Cardiff Bay brings the world to the city with its cosmopolitan mix of restaurants, bars and cafes along the working port and seaside promenade. Take a walk along the bay and watch the water come into the harbour from the sea. Cruise companies offer coastal voyages up to North Devon, whose spectacular cliffs are a sight to behold.
With almost 2000 years of history this Roman garrison (55-400 AD), and Norman fortress (1088-1150 AD) was transformed into a gothic fantasyland by the very wealthy Marquess of Bute in Victorian times. The Bute family held lordship from 1766 until 1947 when the castle was given to the people of Cardiff. At the heart of the Welsh capital the castle is surrounded by parklands. Military re-enactments here feature "Roman soldiers" in action and jousting knights from time to time. Other events include midsummer evenings with Shakespeare, and the Great British Cheese Festival in September. The trebuchet replica siege engine from the movie ‘Ironclad' was recently acquired - dates to see it in operation this summer will be announced.
A short walk from here, Bute Park has an large area of mature parkland by the Taff River. Sophia Gardens and Pontcanna Fields are a part of this very popular 'green lung' along with an arboretum that includes 50 UK ‘Champion Trees'
The catle area gets very busy with gay cruising, in the evenings, after most tourists depart. The main castle grounds take about half an hour to walk to once the front gates are closed - go around to the left by way of the river bridge and a path into the grounds. The further you go, the more interesting it gets.
While Homo sapiens arrived by about 29,000 years ago in what is now Wales, continuous habitation dates from after the end of the last ice age around 9000 BC. Bryn Celli Ddu, a late Neolithic chambered tomb can be seen in Anglesey today. Recent population genetics indicate genetic continuity from Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic or Neolithic times; the Celtic language being introduced later during the Bronze Age.
Celtic Britons were conquered by the Romans between 43 and 79 AD. A number of kingdoms formed after 400 AD in the post-Roman period, but the Norman conquest of England in 1066 led to domination of Wales by the new rulers of England and their successors. In 1400 Owain Glyndŵr led a long-running revolt against the rule of Henry IV of England. He was never captured and remains a powerful symbol of Welsh nationalism. Along with England, Scotland, and Ireland, Wales become part of the United Kingdom, created in 1801.
The Welsh, known as passionate orators, singers, poets, and non-conformists, have contributed much to English-language cultures. Today 21% of them speak Cymraeg in the homelands, and schools teach in both languages. A few among those born in Wales include: Ray Milland, Richard Burton, Bertrand Russell, Anthony Hopkins, Mary Quant, Peter Greenaway, Terry Jones of Monty Python, John Cale of Velvet Underground, Spencer Davis, Dylan Thomas, Tom Jones, Rowan Williams, T. E. Lawrence "of Arabia" and George Everest, for whom the mountain is named.
As the British moved into North America, many from Wales were among them. About two million Americans and a half-million Canadians are of Welsh descent. William Penn, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Garfield, and Chief Justice John Marshall had Welsh ancestry, as did Abraham Lincoln and his Confederate opponents, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E Lee. Others include: Lee Daniel Boone, Humphrey Bogart, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Glenn Ford, Andy Griffith, DW Griffith, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, Howard Hughes, and JP Morgan. Even George W Bush and Barack Obama each has a trace.
Hoping to create New Wales, the tea clipper ship Mimosa set sail in 1865 for South America with 159 people, mostly from the Bala area. Today, with a population of 550,000, the Patagonian province of Chubut has 50,000 descendents from those Welsh settlers - about 5,000 of whom can speak Welsh.
Millennium Stadium hosts the incredibly popular national rugby and football teams. At more than 74,000 seats, it’s the largest stadium in Europe with a completely retractable roof. Tours are possible, but why not catch a game there in season?
Since 2006, the futuristic Millennium Centre has hosted opera, dance, and touring West End musicals, making it a must-visit for theatre lovers. Tours of the Centre are free, and free live performances take place in the foyer everyday at 1pm and before evening shows. If that whets your appetite, buy a ticket to the theatre.