We’re not big on country-counting and we can’t stand the whole bucket-list idea but we couldn’t help noticing that we recently completed a sort of geographic bingo full-house. Our trip to Cardiff meant that we had visited all of the capital cities of the United Kingdom and Ireland since our little JWalking adventure began. Unplanned, more of an organic development, but interesting and fun to compare.
Au Revoir Warminster
Leaving our housesit in Wiltshire was unlike any previous departure as we knew we would be back in a little over 7 weeks to look after Indie once again. Strange to say goodbye when it really wasn’t a goodbye but nice in a way to know where we would be living in November. A really cosy house with a comfortable bed and decent living space. What could be better? So saying au revoir to Darell and Anthea was pretty casual as we boarded the Cardiff train for a few days break before our next sit.
Exploring Welsh Wales
A few months ago we realised that we had hardly seen any of Wales and resolved to rectify that as soon as we possibly could. Our summer road trip around the North taking in Anglesey, Snowdonia, Caernarfon and so much more was fantastic so we decided to head to the capital city to see some of the south. We only had a few days but that should be enough to whet our whistles and give us a flavour. Unfortunately a few people had given us some bad reviews of the city and warned that it wasn’t too nice but as usual we emptied our tiny minds and decided that we should make our own conclusions.
- Exploring Snowdonia National Park
- Over the Swellies to “Mam Cymru”
- Portmeirion via the Llyn Peninsula
Cardiff the Capital City of Wales
Bit of history first I suppose. Cardiff has a population of around 470,000 making it Wales’s biggest city and the 11th largest in the UK. There has been a settlement here since neolithic times but the Norman invasion in the 11th century resulted in William I building Cardiff Castle and really putting the place on the map. It was only a small town really until the coal industry of the 1800s boosted business and investment. The Welsh coal industry unfortunately died during the 20th century but Cardiff has recovered to become the centre of Welsh government and a popular tourist destination.
Fascinatingly Cardiff was only made a city in 1905 and proclaimed as the capital of Wales in 1955. Seems too recent doesn’t it? Apparently there was a huge battle between the city and Caernarfon to become the capital. We’d never heard that before.
The Sandringham Hotel
Luckily for us the sun was shining as we left the station and found our hotel just ten minutes away. The Sandringham Hotel had looked okay on Booking.com and ticked all of our budget boxes (i.e it was cheap) and was right on St Marys Street in the heart of the city. It was a little frayed around the edges but clean and tidy and exactly what we needed plus the lady on reception was unbelievably friendly and chatty and seemed to be right out of Gavin and Stacey. A brilliant welcome.
There appears to be two distinct areas to Cardiff with the city centre sitting slightly inland and then the Bay area being down on the coast around a mile and a half away. So a relaxing half hour walk in the Welsh sunshine saw us wandering through Callaghan Square and down through Butetown to the bay. The bay area was obviously where all of the docks used to be but the regeneration and development has transformed the whole area into a cool modern waterfront with bars and restaurants and apartments.
As we strolled down Lloyd George Avenue past the Wales Millenium Centre we stopped in Roald Dahl Plass. So much to see in every direction from the square named after one of Cardiffs most famous sons. In front of us we could see the bay stretching out behind the ferris wheel and the iconic Pierhead.
The Pierhead appears to be the heart of the bay as far as we are concerned. It’s clean red brick stands like a beacon and a historical link to the working dockyard of the past. We joined the Cardiff Bay Trail as we wanted to walk right out to the Barrage at the bay. We needed a bit of a sit down first though so a coffee and a bun at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Waterfront Park hit the spot.
Heading out to the Barrage took us past the saddest sight in the whole city! Well I may be slightly over-exaggerating but it certainly brought tears to my eyes. The Doctor Who Experience that had been a major Cardiff tourist attraction since 2011 was closed last year and was being taken apart! So sad. Our family was brought up watching The Doctor and Torchwood on TV for years and we’re all huge fans so it was awful to hear that the Experience shut due to financial issues.
Anyway, once I’d wiped my tears away and recovered we made it round to the barrage to the open sea and some amazing views back across Cardiff Bay.
Retracing our steps we got back around to the Pierhead and explored a few of the bars and restaurants on Mermaid Quay before heading back to the city. Sun still shining and a perfect day so far.
A Tale of Two Cinemas
We don’t get out much (sounds a bit sad doesn’t it) but like a trip to the cinema when we can manage it and if there is a film we like the sound of. I’d seen that the new Brad Pitt movie called Ad Astra was on so we booked a couple of tickets online for The Vue Cinema in the centre of town. Excited and looking forward to an evening out we happened to walk right past the cinema on our way back to the hotel so decided to pop in and pick up the tickets. Easy.
Well not that easy! The first machine didn’t work. The second didn’t either. So had to speak to a real person! That’s when they asked “Would you like a refund?”. We wondered why we might like a refund and were told “Your screen has been closed and the film has been cancelled”. Brilliant. When were they going to tell us?
Miserable but with money back we set off to find another cinema. Luckily, after getting a bit lost admittedly, we found Cineworld who confirmed that the film really was on. Actually on. Being shown as promised.
So a great night out eventually and a pretty good film. Not brilliant but not bad. Just so nice to have a late night out for once in a while, we felt a bit conspicuous and guilty walking back so late. It must have been half past ten! Imagine that!
First impressions of the Welsh city of Cardiff then? Couldn’t be better. We really like the place and the people seem unbelievably friendly.
17/09 – 18/09/2019