Monday, March 23, 2015

Wales: Doctor Who Experience

WARNING:  Major geekiness ahead.  It's Doctor Who Day!


As you may know, I'm a bit of a sci-fi nerd.  Star Wars is my first love, but I'm perfectly happy to geek out over Star Trek too and other sci-fi things like The Fifth Element and more recently Jupiter Ascending (which I saw in theaters four times, and would have gone more if it had stuck around longer).  So when I was planning what to do and see in Wales, I really wanted to go to Cardiff specifically for the Doctor Who Experience.


I'll admit I'm a more casual fan of Doctor Who; I didn't start watching it until a couple years ago.  I like it quite a lot though, and Lee thinks it's the weirdest show on television so there's a ringing endorsement for you.  Lucky for me, one of his friends is a Whovian and he lent me the DVDs so I have now seen all of the New Who episodes, except for last year's Christmas special, haven't gotten it on iTunes yet.  And this whole paragraph was probably Greek to you, right Mom?  Ok, let's start with this:  the blue box is a TARDIS, and it travels through time and space.  Cool!


And that thing that looks kinda like a weirdo pepper shaker with a fungal infection is a Dalek, one of the villains of Doctor Who.  Their most famous line is "Exterminate!"

Ok, so, this exhibit is kind of like the Harry Potter studio tour in that you go in at a set time with a group of people and go through an interactive exhibit with video and characters from the show.  We went a couple months before it switched over from the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) to the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), which is good because Eleven was "my first Doctor" as Whovians say.  Mom, the Doctor is a time-traveling alien who sometimes "regenerates" into a new body, so there have been 13 doctors so far (because the War Doctor doesn't have a number and I think I'm probably just going to confuse you more now).


When the Doctor regenerates, sometimes the TARDIS does too.  And it's bigger on the inside, so here's a TARDIS interior.


And a different iteration of the TARDIS interior.  I am not well-versed enough with Doctor Who to identify which one is which though, usually I'm cross stitching and more listening than watching TV (not just for Doctor Who, but for pretty much everything).


And there's a Dalek made of Legos, just because.


The Weeping Angels are more Whovian villains, and were in the very first episode of the show that I ever saw.  They were introduced in the episode Blink, which might be the best New Who episode ever.  So the Weeping Angels look like statues if you're looking at them, but they come after you when you look away and they can send you back in time because they feed on some kind of quantum en--not important, they're villains and they're scary on the show.


One recurring character on Doctor Who is River Song, and she wore those spectacular shoes.  She's another time traveler.


Pretty sure that dress on the left is what River wore with those fabulous shoes.


After the interactive part, where you "take a trip" on the TARDIS and get chased by Daleks, you get to static exhibitions with lots of costumes and props from the show, again like the Harry Potter tour in London.  So there's a costume for Amy Pond, one of the Eleventh Doctor's companions.


Here's a costume for the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, who I think is probably the most popular of the New Who Doctors.  Personally, I saw David Tennant first as an evil Death Eater in the Harry Potter movies, so it took me quite a few episodes to quit thinking "It's a Death Eater! Run!" when watching him on Who.


More Companions' costumes:  Donna Noble, Martha Jones, and Captain Jack Harkness.  I love Martha's signature red jacket, it would probably look smashing with River's shoes : D


One of the best things about a time-traveling TV show is that you can have stories from anywhere and anywhen, and awesome costumes to match.  But I don't know offhand what episode these costumes are from.


And here's the Eleventh Doctor.  Bow ties are cool.


Here's a Gallifreyan cradle, just really cool-looking.


There's the costume for Oswin Oswald, which was Jenna Coleman's first appearance on Doctor Who.  She died in that episode, came back as a different character and died again, and then came back as yet another character and is still alive as Clara Oswald.  So yeah, part of why Lee thinks this show is so weird.


And another shot of the costume and the Daleks.


I think this might possibly be from the episode The Wedding of River Song, but I'm not sure.  It's bugging me that I can't remember.


Baby Weeping Angels are pretty scary too.  Sure, they look like cherubs, but they kill you just as dead.


I'm thinking these costumes are from The Girl in the Fireplace, in which the Doctor meets Madame de Pompadour.  Love that episode.


A couple of TARDISes...


And one very scary Weeping Angel.


This was a miniature thing, the TARDIS and the wreckage of a Dalek.  And this post has taken me entirely too long to write but at least it's stopped raining so I can go for my run outside after all.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wales: Caerphilly Castle

Hola, peeps!  I am continuing my virtual tour of Wales with a visit to Caerphilly Castle, near Cardiff.  Turns out this is the second-largest castle in Britain, take a looksie:


As always, you can click on the pictures to see 'em bigger.


