All posts by wearecardiffguest

Millennial Mother’s top 5 indoor activities for kids in Cardiff

Today, we welcome Millennial Mother over to We Are Cardiff to give us some insights into the top things to do in Cardiff with your kids – when the weather sucks! Welcome, Millennial Mother!

***

The colder months are tough in our household. My three year old is one of those children who gets cabin fever after 9am. In the warmer months we can explore an array of countryside walks, beaches and parks around Cardiff. But in the winter months, with frost, rain and wind it is hard to get the motivation to change out of my loungewear and into 10 layers of waterproofs.

We have found some great indoor activities for children in Cardiff that have saved our skin more than once. This is a list of my top five. I hope you find them useful!

1. National Museum Cardiff

This was where I could usually be found on a Saturday as a child. I watched Jurassic Park about age six, and after that just wanted to be an archaeologist. I would spend days wandering around the dinosaur exhibition, pretending I was on an excavation! Now, I play the same games with my little one. After delighting in the dinosaur exhibition, you can enjoy the whale in the sky, and an intriguing creepy crawly section. Upstairs holds some beautiful pieces of art from Impressionist to Modernist, which are great to relax even the most busy of minds. I would recommend holding onto toddlers extra tightly to avoid orange crisp fingers staining 500 year old paintings though!

P.S if you like good coffee stop off at Brodie’s Coffee afterwards.

2. Cardiff International Pool

This swimming pool is a wonderful rainy day activity. The facilities are excellent, there are three large slides for older children and adults and a smaller slide for smaller children. The swimming pool doesn’t have a deep end, which is fabulous for someone like me (5 foot 3). It also has a small paddling area for younger children. The changing area is communal, which is ideal for families, as parents can swap and change to help out with kids there. On a rainy day there is nothing better than a family trip to the swimming pool. As my Nanna would say though ‘make sure you dry your hair probably before you go out in the cold as you don’t want to catch a cold!’

3. Techniquest

This is where science comes to life through interactive engagement. Children can learn how water currents are created in the water works, watch balls shoot up in the air, play on a giant piano and learn about all sorts of science. The museum is an excellent visit for children of all ages and the venue provides Toddler Days, Theatre Shows, and more. The museum is based in Cardiff Bay, so after you can enjoy a nice spot of lunch at one of the many cafes and bars.

P.S. I recommend a trip to Quantum Coffee because their coffee is insanely good, and friends have spotted A List celebs enjoying an Americano there!

4. Cardiff Story

This is my husband’s favourite place to take Nancy. As the name suggests, it tells the story of Cardiff’s rich history, and how it evolved from a small market town to the capital city we know and love. My daughter’s favourite part is the reconstruction of a house on Cathedral Road. It shows changes in these houses, and showcases how differently we live in comparison to our ancestors over one hundred years ago. There is also a variety of interactive resources that show the different people living in the Cardiff Docklands.

There is also a wonderful restaurant on the top floor that caters for children and adults alike. Milk and Sugar have a small but area with enough toys to keep your little occupied while you drink your latte. I would recommend keeping an eye on the Cardiff Story website as they often run special events called ‘Dinky Dragons’ which is a Rhyme and Story Time.

5. Playtown Cardiff

This is a hidden gem, right in the heart of Canton. Your little one can explore what it is like to be a doctor, a postman, a barista, a hairdresser, and even to do their own food shop! This imaginative playtown is a fantastic opportunity for your little one to develop their role-playing skills and to enhance their vocabulary as they come across new items. I always love to make up games and watch Nancy pretend to be me as she wanders around the shop. The centre opens in slots to allow the staff to tidy the rooms before new arrivals, I would therefore make sure you check the opening times to avoid disappointment There is also a family room for snacks and drinks, which is ideal, especially if you have more than one child and one needs feeding while the other needs entertaining.

***

Thanks to Millennial Mother for dropping by! You can catch Kelly on any of her channels:

And now back to us …

Get outside for a wild Cardiff winter – enjoy nature in the city all year round

Today’s guest writer is Pip Gray, who is joining us to talk about the joys of urban nature – specifically in Cardiff, in the colder weather! Take it away, Pip!

***

With acres of green spaces, wild coast line and miles of waterways flowing through the heart of the city, Cardiff is a city full of wildlife and nature to appreciate all times of the year – including the best time to go out and see it, winter.

Spending time in nature is scientifically proven to improve our mood, mental and general health, there’s no better time to get outside than in winter! Full to the brim with some of our most dramatic and exciting natural experiences, which can rival any summers day in the sun – disconnect and get involved.

Wrap up in your big winter coat, pull on your wellies and let’s create some warming winter memories outside amongst our cities ancient trees and wild neighbours.

Winter Visitors

Whilst we’re wrapped up in scarves and boots, wildlife from our chillier highlands surrounding Cardiff flock to our city for a warm escape from freezing conditions.

Look for winter birds such as Fieldfare and Redwing, relatives of the Song Thrush, who will be visiting our parks and gardens to feast on berries and seek shelter from colder climes.

They’ll be joined by one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the UK, huge Starling murmurations. To enjoy this free performance, spend a little time looking up just before dusk at the Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve, or across the city’s parks including Splott Park to watch up to thousands of birds swirling and dancing in the sky together before they roost.

Get In The Garden

Winter isn’t best known as a popular time to get in the garden, but our garden birds really appreciate a little helping hand during this tough season.

Setting out a feeding station and/or water is a lifeline for birds such as Robin and House Sparrows whose populations have plummeted due to loss of places to live and feed in our suburban sprawl. A simple feeder from a pet or DIY store filled with suet balls and a water bath will reward you with close up views of our most colourful garden birds including Blue Tits and Chaffinches – it’s like a safari, but for your garden!

Now is also a great time to start thinking about how to make your garden wildlife friendly for the year ahead, whether it’s pots of wildflower for bees or a fruit bush which supports everything from butterflies to birds!

Signs Of Spring

Another easy way to connect with nature that’s accessible to all, is to get down to earth. No really, get down to the ground and start noticing our amazing wild plants! Here in Cardiff we have countless numbers of wildflower, grasses, fungi and ancient organisms such as lichen and moss. A really great way to get interactive with our botanical buddies is with #WildFlowerHour at 8pm every Sunday on Twitter, where you can share your finds, have help identifying and get involved with protecting the plants which support our wildlife, and us.

In winter, look for snowdrops in our wooded areas, which will begin to flower alongside delicate yellow primroses. Some of our most ancient plants such as ferns and lichen thrive in our oldest forests, visit Howardian Gardens or Coed y Wenallt to lose yourself in the magic of an ancient woodland without leaving the city.

