Newest Review: ... and was pleased to discover a year ago that there are two retailers in the City selling gorgeous figurines! Whilst the majority of the... more
Enjoy the beautiful delights of Swansea, South Wales
Swansea in General
Member Name: alyson29
Swansea in General
Advantages: Beautiful coves and beaches, good shopping and plenty of parking
Disadvantages: None for me
THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IN SWANSEA
Whilst there are a number of car parks from which to choose, we opt for one, which is situated directly in front of the Waterfront, an area that is currently under extensive development. I cannot admit to the Waterfront being much of an attraction at this present moment in time, as whilst there are a number of luxurious apartments overlooking an array of expensive boats in the water there is very little else to see. The car park is suitable for up to four hours, which is something we were totally unaware of until last year when we returned to the car to discover that a Traffic Warden had taken delight in placing a ticket on our windscreen. Fortunately, I used my persuasive writing charms with Swansea City Council and the fee was eventually waived! Parking is charged by the hour and we always opt for the maximum of four hours and if my memory serves me correct it costs around £5 as opposed to £6 in the longer stay multi story car parking, which is only a short distance away. Our short walk to the shops takes us past a huge Tesco store and through the bus station where we enter the undercover area, which contains around 30+ shops such as WH Smiths, Boots and The Body Shop.
Situated in the centre is a fairly large area located directly in front of a huge Debenhams store where you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and a delicious cake. There are toilets located on the first floor, which can be reached by either the stairs or the lift. The toilets are always extremely clean and well equipped with toilet rolls, liquid dispenser soap and fully operating hand towels. Disabled and baby changing facilities are also available although I cannot speak of their cleanliness having never used them. However, there is always a staff member present who frequently checks the toilets to ensure they are kept clean and tidy at all times. There are no shops situated on the first floor, as other than for the toilets this is the entrance to one of the multi-story car parks. Located adjacent to the exit doors is a fantastic indoor market, which sells almost everything you could possibly think of and was recently featured on an episode of the TV programme Come Dine With Me or you can choose to go through the glass doors and shop amongst the outdoor stores.
It is at this point that I am able to sniff out Lush, which is located several stores away, but most definitely detectable. Unfortunately, the store is rather small and it is very rare that I will step inside, as it always seems to be full of rather eager women and I cannot bear shopping anywhere that is overcrowded, so my Lush purchases tend to be made in the much bigger store situated in Cardiff. I'm not intending to discuss each and every one of the shops, as you are able to find your general high street stores, such as all of the major banks, Samuels, Poundland, Tie Rack, Marks and Spencer, Wilkinsons Game, Card Factory and what I love about Swansea is that there are a number of shops selling unusual items. As I like something a little different I enjoy rummaging through quirky shops and picking up items for my home or as gifts, such as vases, candle holders and cuddly toys. For those of you who know me you will be aware that I am a huge fan of Betty Boop and was pleased to discover a year ago that there are two retailers in the City selling gorgeous figurines!
Whilst the majority of the shopping area is pedestrianised there are a number of areas that allow traffic, which is something I often forget until I find some frustrated driver behind me frantically beeping his horn! There are a number of places to eat such as coffee shops and pubs, but we enjoying eating in a small restaurant named Tiffanys where we are able to enjoy the most delicious home made meals. The restaurant is simply delightful and you can either choose to eat outside or on the ground or first floor. The restaurant offers a clean and well equipped toilet and the tables are beautifully presented with a crisp clean white table cloth and they offer the most wonderful customer service and I cannot admit to ever having a bad meal in there. Consequently, we've returned time and time again.
Unfortunately, the only public toilets we have found are those situated above the coffee shop that I have previously mentioned or there are some located at the bus station, but I cannot admit to ever having used these, as they do not appeal to me. Consequently, I tend to nip into one of the pubs selling food, as it's easy to pop in and out without being noticed! I have to mention that there is a newly opened ice cream parlour that is situated fairly close to the indoor shopping area and they sell every flavour of ice cream that you could possibly think of. During our last visit my husband and I decided to be really greedy and selected many flavours, which were presented to us in huge plastic cups together with various sauces, biscuits and a selection of childrens' sweets, such as smarties and chocolate flakes. Both ice creams came to well over £10, but they were simply delicious and I found that my eyes were far too big for my stomach, which resulted in me wasting half of mine. Once we have finished our shopping we generally head for Mumbles, so the next section of my review will discuss our journey to this beautiful cove.
