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Holiday: Cardiff Museum; Caerleon; and Caerwent

We arrived in Cardiff at lunch time on the first day of our holiday, checked into the hotel and went to find some lunch before meeting the rest of our party and heading off to the National Museum of Wales. We were shown the exhibits by various luminaries of the museum, including Richard Brewer and Elizabeth Walker, who would later show us around some of the sites we would be visiting. The exhibit that we saw was all in a single large room, with the pieces grouped by type rather than by age, which I rather liked. My favourite part of the exhibition was the hand axes, but I always did like a good Neolithic hand axe. However, there was also a model of an archer from the Middle Ages that I enjoyed looking at, although he had rather more and better weapons than might haveĀ  been expected for a mere archer.

The next day Richard Brewer was our guide for two Roman sites, the fortress and amphitheatre at Caerleon, and the city of Caerwent, at both of which he had excavated. This made his explanations of the sites particularly vivid. The amphitheatre, located just outside the fort, was dug into the ground, so the walls weren’t particularly high. It was nice and complete, though, and I needed my widest angle lens to get it all in.

Most of the fort itself was still buried under the town of Caerleon, but some of the barracks along the north side of the fort had been excavated. Each barracks housed 80 men (a century) and a centurion at the end. The centurion’s suite was huge compared to the amount of accommodation allotted to the ordinary soliders, but rank doth have its privileges.

Lunch that day was a picnic assembled by our Tour Manager, Denise. These picnics are a feature of Andante holidays, and are much anticipated by their regular clients, including us.

After lunch we visited the town of Caerwent whose town walls form an almost complete circuit of the town itself, and are about one mile around. We walked around one half of them, and along the long side they are extremely high still, reaching about 5m at their highest. In most places the flat facing stones have been robbed away for later buildings — a common occurrence — but occasionally sections of the wall looked complete, and very imposing.

Once we had walked the best of the wall we went into the interior of the town and looked at some courtyard houses, shops, a temple, and the forum basilica. A couple of altars were housed in the church porch, somewhat to our surprise.

Although this has been quite a brief description, these two visits took the whole day. We went back to our hotel gratefully, for a short rest and a pleasant meal with the group.