Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Five places you must visit in Cardiff.

Cardiff is the city I call home, and while I will always be a Carmarthen country girl at heart, I can honestly say living in Cardiff makes me so happy. After four years of student living I finally settled in the city, and after working and interning in London for a few months, I realised that Cardiff was the perfect balance of the hustle and bustle of city life, and the calmness of the countryside. 

One of my fave blogger pals Emma messaged me a few days ago saying that she was visiting the city and wanted some ideas for where to go and what to do while she was here, and in doing so she sparked a fun blog post idea. So here we have it, my five must-visit areas of Cardiff... 

1. Cardiff City Centre

The first place you must visit in Cardiff is the city centre itself. Whether you're after shopping, somewhere to eat, a place to drink and dance, or you want to learn a little about the city by visiting its beautiful castle, there's loads to do and see. Train and bus links are pretty good, and you can easily get an Uber and taxis around the city too, although whilst you're there everything is reachable on foot. 
Queen Street and St David's centre are the areas you need to check out if you're up for a shopping spree. With your standard high street stores, like Topshop, River Island and Zara, as well as more high-end boutiques, you could easily spend the day (and a fortune) looking around. Alternatively, if you're looking for something a little different, check out the range of arcades that Cardiff has to offer. There are lots of independent shops and cafes to give you a completely unique shopping experience. I really love Uncommon Ground on a quiet weekday morning. 

If it's food you're after, then the Hayes is a great place to head. This area of the city centre is a short walk from the train station and is situated by Cardiff's beautifully built library. There's always lots of fun going on around here, and there are so many restaurants, ranging from Wagamamas and Ask Italian to Wahaca and Bill's. It's definitely the place to be on an early Saturday evening, and don't forget to look up as the architecture is so incredibly beautiful. If you're after some drinks and a night on the town, get yourself to Mill Lane and St Mary's Street. There are so many clubs, cocktail bars and beer gardens to enjoy. 

Additionally, if you're looking for some more beautiful buildings you should definitely check out Cardiff's civic centre and City Hall. Opened in 1906, after Cardiff was given city status in 1905, it's a truly beautiful location and here you can find the university and National Museum Cardiff too. If you are heading to the castle, don't forget to check out the city's animal wall, which is one of the most photographed historic areas of Cardiff. 

One thing I love about the city centre is that everyone is so friendly. There's always music in the streets, usually you'll find performers taking to the stage, and if you do end up in Cardiff on a Wales International Rugby weekend, it really is the place to be (or to avoid if you're not partial to singing hymns and arias or having a drink). There's a fantastic atmosphere in Cardiff and it's definitely big enough to suit everyone's needs, but small enough to provide a really friendly vibe. 

It's also a great place to start as from here you can reach all of the other areas I've listed below. Apart from Roath Park, they're all a pretty short walk away, and we also have Next Bike in the city now, which is a great way to get about quickly and easily, plus it's pretty cheap too. In fact, Cardiff is a relatively cheap place to eat and drink, especially in comparison to other cities in the UK.

2. Cardiff Bay

Without a doubt, Cardiff Bay in the sunshine is one of my favourite places on earth. It is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, and it is definitely walkable from the centre itself or you can grab a train from Cardiff Central Station if you're not up for the stroll.

The Bay itself is an area of water that was created by the Cardiff Bay Barrage (see above). It started as a regeneration project, updating the old docks and areas of Tiger Bay, from which coal mined in South Wales was exported to the rest of the world. Now, this award-winning engineering project provides a hub of activity, with the cosmopolitan area of Mermaid Quay, where you can find loads of delicious restaurants and cocktail bars, as well as the surrounding areas and the barrage itself, where you can find beautiful walks and gorgeous scenery as you look over the Bristol Channel and beyond.

There's always something fun going on down the Bay in the summer. Last week, my friends and I headed to Cardiff's International Food Festival which was held there, and currently the Cardiff Bay Beach and fairground (see above) is in full swing just a short walk away from Mermaid Quay at the tip of the barrage. There's also the Wales Millennium Centre, which shows a fantastic array of West End musicals amongst other shows and plays, and  the Glee Club, which is the perfect place to go if you're up for a night of comedy.

The Bay is definitely a must-visit if you're in Cardiff. It's a great place to go for dinner and a quiet drink and it sunsets are truly incredible.

