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There's lovely then!
Cardiff in General
Member Name: tartlette
Cardiff in General
Advantages: Lots to see and do, friendly, compact
Disadvantages: Weather perhaps!
I've lived here all my life (apart from University up in London) and always picture myself coming back here after moves away. It has a draw for me, like the proverbial Mothership calling me home!
HISTORY AND LOCATION:
Cardiff is the capital city of the small Principality of Wales. It has only been the capital since 1955 and has only been a city since 1905. Cardiff was settled by the Romans, and invaded by the Normans. It remained a small town until the Industrial Revolution when it came into its own. Cardiff was, once upon a time, one of the most important cities in the world. It may be a cliche to say that Welsh people live down mines, but at the beginning of the 20th century the mines made Cardiff one of the richest cities in the world. The docks were constantly bustling, transport was expanding to ensure the coal could reach the docks. It was in the Coal Exchange that the world's first million pound deal was signed in 1907. The docks were developed by the Bute family, who owned much of the land within the city, including the Castle. Although the Butes have long since left to return to Scotland, their names live on in place names such as Butetown and Bute Square.
After the decline in the coal industry the docks area of the city fell into disrepair. In 1987 the Cardiff Bay Redevlopment Corporation was set up to turn the unused docks into housing and a leisure space, with a huge new barrage over the bay. Development continues but the area is almost unrecognisable from what it was.
Cardiff is located off the M4, junctions 30-33. It takes about 3 hours from central London to drive there. Remember that you have to pay to enter over the Severn Bridge (currently £4.90), but we will let you out for free! The train from Paddington takes 2 hours and stops at Reading, Swindon, Bristol and Newport and arrives at Cardiff Central which is right in the heart of the city. The connections to other parts of the UK are also very good. Naional Express and the Megabus also run into the city centre.
The city is not very big, it only has around 300,000 inhabitants, but it has everything you need.
There is so much to see and do in Cardiff. I'll give a few of my own highlights:
CARDIFF CASTLE: This castle has parts dating back to the Romans. It is located right in the centre of the city, on Castle St (clever eh?). It costs £6.95 for an adult and this gets you into the Castle and grounds and includes a guided tour. The castle itself was owned by the Butes and the interiors are their work. The interiors are very high Victorian, very colourful and highly decorated. I love the decoration, there is so much to see. Within the grounds lies the keep which is Norman. If you've got a head for heights then you can climb to the top of this. Great entertainment for the whole family I think. Also look out for the peacocks which inhabit hte grounds.
TECHNIQUEST: Located in Cardiff Bay this is a science museum. You could spend a long time in here. Rather than looking at the exibits this is a hands on museum where you can experiment with all sorts of science. It costs £20 for a family, but it is worth it, I always got a lot out of it on my visits when I was younger.
MILLENIUM STADIUM: 'And we were singing, hymns and arias'. Yes this is the home of Welsh Rugby. Built to house the 1999 Rugby World Cup, I think of it as the best stadium in the world (again, biased!!). It is great though. There are tours around the stadium which cost £5.50 for adults. They give you all sorts of information and take you into the dressing rooms and let you sit in the comfy seats in the VIP area. The tour is good, but nothing can beat the atmosphere of match day and if you ever get the chance of a ticket then take it. When the roof is closed there is nothing quite as loud as a Welsh crowd singing Bread of Heaven. OK so I'm getting carried away with my Welshness again, but it is a great stadium and the atmosphere will astound you. You can't miss the stadium, it can be seen all over the city. The entrance is on Westgate St for tours.
NATIONAL MUSEUM: Best of all, its free!! If you're an art lover then the National Museum and Galleries of Wales is a must. Located in the city centre in Cathays Park, it houses the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of France and the Monets are very impressive. The Welsh history section always disappoints me, but there are plans to move this to a new home in St Fagans. There is a fantastic section called the Evolution of Wales, which charts the geographical story of Wales from the Big Bang. This is very well done and children will love exibits such as the moving woolly mammoth (beware, it made me jump!)
MUSEUM OF WELSH LIFE: Again this is a free museum, located in St. Fagans (follow the signs from junction 33 of the M4). Here they have taken houses and other buildings from throughout Wales and rebuilt them in St. Fagans. You can walk into various buildings, ranging from chapels, schools and houses to farms, pig stys and cock fighting pits. There are family play areas and animals around to keep the children amused. My favourite part is the Rhyd-y-Car Cottages. This is a row of six cottages which have been decorated in chronological order, going from 1800-1980. To see what is basically the same house decorated so differently, moving from larders to dishwashers, is very interesting.
