October is pre-winter in the United Kingdom and so, was quite an unpopular choice to be visiting the island nation in. Also, being a Lahori, choosing Wales to be having winter vacations in added to the unpopularity of my preferences. “It will be quite, dreary and melancholic,” people told me. Even going by the weather reports for the 15 days I was to spend there, I figured the atmosphere would not entirely be all that uplifting. But I wasn’t the one to revise my plans based on assumptions and hearsay. I was to spend every single day in Cardiff, Wales to its fullest; doing justice to every penny I spent in going there. And so my trip began October 29, 2018. It was a Monday and I took the 3am flight to Cardiff via Doha. It was 11am by the time I landed in Cardiff, Wales but my energy had sunk and shrunk and all I needed was to stretch my legs and catch up on at least six hours of sleep. Immigration and customs was harder and gruelling but once outside the airport, the cool and chilly breeze with a light sun welcomed me with open arms. I got a taxi from the airport which cost me £39 pounds to get me to Lisvane. The drive gave away views of beautiful parks, mountain ranges, small towns and lush greenery. I had arrived! But my tiredness was getting to me and my eyes were closing shut. After all, I had hopped three continents and time zones and relaxation was important in that case. If I were to explore all the fantastical sites and learn about them, an active mind was important so I dozed off in the room I was given by my AirBnb host and drifted off to sleep. It was 7pm when I woke up. And the excitement to move out and see Cardiff was like an itch. And so began my exploration journey from there. PIERHEAD BUILDING — I will advise everyone visiting Cardiff to see the Pierhead Building during the daytime as its colour and unique shade is such that only the sunlight can do justice to it. I on the other hand, visited it at night but even then, the light winter moon’s reflection glared on the historic site, making it a site to behold. I stood there frozen as before this, I had only seen it in films or read about it online. The crowd was scant. There were some children playing right outside the space allotted for visitors and some women could be seen jogging around. The red bricks and the humongous clock dome stood ahead of like a rock. The Pierhead Building is a Grade I listed building of the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff Bay. WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE — only to be seen at night if you want the entire structure to light up and highlight the Welsh writings on top. I visited it at night and was blown away by the beauty of it. The exterior itself looked so beautiful, my job was done exploring it; I didn’t feel the need to step inside and see more. The Wales Millennium Centre is an arts centre located in Cardiff Bay. CARDIFF CASTLE — you enter the fortress walls and one look at it makes you freeze in your steps. The historic castle lies tall and daunting in front of your eyes perched atop a hill, transporting you instantly to some fantasy world or a centuries old Viking story you would’ve read as a child. You need to pay £14 and a lot of muscle to enter and climb all those stairs to see the dungeons, the rooms, the cellar and of course to reach the very crest from where you can see the entire Cardiff laid out. Handsome Welsh men dressed like warriors and princes add to the castle’s historic feel and you can take pictures with them. Cardiff Castle is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion located in the city centre. NATIONAL MUSEUM — my next stop was the National Museum. At 30 years of age, I was getting to see preserved remains of the largest whales, unique rodents and deadly meteorites. I kept hoping we could have similar museums in Lahore, where our children could grow up being familiar with these things that have actually existed. The National Museum is also an art gallery. WELSH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL — I knew I had to visit it owing to its popularity and honourary value. I entered its premises via a small gate in a fence. It was around 4pm and the atmosphere was calm and peaceful. The memorial was beautifully built with fountains pouring out and the statues of floral wreath-laying man as well as an angel looking right at you. The memorial is built inside the lush Alexandria Gardens of Cathay’s Park. The memorial was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and unveiled in 1928 by the Prince of Wales. CATHAYS LIBRARY — my experience at the library warmed me up. They instantly make you a library card even if you’re a visitor or a traveller. The card is for a life-time membership. I remember walking in and asking for Daphne Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel or Jamaica’s Inn. Both seemed to be unavailable so the librarian asked me for my details and told me she’s ordered the books and would notify me via email when they’re ready to collect. The library is home to billions of genres all neatly categorised alphabetically. You will find books there you haven’t even heard of your entire life. There’s also a children’s corner which is more like a daycare corner where children can read books and colour in stencils. Considering how the people there are obsessed with their Royals, there are a plethora of books on British Royalty. However, what was amazing to see was that in the Foreign Language section, there were more books in Urdu and Persian than any other language. Published in Daily Times, January 12th 2019.