Caerdydd (or Cardiff in English) is a hybrid of the medieval and modern ages, and a touch of the future (I’d touch more on that later). Down on one street you’ve got the houses of the residents that are old, attached but refurbished terraces, then the next street you have a major shopping centre or district for tourists and Uni students and then the next road you have castles and cathedrals for the historians. All in the heart of the city so you literally don’t have to go around to other areas of the city via transport if you didn’t want to.
But personally that would nearly defeat the purpose of travelling; My visit to Cardiff for me was a very good chance of getting out there and making my mark on another part of the globe for the first time of the new year but also find a way of saving money for my mini, seemingly expensive break to Naples coming up next month. I didn’t even consider the fact that Cardiff is actually one of the most popular alternative destination for travellers and tourists and from what I saw in terms of its beautiful natural scenery, abundant bars, shops and restaurants (there’s literally a Wetherspoons at every corner surrounding the Arcades!) and places of long-standing history and culture such the Cardiff story museum and Cardiff Castle.
The trip was incidentally timed on Valentines Day to escape the sombre feeling of being alone and rather embrace one of true perks of being single: travelling wherever and whenever you want without being concerned for the other half and vice versa.
Anyway let me not turn this into a post about why people can gain from being single and focus on travelling haha
As for looking forward to Naples I pray it is sunny for at least one day because so far all my day trips have been gloomy, drizzly and overcast days without a hint of blue sky or sun in sight – and Cardiff was unfortunately no exception to this. It was even sunny in London.
Coming to the city after a long, hectic train journey from London on my own via the Great Western Railway (great, immaculate WiFi and reception they have by the way) and having a lengthy list of attractions noted on my memo, there was always a decent chance of me being on edge and a bit impatient because of the big to-do list I had. Plus I’m the kind of person that can have their mood and mindset influenced by the weather, which obviously wasn’t that great, so initially I was unsettled.
Although I have to say – to the people of Cardiff – you lot deserve a hi five. Very friendly, accommodating and welcoming to me and made the day out much more brighter and special. I ended up speaking to the staff based within the Castle Arcade shopping alley: some at a Harry Potter theme shop called Magic and Mayhem, some at the Gin & Juice bar and Fabulous Welshcakes bakery I visited and they were all positive and went the extra mile to make me comfortable. For some shops their positive demeanour was the reason why I went to that very store in the first place. We spoke about Harry Potter, different flavours of Gin and other alcohol, differences between Cardiff and London, travelling.
Yes I know it’s all part of good customer service and selling themselves well as part of a business. Being in a tourist area that is high priority, but doing an act of kindness is a choice most of the time I believe and it doesn’t cost anything to be kind and helpful.I think even one of the barmaids was hitting on me in one of the bars I went to in the evening so that was a bonus 😀 The kindness and helpfulness extended to assisting me with small things such as giving me change for the day bus pass, recommending which places are best to visit, helping me out with food choices, pointing me in the right direction to some attractions (at one point I was actually waiting at the bus stop for a bus that was going to head in the complete opposite direction I wanted to head in). They certainly all add up and can make or break someone’s day and the people there were really great company overall.
Rating out of 10: 9.5/10
Food (and drink!) Watch
I was never expecting this but I was so enticed by the quality of food on offer in Cardiff that I honestly think most of the money I spent was eating rather than entry fees for museums and attractions! Not gonna lie! Amongst the things to do in the city that I was recommended to do, a lot of it was on trying out certain burgers, sandwiches and other deli deals from various food outlets. For food and drink I always try the local or national outlets rather than think to what I know.
The food madness began at the New York Deli cafe within the High Street Arcade. The staff at Gin and Juice were the ones that told me it’s one to check out by tourists and they were not wrong. I bought the wholemeal BLT (with bacon swapped for Salami) and salad (because I’m healthy :p). First impression: it’s ******* big. The struggle to bite down on a whole portion of the sandwich was unreal. I actually appreciate when I get a large meal but sometimes with deli meals especially, I enjoy it more when you can smoothly eat the food and not take bits out or at risk of messing up your clothes with food. It was still enjoyable and can be very filling for the average joe. I was impressed with the range of snacks and deli food available from sandwiches to crisps to hot dogs to burgers. You have the option of creating your own sandwich to your liking with ingredients able to be swapped between pre-existing food choices – with no additional cost! Definitely put your visit to Subway on hold for this one 🙂
Since they’re a cafe they’re only open from 9 till 4:30pm on weekdays and Saturdays and from 11 till 3:30pm so it’s the ideal destination for a brunch!
Next stop – Bombers. One of the must-do things in Cardiff I was referring to earlier and is only open till 3pm on weekdays and closed on weekends so serves the same purpose as the NY deli I believe. The BBQ and Porkcomb chicken (half of each chicken) with salad and chill sauce was my order for the day. I got it in a “small boy” size for £2.95 and I never looked back; it was DElicious. The caterer immediately tried to impress me with the menu, which interestingly according to the website changes every day, and she did not fail me even though the chill sauce might have a weak one as there was no issue with my tongue being set on fire haha! The problem I have with menu changes is that it could scare off regular customers and the opportunity to build rapport with them as their favourite sandwich and fillings may not be available the following day.