The journey to Mumbles isn't too far a distance, but unfortunately, the road is what my husband and I have named "traffic light city", as I have never in my life seen so many sets of traffic lights, which always seem to change to red as we approach them! Located a couple of miles away are the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen namely Clyne Gardens, which are located at Singleton Park and are owned by the City of Swansea and somewhere we have visited on a number of occasions, particularly as there is no admission fee. The gardens could be a review in themselves, as they are so spectacular with their huge displays of stunning plants and flowers from rare species to natural collections. Seeing is believing with the plants the gardens have to offer, as amongst the array of species you are able to witness the outstanding giant Elephant Rhubarb and beautiful rhododendrons to the wood filled with pretty bluebells. The gardens are set over acres upon acres of land and are a place of total peace and tranquillity and we have frequently taken picnics and sat on one of the wooden benches and simply watched the world go by.
Set within the gardens is a castle, which was purchased in 1860 by the millionaire of Clyne, namely William Graham Vivian. The gardens hold considerable history because in addition to the castle there is a chapel and beneath it is a volt containing the bodies of some of the family members. We particularly enjoy the stunning Japanese Bridge, which is situated above water, which travels through the gardens and to the sea in Blackpill. The views are totally magnificent, as we are able to looks towards the sea and watch the luxurious yachts and speedboats as they bob up and down and sail through the clear blue water. The best time of year for visiting the gardens is during the month of August when all of the flowers are in full bloom. It is a perfect place to capture some wonderful photographic images of wildlife, such as birds of prey, which can frequently be seen hiding in the vast amount of beautiful trees.
There is a small barbeque area to enable you to take your own food and cook yourself a feast on a beautiful day and there are plenty of picnic benches and seats located throughout the entire gardens. There are toilets located near to the entrance, which are always clean and fully equipped, but unfortunately, these are the only ones situated in the gardens, so if you have walked to the top and are desperate to spend a penny, it is rather a long way to walk to relieve yourself. I cannot recommend these gardens highly enough and could go and on and on discussing them. However, if you require further information I am attaching the appropriate link at the end of this review where you can learn about their history and forthcoming events.
MUMBLES LEADING TO BRACELET BAY
We continue along Mumbles Road and as soon as we hit Mumbles itself we are able to witness the famous Joes, which is an absolutely delicious ice cream parlour. Unfortunately, parking here is very problematic and it is very rare that we are able to stop and enjoy one of their delicious ice creams. However, we have visited on many previous occasions where we will head for Mumbles prior to shopping in Swansea and can easily obtain a car parking space. We are able to either enjoy our ice cream sat inside the parlour or take it away and once you've tasted a Joes ice cream you will wonder what you've been missing. We continue to head towards Bracelet Bay, which is our favourite part of Swansea and it is on this journey that we are very close to where Catherine Zeta-Jones used to live during the time that she was starring in The Darling Buds of May.
Bracelet Bay has to be one of the most picturesque places I have ever visited and is home to the Coastguard Station and Mumbles Lighthouse. Parking is plentiful and by way of pay and display, which costs £1 - £2 dependent upon the length of your stay. We love sitting at the top of the bay and simply gazing across the sea, as on a clear day we are able to witness parts of Devon, which is an absolutely amazing experience considering it is so far away to travel by road. The bay offers numerous areas where refreshments can be obtained, such as a small shop selling ice creams, lollies, confectionary and hot and cold drinks; all of which are reasonably priced. There is a small café/restaurant located nearby with a good choice of hot and cold foods that can either be enjoyed indoors or out with us choosing the latter on a hot day, so we can enjoy the great outdoors as we eat our meal. The beach is a combination of sand, pebbles and rock pools and doesn't seem to get too crowded, but there are regularly families enjoying the sunshine whilst their children are merrily making sand castles. There are public toilets, which are generally clean and fresh and first thing in the morning they are fully equipped with toilet paper, hand wash and hand dryers. I use the word "generally" because as the day proceeds the toilets become a little smelly and there is no loo roll, so I always ensure I have an emergency pack of tissues in my handbag.