This was the morning of our second day in Wales; we left our hotel pretty early to drive to Caerphilly and had breakfast at a cafe there since the castle wasn't open yet.  Then we walked around part of the castle perimeter for a bit before we went in.  Caerphilly Castle is also the site of what are arguably the most elaborate waterworks defense system in Britain, which is cool.


Caerphilly was built starting in the 13th century by English-dude-with-a-French-name-so-he-was-probably-Norman Gilbert de Clare, and I'd lay money that he was related to the Walter de Clare who started Tintern Abbey in the 12th century.


There's the gatehouse, and some very nice flowers to set it off.  As you can see, the weather gods favored us once again with gorgeous blue skies.


It was tough for me to get a good picture of the entrance gate, this reminds me of the paper crafting technique called serenschnitte.  I could be misspelling that, German is not my strong suit.


We went in one of the outbuildings that turned out to contain Ye Olde Chamberpot, and this mannequin dude.  It had a motion-activated recording thing that would make farting noises when you walked in, though thankfully it lacked the historical chamberpot smell.


Early in its history, Caerphilly Castle was important in the struggle between the native Welsh and the English who wanted to take over the entire island.  Centuries after Wales was conquered, the castle fell into disrepair and the waterworks drained out, which is probably what causes that half-ruined tower to lean.  At least, according to the source of all knowledge on the interwebs, Wikipedia.  Because I believe everything I read on Wikipedia.


Just trying to get some interesting shots of the ruined tower.


I like the statue dude "holding up" the tower to keep it from toppling, rather a fanciful addition to the castle grounds.


I spent several minutes taking pictures of the Welsh flag flapping in the breeze but never got one where you can actually SEE the dragon any better than this.  Argh.


More castley bits...


And the same castley bits from up in a tower.


And there's a bit of the gorgeous Welsh countryside surrounding the castle.  I'm kind of in love with Wales, and if we ever move to Europe again I'm gonna want to go back here.


That is not a ghost on the left;  Lee set up the camera to do a super-long exposure to photograph the fireplace, which you kind of have to do to get pictures inside because of the low light conditions.  So those people happened to wander in during the one or two minute exposure, and they look ghosty.


Here's another artsy shot from me, just because I liked all the texture here.


And there's an artsy lens flare for you.


Another statue on the grounds...


And the exit part of the gate, which is also very cool.


Caerphilly Castle was pretty fun to explore, and the town was absolutely charming.  Glad we decided to check it out!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Wales: Chepstow Castle

Mornin', peeps!  I'm back with more Wales photos.  After we left Tintern Abbey, we trundled down the road just a little bit and stopped again at nearby Chepstow Castle since we wanted to make those Wales Explorer passes pay off ASAP.  (FYI:  I think we saved at least $100 by getting those passes.  I did all the math while we were still in Wales but I don't think I kept it.)


Wikipedia (source of all knowledge on the interwebs) says that Chepstow is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain.


The castle isn't particularly strong defensively speaking, since instead of a concentric layout with a strong keep, it's strung out on the banks of the River Wye.  It's very long and thin, which means that if you were attacking it, you'd have a whole lot of wall from which to choose.  The river side is all on a cliff though, so you wouldn't attack from that side.


These, my friends, are the oldest castle doors in Europe, built no later than the 1190s.  Pretty amazing, huh?


And there's my artsy shot of the doors.


Lee is very excited to be seeing another castle.  By the end of our time in Wales, though, he was totally castled out.


There's a part of the castle structure from inside one of the courtyards.  I have no idea what part of the castle we're looking at, I just like the colors in this shot.


I also like taking pictures of windows and such.


And there's the view out that window, I think the ivy makes it particularly pretty.


I would NOT want to go swimming in that river, though.  I think we could have gotten some nice photos of the castle as a whole from that bridge, but we didn't go down there.  I think the sun would have been behind the castle from that vantage anyway, so to get good shots we would have had to go there in the morning.


'Nother view of the other side of the Wye.


And a staircase.  Lee and I have a running joke about how all the iron railings are original to the castles.


One more shot of the castle ruins for you.


We forgot to get a selfie at Chepstow, but I did take this pic of the signs in both English and Welsh.  And I'll admit to a bit of adolescent humor:  Panty Castle.  Teehee.