On to the dessert that was la creme de la creme and I found myself at Fabulous Welshcakes. Like NY deli I very much liked their range offered: small scone-like sweetcakes cakes in gift bags, free samples of the same things and as many as you want in a plastic wallet. At Fabulous you can get 12 small sweetcakes for £5 or 50p for each sweetcake you buy. Different flavours on the day were Traditional, Coconut and White Chocolate and Lemon. I ended up getting only 4 sweetcakes to hopelessly try and budget myself: two of them were traditional flavour, while the other two were one of each coconut and white chocolate and lemon. All flavours were just simply – fabulous – and I ended up wishing I went for the 12 for a fiver deal. Absolute bargain prices! My fellow travellers I beg you take up the deal if you happen to end up in Cardiff. The taste and texture is very similar to a scone, minus the raisins and thickness found in most types of scones.
Also, since an old Welsh mate told me that the alcohol is better and cheaper in Wales I thought I’d add it to the Food Watch section for this review. During my time at Gin & Juice I was swayed to try out their gin, which is actually my least favourite drink. I tried a single shot of the Fresha Strawberry gin for £3.50 and it wasn’t bad. I didn’t mind the price even though it could’ve been lower but the premium is what the touristy part of cities offer you. The taste behind the Fresha Strawberry was that of a flavoured, slightly sweeter version of Vodka. With hindsight having seen the millions and gillions of Wetherspoons bars around me I should’ve got a drink there for cheaper and got a bit more of a better representation how people in Cardiff conduct themselves on a personal and customer service level too.
Rating out of 10: 8/10
The train journeys en route to Cardiff and back to London were pretty relaxing. I had an hour’s nap and had no major delays so that’s another plus for GWR on top of their great WiFi. Compared to London Cardiff’s transport system is not as developed as London’s, or Paris’ arguably. There’s no local tube service or London Underground equivalent available so I was limited to just using the bus or a cab to get around to where I needed to get to. There’s even a Cardiff parody of the London Underground map so I think that says it all 🙂
For buses still I was struggling to find the ones that took me to my attractions (I partly blame Google maps for that tbf) and when I did I needed to pay the EXACT change of £3.80 for the day pass otherwise I wasn’t getting change and to top it all off the day pass only applied to a FEW buses not ALL buses within Cardiff, so If I needed to get another type of pass I’d have to pay for one-way, return or day tickets depending on what I would’ve needed. It’s a bit ridiculous considering there are students from the Cardiff and Cardiff Metropolitian Universities in the area and not really student-friendly in my opinion. Compared to Colchester, where I was for Uni, you could get a day pass for the same price with access to all buses in Colchester or it’ll be £1.80 in the evening after 7pm (and I think it’s even cheaper on weekends as well). Perhaps Cardiff can consider making prices and access more flexible.
Rating out of 10: 3.5/10
Attractions for this day trip was a bit of a problem due to the weather, time for other places and costs for entry fees to museums and historic places such as Cardiff Castle, which looked stunning from the closest spot that I stood from, Bute Park, where I imagine would’ve seen me go on a lovely stroll through the park should it have been a sunny day, and the Cardiff Story museum, which was closed by the time I got around to seeing it.
The first attraction I did manage to get to was the Wales Millennium Centre: home to comedy, dance and opera performances as well as other concerts. This was my go-to attraction mainly because I’m a big Doctor Who fan (not so of the recent series) and the Millennium centre is one of the many locations in Cardiff that the show has filmed at. Just being able to go to a place where the Tardis parked made me ecstatic.
After bouncing from one souvenir shop to another in the centre. I braved the cold and wind and Cardiff Bay – Scenery was incredible despite the disturbance of the wind and the gloom still looming over me. Could see a gigantic hill with long lines of terraced houses stacked on it and surrounded by the greenery. Picture-esque. At the bottom of the pier I came across the Ianto Jones Shrine. It’s dedicated to and named after a fictional character of the same name who was on Torchwood, a Dr Who spinoff TV series, and killed off in the TV show’s Children of Earth storyline. I didn’t watch many episodes of Torchwood when it was on air so I wasn’t emotionally invested in the character like fans who created and signed petitions and letters to bring him back although I think it’s cool that On the shrine is pictures and posters of the beloved character and his scenes from Torchwood as well as the petitions and art work. If there’s a shrine dedicated to Ianto then I can’t imagine what they’ll do for The Doctor if he somehow dies on the show or when Doctor Who eventually comes to an end.
Rating out of 10: 7/10
Cardiff is a great blend of the past, present and future. Rich with scenic locations that are good for photography on a sunny, warm day. The food outlets and shopping arcades are where tourists like myself probably shut up and let them take the money (not in a bad way obviously ;). Means of transport needs a little work though 🙂
Overall rating: 7/10