Cardiff July 2018

School trip to Cardiff

We were inspired by a combination of the Yum boxes and by our deep seated desire to up sticks and travel slowly round the world Home Educating Button with experience and culture as well as knowledge. The year (or two) long trip we have always dreamt of remains a financial and practical impossibility- we also believe in teaching Button about consequences and taking responsibility- but that does not stifle our desire to give Button, Bear and Buttercup every opportunity to experience things. 

It was the Polish Yum box that started Mum's cogs turning as we looked into the plausibility of a few days in Poland. Unfortunately, we were forced to reconsider due to cost, the logistics of travelling with (just) one year old twins and ultimately our own comfort zone: in terms of travelling with three young children to a Country we have never visited; have little knowledge of; on a plane for the first time; at a fast pace ( as would only be for a couple of days).

However, we were now inspired and began to look at alternatives. Eventually we came to the conclusion that Cardiff was our best bet: Mum and Dad had been two years earlier and so knew the area; a train was preferable to a plane; we found affordable accommodation in the Bay. 

Furthermore, Nanny's Spanish born but French living cousin and his Portuguese wife and niece were visiting the week of our trip and wanted to see the sights of London. This would provide Button with an experience of different languages and barriers in communication as well as a chance to try out some of her French. It also meant that we could tie in and compare London with Cardiff and study Britain as July's Country theme.

Mummy really wanted us to visit the castle ( ) whilst Daddy really wanted to hire bikes ( ) to ride round the Bay. Both of us thought that as Button loves Roald Dahl books it would be good to visit the Norwegian Church ( ) where he attended and was Baptised, Roald Dahl Plass and the Millennium Centre ( ). Daddy then began to look into educational opportunities in Cardiff and our trip quickly began to take shape. Daddy found Techniquest online ( ), discovering on their website that they cater for Home Educators. Even better, on the Thursday we would be in Cardiff they would be doing a presentation for Home Educators on Bubbles. This science museum was also conveniently walkable from the Apartment we would be staying in. Next Daddy looked at the National Museum and discovered that they have their toddlers day every Friday ( ), where they have interactive items and toys dotted around near the exhibits to engage toddlers. Daddy thought this would be great for the twins as it was their "school" trip too. They would also be having a Welsh Japanese exhibition ( )which Daddy thought Button might enjoy as she loves Japan. Finally, a few days before we left Daddy came across the Cardiff story museum. (  ). This looked great for Button to learn about Cardiff, but was also having Dinky Dragon rhyme and storytime on the Friday which again would be good for Bear and Buttercup.

So before we left, Mummy and Daddy sat down and prioritised the places and activities we had available to us. Then we planned roughly when and what day we would do them. We decided that the National Museum was not a priority on this occasion but had it in reserve. Afterall, with two 1 year olds and a 5 year old, an activity we might think takes a day could take five minutes. We also took this opportunity to book the Castle tickets online, saving 10% and also saving time on the day.


Cardiff was superb. So friendly, helpful ( something that was emphasised instantly upon our return to London) and actually welcoming of families and Home Educators. 

We stayed in Cardiff Bay and we loved it. Plenty of Culture, history, eateries, a fair and a Carousel. Everything went pretty much to plan after the first night. The first night was tarnished after the poor service ( and cold pizza) of Pizza Express and then by England losing in the Semi Final against Croatia. However, day 1, we successfully squeezed in everything we had hoped to do in the Bay. We did the Science Museum, the bikes round the Bay and the Church where Roald Dahl was Baptised. We also did the fair and had an amazing meal at Las Iguanas.

Techniquest, the Science museum was amazing with friendly and helpful staff. As Home Educators, they only charged us (a very reasonable small charge) for Button. This allowed Button, Bear, Buttercup, Mummy and Daddy to come in and out all day and also allowed Button and Mummy to attend the Home Educators' "Bubbles and Blasts" presentation. Mummy and Daddy's first reaction was an incorrect one that the place seemed quite small and that we might struggle to keep the kids occupied until the presentation. We could not ve more wrong Button flitted from one experiment/display to another and still wanted more. We could easily have spent another couple of hours in there and Button asked to go back everyday! Even Buttercup and Bear enjoyed themselves, crawling round and especially enjoying the giant floor piano.

The bikes were great too. Pedal power is a charitable organisation and they were very helpful in setting Button and daddy up with a double bike. We used the one in the Bay next to the now closed (thanks Peter Capaldi) Dr Who Experience building, but there is another one in Bute Park apparently. Button and I had a great time riding round the now Beach themed edge of the Bay. Unfortunately, Button could not reach the pedals but she still made the most of it, urging me to go faster. This was also when Button noticed the fair which we would come back to later in the day and where Button went in/on her first funhouse. As we rode back, even Mummy had a quick go on the bike, swapping with Daddy for a bit.

