I’ll be honest with you, whoever you are, I’ve been to Cardiff twice and not explored enough. I’ve not been to Castell Coch, I’ve not been to the valleys, I’ve not even been inside Cardiff Castle. Am I a bad tourist, or is Cardiff just entertaining enough as a weekend break to make these other destinations a trip for next time? Probably a bit of both…
Oh yes, I’ll be visiting again. I think I’ve developed a bit of a crush on Cardiff and now I want to see more of Wales. There is much to see; people have been tripping over themselves to announce the Gower Penninsula as literally heaven on earth, when my Nan was alive she told me “you’ve not lived until you’ve been to Rhyl”, then there’s all them mountains, poking up into actual space where aliens and rockets are.
On this trip, I got to Cardiff the only way that seems to make any financial sense; on Megabus for £13 return. A train there would easily cost £50 return! My delightful friend Ben was accompanying me for the weekend; and we titled it LADS ON TOUR! (evening) and GRANS ON TOUR (daytime) as we’re both a bit old and can’t physcially drink for two days solid.
Walking through the University and Civic Centre immediately reminded why I like Cardiff; much of the city is gorgeous to look at. In fact, the Civic Centre is described as “the finest civic centre in the British Isles” by the Pevsner guide to Glamorgan. Spaciously laid out and elegant, it’s wonderful to walk through and surprisingly quiet in the evening.
We started the weekend at The North Star which had a great selection of ciders, but perhaps the worst mashed potato I’ve had since I was forced to eat the stuff at school for punishment. I say mashed potato, I’ve no evidence a potato had ever been near it. And yet, the steak and ale pie was yummy. So near, so far! After this, we got a taxi to town, only to realise that The Cardiff Arts Institute was a) close by and b) I didn’t want to get stiletto heeled to death in some damn O’Neills hell-hole. Having been there before, I found it to be a perfect Friday-night drinking den; the music’s not so loud you get laryngitis and well, it was only partially full so easy access to the Mojito’s. We found some lovely but slightly unhinged people to talk to. Nutter-on-the-bus syndrome… On top of this was some truly dreadful rapping but the upside is that I realise I quite like hip hop – who knew!?
The next day, hangover-free-ish, we wandered around town and found amazing Welsh cakes in the market. As you can see, they get through an unholy amount of butter making these things but they taste so damn good, diets can go to hell. We also explored the arcades, which is perhaps one of Cardiff’s best assets; there are more Victorian-era arcades in Cardiff than anywhere else in Britain. Sadly, there are plenty of empty shops which if I had the money would house my bookshop and cafe (this is an original idea!) and I’d happily lose money to be amongst the splendour.
Following this, we found ourselves at Cardiff gay pride. Ben had never been to one before; I warned him it was a fête with more whistles than is strictly neccessary but he was insistent, well, sort of. It was indeed full of whistles but more importantly a Pimms truck which took the edge off the “diva” – read this as drag artist spewing forth abuse at all around – shrieking show tunes. Truly horrific. We made our escape in daring fashion by taking the waterbus down to Cardiff bay which was mostly cordoned off for some Red Bull thing. Happily though, I found the wonderful shrine to Ianto from Torchwood!
So, with most of the bay fenced off and walking the five metres from the Senedd to the amazing Millennium Centre taking twenty minutes, we gave up and had yummy Turkish food and then headed to Cardiff Student Union for the DJ Shadow gig – he was inside an amazing sphere!
After the gig, which was wonderful with an audience that clearly enjoyed the lot without getting lairy we headed to a Cardiff institution; Clwb ifor bach which initially played good tracks before lurching into that terrible affliction of playing only tracks EVERYONE KNOWS. Sigh. But Bowie, M.I.A and Metronomy later more than made up for it.
On Sunday we were able to see the bay properly. Below is a selection of pictures of the adventures we had there! Look at them, then immediately go to Cardiff and enjoy!