Thanks Pip! Pip Gray runs a Cardiff based wildlife blog, Wildly Pip, where she documents her journey living wildly in the city centre.

Pip’s next wildlife talk about Cardiff’s winter wildlife is run through Green Squirrel and is on February 16 at Roath Park Lake.

***

We love Cathays! Our favourite spots for food, drink, art, fitness and shopping!

Today, we’re taking a tour of Cathays, aka student-land – with local Beth Girdler-Maslen. So for today – We Love Cathays – our favourite spots for food, drink, art, fitness and shopping!

Cathays is right in the centre of Cardiff and full of vibrant and exciting places to eat, drink, shop and workout. However, being known as ‘Student Central’, it is overlooked due to its drunk and stressed inhabitants. Having lived in Cathays for the best three years of student hood, I’ve compiled a list of the best spots in Cathays that you may not know about.

Cardiff University’s Student Union, 45 Park Place

Besides being a place for lectures and where students escape to after a busy day, Cardiff University’s Student Union has so many events over the year. Club nights aside, it has live music and concerts with the likes of George Ezra and Youmeatsix having performed there. The Great Hall also hosts many sales, like posters, plants and clothes. Events like these are open to everyone and a great spot to find bargains.

Rose Street Flea Market, 37 Rose Street

Nearer Roath but still close to Cathays, this market is a hidden in what looks like a garage but is filled with classic and vintage treasures. Rose Street Flea Market is full of antiques, pictures, instruments, books and much more. Virtually unadvertised, the market is known about through word of mouth and only open on weekends. It may look like a junk shop from the outside, but the two-storey house is full of collections and great bargains.

The Early Bird, 38 Woodville Rd, @theearlybird_uk

Right in the middle of Cathays, The Early Bird has everyone flocking to its yellow bakery/café. Open in 2015, The Early Bird has become a staple for brunch with amazing food and homely and rustic furniture. It uses local suppliers and businesses for their produce and makes fresh bread and sweet treats everyday as well as roasting their own coffee.

Stag Coffee, 83 Crwys Rd, @StagCoffee

8359106

Stag Coffee is a unique independent restaurant, offering coffee, brunch, burgers and cakes. Their menu is full of comfort food as well as new and exciting vegetarian and vegan options. To try to keep things exciting and different from other restaurants, Stag hits at the Instagram obsessed side of people, by serving their meals in creative ways. Jam jars/mason jars full of milkshakes and coffees, chopping boards for burgers and cups for chips are served to keep with Stag’s effort to keep your visit memorable.

Gassy’s, 39-41 Salisbury Rd, @Gassy’s

gassys_facebook

Gassy Jacks or ‘Gassy’s’ as it is lovingly called is a brilliant bar full of food and drink as well as great activities all year round. It has a sporty vibe to it, with football and pingpong tables as well as TVs and projectors for the big games. They have weekly events, like Monday Quiz nights, open mic nights, cocktail nights on Fridays and karaoke on Thursdays.

The Hellenic Eatery, 100 Crwys Rd, @TheHellenicEatery

The Hellenic Eatery is a family-run Greek restaurant with ingredients imported from Greece with traditional dishes and music. On most Sundays, they invite you to come try Greek dancing.

The Woodville, 1-5 Woodville Rd, @TheWoodvillePub

banner-644

The Woody is right in the heart of Cathays and its student area. It’s a good old-fashioned pub with two makeshift beer gardens which are jampacked during the warmer months. It’s a famous spot for students and a pub crawl destination. It has an upstairs and a downstairs as well as a pool table. Their cocktails are definitely something to shout about with a classics cocktails as well as ‘hardshakes’ and summery cocktails served in cans with sweets on the side. Also, it’s dog friendly!

Locos, 7-9 Miskin Street

Similar to and overlooking Gassy Jack’s, Locos is another very busy pub with great food and cheap drinks. It’s very spacious and at night shifts to a darker scene with great music.

The Vulcan Lounge, 2 Wyverne Rd, @TheVulcanCdf

Another great pub with a friendly atmosphere and affordable food and drink. It’s mainly known for the pizza and is very wallet-friendly.

Sherman Theatre, Senghennydd Road, @ShermanTheatre

Right in the middle of Cathays, the Sherman Theatre develops work from Welsh writers and artists for its audience. This year it won an Olivier Award for its production of Killology, as well as the award of Regional Theatre of the Year, the first Welsh theatre to win. It hosts a range of comedy stand-ups, plays and musicals.

National Museum, Cathays Park, @Museum_Cardiff

The National Museum is right in the heart of Cathays and inside it is full of exciting exhibitions. It has a big section on natural history with dinosaur bones and animals, art work and ancient Wales. It regularly has special exhibitions, including The First World War collections, specific artists collections and most recently, women in photography and a Remembrance Day exhibition.

Adventure Rooms, 47 Newport Rd

For those who like to be more active and adventurous, Adventure Rooms is the place to go. It’s a live escape room, where you and your team are locked in a room and you must solve the clues to escape the room. There is a 60-minute time limit and different themed rooms ranging in difficulty, like The Mad Scientist, The Black Queen and Mafia. Prices depend on the size of teams but range from £15-25.

TeamSport Go Karting, 11 Dominion Way, Newport Rd

TeamSport is a multilevel go kart track that is a regular attraction for people of all ages. Upon entry, you are given a motocross suit, helmet, gloves and all the right clothes for go karting. After 20 minutes of being taught how to work the car and the track, you can race around the track as fast as you like, trying to beat the record for the day that has been set by others. You’re also given your statistics of how you did in the race to take home.

Stretchy Suzie’s, 99 Woodville Road, @StretchySuzies

stretchy suzies

Along Woodville Road, Stretchy Suzie’s is a yoga studio and therapy room. It offers massages and retreats as well as fitness classes. It also hosts workshops and events.

***

This piece was by Beth Girdler-Maslen – Beth is an English Literature and Journalism graduate, with a love of books, running and pugs. An aspiring author and journalist, you’ll mostly find her compulsively writing or with her nose in a book. Follow Beth’s Instagram: @bethgirdlerm / Follow Beth’s Blog – Reading On The Treadmill

Green Man 2018 – final line up announcement! Got your tickets yet?

Our favourite Brecon Beacons based arts extravaganza Green Man Festival is looking REAL FINE this year, with a line up that includes plenty of Cardiff talent (boom) and headliners from ACROSS THE GLOBE. Tickets usually sell out early summer, so make sure you get yours in soon!

New music line up additions today (we’ve highlighted our We Are Cardiff fav picks in bold – in particular we can’t wait to see Bristol gig legend Big Jeff making his Green Man DJ debut …!)

Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men | Frankie Cosmos | Eleanor Friedberger | Ari Roar | J. Bernardt | Horsey | Celebrating Bert Jansch | Black Midi | The Cosmic Array | Squid

DJs – High Contrast | Huw Stephens | Tom Ravenscroft | Alfresco Disco | Heavenly Jukebox | Lycra | Dutty Disco | Big Jeff | Fever Club

Chai Wallahs Stage – Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu | Agbeko | Amy True | Animal Noise | Animanz | Ben Catley | Berget Lewis | Edd Keene | Friendly Fire | Gringo Ska | Groovelator | Holly Holden y Su Banda | Joncan Kavlakoglu | Kiriki Club | Lazy Habits | Lost Tuesday Society | Monster Ceilidh Band | Samsara | Snazzback | Solana | Soul Grenades | Sounds of the Siren | The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble | Tropical Tea Party feat DJ Hiphoppapotamus | Will Varley | Wrongtom

And in case you need more convincing, have a look at our Green Man video from last year …

Previously confirmed music line up:

The War On Drugs | Fleet Foxes | King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard |

John Grant | Grizzly Bear | Dirty Projectors | The Brian Jonestown Massacre | Public Service Broadcasting | Anna Calvi | Cate Le Bon | Mount Kimbie | Floating Points (live) | The Black Angels | John Maus | The Lemon Twigs | Joan As Police Woman | Teleman | Kevin Morby | Baxter Dury | Curtis Harding | Tamikrest | Courtney Marie Andrews | Susanne Sundfor | John Talabot | Simian Mobile Disco (live) featuring Deep Throat Choir | Wye Oak | Jane Weaver | Alex Cameron | Phoebe Bridgers | Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever | Kelly Lee Owens | Bo Ningen | Beak> | Chastity Belt | HMLTD | Sweet Baboo | A Hawk and a Hacksaw | Xylouris White | Lost Horizons | Shannon Lay | Pictish Trail | Marlon Williams | Lucy Dacus | The KVB | Omni | Goat Girl | Duds | Snapped Ankles | Jade Bird | Boy Azooga | Snail Mail | Nubya Garcia | Charles Watson | Ider | Ed Dowie | Haley Heynderickx | Bas Jan | Seamus Fogarty | Juanita Stein | Sacred Paws | The Murlocs | Jim Ghedi | Sorry | Stella Donnelly | Spinning Coin | Group Listening | Haze | Fenne Lily | Adwaith | Accu | Sock | Aadae | Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men |

ERMEGERD right?? All of this in addition to the amazing Talking Shop and Last Laugh announcements made earlier this year … Get your tickets and join the annual decamp to the beautiful Brecon Beacons!

Buy Green Man tickets now

Green Man website

Images from last year’s birthday bash!

More We Are Cardiff – Green Man coverage:

***

 

 

Polly Thompson talks Cardiff, and a new kind of living

Our reporter Jenny Jones speaks to Cardiff resident Polly Thompson today, about her move from the city to London in the ’90s – and back again last year, and the new kind of living she’s found here.

I’m that common person, who grew up in Cardiff through the bleak and grey 80s and then couldn’t wait to leave. In fact I found out about We Are Cardiff when I read James’ piece ‘Cardiff – it’s where you’re between’ and couldn’t believe how similar our stories were, almost exact parallels. I came across it by accident, just lost in endless scrolling one night on the internet, maybe I saw a link to it on Twitter. James’ experience of wanting to escape ’80s Cardiff totally resonated with me.

I was living in London at the time I read it – a couple of years ago. I was jobless, living for cheap in an old people’s home near Tottenham that was up for sale (I was part of one of those guardian schemes that stop squatters moving in by letting legitimate tenants live there for peppercorn rent). It was a disgusting place, with damp on all the walls, plasterwork that crumbled to the touch and squelching carpet over soaked underlay in every room, including the kitchens and bathrooms. But it was cheap. Really cheap. And in London, cheap housing is not to be sniffed at.

I left Cardiff when I was 16. I couldn’t wait to leave. There’s a big age gap between me and my older brother and sister, so they were already long gone from home when I was growing up, flown the coop, abandoned me in the nest. My was already in his 60s when I was born so my only real memories of him feature his disappearance into dementia, which started almost the second I was born.

By the time I arrived on earth, my sister had married and moved to Caerphilly, with children of her own just a few years younger than me (I’m nearly 16 years younger than her). My brother had slipped away and was living in some off-grid community in north Wales. Neither were around to watch the end of dad’s life. They barely visited, and didn’t register in my young mind as siblings. I saw how hard it was for my mum, working part time, trying to bring me up, and care for my father who was getting more and more confused. He almost never knew who I was, and so we had a strange relationship – he was a dad but also a not-dad, just some crazy old man who lived in the house.

I hated school. I don’t know how it’s possible to enjoy or engage when your home life is so mad. I felt isolated all the time. We lived in a small two bed house in Roath. I think it was somewhere around Alfred Street, but I’ve never been able to find its exact location. All I remember are heavy velvet drapes and dark wooden panels that were so fashionable in houses for a while.

My dad died when I was ten and my mum when I was thirteen, and so I ended up moving in with my sister in her new-build-box-house. I remember being young as pointing the TV aerial towards Bristol so we could watch Channel 4 instead of S4C – I never learned to speak Welsh, and besides that I felt like being Welsh was a strait jacket I couldn’t escape. It didn’t feel cool, it felt parochial, not something to be proud of. I wanted desperately to move where things were happening, to somewhere so big I could get lost within it and forget about all the crap things I’d experienced as a child. I wanted adventure and neon and to stay up all night. And none of those things felt possible in Cardiff in the 1980s. I would have preferred New York, but London was a pretty good second on the list.

The second I was old enough to leave, I did. I had barely any money but my sister surprised me by paying for my coach ticket and then handing me an envelope with five hundred pounds in it. She’d been saving up for me since I’d started living there. I’d told her what my plan was when I moved in, and apparently she had believed me.

I won’t bore you with the details of what happened in London, but here’s the short version. I went to art college, made good friends. Had a few boyfriends and one girlfriend. Fell in love with one of the boyfriends. I mostly lived around south London, as that’s where was cheapest, around Peckham and Deptford. To say I lived thriftily is an understatement – but I was where I wanted to be, and that was the most important thing.

I learned to turn off my Cardiff accent. I very deliberately cut ties to home. I told people I was from the West Country if they asked. I never wanted to come back to Wales. Never.

