Lively Cardiff

Trip Start Oct 17, 2011
Trip End May 22, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Wales,
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28-April 1, 2012: Cardiff was a small, market town until the early 1800s and then experienced massive growth as a coal-exporting port, becoming the world's largest. It became a city in 1905, was named capital of Wales in 1955 and developed a new waterfront area at Cardiff Bay in the 1990s. Now it’s a very multicultural city, one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe, and has been voted the UK’s most sociable city. It’s on track for becoming the European city with the highest student population. And it was the world’s first Fair Trade Capital City. Cardiff is also known as the City of Arcades - this is Shopping Central!

Big, urban Bute Park was being well used in the warm spring sunshine when I was there. I saw only the exterior of Cardiff Castle, but I read that it has Roman walls, a Norman keep, medieval halls and towers, exquisite Victorian restoration and a regimental museum.

The National Museum of Wales holds art, archaeology, natural history and geology. Loads of interesting exhibits and artwork. I also enjoyed the special exhibit of pictures of Queen Elizabeth (this is her Diamond Jubilee year, and many exhibits and events are being mounted around the nation). I visited the museum twice. It’s free! Outside, tulips were already blooming in profusion - and it's still only March!

I saw a London West End theatre production of An Inspector Calls, very well done and with an ingenious set.

The redeveloped Cardiff Bay area includes the Millennium Centre of Wales (a theatre and home to arts groups) and the National Assembly of Wales building. The latter was opened in 2006, and I found it interesting because of both my Hansard past and its "green" features. Called the Senedd, the impressive building sits overlooking prime waterfront. It was designed with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind and is one of the most eco-friendly buildings in the country.
Environmental features include geothermal heating and cooling, a biomass boiler burning recycled waste wood, and rainwater collection for toilet-flushing. A wind cowl on the roof rotates in the wind, drawing out warm air and allowing cool air to enter, thus reducing the need for air conditioning.
A thousand tonnes of Welsh slate were used, and I was surprised to learn that the massive, undulating, wooden ceiling is made from British Columbia red cedar!
Glass walls let in natural light and represent the transparency of government.

Further notes for my Hansard friends:
The Welsh Assembly is the most balanced in the world between women and men members. The public gallery seats 127 people, each with screen in front, which displays the agenda and TV shot of the member speaking. The Speaker is called the Presiding Officer here. Simultaneous interpretation is provided, and the Hansard transcribers sit on either side of the Presiding Officer in the chamber.
The assembly sits only two afternoons a week! The draft Hansard online is bilingual, but the final printed version is English only, for cost reasons. Staff offices are in an adjacent building.
The mace was a gift from New South Wales’s parliament in Australia. The mace always sits in the chamber; it is not processed. The Presiding Officer doesn’t wear a gown, just regular office attire. There are no raised voices in the chamber; everyone is well behaved.
In July 2008 the NHS Redress (Wales) Measure was the first law to be made in Wales since the 10th century! A March 2011 referendum said yes to granting the National Assembly for Wales further powers for making laws in Wales. One recent law decrees that shopkeepers must charge 5 pence for a plastic shopping bag.

Bye to Wales for now. I’ll be back someday.
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