When I crossed over the water from England, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Bright sunshine, blue skies – in Wales?! It made a nice change from the grey clouds, wind and rain that you’re usually greeted with on arrival. I remember smiling when I saw the Red Dragon sign and the words ‘Croeso y Cymru’ or Welcome to Wales. It is always comforting to me as my family are Welsh and since I was a kid, I would shout when I saw the Red Dragon on the signs and we would have competitions to see who would spot it first!
One of the friendliest cities in the world which is over this side of the country is Cardiff. It has oodles of shops, sightseeing and character. I love coming here for a shopping trip or a mini city break as there’s just so much to do and take in! Here’s a quick guide to Cardiff to make the most of your time in the wonderfully Welsh capital.
Although Wales is attached to England, the south is divided by the river Severn and so if you’re approaching my car from London, you will need to cross the Severn Bridge! There are two bridges, the old and the new. The new can be accessed via the M4 and the old can be accessed via the M48 – both, lead to Cardiff.
Toll charges are the same on both bridges and as of 2016 are £6.60. The good news is that you will only need to pay one toll fee going into Wales – going out is free.
There are National rail links from London Paddington directly to Cardiff and the National Express coaches will also go here and drop you off in Central. It all depends on your budget.
There’s not too much difference as you cross over from England, apart from that there’s usually more rain and sheep! The British pound is still currency here in Wales, so you don’t need to worry about that.
The language however you will notice is slightly different. Although only around 20% of the entire country speak Cymraeg, you will see it plastered everywhere! The road signs, attractions, even shop names have Welsh there. It does almost look like someone went mad with a keyboard and decided to create a language blind but, it is a beautiful language nonetheless. Most Cardiff residents are fluently English and love to chat to you, so you shouldn’t have any issues speaking to people.
What To Do
There are tonnes of attractions to get stuck into in the Capital of Wales, alongside being able to shop til’ you drop and enjoy a lazy afternoon by the Bay. You shouldn’t need more than a few days here so it’s perfect for a weekend. Here are some of the highlights;
What To Eat
I decided to go authentically Welsh on my trip and ate….Shake Shack. Ha! The meat is technically from Welsh farms but I know I cannot justify it – oops! I was dying to try one though and wanted to see what all the fuss was all about. It was on another level of awesome.
If you’re looking for some traditional Welsh food to try while you’re here, I would highly recommend trying the national dish Cawl (a broth), Lamb, Rarebit (a posh cheese on toast) and Welsh cakes. My Nan always makes Welsh cakes which I eat fresh from the oven and they’re such a scrummy treat!
But here’s a picture of my Shake Shack, if you’re interested!
What to look out for
There’s so much to see and do here in modern Wales but there are a few traditional delights, one being the Welsh love spoon. Beautifully hand carved, each spoon has different symbols meaning different things. Anchors are for safe travels on long journeys, a horseshoe is for luck, a cross for religion, bells for marriage, a lock for security etc. They are great for a souvenir or decorating your home.
Where to go from here
If you are planning on staying a while, there are tonnes of places to visit around Cardiff in South Wales with a short driving distance. You could go to the Wye Valley and visit Tintern Abbey, walk the famous Transporter bridge in Newport, explore the Brecon Beacons national park, go to countless Castles and enjoy some amazing walks – Wales is your oyster.
Cardiff is such a lively Capital city with so much to do, you’ll be spoiled for choice. It’s a city steeped in history and tradition. You’ll see a Welsh flag on every corner, find dragons everywhere on nearly everything and meet the friendly locals. I wouldn’t expect the sun to put his hat on though, it’s usually quite wet!