Fast forward 20 years. I’m divorced now, and after a couple of years where I actually had money, I’m broke again after some terrible decisions – very bad timing in buying and selling our married flat, which ended up with both of us divorced, in negative equity, having to bear the debt of fifteen grand each, which I am still paying off (although I’m almost completely debt free). I was technically homeless for a bit, a couple of months sofa surfing with friends until I managed to get myself back on my feet (and it really was sofa surfing – no one I know in London has a spare room). I spend most of my time drawing and illustrating, which is what I love and prefer to do but it’s not a steady job and so I do days of supply teaching around it.

It was the day I visited the Haringey food bank that I realised the cost of living in London was breaking me. Most of my friends were happily married or “consciously coupling” with children, and had moved out into north west London. Some of them are struggling too – squashed together in one bedroom flats, carrying their prams up and down the stairs. But they’re together. There’s probably little that’s as depressing as getting divorced when you’re in your early 30s. It should be the decade you’re making babies and growing a family and having widening waistlines but it doesn’t matter because you’re all together and that’s what counts.

Instead I was edging closer to 40 and worried about making rent, I was worried about being able to eat, what was I doing with my life. I was swinging in the other direction from almost everyone I knew – I was single, working jobs I hated to pay for £800 a month for a room in a communal house full of twenty somethings, with a shared bathroom that was always covered in other people’s hair, and a kitchen I’d stopped storing my food in as people openly helped themselves to whatever they wanted.

I was drinking a lot, alone. One of those days I was in the kitchen bitching about the rent – which had just been hiked by £50 a month for each of us – when my Australian housemate told me a couple of them were thinking of moving out and joining a guardianship scheme, where you get moved into empty properties to stop squatters and pay next to nothing. Did I fancy joining them?

I did, and so I did, and for the next year the worries about money eased up a little. But it’s a very unstable existence. You can be moved on from the place you’re staying whenever the landlord sells it (or decides to remove you). The places are often in a state, they may have been empty already for years, and it takes a lot to renovate a place that’s like this.

I was lucky – one of my housemates was a set designer, and very handy at building and repairing things. But I had just moved into my fourth place in 18 months when it hit me – I couldn’t keep living like this. I was exhausted, I was worried about money all the time. I was still drinking, all the time. It is a sobering (no pun intended) realisation to be a female that’s nearly 40, divorced, single, and living a life that is miserably itinerate.

I had come across James’ piece about Cardiff shortly after moving into the Tottenham residential home. It was a strange, squat building – seventeen rooms set across this weird sprawling building that only had one floor. I ended up living there for nearly eight months, during which time I started seeing a counsellor through a scheme that was training students for a nearby university, which made it a lot cheaper. And I tried to make a plan for myself.

During that time I started talking to my sister again on a more regular basis. I’m not sure why. We fell out of touch after I moved to London because I just wanted to eradicate the past from existence – it was easier to have no contact than try and renegotiate all the things that had happened every time I spoke to her. I think she understood. My sister sent me money every year after I left her house, up until I was 25 – always at Christmas, always £50. She stopped sending money the year I got married, which I told her about in a letter … after the ceremony had happened. I didn’t invite her to the wedding, which I feel guilty about to this day. She still sent me a card every Christmas, even then. I never sent her anything. I am objectively a terrible, terrible sister.

Anyway, during that time, I started thinking about moving out of London. From the second I arrived there I had never wanted to leave. But over the course of 24 years, things can change, right? I wasn’t the same person I had been when I arrived there. Sensing I was perhaps open to options, my sister suggested I come back to Cardiff to visit her for a weekend, for us maybe to spend some time together and for me to get some distance from London. I hadn’t been back for years – not since the late ’90s.

There was some big football thing on that weekend, she said, so it might be a bit busy in town, but she was looking forward to seeing me and showing me around. She booked my train tickets and emailed them to me (I’ll never really ever be able to pay her back for everything she’s ever given me, in terms of opportunity and opening doors for me).

I apprehensively boarded the train. It was the start of June, and I arrived in Cardiff to witness the hundreds of thousands of people creating a hot, crazy carnival in the city for the Champions League Final.

I think it’s fair to say that Cardiff astonished me. I’m sure the weather helped that weekend – scorching hot sunshine and blue skies – but it was more the scale of everything. That enormous stadium right in the heart of the city centre. The huge St David’s 2 shopping centre. All those high rises that seem to be exploding out of the earth all around. The Wales Millennium Centre. The BAY – and the barrage. It was a million miles away from the Cardiff I remembered – all squat buildings and bad weather and aerials pointed towards Bristol and verruca socks at the Empire Pool.

There is something tangible in memory that is beyond anything you can explain to someone about a place, however hard you try to. It’s a feeling, it’s colours, it’s a weight. Cardiff was grey and brown in my memories, and heavy, like a wool jumper soaked in cold rain. This Cardiff was somewhere entirely new, with bars and clubs and people with dyed hair, all dressed up, and a circus, and opera, and galleries. It was like the Cardiff I remembered was an entirely different place. While we walked around the stadium I struggled to remember how it had looked before with Empire pool there, even though I used to go swimming in it nearly every week.

On the Saturday of my visiting weekend we went down into the Bay, where I marvelled at the Millennium Centre, the Senedd. I don’t really remember going into Cardiff Bay as a child – it wasn’t the sort of place you’d go for a day out, like it is now. My only memory is driving through it once when I was really young … and my mum locking the car doors.

And now there were thousands of people – families, tourists, everybody – wandering around, eating ice creams. There was music blaring. We bought pints from some outdoor bar and walked around, people watching, place watching. I have never really been into sports, but Champions League was a really impressive event.

When the actual match was on we walked back through town to my sister’s house. She lives in Canton now, she has done for years – on a small side street off Cowbridge Road. It’s very old school – she knows her neighbours – everyone knows everyone on that street. Next door to her is a young family, who she sometimes babysits for in exchange for them looking after her dog. She said she had told them all about me, that I was coming to stay, and that we hadn’t seen each other in nearly 20 years. At first I found it a bit alarming, even intrusive that she would share information like that with total strangers – they’re just neighbours. My sister laughed at me when I said that to her. “I’ve spent more time with them than I ever have with you!”.

It wasn’t that that made me decide to move back, although it was a part of it. We got on better than I imagined we would. We’re quite similar, although I never would have been able to see it or admit it when I was 16. While at her house that night, we put on some Hitchcock films, ate popcorn and I idly checked rental prices in Cardiff. Just to check. If you’ve ever compared rental prices in London to Cardiff, you’ll probably be able to imagine what comes next.

