‘Well, he’s a smiler, isn’t he?’
‘I bet you look forward to having him every week!’
‘What a beautiful smile!’
These are just some of the things that people said to me today as Max and I were out and about. On the bus out, on the bus home and in Cardiff as well, wherever I met people. Max invokes that response. It’s that smile that brightens up my Fridays.
Max arrived looking very bleary eyed and tired. He had been plucked from his cot and brought to our house early. His first smile preceded me opening the car door and I knew we were in for a good day. We spent the first hour or so snuggled under a blanket, talking and watching some train videos on YouTube. The house was warm, the blankets were soft and the thought of staying there all day was briefly tempting. However, Fridays are adventuring days and today we ere off to Cardiff Bay to continue Max’s education.
We caught the 10:30a.m. 304 Cardiff Express from Eastbrook. I was very relieved to see the pushchair space was free on the bus – a full pushchair space often means alternative transport and a quick run to Eastbrook Station to catch a train, folding up a pushchair and carrying Max while the bus passengers look on is not an option.
The 304 is run by NAT – NewAdventure Travel, very appropriate for name for a bus carrying a little boy and his chubby grandfather on an exciting trip. Cardiff Bus 95 will take you to Cardiff Town but the 304 goes to the same place but by a different route and stops right in Cardiff Bay. I was sat with Max facing down the bus and the first few rows sat under his spell… he smiled and waved all the way into Cardiff. We got off not far from the Coal Exchange, one of my favourite Cardiff Buildings.
There was a time in the coal exchange history where the grand building housed the biggest coal trading business in the world and the hub for the city’s then thriving shipping industry. The building was built in the late 1800s and, despite being left to rot and in a desperate state of disrepair, has taken on a new lease of life as The Exchange Hotel. The Coal Exchange has enjoyed a long history of industrial excitement and intense trading, with up to 10,000 people passing through the doors each day at the height of business.
We walked past the Exchange and down a few alleyways that we would not have done twenty years ago before the Bay was redeveloped.
There are some grand buildings there, the place is steeped in history.
We walked down past Trumps Coffee Shop – we popped our heads in to see if Donald was working but he wasn’t, so we just carried on.
Our first stop proper was Greggs, its not really possible to pass by on the other side, that would be so rude. Max was thirsty and hungry, and I realised it was time for our elevenses! We decided on coffee and a Yum-Yum each a Yum-Yum is a twirly kind of sugary donut. Max had a squash.
We really enjoyed our break and Max devoured his Yum -Yum and was looking my way to see if I had any left. I saw how much he enjoyed his, so I left him a little bit of mine… well…he is my friend.
After Greggs, we explored the Bay. Max looked longingly at the boats, but time and the weather meant a boat trip wasn’t on the agenda.
We saw the Senedd, the Welsh Government Building and the wonderful old Pier Head Building.
It was a chilly dismal day, so we headed for the Millennium Centre – it was warm there. My old mum loved this building. She wasn’t so keen when it was first built. She called it an armadillo. Now it’s an iconic landmark.
The Wales Millennium Centre, situated at the heart of Cardiff Bay, is the nation’s home for performing arts and world class entertainment.
Wales Millennium Centre opened in 2004 and has already established its reputation as one of the world`s iconic arts and cultural destinations.
The vision of the Centre was to be an internationally significant cultural landmark and centre for the performing arts, renowned for inspiration, excellence and leadership.
The building exterior is dominated by walls built of waste slate, collected from the many quarries throughout Wales, laid in coloured ‘strata’ depicting the different stone layers seen in sea cliffs; naturally-occurring purple slate came from a quarry in Penryn, the blue from Cwt-y-Bugail, green from Nantlle, grey from Llechwedd, and the black slate from the Corris Quarry in mid-west Wales. An important industry within Wales for centuries, Welsh slate has changed the landscape of North Wales forever and is important to Welsh heritage.
On the front of the WMC, cut directly into the steel façade in large Celtic lettering, is the inscription “CREU GWIR GWYDR O FFWRNAIS AWEN,” which translated into English means “Truth is as clear as glass forged in the flames of inspiration.” The inspiration for this came from the forging of the metal roof and the glass from which each letter is made. Each letter stands over 2m tall and is a window for those inside the WMC overlooking Cardiff Bay.
There is also an English inscription: “IN THESE STONES HORIZONS SING.” The strata of the slate walls reminded Gwyneth Lewis, the author of the inscriptions, of the horizons seen just beyond Penarth Head in South Wales. She also felt that the stones would “literally be singing” once the building opened.
Max loved it in here.
Soon it was time to head towards the bus. On the way we stopped by the ‘water-feature’ just outside the Millennium Centre. Max was fascinated and it looked like I was the proud grandfather of twins!
The bus took us home and Max again enchanted the passengers on the bus.
We arrived home tired but happy and Max had a little sleep before his mummy picked him up. I am sure I saw him dreaming of Yum-Yums, buses and the boats he hopes to go on next time….