by Monika Komar
Although rugby is now all over, there’s still plenty of reasons to visit the Welsh capital. Even if you only have just under a day to explore it.
Arriving in Cardiff after a night of camping and a day of hiking near Swansea was refreshing. Quite literally, as I was reluctant about showers at the campsite we had stayed at the night before. The bathroom in the Angel hotel, home for the night, was flawless though.
As there was not much time to spare, a quick shower and drink in the hotel bar cut it, and it was time to explore Cardiff by night. It was buzzing.
Evening at the bay
The bay was the first place to tick off on my tourist-in-Wales list. Full of light, life and restaurants, it was the perfect place for an evening stroll.
The Cardiff Bay is one of those places that could be cut out and pasted somewhere completely different, and it would fit it just as well the restaurants, the people, the atmosphere. This is not to say it was boring. It was nice and familiar and put me in a holiday mood.
In the abundance of chains as well as individual restaurants, there was one place particularly standing out—a slightly remote restaurant on stilts over the water in Mermaid Quay. It turned out to be Turkish. Bosphorus offers a great choice of modern and traditional Turkish dishes, and it’s the sort of a place where you order pudding no matter how full you feel. A true gastronomical gem.
Morning in the Castle
When time is limited, you can either pop by a bunch of places or properly explore one. I chose the latter. This strategy also provides the perfect excuse to come back to the same place—there is still plenty to see. In the case of Cardiff, the decision was obvious; the one thing to see had to be the Cardiff Castle.
Cardiff’s top landmark is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion right in the middle of the city. It’s a nice place to spend your morning in. The vast park surrounding the building makes for a refreshing morning walk and there is a river you can explore by boat. Once you get through the gates, not only do you get to explore the remains of the castle, but also the mansion and a whole new world inside the walls.
A world that came to an end before I was born, but has been vividly recreated—the Second World War. Using sounds, original posters and everyday life items from the time of the war, they managed to recreate the terror, uncertainty and hope. It was an express history lesson worth 10 hours in a classroom.
To me, it also felt a little claustrophobic and I was happy to be out in the daylight again. There was still the castle to climb up, with steep and slippery steps going all to the way to the top, and the grand mansion to explore. It felt like a good, adventurous morning.
Afternoon seeking Welsh cakes
Cities are interesting and I like to experience them pretending to be a local. Or at least trying to blend in, pop by some shops, grab a coffee. I was curious to have a stroll up and down the city centre so that was the plan for the last couple of hours in Cardiff. It was a busy Sunday afternoon, although only parts of the shopping arcades were open. It was nice to join the buzz and blend in with the locals.
For me, though, it was not just a matter of walking about and experiencing Cardiff. I was on a mission. At the campsite I had tried the most delicious Welsh cakes for the first time and I was desperate to bring some home. Contrary to what I was hoping for, they were not sold at every corner, freshly baked. I settled for a packet from a supermarket, and, predictably, half of it was gone before I even got back home.
As far as cities go, Cardiff placed itself comfortably on the list of places I’d like to revisit. Hopefully next time for more than just a day, and not just to get a fresh batch of Welsh cakes.
Monika is from Southampton, a town in southern England known for sending Titanic off on its maiden voyage. She is a languages geek and suffers from an incurable travel bug; her dream destination right now is Argentina. She loves bacon, owns too many pairs of boots and is rubbish at cooking. She runs a little travel blog: mktravelling.wordpress.com