I found a nice room in a shared house in Adamsdown, really near the city centre, sharing with three other girls – two Spanish girls studying postgrads at Cardiff uni and one girl from Porth who was a hairdresser. My sister persuaded me to send them a message – might as well go and have a look while you’re here, right? So I wrote some long rambling message to them on Gumtree about my situation in London, and how I probably wasn’t going to move in but would like to have a look … Sofia messaged me back and told me to come over anyway. I took the bus over there, and from the second I stepped into the house, something clicked. We had a glass of wine, and I ended up staying for dinner.

But I couldn’t do it … it seemed too drastic, too big a step. I went back to London, but within two months the management agency were in touch. The place had been sold, and was going to be knocked down so flats could be built there. We had to move. Again.

I packed up my meagre belongings – the ones that weren’t already in storage from the divorce – hired a van, and moved to Cardiff.

Unfortunately the room in Adamsdown was taken so I ended up in my sister’s spare room until Christmas, when Sofia messaged me and told me their new room mate was moving out – she was Greek and had decided eventually that Brexit would make it impossible for her to stay, and was going back to Greece. I moved into her room on New Year’s Day, and I’ve been in that house since. It feels like a whole new life, like it did when I first moved to London.

I didn’t think it would be possible to move somewhere, aged 40, and make new friends, and feel at home. It doesn’t feel like moving ‘back home’ in the sense that Cardiff never felt like home to me before. But I was so desperate to escape when I was 16, that coloured my view of everything. It’s also possible that Cardiff was fine back then. I just couldn’t see it.

Much of what remains from my childhood in Cardiff are photos my sister has now, that seem weirdly over-saturated technicolour compared with my memories. There are hardly any photos of my brother and sister, but my sister doesn’t care. She’s the archivist for our weird disintegrated family now, our historian, and she’s taken good care of these memories for me, when I probably would have burned them if I’d known they existed.

I’m glad they still exist. Me, aged about four, in some bizarre red woollen jumper that has  ‘cute’ repeatedly emblazoned across it (either to reinforce the message or set the record straight in case you saw me and thought I looked hideous), lying on a blanket in the flower gardens in Roath. This would be around 1980-something, the early 80s though, maybe ’82 or ’83. My dad has a ridiculous tash and I can’t even really describe what mum is wearing, she looks like a cross between Joan Collins and someone ready to dance around the Maypole. Other photos are from the fountains outside City Hall, me in a white dress covered in grass stains and mud, carrying water from the fountains over to some flowers I saw scorched and dying in a nearby flower bed. It is the sort of hopeless endeavour I’m attracted to that probably explains most of my relationships and the major choices I’ve made in my life.

Apart from now. This move feels a bit different. I hope I’ve approached it in a slightly less manic way. And I like Cardiff. It feels busy and buzzing. I’m impressed with Cardiff’s creative scene. There are so many co-working spaces and meet-ups and exhibitions and things going on, it’s been a very quick process to find out what’s going on and meet other illustrators, something that felt hard and intimidating in London (and often included an hour Tube ride to the other side of the city). It’s hard to describe the difference – in London there’s so much more going on, you do feel part of this huge machine – but then it can feel inaccessible, because you don’t know the right people, or that all the fun is happening somewhere else.

It’s still such early days of being back in Cardiff, I’m not sure what the future holds or whether I’ll stay here permanently. And I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with living here – already I can see problems with inner city traffic, parking, public transport – especially compared to London.

But I’ve managed to pick up work here and it’s easier to walk or cycle to work in Cardiff then it was in London. Well it’s closer distances, although the roads could do with actual cycle lanes. And less potholes. But for the moment, I’ll take those.

Polly Thompson is an illustrator and teacher who lives in Adamsdown. Polly’s story was told to Jenny Jones. Her name was changed for this article, at her request.

***

Over 50,000 parking tickets were dished out in Cardiff in 2017 – but what street racked up the most fines?

Data journalist Dan Clark has been hard at work digging into the city’s statistics. Today’s scoop: 50k parking tickets in 2017!  But which neighbourhood had the most tickets? And which streets should you NEVER park on without paying? Find out right here …

Over 50,000 parking tickets were given out in Cardiff in the first 10 months of 2017, according to a recent FOI (freedom of information) request.

The response covered the period from the 1 January up to the 27 October. With November and December still unknown, it’s likely that the end of year figure will be an increase on the 60,441 parking tickets distributed in 2016.

Roath is the most popular region within Cardiff for offences, with 8,548 in the period studied in 2017. Unsurprisingly, the city centre is also a popular area for tickets, with naughty parkers racking up 6,650 there. Cathays, Cathays Park and Butetown all took a 4,000 ticket hammering, while at the other end of the scale Ely, Morganstown and Thornhill all received just a single parking ticket to date.

Eagle eyes on Museum Avenue

Visitors need to be extra careful when parking on Museum Avenue, as eagle eyed parking inspectors gave out nearly 1,000 tickets on this street alone in 2017. King Edward VII Avenue – the road that runs parallel to Museum Avenue and crosses Alexandra Gardens – is second on the list. Heath Park main car park, Churchill Way and Tredegar Street then complete the top five.

Top 25 most popular Cardiff streets for parking tickets:

  1. Museum Avenue – 945
  2. King Edward VII Avenue – 905
  3. Heath Park Main Car Park – 825
  4. Churchill Way – 787
  5. Tredegar Street – 631
  6. Havannah Street Car Park – 587
  7. Windsor Place – 579
  8. Albany Road – 553
  9. Fitzhamon Embankment – 546
  10. Canal Parade – 512
  11. Gorsedd Gardens Road – 491
  12. Bute Crescent – 488
  13. Bute Street – 478
  14. Plantagenet Street – 467
  15. St Andrew’s Crescent – 464
  16. West Bute Street – 458
  17. Severn Road Car Park – 454
  18. Mount Stuart Square – 431
  19. City Road – 419
  20. Park Street – 412
  21. Cathedral Road – 369
  22. Diana Street – 364
  23. Park Place – 363
  24. Dumballs Road – 362
  25. Womanby Street – 353

If you were looking for a day to risk not buying a ticket, I’d suggest you don’t pick a day in the middle of the week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the most common days for motorists picking up parking tickets. The spread across the year also shows fewer tickets are  distributed during the summer. Perhaps it’s because the nice weather encourages people to walk, rather than drive? Or maybe the parking inspectors are forced to walk more in the winter months in an effort to keep warm?

Considering that a parking ticket carries a minimum £35 fine, this is a huge source of income for the council. Even considering that some of these may have been tests, duplicates, or won’t be immediately paid, it still runs into at least a million pounds of revenue.

