Bank Holiday down The Bay and around Bute Park

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It’s that time of year when practically every other weekend is a Bank Holiday – which is amazing, but sometimes I do wonder why they’re all shoved together during April, May and June rather than being spread out over the whole year.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a couple in October and November, and January? (ugh, January)  I mean, obviously they wouldn’t be for sunning yourself in a beer garden or on a beach (or down The Bay, as us Cardiff lot tend to do) – but for curling up in bed and on the sofa and watching TV and just vegging out… A Great British Bingewatch Bank Holiday.  Think about it.  Maybe I should start a petition or something…

Anyway, I didn’t spend last Bank Holiday weekend binge watching, I spent it walking nine miles around Cardiff Bay and Bute Park and back again.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and it was nice to get out and be a bit of a tourist in my hometown with my favorite people… and dog. 🙂

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You know the drill, I’ve done the barrage walk to Cardiff Bay about a zillion times.  We usually park up in Penarth Heights and then walk down the hill past the Custom House, across the barrage and into The Bay.  We always have a pitstop in Coffi Co in Mermaid Quay because they’re dog friendly and serve up the most incredible hot chocolates.  This time I went for their After Eight one… 🙂

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So, the plan was to catch the Aqua Bus from The Bay to Bute Park, but someone was too busy swigging on their hot chocolate and we missed it (naming no names, but it was me, obviously…).  So we walked there instead.  I’d always thought it was a bit of a trek, but actually, it only took about twenty minutes – and we saw a few buildings and corners of the capital that I’ve never seen before.

…Some better than others.  There’s been a massive surge in student accommodation blocks popping up in and around the town centre and – while I get that accommodation is needed – I don’t get why it has to be so damned ugly.  I mean, the new Zenith building looks straight out of the Eastern Bloc.  Who the hell in the planning department is signing off on these???

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Next we had a lovely stroll around Bute Park – which is beautiful any time of the year, but definitely at its best during the Spring and Summer when all the blossom and flowers are out and everyone’s either barbecuing or sun bathing on the lawn.

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Finally, we hopped on the Aqua Bus to head back to The Bay.  Poor Bungle was absolutely knackered; it’s the longest walk he’s done in a while!  If you’re in Cardiff then it’s definitely something to tick off your list of things to do; the boat heads down the River Taff from Bute Park and out into Cardiff Bay, finally docking up in Mermaid Quay.  It sails right past the Principality Stadium (although, I think you’d get a better view of it if you did the trip in reverse) and there’s a voice over telling you all about the history of Cardiff and the docks, as well as a few interesting facts.

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Back in The Bay we stumbled on a Welsh Armed Forced event – with the Royal Welsh band playing.  I don’t think you can claim to be a Cardiff resident until you spot their mascot – Goat Fusilier Shenkin IV – out and about!  He’s a bit of a legend.

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Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

Cardiff Christmas Shopping Guide 2018

Happy Monday!  It’s that time of year again!  The tree went up over the weekend, I’m on first name terms with the Amazon delivery guy and I’ve even got my first Christmas party later on this week.  It feels like Christmas is going to pounce on us any second now, which means the annual “What the hecky-peck am I going to get my Mother-in-law!?” freak-out has officially begun.  But – have no fear – if you’re Cardiff-bound on your hunt for the perfect Christmas present this year then I’ve got you covered with my 2018 Christmas Shopping Guide, full of the best stops (and pit-stops 😉) to get you all sorted for the big day.

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Homeware & Gifts

☆ Flying Tiger (St Davids Centre)

Perfect for: Quirky homeware, stationary and stocking fillers.  Tiger is one of my favourite places to hit if I’m having people over because they’ve always got the best (and cheapest!) party supplies and decs.  When it comes to banners, cake decorations, candles, napkins and nick-nacks, Tiger is the place to go.

☆ Illustrate (Morgan Arcade and the Christmas Market)

Perfect for: Unique graphic prints, t-shirts and accessories.  Sunny and I absolutely love Illustrate’s geometric animal prints – we’ve got a whole gallery of them!  Definitely worth checking out.

☆ Scribbler (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Quirky cards and stocking fillers!  They’ve currently got a 3 for 2 offer on packs of Christmas Cards ;-).

