We drove the five hour journey from our home in Norwich to Cardiff. The car was packed with everything from swimming costumes to waterproofs. Our itinerary was to see friends Rachel, Adam and their children, as well as visit some of the recommendations people had kindly made.
Here are the five things we enjoyed during our 48 hours in the Welsh capital.
Founded in 1905 and situated in the heart of Cardiff’s magnificent civic centre, the museum is home to art, natural history, archeology, geology as well as leading touring and temporary exhibitions. With our friends as guides, we headed straight for the dinosaur and jurassic exhibits followed by the temporary work in the gallery. We were keen to see Antony Gormley’s work in close proximity following our recent excursion to the Turner Gallery in Margate.
By chance we stumbled across Richard Long’s work, having seen it last year at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.
National Assembly for Wales, Wales Millennium Centre & Norwegian Church Arts Centre
Having grown up in the Norfolk Broads, Bobby has a love of water, so we spent several hours exploring the bay area and observing the Cardiff skyline. Three buildings were of notable interest to us.
One of Stanley’s favourite books is ‘Iggy Peck, Architect’ so we like to incorporate our own archi-tour on city breaks. I was particularly interested to see the National Assembly for Wales by Richard Rogers. The glass building symobilises the transparency between the elected and the electrorate. Tours are available, although sadly we didn’t have time to take one.
The Wales Millennium Centre is another great beacon in the Cariff skyline with its impressive copper cladding. It is the nation’s home for the performing arts and number one tourist destination.
Formally a church for Norwegian Sailors, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre stands proudly in the bay offering panoramic views from inside. It was also the location of Roald Dahl’s baptism.
A ‘top 10 pizzeria outside of London’ said the Guardian – that was good enough for us! Stanley’s quite obsessional with pizzas at the moment and we’ve started to make them at home. Not obviously sign posted from the road ‘Dusty Knuckle’ is a pizzeria you feel like you’ve stumbled across – entering via an alley way. We ate outside under the heaters and enjoyed the drama of watching our stone backed pizza being prepared in front of our eyes. The guys were so friendly and welcoming, it’s the perfect informal setting for a family.
We’re pretty outspoken about our love for Scandinavian culture so we had to visit Brød who describe themselves as ‘a little taste of Denmark, in the heart of Cardiff’. And it was. We enjoyed breakfast two days on the trot. The table candles and surrounds made for a really cosy setting. And, of course, the coffee and danish pastries were delicious.
At school, Stanley is in reception and his current class project is on castles. In fact, today, he visited Norwich Castle with his school. Castell Coch is regarded as Cardiff’s fairytale castle hidden in the hills.
Cardiff castle on the other hand is of significant historical importance and, had Stanley been older, we would have gone there instead. Castell Coch was rebuilt in 1875-1879 thanks to John Crichton-Stuart, one of Britian’s wealthiest men to enjoy as a country residence. It was a display of grandeur and is considered as ‘one of the greatest Victorian triumphs of architectural composition.’
We found the castle to be rather romantic, almost Disney in its design.
On a personal note, two parts of our trips were very special to me. One was Stanley’s eagerness for daily swimming, having been totally reluctant to go in a swimming pool last summer in Portugal. This year he was jumping into Bobby’s arms and squealing with delight in the pool at Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa (where we stayed).
The second special moment was the realisation how much, as a family, we’ve achieved by doing these stays. Stanley has always found change difficult and especially sleeping. The prospect of us driving five hours in the car and keeping him entertained, then him going to sleep (in the same room as us) whilst we were able to watch TV would have once been unthinkable. And yet here we are, we’re doing it. Whilst we’re only travelling around the UK, we’re not only learning about the creative and cultural cities on our tour, we’re also developing and growing as a family.
Our home for the weekend was centrally located. Our room had a double bed (for us) and a sofa bed for Stanley. We were also lucky enough to enjoy panoramic views of Cardiff from the ninth floor. We made great use of the pool and, on Friday night, enjoyed cocktails for us and a mocktail for the boy.
Both Bobby and I agreed we’d love to see more of Wales, and I’ve already lined up two possible houses we could rent later in the year.
From one capital to another… next on our tour is one of my favourite cities, Edinburgh.
Words and photography by Fiona Burrage.