Where in the country can you see all the following in one evening: Superman, a bevy of nurses and rival groups of cowboys and indians? Answer: Cardiff. In the Welsh capital the great British tradition of hens and stags is alive and well, and the result is a considerably enlivened Saturday evening. The first time my husband and I went to Cardiff for the weekend we spent a pleasant hour having an alfresco drink outside one of the city's bars while watching the increasingly surreal passing scene. My own personal favourite was the female 'army' of soldiers marching along the street, led by a whistle-blowing 'sergeant-major'.
Cardiff is a city of two distinct parts. For the shoppers who want to mix some retail therapy with a wide variety of restaurants and some lively bar hopping the city centre is the part to head for. The St Davids shopping centre dominates this part of the city, while for the more historically inclined there is Cardiff Castle, surrounded by the green and pleasant spaces of Bute Park. Alongside the modern chain-dominated St David's centre there are several atmospheric arcades with interesting individual shops. This is also the part of town for the sports fans, since the Millennium Stadium, scene of many a thrilling rugby match, is very close to the shops and also to the main railway station. The Castle has a fascinating history, with excavations revealing occupation going back to the Romans. The present-day castle is surrounded by walls including the Animal Wall, designed by architect William Burges, which, as its name suggests, includes carvings of animals. There are two cathedrals within the greater city area, Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral of St Davids and the much older Llandaff Cathedral, reachable via a pleasant walk along the River Taff.
The other distinct part of the city is Cardiff Bay, where the focal point is Mermaid Quay, a complex of restaurants, bars and shops. The Wales Millennium Centre is also to be found in the bay, along with the Senedd, or National Assembly Building. There is also a rather sweet little Norwegian church which has been transformed into an Arts Centre and cafe. The nicest way to travel between the two areas is to get the shuttle boat service which plies between Mermaid Quay and Bute Park, via the River Taff with its reed beds and associated wildlife. Other boat trips available from Mermaid Quay include trips out to Flat Holm Island with its wildlife and historic buildings. As I mentioned in my previous post on Penarth, the Cardiff Bay Barrage is open to walkers who want to cross the mouth of the bay between Cardiff Bay and Penarth, a pleasant alternative to the considerable detour that the bus journey entails.
As one would expect from such a city, Cardiff has a wealth of events throughout the year, especially in summer. From the Food and Drink Festival in Summer to the Winter Wonderland and Christmas Market in the run up to Christmas there is something for everyone in the vibrant Welsh capital. Follow this link for a list of events.
Map of the area.