was at Glanmor's Tea Room, in Caerphilly across the street. As we stood in the line to be seated, we noticed the cupcakes (Ursula would have enjoyed the ladybug cakes, but we decided not to try to pack one).
Besides our sandwiches, we had Welsh Cawl, a traditional stew of lamb and vegetables. It was delicious. We each also had a caffitiere, an individual French press-type coffee maker. Also delicious.
Not wanting to repeat our seemingly aimless driving around Caerphilly, we asked for directions to Cardiff Central at the castle gift shop. The directions were good, and soon enough we arrived at the Avis car rental location, with a gas station next door. Diesel fuel for our car was only 1.08. Pounds sterling. For a liter. That amounts to about $8 a gallon.

The Avis manager had conducted a careful inspection of the car before we left, and did so again when we returned. He quickly spotted some scrapes on the left front wheel rim and an "egg" in the left front tire--apparently one of those pedestrian curbs protruding into the street between Cardiff and St Fagans had been too much for it. He decide they could polish out the rim, but we had to buy Avis a new tire. At least we were able to keep going on our trip to southwestern Wales and back.

The Audi was a fine car, although it was bigger than we'd have liked while we were navigating the narrow roads. I hadn't wanted to shift gear manually, left-handed, however, and this was all they had with an automatic transmission. Next time I'll get a smaller car and deal with the shifting.

We had a few minutes in Cardiff Central to look around the grocery and gift shop, and got on the train for an uneventful ride back to London.

In Paddington Station we decided to use the loo, and found that both the Men's and Ladies' charged 30 pence admission. Neither of us had the correct change. On the Men's side the change machine was broken and I decided to wait. Jennifer managed finally to get change on her side, and we took the Underground back to the hotel.

Winston got back from work about that time, and we went to a nearby Gourmet Burger place for supper (I took this picture the next day). We had a cheeseburger, a blue cheese burger, and a buffalo burger, and spicy beef-and-lamb kofta on a stick. With local ale. Another fun meal, and the conclusion of another fun day.