First time in Wales

This bank holiday weekend (26-28 August) we went to Cardiff. The drive there was uneventful, just as I had hoped and traffic was less crazy then expected.

The first impression of Cardiff was mixed. We got slightly lost on the way in—print-outs from online route planners can be really confusing to follow. Well, it only meant we got to see a bit more of Cardiff than expected :-) At first Cardiff—actually all of the part of Wales that we saw from the car—looked very run down. It looked old and tired. Then we drove through the university area and the impression changed somewhat. Driving on we went down High Street and I again I was starting to wonder if going to Cardiff was such a hot idea. We found our hotel after a few missed turns and U-turns.

Novotel in Cardiff is made up of two buildings, one old and one new. The old one used to be a fruit warehouse, I think, and the new one is a typical Accor building. The result is a really nice hotel, with an interesting interior. Off course the room was what we expected—after all it’s a chain hotel. We were happy with it.

Since we arrived a bit early we couldn’t get access to our room just yet so we chucked our bags in their luggage room and walked out to find a place to eat lunch. The centre of Cardiff turned out to be nothing special, basically a collection of the same stores you can find in any medium to large town/city in the UK. It was slightly disappointing really. We had lunch at Zushi, a sushi place frequented by Miss Church (personally I think she has a very busy schedule because she seems to frequent every place in Cardiff). Good sushi and not overly expensive. The gyoza was not quite as good as I had hoped though.

After lunch we walked back to the hotel and checked in, then we took off in the opposite direction, away from the city centre, to Cardiff Bay. Now, here’s what sets Cardiff apart from other places! We strolled around a bit enjoying the weather. We went through the Dr. Who exhibit at the Red Dragon. Unfortunately the Norwegian Church was closed so we ended up having a drink at Eddie’s American Diner—very good root beer float!

For dinner we wanted to try The Wharf—a pub we’d seen walking to the bay. It turned out they had stopped serving food. We ended up having dinner at a Thai place in the brewery quarter in the centre instead. The lasting impression of walking around in Cardiff on a Saturday evening is that people in Cardiff go out, a lot, and they drink, a lot. It also seems that people in Wales get married, a lot!

Sunday we went to Cardiff Castle. The guided tour we took mostly concentrated on the last owners of the Castle, the Bute family. Personally I found that to be a little disappointing, but it’s understandable since the Butes had such a big impact on Cardiff in general. We were looking for something Welsh for lunch but the closest we came was a small place just off High Street that served Welsh rarebit and lamb pies. After lunch we relaxed in the hotel spa for a while and then went to the bay to have dinner. The pubs and restaurants were just as busy as the day before and we got the second to last table at a Turkish restaurant located on one of several small piers.

The next day we checked out and once again went down to the bay. During the weekend they had a “festival” (read “a few stands selling stuff”) in the bay and we had noticed a stand selling Kopparberg cider (you can order online from Designa Drinx). After buying 4 bottles and 4 cans of different flavours of cider we headed home.

All in all it was a great weekend and in we both think that Cardiff is well worth a visit. Also, in our experience Wales has very good weather! :-)

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