The following has been paid in parking ticket fines in Cardiff over the last three financial years:

  • 2014/15: £1,896,336
  • 2015/16: £1,917,687
  • 2016/17: £1,272,772

Although 50,000 tickets might have been handed out, it’s unlikely they’ll all be paid. Between April 1 2016 and March 31 2017, just over 20 per cent of all parking tickets were appealed – 12,348 out of 60,622. A high number of these appeals were successful (67 per cent), so  recipients were not ordered to pay.

It seems unusual that such a high number were successfully appealed. The council only gives two reasons for the successful appeals: “general” and “CEO error”. It’s unclear what the first category refers to, but the latter means that the civil enforcement officer made a mistake in giving out the ticket in the first place. So if you think you have been wrongfully given a parking offence, it can be worth appealing the fine.

***

Over 1000 properties lay empty in Cardiff

Data journalist Dan Clark continues his series of investigations for us: today, he looks into the number of empty properties in the capital.

A total of 1,318 private sector properties in Cardiff laid vacant in the last financial year (2015/16), according to new figures released by the council. Currently in the city, almost one in every 50 properties is vacant. Across the whole of Wales, there are 23,000 private properties that lie empty, a figure which has risen from 19,612 in 2012-13.

The Cardiff data, published in response to a freedom of information request, shows that 166 homes have been empty for over 5 years and 39 for over 10 years. Grangetown was the parish with the highest volume of vacant properties, recording 233, although it wasn’t clear from the response why it was so high here.

Furthermore, as of June 2016, there are 205 empty council properties. The most popular categorisation of these are ‘routine voids’ (77 per cent), followed by ‘low demand’ (5 per cent). Properties classified as ‘routine voids’ refers to empty homes that require minor repairs and safety checks.

Apologies for the stats overload, but your basic take away from this is that Cardiff has a lot of empty properties. My first thought was that perhaps the demand just wasn’t there for them, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As of 1 January 2017, there were 7,893 applicants on the Council’s housing waiting list.

So, what is being done? Cardiff Council have a scheme called the ‘Housing Enforcement Empty Property Policy‘, designed to help tackle the issue. Two of their main objectives are:

  • To bring back into use as many empty properties as possible
  • To limit the effect of empty properties on the Community, Council and Owner

According to figures published in the policy, the Council are currently returning an average of 62 vacant properties a year back into use. Some of the reasons cited as to why they become vacant in the first place include, dilapidation, abandonment, unresolved ownership, property holding and care holding.

Earlier this year, plans were passed for a new £2bn “garden village” on the outskirts of the city. As part of this, almost 6,000 new homes would be built. Of that number (5,970 homes), 30 per cent would be affordable housing – half of that being social rented homes and half low cost homes. But that’s still only around 1,800 homes in total, with no further details that might help people on that housing waiting list.

Having investigated the number of empty homes that already exist within the city, building so many new ones seems like an unnecessary cost. Would it not be more beneficial to spend more resource on the empty properties policy first and increase the number being brought back into use each year?

Michelle Collins manages the Empty Homes Wales project by United Welsh, a not-for-profit social landlord with over 25 years of experience in housing and development.

She said: “Seeing homes that are left empty to go into disrepair stirs up many emotions and feelings, especially at a time when Wales has a housing crisis, with 12,000 new homes needed each year to meet current demand.

“Transforming empty homes into habitable spaces is an innovative way to provide much-needed homes and help homeowners to protect their assets.”

Refurbishing a property may seem daunting, but help is available. The Empty Homes Wales project uses an innovative leasing model that doesn’t require any financial outlay from the homeowner.

Empty Homes Wales leases properties to recoup the cost of the refurbishment, then it’s up to the homeowner – United Welsh can carry on leasing the house on your behalf, you can rent it yourself, or sell up. The rental income received during the term of the lease is used to cover the cost of the refurbishment work.

Michelle added: “We work in partnership with homeowners to overcome any barriers they may face, such as inexperience of leasing property or lack of information around refurbishment standards or contractors.”

More information on housing in Cardiff:

***

 

The number of homeless people in Cardiff is on the rise

This is data journalism student Dan Clark’s first in a series of investigative pieces for We Are Cardiff: looking into the number of homeless people in Cardiff.

Photo by Ben Blyth Photography, from his Behind the Streets project

The number of people sleeping rough in Cardiff has increased by 18 per cent from this time last year, according to statistics released by The Wallich homeless charity.

Monitoring of rough sleepers was undertaken by Rough Sleepers Intervention Teams (RSITs) working for the charity.

For those of us who live in Cardiff, the problems surrounding homelessness are obvious. It is almost impossible to walk through the city centre and go more than five minutes before spotting a rough sleeper. From a personal point of view, since moving to the city in 2016, the noticeable increase has been undeniable.

As you can see, the number of rough sleepers being supported is increasing, which has consequences. A Freedom of Information Act request to Cardiff council revealed that between 1 January 2015 – 15 May 2017, a total of 19 homeless people died on Cardiff’s streets.

Cardiff’s problems appear at the national level, with the number of rough sleepers having increased in almost all local authorities over a 12-month period. The data, collected by RSITs and released by the Welsh Government, gives a one night snapshot of those sleeping rough across Wales. The below map shows the year-on-year comparison in individual local authorities: click on it to explore the statistics.

I spoke to George, 32, who is a former factory worker and has been homeless for just over 2 years. “I lost my job and just couldn’t afford the rent. In the end, I had no one else to turn to so ended up on the streets”.

Asked whether he believed that the number of rough sleepers had increased, he answered: “It certainly does seem that way”. George went onto clarify that he couldn’t say for certain if it had in Cardiff specifically, as he often drifted from city to city, and had not been in Cardiff long.

George added that the kindness of charities and the public is always appreciated, however small those gestures may be: “It might not seem like much to normal people, but something as simple as a warm meal or a thick duvet is seen as a luxury to us lot. Something small can help improve your mood and make the day seem a bit brighter”.

On 27 October, the Wallich was lucky enough to partner with mattress retailer Leesa Sleep, who donated 40 brand-new mattresses to two of its Cardiff hostels. International Welsh rugby player George North and World Champion Cyclist Becky James who are ambassadors for the charity also attended the event.

Mike Walmsley is Corporate Fundraising Manager for The Wallich. “We are so grateful to Leesa for this incredible donation and to Becky and George for taking the time to visit our hostel and speak to our residents,” he says. “A lot of our people will have had to ‘make-do’ for a long time with second hand clothes, charity shop furniture and food bank vouchers. Some rough sleepers may not have slept in a bed for months. Having something brand-new that gives someone a good night’s sleep shows a person that they are valued and that they deserve nice things. This has a positive impact in helping someone back on their feet after experiencing homelessness.”

