When I left Bristol, I knew it would be a hard act to follow. It’s rare when I feel so strongly about a place (like Brighton and Melbourne), due to its natural vibe and I loved Bristol, so it was a little comforting to know I was heading to a capital city next and a whole new country!
My priority in coming to Cardiff and for longer than anywhere else on this trip was to spend some quality time with my best mate, Nikki. We’ve been friends for over 15 years, after working together at Virgin Atlantic in both the UK and Nigeria. I was to spend Monday to Friday with Nikki and her family and then we were to have a weekend away, just the two of us in the Brecon Beacons. Well us and a fridge full of wine!
Nikki and I.
Crossing the border into Wales isn’t too alarming. All of a sudden, there seem to be a lot more consonants on the road signs, which to me are wholly unpronounceable. Other than that though, it was smooth sailing well, driving. Wales is a beautiful country though and I was excited to be heading to the capital. However on first impressions I have to admit, I was slightly underwhelmed.
Cardiff to me is like a town, rather than a city. It does have a huge castle dominating the city centre but the layout, infrastructure and size of the places just didn’t align with other capital cities I have visited. It didn’t have the greatest level of charm but clearly that was reserved for the people of Cardiff, who are just absolutely lovely! Everyone was so friendly and the Welsh accent so endearing, it helped me realise that this quaint and amiable country doesn’t need a grandiose capital city. They’re happy with what they’ve got.
Getting the opportunity to reacquaint myself in person with Nikki, her husband and three sons was a pleasure. Straight away, I was hands on in helping around the house and keeping the boys out of mischief, not to mention the new puppy. I too adhered to school times, meal times and dog walks, to make sure things were running as smoothly as possible. Not an easy task with a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a toddler!
With Harrison only 17 months old and Storm (the puppy) nearly 5 months old, they were to be our sightseeing companions for the week and I have to admit, they were great company and very well-behaved. Exploring the castle grounds was interesting and I was advised that Wales is actually the Castle Capital of the World! There are more than 600 castles and even Cardiff Castle isn’t in the top 5 to visit on Wales’ very own web page. Breaking the morning up by visiting Barker’s Tea Rooms for a cup of Earl Grey and a slice of cake was worth every calorie.
Walking Cardiff Bay was a great way of burning off said calories and afforded us the sight of a number of sculptures and misty sea views. An absolute treat for me and an opportunity to let my inner geek shine through was the DR Who experience, which has life-size models (I hope they weren’t real) of all the weird and wonderful creatures the DR encounters, as well as stills and costumes from episodes from the 60s through to the present time. It was brilliant fun. For me! I think Nikki could have left a lot earlier but with Harrison comfortably settled into my arms, she wasn’t going anywhere 🙂
The Face of Boe (not Bowie) and the TARDIS.
It was great getting to see Nikki settled into her new home (she moved from Brighton last year) and as a thank you for letting me stay with her, she had no hesitation in taking me up on my offer to babysit one night. It only dawned on me after they left that I was then responsible for the whole house, 3 little humans and a puppy. I’m glad to say I didn’t hear a peep from them and we all survived to live another day, which was a relief as the next day Nikki and I headed off to a little cottage in the Brecon Beacons for a bit of R&R.
The Brecon Beacons is a mountain range in South Wales and is absolutely stunning. We rented a little cottage via AirBNB in a tiny village flanked by gorgeous views of flora and fauna as far as the eye could see. Which in the mornings, wasn’t very far due to the fog! However when that cleared, it was breathtaking.
Brecon Beacons – walking through the clouds
We arrived Friday evening, with a bottle of wine naturally chilled because it was so bloody cold outside and settled in for a glass or two. Dragon’s Cottage was picturesque and lovely and warm. An evening full of laughter and quality time added to the warmth of the place. Saturday saw us head off deep into the Beacons for a hike which was magnificent and the views around each winding path constantly took our breath away. Well that and the fact that we’re not terribly fit! We walked until lunchtime where we were able to treat ourselves to a game pie at the Welsh Venison Centre. It was delicious and a nice, warming cup of tea also aided in defrosting us from the dewy mountain air.
Following an afternoon stroll around the lake (or at least the boggy fields near the lake), we were content to be fed at the local pub which was just up the road from the cottage. The pub was heaving and I couldn’t figure out where all the people had come from. The New Inn had a great atmosphere and with the Welsh being such a friendly bunch, we were nattering away and having a great time. Having taken the puppy with us did help alleviate any concerns we had about not being ‘local’ as everyone wanted a stroke of this very tired young lady (Storm, not Nikki). We all slept incredibly well that night!
What are ewe looking at?
Sunday saw us take a short drive further into the Beacons to more walking and more incredible views. South Wales is such a lovely part of the world and so unspoilt. New South Wales in Australia doesn’t quite have the pull and the majesty of the original. And of course, we were able to see another castle before parting ways and I headed back to England to carry on my tour, feeling happy, healthy and full to the brim with the knowledge that this friendship will last well into old age. Well Nikki, you’re practically already there, aren’t you?