Situated approximately a quarter of a mile in the direction we had travelled from is another part of Bracelet Bay, which again, has easy parking by way of pay and display. Despite me having an awful phobia of heights you are able to stand on the cliff's edge and enjoy the magnificent views, but I have to stand approximately five foot away due to my fear. You can walk down to the lower section to access the small wooden slatted pier, which is by way of some very steep winding steps or a road for those with mobility problems, wheelchairs and parents with pushchairs. The pier has a huge amusement arcade and whilst I very rarely gamble other than for my twice weekly Lotto ticket, our last visit saw me nipping into the over 18's area and deciding to place a maximum of £5 into the slot machines. My first £1 coin gave me a win of £30, so I proceeded along the remaining identical three machines and walked away with £145 much to my sheer delight and amazement. I couldn't get out of there quick enough after changing my pound coins for notes, as it seemed too good to be true!
We then headed for the café/restaurant and purchased a pot of tea for two where we sat on one of the outdoor wooden benches and gazed across the water where we could see the City of Swansea from where we had just travelled. There is a small section of the pier that is cordoned off for fisherman or anyone else that wishes to visit and is accessible at 50p. We've never walked along this section, particularly as it is a fairly short length of pier and not worth spending the money unless we were intending to catch some fish. The café has two toilets; one of which is disabled and accessible by a Radar key. The toilets are generally clean and tidy, but unfortunately, there are always long queues. As my husband is registered disabled he owns a Radar key, which gives him access to any disabled toilets throughout the country, so it comes in handy at times especially when I'm absolutely desperate after drinking a cup of tea!
OTHER BEACHES AND COVES
Whilst there are over 50 beaches and coves located within Swansea I cannot admit to having visited them all, but the majority are on the list for future visits. We attempted to visit the Gower last year, but due to the fact that we do not own Sat Nav and I am absolutely useless with directions, we ended up driving around the wilderness for what seemed like hours, but although we never reached our destination, the journey was very tranquil and the views picturesque and we managed to find toilet and refreshments on our travels. However, I do not believe I could ever retrace that journey, as I have no idea where we were! I learned from carrying out a little online research that one of the beaches, namely Oxwich Bay was named the most beautiful beach in the United Kingdom for 2007 by a writer who travelled around the world studying more than 1,000 beaches in his/her search for the most perfect. Swansea has a most stunning coastline and we have been recommended many beaches and coves such as Rhossili Bay, Port Eynon and Caswell Bay; all of which are situated in the Gower, so it will be a case of borrowing my parents' sat nav for those visits!
I cannot speak of nightlife in Swansea, as I'm not really one for the club circuit having enjoyed too much of it in my younger days. Whilst I have never stayed overnight in Swansea or Mumbles, there are dozens upon dozens of hotels and bed and breakfast establishments; many of which are located on the sea front along the Mumbles road and I am attaching a link at the end of my review where you will be able to obtain full details of the attractions in Swansea together with places to stay. There are air shows that take place every two years in Swansea, which offer free entry. I am unsure if this year's air show took place due to the recent and very tragic death of one of the Red Arrow pilots and would advise that the next air show is due to take place in the summer of 2013. We attended the show in 2009 and were absolutely amazed at the excitement and roar of the sound of the magnificent planes as we watched them in the perfectly blue skies. Additional parking is laid on during the air shows where a nearby park is used, but a rather hefty fee is charged. However, it is well worth it considering you will be witnessing a spectacular show free of charge.
HOW TO GET TO SWANSEA
My husband and I live in the Caerphilly County borough so our journey to Swansea is by way of the M4 where we pass the outskirts of Port Talbot. It is well sign posted and we reach our destination in approximately 50 minutes. Whilst Swansea offers a park and ride service we drive directly into the City, as parking spaces are always readily available and fairly reasonably priced as opposed to other Cities that we've visited. There is a bus station situated directly in the centre of the City, so the shops are only a few steps away. The train station is a short walk from the City itself and there is a regular service offered by First Great Western and Arriva Wales. For details of coach and train times please see the link that I have provided at the end of this review.
As you have gathered from reading my review, there is so much to see and do in Swansea and it comes with my full recommendation. I could have gone into great length discussing each and every one of the attractions, but this review is to give you a flavour of what you could expect should you decide to visit. For further information about the City of Swansea please see http://www.swansea.com/Default.aspx
Further useful Links:-
Clyne Gardens http://www.swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1238
Travelling to Swansea http://www.swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1150 5
I hope you found my review useful and would thank you for reading.
This review also appears on Ciao under the same user name.
Summary: A City that offers so much to see and do
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