LLANDAFF CATHEDRAL: The city's cathedral is located in the village of Llandaff, about 2 miles outside the city centre. The cathedral dates back to 1107, with many additions since. The cathedral contains the tomb of St. Teilo,a sixth century welsh saint. I find the cathedral a lovely place to visit, very peaceful and beautiful. There is only one thing that I don't like about the Cathedral and that is the statue which is suspended from the centre of the nave roof. It is a huge statue of Christ, by Jacob Epstein, which is on huge concrete pillars. Personally I can't believe it was ever allowed to be put up in such an old and beautiful church. I spent every school carol concert looking at it expecting it to fall on us any minute!! But if you ignore this then the rest of the cathedral is as it should be!
I also love Castell Coch and Caerphilly Castle, which are both just outside Cardiff.
If i'm honest I don't know that much about the public transport in Cardiff because I live outside the city with no links to the system (my nearest bus stop is 2 miles away). I'm sure that the buses are good, but I'll give you some information if you drive into the city. There are park and rides in outside the centre, which are all very well signposted. The main one for me is off junction 33 of the M4 then follow the signs off the A4232. There are lots of multi-stories in the centre and there is usually a space in them, but they are very expensive, between £1-2 for 1 hour. To park on the street you need vouchers. These can also be pricey depending on how far from the centre you park. Park and ride is the cheapest option by far.
Cardiff has most of the shops that you would expect of a city in the UK. Chains such as New Look, H&M, Oasis, M&S, Next and Coast. The list goes on. The main shopping street is Queen St, a pedestrianised road in the city centre. There are two shopping arcades off this street, Queen's Arcade and St. David's Arcade. Department stores include Debenhams, BHS and Howells (our House of Fraser). John Lewis is supposed to be making an appearance soon as well. For more specialised shopping visit the arcades such as Castle Arcade and Royal Arcade. Cardiff is not famed for its designer shops, but there is a designer outlet in Bridgend (about 15 miles from Cardiff, Westbound). For Welsh gifts visit the Welsh Crafts shop opposite the castle, where you can by anything from teatowels to love spoons.
Cardiff has a big student population and therefore has lots of pubs, bars and nightclubs to choose from. I always like Wetherspoons pubs and there are many in the Cardiff area. The most central include the Prince of Wales , on St. Mary St and Central Bar on Windsor Place. Both of these are very popular so prepare for a wait at the bar. If you fancy bumping into some Welsh stars then head to the Yard on St. mary St, where I've seen some of the rugby team. The local beer is Brains (sponsors of the rugby team) so sample that if you get a chance.
If you're in the city centre and like Italian food, then I really like Trattoria Pulcinella on Park Lane. Its a little out of the way, on what looks like an alley but the food is very tasty. There are also chains, like Henry's which does very nice food but is slightly expensive.
Mill Lane is nice for sitting out in the summer and there are lots of bars and restaurants there.
One of the biggest clubs is Creation, on Greyfriars Rd, which has two clubbing rooms and a VIP area. Good night out!
More sedate entertainment can be found at the New Theatre, which shows some of the best touring productions. run of Blood Brothers has just finished and in June Cats is showing there. It has plays and musicals as well as children's entertainment (George's Marvellous Medicine is coming soon). There is also the Wales Millenium Centre (which I think looks like a giant armadillo!) which hosts opera and recently hosted a production of Edward Scissorhands. For concerts there is the Cardiff International Arena and St. David's Hall as well as the Millenium Stadium.
WILL THERE BE SHEEP AND WILL EVERYONE SPEAK A FUNNY LANGAUGE??
Ok, maybe I exaggerate! But I have heard all of the jokes about Welsh people! No there are no sheep lying around in Cardiff. Some people do speak Welsh, but if they do they will also speak English, and they will transfer easily between the two. The people of Cardiff and Wales in general are very friendly. Even on match day, when we play host to the old enemy across the Severn, people are generally happy to mix and chat with the other side.
WHY I LOVE CARDIFF:
Yes I'm Welsh and therefore biased, but I really do think that Cardiff is a lovely city. I live just outside and feel like I'm in the country, but it only takes 10 minutes in the car and i'm next to the Millenium Stadium. Imagine trying that in London!! It is a very metropolitan city, while keeping some of that small town atmosphere. For the visitor there is lots to see and do. Young people enjoy it for going out. There are lots of shows and concerts which come to Cardiff. Overall, this is a great place to visit and highly recommended.
Summary: Lovely city - why not try it!
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