If you’d like to do something to help homeless people in Cardiff this Christmas, we wrote this handy guide:

Dan Clark is currently studying for a Masters in Computational and Data Journalism at Cardiff University. He moved to the city in 2016 and since then has fallen in love with the place. Thanks Dan!

***

 

 

Feast Fest is here!

Cardiff is slowly but surely becoming street food city, quite literally, and Feast Fest is one of our favourite ventures to be launched this year!

Feast Fest is launching a colourful outdoor ‘feastival’ on Womanby Street, with five weekends of street food, farmers market, music, vintage clothing, vinyl sales, skate competitions, DJs, craft beers, art exhibitions and much more.

Feast Fest – Facebook event page

The top street food traders in Wales, along with local food producers will be offering kerbside dining every Saturday and Sunday from July 29 to August 26.

Womanby Street is the city’s alternative heartland, just a two-minute stroll from the Castle and five minutes from the central train station. The street has some of the best loved music venues, bars, restaurants, indie shops, tap and ale houses in the city, and is often where we end up after a long night of hard drinking and fast dancing.

The bars and venues will be opening to provide daytime entertainment, craft beers, wines and much more. Award-winning street food chef Jamie O‘Leary of Jols Food Co, who is spearheading the event, said:

“As a chef I’ve grown to love the street food experience – the reward is seeing the customer’s face light up as they watch their meal cooked and handed to them moments later. With ‘Feast Fest’ I intend to put the street food experience back where it should be – on the street. And Womanby Street is such a rich, cultural and vibrant location in the capital – with the recent Save Womanby Street campaign it became apparent that this is a street that the citizens of Cardiff are proud of and therefore an ideal location for a summer-long food market.”

The market will be open at weekends between 12-7pm. Traders appearing on rotation at Feast Fest include Annand George Tuk Tuk, Jols Food Co, Rule of Tum Burgers, Dusty Knuckles Pizza Co, Mr Croquewich, Rackdogs, Shwarmarama, Ffwrnes Pizza, The Bearded Taco, Science Cream, Dixies Vintage Ice creams, The Pork Society, Mighty Soft shell Crab, Shelly’s, EL Chilango and Got Beef.

For full details on trader line up, farmers market and weekly entertainment keep an eye on the website www.feastfestcardiff.com and Facebook @feastfestcardiff 

***

Fabulous Beyond – a new Cardiff podcast

Looking for something a bit different to listen to? We recommend a new Cardiff-based podcast from local boylesque star, Ernie Sparkles!

Fabulous Beyond is a new fortnightly chat show podcast by Ernie Sparkles. Each episode features a different guest in conversation with Ernie as they discuss the concept of Fabulous and what the word means to them.

The project was launched in June with the aim to compile and document research by Ernie. “I have been fascinated with the concept of Fabulousness for a number of years, since finding out someone had referred to me as Fabulous,” he says. “It made me question – What does fabulous even mean?! I figured capturing discussions with different people might help me to find the answers. I figured these conversations would actually make quite interesting podcasts! The conversations so far have been really interesting – we’ve talked about identity, gender, LGBTQ issues, Queer culture, the royal family, mental health and Drag Queens!”

The podcast ‘Fabulous Beyond’ is available for download on iTunes or direct from the Fabulous Beyond website. Please listen in, review, subscribe and share the word and help to get Fabulous Beyond beyond fabulous! Check us out at @fabulousbeyond

Ernie Sparkles is a costume designer and cabaret performer/producer based in Cardiff.  Find him on Ernie Sparkles Facebook or Twitter @Ernie_Sparkles

See also:

***

Staycations in Cardiff when you’re skint

Need some rest and relaxation, but can’t afford the gold dubloons it would cost you to spend a day in a spa? Fear not – Jenny Jones has put together this handy guide to Staycations in Cardiff – when you’re skint. She’ll be rounding up some of the best value options for pure indulgence on a budget.

Stressed out? Skint? Know you need some time out, but just have no idea how you’re going to afford it? Yeah, me too. Everyone needs time out from work – whether your “work” pays you loads, not enough, or nothing at all if you’re caring for people at home.

But luckily for you, I’ve been putting together this thrifty guide to getting your chill on. Even if you can’t take a full day out, I’ve split my ideal day up, so you can pick and choose relaxing activities that can fit around your schedule. My preferred mode of transport is bicycle (car parking is a nightmare anyway) so most of these are things you can access in or near the city centre either by bike or on foot. There are also a couple of things you can do – without ever leaving your home!

A THRIFTY AND RELAXING MORNING

BREAKFAST

If you love the idea of sitting on a Parisienne street corner, supping coffee and watching the world go by, perhaps you could consider the Cardiff budget option: getting a cuppa in Cardiff Indoor Market? As far as people watching goes, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nowhere better.

Image by Melissa Jackson

The Indoor Market has a number of breakfast options both downstairs and upstairs, where a cup of tea will set you back 85p, you can get a cooked breakfast for £2.99, and the people watching is free. Now that’s a bargain.

TAKING IN SOME ART

If you’ve got kids, then you’ll already know about how amazing the National Museum is. With its endless rooms of fossils and minerals and early finds from around Wales, it’s the perfect place for the kids to run around and you to get some peace.

Image by Rob Khoo

What lots of people don’t know is that the museum also a serious hoarding of art – including the biggest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art outside of Paris. Pick up a stool on your way in, place yourself in front of the art work, clear your mind and just let the canvases loose on your cerebral cortex. You can see Monet’s Waterlillies and Van Gogh’s Rain amongst many others here. Oh and did I mention that those galleries have free entry?

MASSAGE

Most massage places around the centre cost an average of £40 an hour, £60 for an hour and a half. If you don’t have the cash, there are other massage options that won’t break the bank, including qualified masseuses that will visit your home (great news if you’re housebound or find it difficult to get around). I like Odnova, who bring their own massage beds and other bits, charge £30 for a 90 minute massage (plus a small petrol charge to get to your house), and will pummel you to your heart’s content.

GARDENING

If you love being outdoors but don’t have a garden and can’t commit to an allotment, the opportunities for really getting your hands dirty in nature are pretty limited. At least they were, until you heard about the Riverside Community Allotment project. Based in Pontcanna Fields, you can learn how to grow food in a sociable and supportive atmosphere.

riverside_allotment_project

There are two working poly-tunnels where peppers, tomatoes, grapes and aubergines are grown, as well as raised beds and an accessible pond and wildlife area. There’s also a solar cooker and a compost toilet. Find out more about Riverside Community Allotment (See also the Riverside Community Garden Facebook page) and drop by – it’s a lovely place to spend an hour or two.