3. Bute Park

Situated right in the city centre, just behind the castle, Bute Park is a beautiful, idyllic escape from the craziness of Cardiff's busy streets. It's known as the "green heart of the city" and, with 3,000 tree species spread across 56 hectares, it's easy to see why. There are three cafes (the Secret Garden Cafe is my fave for an ice cream in the sun), and parts were designed by 19th century landscape architect, Andrew Pettigrew, who was employed by Lord Bute in order to create grounds to compliment Cardiff Castle.

If you're in the mood for a bit of exercise, I absolutely love running through Bute Park and Sophia Gardens. There are always so many dog walkers and happy children cycling along the paths. Running along the river can be really calming and it's crazy that you can feel so far away from everything going on in the city, when you're just a stone's throw away. It's also a great place to go for a stroll after a busy day exploring the city itself. There are lots of grassy areas where you can sit down and relax too. 
If you're thinking of heading down to the Bay, you can actually catch a water taxi from a station on the river just inside Bute Park by the Pettigrew Tearooms. It drops you off just by Mermaid Quay and is a great way to see parts of the city, as you scoot pass the Principality (or as everyone still calls it, the Millennium) Stadium, as shown in the picture above.

4. Pontcanna and Canton

I currently live in Canton, and I have lots of friends in Pontcanna, so this is definitely my neck of the woods and I absolutely love it. Pontcanna is a really quirky part of the city, with amazing eateries, gorgeous huge houses, plenty of pubs and beer gardens, and cute little shops. One of my favourite places to eat is Calabrisella, an Italian situated on Cowbridge Road (where you can get a chip pizza!), and Brod The Danish Bakery is the perfect place to grab a coffee and a sweet treat on a weekend morning. If you're after something a little more special, check out Arbennig, and if meat is your thing, then The Smoke House is the place to go. 

There are also lots of pretty parks thrown in amongst the streets, and you should definitely check out King's Road Courtyard for its farmers market on a Saturday morning. There is also Chapter Arts Centre, a multi-artform space, where you can get creative, which has a lovely cafe and outside area too. There really is just so much to do in Canton and Pontcanna; don't just take my word for it, check out this article by Wales Online which tells you exactly where to go in the area. There's definitely something for everyone. 

5. Roath Park

Roath Park will always hold a special little place in my heart, as I used to live near here in university and it provided a great escape from the situations I was living in. It's a little out of the way from the city centre, but there are pretty cool restaurants and cafes along the way, particularly on City Road.

The park itself compromises a 30 acre man-made lake, where you can go boating, fishing and pedalo-ing, and is filled with swans, ducks and geese (a bit of a nightmare if you're terrified of birds like me, but they do tend to keep out of your way). There are lovely gardens, parks for children, a recreational ground and the Scott Memorial Lighthouse, situated in the middle of the lake, is one of Cardiff's iconic images.

Have you ever visited Cardiff?
Lots of love. xoxo

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Halfway through 2018: My year so far.

I say this every month, I know, but I cannot actually believe how quickly this year has gone. It feels like only yesterday I found myself crunching through the snow in my massive, marshmallow-esque puffa coat, and now it's July, we're in the middle of a heatwave and I'm sneakily trying to angle the office fan towards me instead of my colleague in a bid to get more air. I thought I'd write a little update post, a reflective look shall we say, at what has happened in the past six months, because my life is, in some ways, completely different to what it has been for many years. 
2017 for me was the "year of change". I finally started a full-time job in an industry that I have aspired to work in for many years. I moved back to Cardiff, got myself a little flat that I adore, and made so many friends and memories along the way. I scooted up and down the country with work, I got myself a promotion in the process, and I feel like I'm finally trundling along on my career path and I loved every minute. I graduated with a Distinction in my MA, I was nominated for a Journalism Award, and I felt like I was embracing all things adult. 

Additionally though, I feel like I lost myself a little bit towards the end of last year. I started reverting to old habits, where I'd be going out constantly and, while I was extremely focused career-wise,  I wasn't focusing on myself outside of work. My general health deteriorated, I wasn't blogging or being creative, and even my strict work out regime slacked a little. I feel like it resulted from what I can only describe as a lack of commitment in my relationship, and it left me feeling pretty lonely in the process. However, I vowed that 2018 would be different. I wanted to focus on myself, my health (both physical and mental), and I generally wanted to feel like me again. I definitely feel like I have achieved that, although things have changed pretty drastically. 

