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The personable young man ahead of me at my hotel's front desk was polite but firm. He didn't want to change his room, he merely wanted its window coverings removed. "Curtains," he explained softly, "attract dust. Dust tickles my throat." Undaunted by what I considered a bizarre request, the clerk agreed to remove the offending drapes immediately. As he hurried off she explained that he was a finalist in the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, so was rather protective of his voice.

Located in the Principality's southeast corner, this Welsh capital is a natural venue for concerts and singing competitions. For one thing it has terrific facilities in St David's Hall. For another the Welsh have an innate love of music. In consequence the week-long competition is assured of a full house even though it is televised nightly on BBC. They do say here that if you get any three Welshmen together they will form a choir. Certainly the male voice choirs of South Wales are legendary. In an era when voices uplifted in song were entertainment even the poorest man could afford, miners would sing stirring Welsh ballads as they tramped home from the coal pits of the Rhondda Valley. Now the coalmines are gone, and what used to be miners homes are occupied by bankers, computer programmers and others employed in Cardiff's new industries.

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IF YOU GO: Most visitors to South Wales fly to London and continue by car (155 miles (250 km) via the M4), express bus (three hours from Heathrow) or train (two hours from Paddington station).

TRAVELLER'S TIPS: Two half-day outings from Cardiff are recommended. One is the Welsh Folk Museum in St Fagans, the other is Rhondda Heritage Park nine miles from the city.