It took me five years to fall in love with Cardiff. Maybe I’d been in love with it from day one, there was certainly some kind of mysterious force keeping me here. But I only realised how hard I’d fallen a few months ago.
I’m not a native Cardiffian. I’m not even Welsh (although for some time I did believe I had Welsh grandparents…). I moved here for the same reason I imagine many thousands do – university.
The strangest part about my decision to move to Cardiff was that I’d never even visited the city before I agreed to come and live here. It just seemed like the right thing to do. So up I rocked on day one, no clue where anything was, no clue about the history of the place, just sureity that this was where I was meant to be – and thankfully, I was oh so right.
Fast forward five and a bit years (and it really does feel like fast forward) and I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. Even after I graduated and got a job in Bath, 50 miles away, I took the decision to commute rather than move. Now, while commuting has the odd strange benefit, believe it or not, it’s not exactly a picnic, so what is it about this place that still keeps me in its clutches?
I probably don’t need to tell anybody reading this about the many marvels of Cardiff, but I think it’s only now that I’m not a student and I actually spend a lot less time here than I used to, that I really appreciate it for what it is.
I’ve ended up with a city centre flat surrounded, pretty much, by all the things I love. I have the wonderful Bute Park only a few minutes round the corner, the magnificent Castle is opposite and the extra special Victorian and Edwardian Arcades line the street I live on – I couldn’t really ask for more.
The funny thing is, a lot of the places that I love, I didn’t really discover until after I’d made the decision to stay here after graduation. It sounds blasphemous, but it took me until last year to discover Wally’s – if you can believe that – I’d walked past it a few times but for god knows what insane reason not been in. Jacob’s Antiques, just behind Central station is another place that I often find myself in on a lazy Saturday afternoon, shamefully again something I’d seen from the train window a million and one times before I actually went in.
I could go on (and on) and list a thousand other great places, but I simply wouldn’t have time, because there’s too many, and you probably already know about them. Suffice to say, now that I know what I’d be missing out on if I left, I’m more in love with the place than ever before, and I also know there are so many more gems that I’ve probably also missed just waiting for me to explore.
It’s my love of all things Cardiff that led to the sudden lightning bolt of inspiration I had just the other night. I’ve been taking part in a Project 365, where you take one photo a day for a year, when I casually strolled into the Morgan Arcade one evening looking for that day’s picture. I’ve loved the arcades for as long as I can remember, and I think it’s fantastic that there’s a place that’s so uniquely Cardiff literally on my doorstep.
I tweeted that it might be a cool idea to do a photography project based entirely around the arcades and since then it has snowballed, there’s been a lot of interest and it’s now a full-blown project. So now you see, I really can’t leave, because I’m committed now to seeing through my Arcades project develop into something that I can be proud of, and it’s hopefully something that other people will get a lot of enjoyment out of.
So that’s my story, in a very tiny nutshell. I wonder what else Cardiff will ensnare me with over the coming years? Whatever it is… I can’t wait to find out.
Amy Davies is a journalist and photographer living in Cardiff city centre. Having moved to Cardiff 5-and-a-bit years ago for University, and never having the decency to leave, she now calls it home. During the day she boards the train of fun for her daily commute to Bath working on a photography website, and most of the rest of the time she’s either taking photos, writing things, baking cakes or a combination of all three. Visit the Cardiff Arcades Project website for more details on her latest project of insanity.
Amy was photographed at Cardiff Castle by Adam Chard