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☆ The Joke Shop (Duke Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Fancy Dress Costumes and practical jokes.  My brother and I used to love hitting up the joke shop when we were kids – it’s perfect if you’re planning a fancy dress night out at Christmas, or you’ve got pranks planned around the Christmas dinner table, or for fun stocking fillers.

☆ Cardiff Outdoor Christmas Market (The Hayes)

Perfect for: You can’t miss the Christmas Market! Running from the 15th of November to the 23rd of December, it’s the best place to find unique handmade gifts, artwork and food.  If there’s someone on your gift list that’s impossible to buy for and you’re tearing your hair out over them then a stroll around the stalls should do the trick.  You can find a directory of all this year’s stalls here.

☆ Cardiff Indoor (Central) Market (St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Cardiff’s indoor market is over a hundred years old and still going strong.  It’s a great place to hit up if you need home hardware, specialist foodie gifts, pet supplies, sewing and crafty gifts and vinyl records.  It’s absolutely criminal to come away without buying a bag of ten Welsh Cakes from Bakestones. 😉

☆ Forbidden Planet (Duke Street)

Perfect for: Comic books, cult action figures and collectibles.  If you’ve got a Sheldon Cooper to buy for then you’ll already know about Forbidden Planet and are probably a frequent visitor. 🙂

☆ Oliver Bonas (St David’s 2 – The Hayes)

Perfect for: I recently told my mother that I would happily live in an Oliver Bonas store.  Bright and colourful shop offering quirky homeware, books and gifts – also fashion and accessories.  I wrote a whole post about the shop here.

☆ The Pen & Paper (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Pens and Paper!  The best place to go for ink, card, pens, notebooks, art supplies and diaries.

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Kitchens Cookshop (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Everything kitchen, cooking and baking related.  Guaranteed if I get a strange utensil or quirky cooking-related item from my Mum at Christmas time (and I always do!) then this is the shop it’s most likely come from.

☆ Rules of Play (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: If your annual Cards Against Humanity Marathon is starting to lose its novelty (we played for hours last year) and you’re on the hunt for a new board game or card game to play once Christmas dinner’s digested, then Rules of Play has got you covered.

☆ Castle Emporium (Womanby Street)

Perfect for: Market full of independent retailers selling clothing, jewellery, second hand books, artwork and skateboarding equipment.  On Saturday the 1st of December they’ve got a pop up Christmas Market from 12-5pm.

Outside the City Centre…

☆ Nest (Heol-y-Deri, Rhiwbina)

Perfect for: Not in the city centre, but definitely worth popping in if you’ve got a car.  Beautiful cosy homeware and gifts. 🙂

☆ Home byKirsty (Glenroy St, Roath)

Perfect for: Scandi-style homeware and stationary.  Awarded best new business in the 2015 Cardiff Life Awards, Home byKirsty showcases statement pieces like lights, cushions, mugs and other accessories for the home.  Definitely worth a look if you’re looking to buy a present for someone who’s just moved house!

☆ Beti Biggs (Albany Road, Roath)

Perfect for: “Vintage furniture, unusual gifts and homewares from around the world.”

*If Online Shopping’s your gig, check out these fab Welsh Makers and Brands with online stores.

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*Boots can be found in St David’s Centre, while most major brands can be tracked down in Debenhams and John Lewis (St David’s).

☆ Miss Patisserie (7, High Street Arcade) Available Online (and in most Boots stores)

Perfect for: Handmade Cosmetics, Bath Bombs, Candles. Tucked away in one of the Victorian Arcades (just off St John Street) Miss Patisserie is my go-to if I’ve got a pamper session planned – their bath balls are the bomb-diggity (much slower to fizzle out than, y’know, that *other* highstreet handmade cosmetics brand, and they create beautiful tie-dye swirls in the tub).  All their products are handmade, vegan and cruelty free and downright gorgeous.

☆ Neal’s Yard Remedies (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Natural Remedies; I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Mama who isn’t a big fan of their soothing hand lotions.

☆ Jo Malone (St David’s 2 – Hayes side)

Perfect for: Personalised high-end perfume and beauty.

☆ L’Occitane (St David’s 2)

Perfect for: Provencial Beauty products and gift sets.

☆ Kiehl’s (St David’s 2)

Perfect for: Cult skincare products for men and women (I can’t rave more about their Midnight Recovery Oil).