Without beating around the bush, I am now a single lady for the first time in six years. It was a decision that was not made lightly and I won't discuss it on here as I want to be respectful, but it's been really strange getting used to being on my own after being with someone, who I loved very much, since I was just 18. It's crazy because in those six years I've grown from a teenager into an adult. I've graduated university, twice, I've moved out from home, I've worked in London and Cardiff, and have found myself settled in a city that's different from the town I grew up in. I'll forever be grateful for those six years, the memories we shared and the things we did and learned together, but sadly things change, and sometimes it turns out that you're living very separate lives and have very different end goals.

There comes a point where you have to decide whether to stay in a situation that is comfortable, but ultimately isn't working anymore, or whether you take the leap outside of that comfort zone and embrace all things new and different and ultimately terrifying. Because it was terrifying for me, stepping away from something that was so familiar, especially as I absolutely hate change and all that comes with it. The first few weeks were extremely difficult, but I surrounded myself with good friends, got lots of exciting events planned for the summer, and threw myself into work and my fitness regime. Looking back now, I know that I've made the right decision for me and while it was hard, I'm looking forward to embracing the spontaneity that this new chapter of my life brings.
I set myself clear goals for 2018 back in January, to focus on my career, travel more, work on getting myself back in shape by signing up for a half marathon, start seriously looking into buying my own place, and I wanted to focus on myself. And I've done just that...

Aside from a few difficult weeks during the springtime, 2018 so far has been pretty amazing. One goal was to travel more, and so far this year I've visited Paris, holidayed in Majorca, worked in Cornwall, Nottinghamshire and The Cotswolds, a trip to Canada is on the cards, and I'm also heading away to Center Parcs for Christmas with the family. I think the one thing I've learned since my breakup, is that I need to be more spontaneous. I find it really difficult to do anything without a plan in place, but I'm really enjoying branching out and getting more places ticked off my travel bucket list.

I also have really upped it when it comes to my fitness regime. It's something I lost focus of back in 2017, although working all over the country made things difficult. Back in January I bit the bullet and signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon, which is taking place in October this year. It has been one of my goals for many years and, despite signing up only being able to run a 5km, I've pushed myself and ran my first 10km race back in March, completing the course in under 1 hour. I now aim to run a 10km distance once a week, and it's amazing how much more focused and determined I am since getting back into fitness properly.

I've taken fitness and training a step further too, by signing up to a regime with a Personal Trainer. I never thought to get one if I'm honest, but I've absolutely loved the sessions and am finally feeling body confident again after struggling for the last two/three years. I've learned so much in the time I've been taking the sessions and it's amazing to finally feel good about myself again.

Another big and extremely exciting change is that my goal of saving for my first home has been accomplished. I'm keeping it on the down low for now as things work their magic behind the scenes, but hopefully I should have some exciting news in the next few weeks!

So, what about the rest of the year? My main focus is to just keep working on myself, to experience more, to continue working hard in my job and in the gym, and to settle in what could be my very first home! It's all really exciting and I'm looking forward to what the next six months will bring.

Lots of love. xoxo

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

TRAVEL | Why a week in the sun in Majorca was just what I needed.

Hola amigos! Bloody hell, it's July, we're halfway through the year, and so much has changed since I welcomed in the new year in January. In short, it's been an absolute whirlwind. There have been big changes and tough decisions have had to be made, but on the whole I'm feeling more like myself than I have done in a very long time. 
I've also not long returned from a week in the sun with my mum. We headed to Can Picafort in Majorca for a week of good food, lounging by the pool with a book in hand, and just generally a getaway to escape from the stresses of every day life. It was bloody wonderful, and it's left me with the realisation of two things. 

Firstly, I really love to read, and I should definitely do it more often. And secondly, I seriously need to travel more. There's so much of the world that I'm yet to see!
We stayed at a hotel at the very end of the promenade in Can Picafort. The prom itself extends approximately 2.5km along the seafront, where you will find an array of lovely shops, lots of cocktail bars, restaurants, a beautiful yacht club and the most amazing sunsets putting the cherry on the cake.
It's a fairly quiet resort, definitely not the place to head to if you're keen to go out partying every night, and it doesn't quite have that traditional feel that you'll find in places like the Greek Islands, for example. However, it provides the perfect balance as there's plenty to do if you want to, and a stunning beach to relax on if that's more your vibe. 