There are various other organisations that will get you outdoors and in sociable environments – Cardiff Conservation Volunteers undertake a new small project every week, and there are a couple of community gardens dotted around the city you can always volunteer with (Green City have more details), or even Keep Wales Tidy – Cardiff branch, or Cardiff Rivers Group.

BUDGET FRIENDLY BONZA AFTERNOON

LUNCH

Although there are plenty of budget options in town, you are trying to treat yourself, so no Greggs, right!? I would send you back to the Indoor Market for lunch, where you can choose between Clancy’s Vegetarian Emporium, Milgi’s lunch boxes (my favourite is the green one!), and the Thai place (pad thai on a plastic plate – just like in Bangkok) – all of which will gift you a very tasty lunch for under a fiver.

Image by Gourmet Gorro

If the weather’s nice, grab your food and go sit in the little garden between St John’s Church and the Cardiff Story buildings. Also great people watching in there (but watch the pigeons).

MEDITATE

If you’re seeking a bit of peace from a constantly busy and cluttered mind, then maybe some meditation or mindfulness could be your self-indulgence.

The Buddhist Centre in Roath (but the town end of Roath – very near Newport Road) has drop-in meditation sessions that are open to all, 19.30 Wednesdays and 12.30 (midday) Thursdays. These sessions operate on a donation basis – amazing for those with low cash flow.

The courtyard of Cardiff Buddhist Centre

It may not look like much from the outside, but inside you’ll find friendly people and a quiet retreat from the madness of the city. Bless those Buddhists.

SHOP TIL YOU DROP

If your idea of relaxation heaven is splurging loads on clothes, then how about investigating the city’s wide selection of charity shops? Albany Road and Wellfield Road in Roath are well-mined by the city’s students, but venture a little further afield (particularly into the more affluent areas) and you’ll find some real gems. I particularly like daytripping over to Penarth, where we’ve managed to get designer items for an absolute steal.

We’d also like to suggest two more shopping alternatives to you, that are perfect for people on a budget: car boot sales, and vintage kilo sales.

Image by Bessemer Road Car Boot

There are so many car boots around south Wales it’s impossible for me to pick favourites (although I will – I’m still a fan of Splott Market and Bessemer Road Market, and definitely make the trip down to Sully Car Boot if you can. I’ve heard Cardiff City Stadium Car Boot is good but I haven’t visited yet, and apparently there’s an amazing undercover car boot in Bridgend, but again I haven’t made it out there yet).

For vintage kilo sales, the best thing to do is keep your eye on Facebook. Local tastemakers Blue Honey put one on every so often – Vintage Kilo Sale is the thing you’re looking for.

vintage_kilo_clothes_sale

A REWARDING EVENING

DINNER

As the spiritual (and physical) home for Cardiff’s student population, Cathays and Roath are absolutely bursting with cheap, tasty eats. It’s hard for me to pick just one, so I’m selecting two: Falafel Kitchen on Cwrys Road (my pick: Sabich pitta – fried aubergine and an egg, with mountains of salad for a fiver), or Jalan Malaysia on Woodville Road, where the Turmeric Fried Chicken is a finger licking £8.95.

Don’t feel limited to these two though – City Road and Crwys Road are all about the budget eats.

JOIN A RUNNING CLUB

If you’re one of those nutters that gets relaxation from endorphins, how about joining a running group? Cardiff has recently acquired its own GoodGym, and we’d recommend this. The group meets every week at the Old Library in town, goes for a short run, and then heads to a local destination where they carry out a task to help the local community. Examples of tasks carried out include painting fences or walls, weeding, basic gardening tasks – all for local community groups or charities.

goodgym_cardiff

They’re a fun and sociable group which does good and gets fit together. They keep together as a group and no-one gets left behind. Although you do have to pay to join Cardiff’s GoodGym (a tenner a month), the money goes into the GoodGym charity – plus imagine all that karma you’ll be building up.

YOGA

There are weekly free Sahaja Yoga Meditation drop in sessions in the city centre. In this class, you’ll sit on chairs to achieve Yoga, effortlessly and spontaneously – no Asanas (exercises), mats or special clothing required. If you’re having trouble juggling the challenges in your life, this kind of activity can help you manage stress, master your emotions and find solutions to your problems. You may enjoy better health, better focus, and a deeper understanding of the universe and your place in it. And if not – it’s free, so why not give it a try?

RELAX IN A SPA

Okay, I said spas were out of the question right at the start … but I lied! Cardiff and Vale College on Dumballs Road has its very own hair and beauty therapy studio, called Urbaspa. It’s brand new, it’s cheap, and I love it!

The idea is that the students get hands on experience while they’re studying, and so the prices reflect that. Bear in mind though, your treatment might take a little longer than usual, and students might have to get teachers to look over what they’ve done. If that doesn’t float your boat, you can always ask for one of the recent graduates who work there in a professional capacity –  I had a great short haircut in there for £20, and got a shape and paint done on my nails for just a fiver. Bargain!

You should also check out the actual spa there – it’s got a sauna, jacuzzi, steam room and monsoon shower, along with heated ceramic beds, and half day access is only £8. I recommend adding on a session on the floatation bed, which is just £7. If you’re feeling really flush, book in a half day spa along with a tasty lunch at the Schoolroom. It’s an incredible £20 – but because it’s so cheap, weekends are booked up months in advance. Go during the week, when the spa is much quieter. Urbaspa website / Urbaspa price guide.

Well, that’s it! Thanks for reading my guide to Thrifty Staycations in Cardiff. Have you got any recommendations you could add? Let us know in the comments!

***

 

 

Cardiff cinemas long gone: Olympia / ABC

A few weeks ago, I came across some old pics of the Olympia (then the ABC) cinema at Andrews Buildings (today it’s where River Island is on Queen Street). I’ve got fond if sketchy memories of that cinema (most notably seeing The Jungle Book and Jurassic Park in there as a child), and had almost completely forgotten where the building was on Queen Street.

 

cardiff_cinema_olympia

(photo from 1948, photographer unknown)

The original facade is still there, although the auditorium was demolished in 2003.

(compare and contrast – 1954 to today. Photos from Cardiff History Tumblr)

The Andrews Buildings on Queen Street were originally built in 1899 by Solomon Andrews (you’ll probably know him better for being the driving force behind Cardiff’s Indoor Market). The place was a leisure and retail centre that was home to Andrews Hall, a concert hall that was converted into a theatre: first the Olympia, then ABC. The cinema finally closed its doors in 1999.

There’s also this rather charming video shot in the projection room in 1998, a year before the cinema finally closed.

Was anyone else at that screening of Jurassic Park? Ah, good times.

More information:

***