Fan-Based Travel (Part 2)

The Doctor leads me to Cardiff, Wales.

As my time in London quickly comes to a close, I’ve been scrambling to attend to the last of my wishlist with the time I have left. On a whim, I decided to hop a bus to Cardiff to visit the site of many beloved BBC shows, specifically Torchwood and Doctor Who.

I’d heard rumour going in that the Doctor Who Experience was potentially closing soon. In fact, I’d heard this rumour before I’d even left the United States. So I knew that while I was in the proper area of the world, I should take advantage of my proximity and check it out. (Luckily I did so — two weeks after I visited, they officially announced their imminent closure.)

Getting to Cardiff from London was super simple. My round-trip ticket via bus cost all of £6.50 using MegaBus. I found a super-cute hostel (Mrs. Potts) 20170527_210754 that was located right in the middle of the City Centre and used that as home base to my travels.

Upon my arrival, the temperature held an unexpected amount of warmth. My first stop was to Primark to purchase shorts because I’m just not about that life…


Now armed with mighty pink shorts, I set off to face the world. And by world, I mean Cardiff Bay.

I decided to walk, as I feel it’s always the best introduction to a city.  (This was a mistake, but more on that later.)

Literally the first thing I saw. A bit ominous, really…
Millennium Centre
Roald Dahl Plass Water Tower

What I hadn’t realized before my arrival and subsequent Cardiff Bay adventure is that the 2017 UEFA Champions League final (a super-mega-huge soccer event) was going to be held in Cardiff the following weekend.  To accommodate, the entire city was under construction, building concert venues and pavilions to handle the influx of football hooligans. These monstrosities make valiant efforts to thwart my photography but I tried my damnedest anyway.

For those of you less interested in the soccer and more interested in the fandom, this water tower is the location to the hidden entrance to Torchwood. Unfortunately, there were no John Barrowman sightings during my time in Cardiff. (Womp womp…)

Knowing that I was close, I made my way down to Mermaid Quay where I had heard tell of an Ianto Shrine. FOUND IT!

My favorite part (aside from the part where I live in a world where this exists…) was where I saw that despite the government’s efforts at taking it down, the fans just kept bringing more things for the shrine till eventually the government conceded to leave it up and it has now been there longer than the show was on air.

Now content with life, I decided to slowly work my way back to the city centre, stopping in some shops along the way. (I bought a scarf!) I also stopped by the water tower one last time because it’s just so cool. Couldn’t help it, I took a selfie.

The nostalgia was STRONG this weekend…

However, I’d underestimated the walking distance and by the time I got back to the hostel, my feet were aching quite a bit. Guess I shouldn’t have worn sandals? The one benefit to my poor feet being tortured was that I was very aware of those very feet as I walked home and I saw this in the sidewalk on the way there.


By the time I reached Mrs. Potts, I knew I was hungry but it was about 8pm and didn’t know where to go. I asked the helpful employee at the front desk for recommendations and he didn’t really have any, so I kinda just walked around for a bit until my feet could stand it no longer.

Evidently, everything in Cardiff closes by 8pm, leaving dining options limited. (I just don’t get it…) I wound up at Pizza Express of all places. Yes, I know. I’m disappointed in myself too.

Day 2

Saturday morning I had tickets to go to the Doctor Who Experience.

Daleks: This way.

I really had no clue what I was in for. I expected some form of Doctor Who museum, considering the show has been on air for 50+ years. However, logic and common sense dictate that I should have expected more of a…wait for it…”Experience.”


When I arrived, I was taken from set to set with a guide in costume where-in we had to help the Doctor find some crystals to save his ship. I got to pilot the TARDIS, walk on Skaro (Daleks are terrifying, okay?), and hasten through a darkened graveyard filled with Weeping Angels (SOOOO not okay.) In the end we saved the Doctor and our reward was the entrance to the more-museum-esque area of the building.

What follows are a shitton of pictures. If you don’t like Doctor Who, feel free to skip along merrily till they end.

Costume: Rassilon
Costume: Ianto
Costume: Jack (Torchwood)
Costume: John
Costume: Donna
Costume: Doctor (10)
Costume: Doctor (9)
Costume: Rose
Costume: Martha
Costume: Jack (Doctor Who)
Face of Boe
Clockwork Android
Is there something behind me?
I found K-9!
No but really…is there something behind me?
Just don’t do it. The Thames is polluted enough as it is…
Destroyed TARDIS from 9’s regeneration.
Inside the TARDIS.
Another pic of the destroyed TARDIS.
Tosh’s Torchwood desk.
Compilation of Who companions.

