“I’m definitely not English and I couldn’t claim to be Welsh, but I do think of myself as Cardiffian now” – Noreen

Noreen by Ffion Matthews

I ended up in Cardiff by chance, really. I grew up and studied in France, and after doing my MSc research project at Aberystwyth University, I stayed in the UK to work. Various jobs and secondments took me all over England and Wales, until I found myself in Cardiff, and liked it so much that I stayed. It’s the place where I have felt most at home and where I can see myself putting down roots. I guess I’ve started doing that already!

I’m a city girl and I couldn’t live happily somewhere without theatres, cafes, and shops that stay open after 5pm. Because Cardiff’s a capital city, it’s vibrant, and has gigs, exhibitions, shows, workshops… There’s always a variety of things to do. It’s got great places to hang out and chill too. And it’s got the parks! I love Bute Park, walking past the Animal Wall to get there, and hula hooping near the stones. They’re such an easy landmark to meet people at, and, well, they’re standing stones, which is cool. This is the capital of a country that had Eisteddfods and bards and song and poetry as national traditions and institutions – and it’s woven into the fabric of the city.

I’m half Chinese from Singapore and also French and I like that Cardiff is fairly multicultural; also that the population is young because of the Universities, even though it means Friday and Saturday nights in town are a nightmare of rowdy drunken students. But hey, that’s part of what makes this city what it is. Despite the usual high street shops that are the same everywhere (and although I mostly moan about them, sometimes they’re convenient because you know exactly where to get what), the centre has a nice distinctive feel. Cardiff’s got a bunch of independent shops and also the arcades. I spent my teenage years in Paris, which has a number of arcades right in the centre, and I love them. It’s a shame about all the empty shops there – I would like to see them more alive and better used.

I’m a sucker for architecture and nice buildings, and that’s another reason why Cardiff appeals to me so much – it’s not just the WMC and the Senedd down the Bay: there is a great mix of beautiful buildings in town, and I love wandering around early in the morning or late at night, when there are no crowds of shoppers to dodge, and walking “with my nose in the air” as the French say, checking out the facades and rooflines we ignore on a daily basis.

Despite being the capital of Wales, Cardiff is a small city. It’s small in size, so that I can walk or cycle most places – and it’s pretty flat! Cycling around Cardiff makes me very happy indeed. It’s also small in population (well… for a capital city anyway) and I have found here a real sense of community and friendliness. Cardiff is like a village where when you meet someone, you can be pretty sure they’ll know at least one other person you know. I like that. I think that’s what’s contributed to my feeling settled quicker than in other places I have lived, and building a strong network of friends in a couple of years after I arrived – and that’s why I feel so settled now!

I’m definitely not English and I couldn’t claim to be Welsh, but I do think of myself as Cardiffian now. It would take a big event indeed to prise me away!

Noreen Blanluet is a self-employed creative business consultant, helping entrepreneurs and freelancers to take their business and their life to the next level. You can find her at www.beamazingtoday.co.uk and on Twitter @beamazingtoday. She’s living in Splott at the moment and is pondering moving to Roath early next year. Longer-term, her aim is to move to the house of her dreams in Cathays.

Noreen was photographed on the swings at Roath recreation ground by Ffion Matthews

Noreen by Ffion Matthews

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