We now headed for the Norwegian Church which is now a café downstairs and an art gallery upstairs. We stopped for a drink and some cake and explained its relevance to Roald Dahl to Button. Daddy and Button had a look round the lovely gallery and then we all headed to the little park. We then started looking for where to grab some dinner and were intrigued by Las Iguanas. Although the Twins were baby led weaned and are well and truly on solids, it was the restaurant's praise worthy offer of free organic baby food that attracted us as it indicated a child welcoming restaurant. Also, Mummy and Daddy were craving some real food as the previous few days had not been our healthiest start to a week. Button loves Mexican so we knew there would be something she would eat and Mummy and Daddy were excited by the South American menu. The food was fantastic and the service brilliant, especially as the Bay was in the throes of Graduation ceremonies.  Well recommended and finished off a fantastic day perfectly. 

The next day was Castle day! We set out early to catch the first 'Princess Katherine' river bus to Bute Park. Again the service was first class, with the crew going out of their way to help us get the sleeping Bear and Buttercup onto the boat in their buggies. Button had really been looking forward to this little boat trip and had clearly built it up too much (possibly after seeing speed boats whizzing round the Bay the previous day). As a result (and possibly due to tiredness from the previous day's exertions) she was a bit disappointed at first at least. Nevertheless it is a lovely way to travel between the Bay and Cardiff City centre and Bear enjoyed it when he woke up.


We headed for the Cardiff Story Museum and Mummy took Bear and Buttercup down to Dinky Dragons. There they enjoyed songs, rhymes and stories  in English and some in Welsh. Meanwhile, Button and Daddy started exploring the rest of the museum. I have to say it was superb. Well laid out with a good balance of information, artefacts and interactive elements. Also, like the National museum that we knew we didn't have time for, they had stuff out for toddlers and the twins had a whale of a time exploring once they came up after Dinky Dragons. Unfortunately, Button was not in the best mood to get as much out of the museum as I think she could have. Even so she loved the 'build your own city' activity they had. Again the staff were friendly and helpful but also let you get on and explore.

Mummy and Daddy then took Button to see the shops they had loved in the old arcade of shops when they came before. Button loved them all too, buying: some Unicorn dust in ____________ (which is unfortunately closing down and selling online and in Boots); Jungle Speed (a surprisingly fun and competitive game) in the lovely games shop; and some Judith Kerr books in the great book shop. We then took her to experience the fantastic 'Madame Fromage' where we had lunch (amazing if you like cheese) followed by super smooth ice cream in the independent and exciting 'Ice cream Science' where they use liquid nitrogen to make your ice cream in front of you. The service in both of these brilliant establishments was welcoming and first class. We were enjoying ourselves do much that not only did we let Mummy in the new Harry Potter shop (we sensibly avoided their sister unicorn shop) but Mummy even treated herself to a set of two hi-ball glasses. We finally went to the best gift shop in Cardiff, home to the largest Love Spoon in the world (I think), to grab some gifts for family.

We were now belatedly ready for the Castle. I think in general, castles promise so much and deliver ruins and anticlimax. Cardiff Castle does this but so much more. From the outside the fortifications are impressive, imposing and offers a juxtaposition of new and old that not all towns/cities can pull off. Bath does it best from what I have seen but Cardiff pulls it off as well. In part due to the layout of old and new style shops in the city and in part due to the river Taff and Bute Park. Once inside the Keep on top of the Motte looks so old and authentic. It excited me and seemed like stepping back in time. The beauty of Cardiff castle is you also have the more modern part of the castle where Henry VIII visited and where the Marquis of Bute resided. It was here we headed first, but a bit surprisingly buggies could not go in, so Mummy took Button in. The decor was impressive but Button was less impressed and rushed Mummy round and unfortunately you can only go in a few rooms. The Keep was also unreachable by buggies and like most Castles less impressive inside as it was a ruin but despite these (normal) anticlimactic moments, the guys at cardiff Castle have done a tremendous job of really making the most of their history.

The military museum was surprisingly good and had a fantastic dress up section. As with the rest of Cardiff, the staff were friendly, helpful and happy to listen to Button and her often random conversation. There is also good facilities for schools and families and a fairly varied gift shop.

However, the jewel in the crown  was not even obviously signposted. We have Button's inquisitive nature to thank for finding this simple, understated and emotionally effective tribute to what is still relatively recent and therefore emotive history. It is so important that we never forget and we increasingly losing that ever so important generation of staunch, resourceful and amazing people. So reminders like this Air raid shelter in the walls of the castle  fortifications are essential. We are so grateful that button saw a door in the side of the hill that she wanted to explore. You need to visit this place yourself but the visuals are simple, bare, stark and tangible.

    Cold and stripped of emotion. The audio emotive and full of passion. Both are powerfully effective in tandem. We have not really looked at the World Wars with Button yet but I think this even gave her a powerful insight and a grounding to build on in the future.

We then went and played in the park til the water bus was ready to go back to the Bay for dinner, packing and bed.

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