After spending a good chunk of time in nerd heaven, I decided to nostalgically meander my way back through town towards the bus while reminiscing about the good ole days of Doctor Who before Moffat took over.

On my way, I found this fun monument.


It serves as a tribute to those lost at sea.  I thought it was beautiful.

I caught my bus and took it north to the National Museum Cardiff where I scoped out a moon rock and some lovely paintings before heading over to Cardiff Castle.

To my delight, I discovered that there’s an underground cavern, literally within the walls, wherein a few days out of the year, they show films for super cheap. To my eternal delight, I discovered that they were showing The Goonies. To my dismay, the website was reporting that the show was sold out. Determined to try anyway, I walked over to the castle to check in person.

Here be dragons…

Luck was on my side when the ticketing agent found a single ticket for me and printed it out before her boss showed up to tell her to stop selling the tickets to the sold out show.


While the theatre itself wasn’t exactly the most high-tech of theatres, it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime type of venue wherein I got to watch one of my favorite childhood movies (with a bunch of children who had never seen it before…always a fun experience.)

That evening, I went to Sully’s Cafe around the corner for a late dinner. (This time, I specifically asked the front desk which restaurants in the area were local and open late. This was the result.) I got an interesting roasted cauliflower monstrosity that tasted fine but presentation left much to be desired. I think I ate more of the paper tray-liner than I did of the cauliflower. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t share such events, but I am setting up a scenario wherein I was sitting alone, in this bar/restaurant, eating dinner late at night…when I look up and see this extremely serious business transaction happening directly across the street.

Evidently I am not the only one who witnessed this suit…because the couple in the picture stopped to take their own photo of him as well.

As I trekked the three minute walk back to my hostel, I also spotted this.

Lots of stag-do’s in town. My tolerance and patience level are minimal. So I called it a night.

Day 3

Honestly, I woke up thinking I was going to go back to Cardiff Castle to actually take a look around, as I hadn’t had the chance when I saw the movie the day prior. However, I took literally three steps inside the gate before realizing I’ve seen so many castles throughout my time in the UK. I reached the conclusion that I was going to Cardiff Castle out of a sense of obligation rather than because it was something that I wanted to do.

So I turned right around and walked back to Mrs. Potts where I grabbed my book for my dissertation and went to find a place in the sun to sit and read.


There I parked till the sun hid behind a cloud and it got just a smidge too chilly to continue sitting there. At that point, I got up and wandered around a bit, shopped a bit, found a breakfast place for the following day, and found this lovely guy.

There’s a joke in there…………somewhere……….

I ended up spending the remainder of my day in the lobby of Mrs. Potts where I finished my book for my dissertation (go me!) and then went on an epic (and ultimately, failed) quest for this recommended pizza place on the other side of the river.

I made my way back to my side of the river and ended up eating at, I kid you not, The Real Italian Pizza place across the street from my hostel. (It wasn’t that great. Do not recommend.)

After giving up on my pizza, I wound up talking to the lovely man at the Mrs. Potts desk, Christopher (I think), for something approaching two hours about all manner of things Marvel and DC. (A solid culmination to my nerd trip.)

All in all, I’m glad I went — especially as the Doctor Who Experience announced their closing just a few short days ago. I wish I could recommend this city to other DW/TW fans, but as 70% of the appeal will be disappearing within the next three months, I wouldn’t go unless you can get there before September.

Or if you’re just particularly obsessed with Torchwood. I don’t think Roald Dahl Plass, the Millennium Center, or Ianto’s Shrine are going anywhere any time soon. (In fact, if you’re as nerdy as I (because I embrace the inner (and outer) nerd), I’d recommend looking up a list of places in Cardiff where DW and TW have filmed. Especially if you have access to the shows just before or while there.)

As to my blog, this will be the last post for a while. We’re getting into the nitty-gritty bits of dissertation writing now. I have three months left in London, 25 days of travel planned in five cities with two different people, and I’m also participating in GISHWHES again this year. (If you want more information on GISHing, please click any of the links provided…)

Around all that, I’m writing my dissertation on how technology has revolutionized Disney’s marketing and brand strategy for their remakes and sequels. In theory, because I haven’t actually started yet. *shifty eyes*

Due to that egregious studential (made-up-word-alert!) oversight, I’ll likely not write my Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Athens, or Santorini blog posts until I’m firmly back on United States soil. (But never say never! Who knows!?! Maybe I’ll finish my dissertation early with plenty of time to spare!!!)

So — so long for now and I’ll catch you next time.

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Obtained my Master's in Film, Television and Screen Media in London, England. Now working as a small-group travel coordinator. Nice to meet you!

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