Travel review: Cardiff its a capital destination for short break
It’s an historic capital, a foodie capital and a party capital.
Cardiff is not only the capital of Wales, it’s a capital short break destination.
And the fact that you can get on a train at either Shrewsbury or Birmingham and be in Cardiff in under two hours makes the city a fantastic choice for easy travelling.
I have to admit I had no idea what to expect when I spent 48 hours in the Welsh capital recently but I was wowed from start to finish.
A short taxi ride from the station took me to Cardiff Bay and the Voco St David’s Hotel with its stylish, glass atrium reception and seven floors rising up in a circle above me.
A warm welcome – and Welsh cake – set the tone for the visit.
St David’s is the latest acquisition for Voco and the company has certainly transformed the five-star hotel.
The bedrooms are decorated in contemporary colours with one wall painted to look like waves crashing on the beach, perfect for a Pisces like me.
And so was the view!
St David’s enviable location right on the waterfront of Cardiff Bay means that every room has a spectacular view from the floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies.
Mine looked over Mermaid Quay and the buildings of the National Assembly of Wales, the Senedd and the Wales Millennium Centre as well as boasting the most incredible sunrises.
Cardiff Bay’s huge freshwater lake was created in 1999 thanks to the barrage built across the former opening to the old harbour which used to become uninviting mudflats for several hours a day at low tide.
It now offers an array of watersports and the Cardiff Bay water taxis which are a wonderful link between the bay and the city via the River Taff. When the sun comes out – and when it goes down – Mermaid Quay could be anywhere in Europe.
It has a great range of restaurants, bars and entertainment centres.
A slightly longer walk takes you past the Senedd and the Opera House to the fascinating Norwegian church and cultural centre and then the Roald Dahl enormous crocodile bench and children’s playground.
You will be spoilt for choice for food but make sure you have at least one evening at St David’s own restaurant, the Waves Lounge. It draws inspiration from the eclectic food culture and bold flavours of Australasia and Asia Pacific, while looking closer to home for the best of seasonal Welsh produce.
It’s an unusual fusion but falling off the bone lamb shank on a bed of noodles really works.
So, what about Cardiff itself?
We chose to see the city by joining a food tour, organised by Loving Welsh Food.
Its creator, Sian, took us on a wonderful tour which began at Cardiff Castle and the adjoining Pettigrew Tea Rooms and took in an array of wonderful tasting of Welsh food at its best, a sort of walking tapas.
What an eye-opener Cardiff Castle was.
It boasts not only the original Norman stronghold but the remains of a Roman fort and the remarkable transformation of the castle lodges from 1866 by architect William Burgess for the Third Marquess of Bute.
Within gothic towers he created lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. Each room has its own special theme, including Mediterranean gardens and Italian and Arabian decoration.
There is also the fabulous castle library, which was a set for one of the Doctor Who series.
Our food tour saw us visit specialist food producers, retailers and Cardiff’s buzzing indoor market. We tried continental meats and cheeses, cockles, laverbread and Welsh beverages.
There were Welsh faggots, and artisan pizza and of course the obligatory and wonderful Welsh cakes that we watched being cooked on a huge griddle.
When the sun goes down there are plenty of places to party. One of the favourites is the cocktail classes at Lab 22. Guests get the chance to mix their own classic cocktail and learn so much about the art of mixology. They also join in a fun competition to design their own cocktail. The choice of eateries is second to none, catering for every taste.
There are speciality vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and for carnivores where else but The Potted Pig, where the meat is certainly the star of the show.
After a night out on the town Cardiff Bay is the best way to ease yourself into a new day – a fabulous sunrise, maybe a pre-breakfast run or perhaps a visit to the spa at St David’s for a brisk swim or a relax in the Jacuzzi jets.
There are so many other things to do in Cardiff – for instance St Fagans Museum of History. So many reasons to return.