For once I had the opportunity to sleep in a bit this morning. Lately the accommodation we have stayed in has served breakfast until 9am, or 10am, which is a little earlier than I prefer given I stay up past midnight to write and post the blogs. Plus, we had somewhere to be or drive to, meaning we had to get away at a good time. Today, our first full day in Cardiff, we had no morning commitments, which meant a nice sleep.
After ducking into an arcade deli for a quick baguette and milkshake, I met Sam at the Cardiff castle at one o'clock for our Doctor Who tour. Specifically, the tour would take us to the filming locations of the new series all over Cardiff. Having already made my way to the Rift and Ianto memorial yesterday, I was worried that we would be retreading a lot of ground. Thankfully, that turned out to be only a minor concern, with another problem arising instead: weather.
I had believed it to be a bus tour, but it was really a walking tour connected by bus trips. Sadly, the weather didn't hold off, and just an hour in it really began to pour down. I had not brought an umbrella, and didn't want to wear my jumper in the rain, sparing it for keeping warm later. As a result, I was walking around outside in just a t-shirt in steady rain. Thankfully, as the afternoon wore on, it eased and we were able to dry off, but it - oh god, watch out - put a bit of a dampener on things.
The tour was led by a man named Matt, who was a lifelong fan and had been an extra in six episodes of the show since its return. Unfortunately, while he was knowledgeable and passionate about the show, he wasn't a great guide. He was a bit of nerd, and lacked the conviviality to really engage with the audience. Nothing against nerds, of course, being one myself, but you expect a certain degree of extroversion in a tour guide. For example, he didn't adjust anything for the weather, so we'd stand in the rain listening to him talk rather than being given the speech under shelter. He kept giving opportunities to stand and take photos or pose in the rain, but didn't quite fathom that we didn't want to get our cameras wet in the downpour.
He was also reckless with spoilers, which was very frustrating. As someone that is very particular about not knowing too much about upcoming episodes, he was throwing out plot tidbits willy-nilly. He didn't warn beforehand so people could avoid them, nor ask if we wanted them or not. There were a lot of young kids on the tour, and some were quite shocked by the significant plot points he alluded to. Yes, some of them are being used in marketing and have been announced by the producers, but that's something that diehard fans will pick up that the broader public don't necessarily need or want to know.
All that aside, we did get to visit some places I wouldn't have stumbled across myself. There was Rose's department store, and a few city sites where the Santa robots attacked and Donna and the Doctor ran about. We headed up to a museum that was the home of the Pandorica and the gallery broken into in Planet of the Dead. Next was Llandaff, better known as Leadworth, Amy Pond's home town, and site of the church that Van Gogh painted beside. We passed the post office that was shut (actually just a house), and discovered that the duck pond was installed by the BBC on a car park and doesn't actually exist there.
On we went to an open air museum that housed ancient buildings from across Wales that had been deconstructed at their original locations and rebuilt on a large property for historical record. This was the home of a lot of the 1800s village that was the setting for the Tennant era Human Nature/Family of Blood episodes featuring the Doctor living as a human. It was still steadily drizzling as we navigated the old properties, but it was interesting even without the Doctor Who connection.
We then headed down to the Cardiff bay area, home of the Roald Dahl Plass, Millenium Centre and Torchwood base I'd visited yesterday. Thankfully, he pointed out a few more places I hadn't noticed, such as part of the Millenium Centre that had been the site of the Cat Nurse hospital in New Earth, the place where the Master accepted the Prime Minister position as Saxon, and the restaurant that the Doctor and the Slitheen ate at. The American diner that River Song, Amy and Rory met the Doctor in the Impossible Astronaut last year was not actually filmed in the US, but in a themed restaurant on the bay waterfront.
This was followed by a few quick stops for the homes of Sarah Jane and Donna in Turn Left. They used to take you past Amy and Rory's house, but the owners apparently got crazy paranoid by all the visitors, not just from this tour, and physically attacked someone. We ended with two stops for Rose. The first was her block, where in despair she noticed Bad Wolf graffitied on the ground and realised she could still get back to the Doctor and his fight against the Daleks. It was also the street where they used the truck to pull open the Tardis hatch and expose herself to the heart of the time vortex. We ended at the church from Father's Day where her dad was hit by the car and the Reapers attacked them.
It was a satisfyingly comprehensive tour across four hours, even though the weather conspired against us and the guide was a little lacklustre. In the time on the bus he showed clips from the episodes so we could see the sites, and then had screen captures in a folder to hold up when we were on foot. His stories of him being awkward around the cast members when he was an extra were just uncomfortable, and not endearingly so. It made me realise how realistic a depiction of the business Ricky Gervais' Extras provided. They really are aspiring actors and will do anything to get in frame. Wow.
Tomorrow, the Doctor Who obsession continues - hey, when in Rome - with a visit to the Doctor Who Experience, a ninety minute interactive adventure story set up in a huge warehouse. It's an official production written by the show's producers and features actual props, and Matt Smith as the Doctor, which should be really cool.