Fashion & Jewellery

*Most of the big stores can be found dotted between Queen Street and The Hayes, with the majority of big names in St David’s 2.  For independents, check The Arcades.

☆ Hobos (High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Hobos has been around since I was a kid!  One of the best spots in Cardiff for vintage and secondhand fashion and accessories.

☆ Two Seasons (Queens Arcade)

Perfect for: Ski, skate and surf shop selling main brands of clothing and equipment for adults and kids.

☆ Urban Outfitters (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Quirky fashion with a vintage feel, but their homeware and gift section is where you want to be this time of year… 😉

☆ Blue Banana (Queen Street)

Perfect for: Alternative fashion and jewellery (my one stop shop circa 2004 when I had pink hair…).

Outside the City Centre…

☆ Kiti Cymru (Pontcanna Mews, King’s Road)

Perfect for: Fashion boutique in Pontcanna with carefully curated fashion from brands such as Lily & Lionel, Tatty Devine and Traffic People.

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Food & Drink

☆ Wally’s Delicatessen (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Foodie gift central.  Wally’s has its own unique aroma, you’ll smell the spices and cured meat long before you step inside.  It’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking for things to go into a Christmas hamper, as well as hot sauces, biscuits, chocolates, cheeses, pannettone and Christmas pudding.  They’ve also got a coffee shop on the second floor.

☆ Wally’s Drinks (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Wines, drinks and spirits.  Perfect if you’re looking to gift some quirky drinks or liquors – including Welsh-brewed products – or stock up for New Year’s Eve!

☆ Vom Fass (High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Specialist Oils and Spirits.

☆ Bean Freaks (St Mary’s Street)

Perfect for: Natural foods, remedies and beauty products.

☆ Simply V (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Vegan groceries, toiletries and clothing.

☆ Madame Fromage (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Cheesy gifts, literally!  Specialty cheeses and hampers.  They also offer Cheese and Wine Tasting evenings from £25 a head which my Dad would be all over. 🙂

Outside the City Centre…

☆ Pontcanna Market (King’s Road Yard, Pontcanna)

Perfect for: Worth venturing out of the city centre for their Saturday Farmer’s Market (9.30am – 2pm), and on the first three Sundays in December they’re hosting a Christmas Craft Fair (9am – 3pm).

Books & Music

☆ Spillers (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: LEGENDARY.  CDs and Vinyl.  The world’s oldest record shop and a Cardiff institution.  ‘Nuff said.

☆ Cranes (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Gifts for musicians.  Cranes is the Mecca for Cardiff Musicians and the place to go to buy instruments and accessories.

☆ Troutmark Books (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Lovely secondhand book store tucked away in Castle Arcade.

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Welsh-themed Gifts

☆ Bodlon (Yr Hen Lyfrgell, The Hayes – and also 12 Park Road, Whitchurch)

Perfect for: Welsh-themed gifts.  Beautiful homeware, welsh language books, prints and stationary by welsh artists, toys and locally produced chocolates and alcohol.

☆ Castle Welsh Crafts (Castle Street – opposite Cardiff Castle)

Perfect for: Welsh themed gifts, love spoons, slate and souvenirs.  Castle Crafts has been around for donkey’s years and it’s no wonder because it’s the best place to go for all things Wales – especially love spoons.

☆ Shop Rugby (Duke Street)

Perfect for: Rugby Shirts and Kit as well as a few Welsh themed gifts.

Pitstops

Because all that Christmas Shopping is nackering!  It’s nice to have somewhere to go for coffee and a snack!  Here are some of my faves.

Barker Tea House (High Street Arcade)

Nata & Co (Castle Arcade)

Gin & Juice (Castle Arcade) – for something stronger… 😉

Crumb’s (Morgan Arcade)

Nine Yards (Duke Street Arcade)

The Plan (Morgan Arcade)

Hard Lines (Cardiff Indoor Market and Castle Emporium)

Llaeth a Siwgr (Yr Hen Llyfrgell)

Uncommon Ground (Morgan Arcade)

Big Moose Coffee (Frederick Street) tucked away between Boots and Primark and worth dropping in on to check out their Brownie of the Week 😉

The New York Deli (High Street Arcade)

The Grazing Shed Burgers (Morgan Quarter)

If you’ve got any Cardiff Christmas Shopping suggestions then I’d love to hear them – I’m always discovering new favourites! 🙂