On one day of during our trip, we caught a bus to Palma for a day of shopping and sightseeing. I bloody love visiting European cities, and escaping the calm of Can Picafort and embracing the hustle and bustle of Palma for the day was so awesome. The city itself is so pretty. There are winding alleyways, fabulous shops (I picked up waaay too many bits!), lots of grand squares where you can sit at a coffee shop and watch the world go by, and the beautiful cathedral, of course. It's an uber trendy place and I just loved the whole vibe. The architecture is incredible, and it's made me want to hop on a plane to my next city break pronto.
We also took a boat trip on our last but one day on the island, and breezed across the waves to the beautiful little cove of Cala Formentor. I've never seen a beach so beautiful, it was like something out of a film, and it allowed us to see a little of the "real" Majorca that is enjoyed by the locals. It was this that inspired me to really get out and to start exploring and to stop worrying about pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. The fact that there are places like this in the world makes me want to set myself a little travel bucket list.
All in all, it was a week of relaxation, lots of yummy food, great laughs with my mum, and I generally feel happier and more content than I have in a long time. Of course, I returned to work and hopped straight on a plane to Edinburgh so the post-holiday feels were short lived, but escaping reality for a week was exactly what I needed after such a hectic few months. 

Lots of love. xoxo

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Why I've never wanted to be a full-time blogger/Instagrammer.

One thing I think is expected of bloggers these days is that they get gifted loads of cool products, get to go to amazing events, grace the covers of magazines and TV adverts, all while jetting off around the globe on all of these incredible holidays. You're expected to reach these heights, and there's an assumption that we blog because this is what we want. The reality for most of us? A corner of the web that can be only be described as a labour of love, and the reason we keep on blogging is simply because we enjoy it, despite the fact that the blogging community is dwindling.
I've now been blogging for over five years, and in that time I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I've actually worked on paid collaborations. I've been seriously lucky to have collaborated with a fantastic array of brands, and have been gifted lots of lovely products in the process. I've also been able to go to amazing events and was even interviewed for a BBC television programme, but for the most part I've written about my life, the things I enjoy and have used my blog as a form of online diary to look back on as years go by. I've never seen it as a money-making machine, and I don't think I'd ever want it to be.

I was asked when I started my first paid media job whether I wanted to blog full-time, and when I replied no the instant reaction was "what, why?!" The truth, blogging has always been a hobby for me, and I don't think I'd ever want it to become a job where I have to blog. I want to be able to write a rambling, crazy post like this one whenever I fancy. I want to blog about what I want to blog about, not about what I'm paid to write about. The thought of going out for a nice day with family, or going away on holiday, and having to constantly create content and see everything through a lens just isn't for me. The pressure that comes with it, the competition, the criticism. No, no and no. I even like that I can go a few weeks without posting anything when life gets in the way or when my creativity juices have all dried up. Then, when I'm feeling ready to write again, I can hop back into it and act as if I never went anywhere.

In those five years I've seen fellow bloggers who started the same time as me skyrocket through the blogosphere into mainstream media and beyond, and had I put more time and effort into reaching out to brands and creating more content I feel I may have been able to grow this space a little more too. Definitely not to that level, but when my blog was growing in the beginning I was approached a lot more than I am now. However, life gets in the way. I had university degrees to contend with, then came internships and the job hunt, and then I started a job that had me travelling all over the country. And my blog sat on the wayside for a while, always a constant thing in life, but not quite as high on my priority list. I loved blogging, but I never wanted to make it a thing that I had to do. 

Honestly, I'm in awe of what many of my fellow bloggers have achieved, and I love it when I see bloggers in magazines or on the TV and I proudly tell my friends, "that's so and so, she's got a blog, we follow each other..." But it's just something that never really appealed to me. And now, five years on, I've seen how much the blogosphere has changed. It's not just about writing and taking pretty pictures anymore, it's about completely branding yourself and your life. It's moved away from writing online and now has moved into the realms of Instagram and YouTube, which I feel can be a pretty scary place at times, and I'm pretty glad it's not something I had aspired to. I find it difficult to switch off from my job, and am always thinking about work and getting excited about what's coming up, so I can't imagine how difficult it must be to escape from the blogosphere when it's pretty much your life. And that's just not for me.

Have you ever wanted to be a full-time blogger?
Lots of love. xoxo