Posted by: gracehyne | December 15, 2011

Bargain holiday: Cardiff vs the world

Cardiff’s hidden depths have the ability to entertain cash-strapped travel lovers in search of a break from reality.

Headlines proclaim what your purse has already told you; the country is poor. With that comes long working hours and ever increasing bills leaving no time to jet across the world and spend copious amounts of money in beach bars and hotels.

Nancy Jones, 33, went to Ibiza earlier this year because it was a cheap deal staying at her friend's house; she misses her regular holidays

The economic and fiscal outlook for November 2011 has kindly revealed to us that the economy has grown less than what was predicted in March because inflation, increasing higher than expected, has cut household incomes and consumer spending.

The central forecast is 0.7 percent growth in GDP in 2012, which in comparison to the average external forecast of 1.2 percent, is less than stellar. Even Channel 4 recently reported that unemployment has risen to a new 17 year high.

Travelling is no longer a yearly luxury. It is becoming a distant memory of times when phrases such as “the credit crunch” only procured thoughts of breakfast cereal.

Travel agent Thomas Cook is a stark reflection of the public’s inability to travel. In late November the debt laden company were in desperate talks with banks to avert a winter debt crisis; despite securing an additional £100m to existing borrowing facilities, the group’s net debt is expected to reach £1.5bn by the end of December.

Lydia Cassalger, travel advisor in Cardiff’s Thomas Cook, says, “Business has remained steady here despite the recession. There are definitely more Europe and UK holidays being booked. It was more the wars and turmoil abroad that has affected the amount of people looking to travel.”

With this recession comes a new appreciation for the wealth of opportunities around us. Not only are cross-country trips more appealing but so are cheaper places to stay.

Jason Fiyne, employee of Cardiff’s Nomad hostel, says business has remained regular as people always need somewhere cheap to stay; he says the majority of their clientele are students searching for cheap accommodation.

In fact, Cardiff sits as an undiscovered terrain of new discoveries for travellers for all ages with perpetually itchy feet, at a distinctly smaller price tag than holidays abroad.

TRAIL OF DISCOVERY

Find places and activities to fit your every travel mood on this handy Cardiff map and see roadsuntravelled followers’ favourite travel stories

Ed Townsend, in charge of Cardiff and Co’s PR projects, believes people have taken notice of Cardiff and visitors have increased during this recession. “We have been in economic difficulty for about three years as a nation and during that time people visiting Cardiff has increased steadily to 18m,” he describes. Cardiff is somehow managing to brush off elements of the recession, he notes.


In the rough

If exploring local markets is a treasured travelling pastime, Cardiff has countless markets to search and enjoy.

Cardiff Market’s sits in a glass Victorian structure which abounds with things to see and buy.

It has been in trading since the 1700s so any history lover can enjoy that some of the old features still stand today.

Townsend believes Cardiff Central market is one of the finest markets you will find. “It retains all its Edwardian, Victorian brashness and you get good bargains, fresh produce, and books you thought you’d never find again a secondhand bookshop; it’s got that buzz that an indoor market will have, right in the middle of the city.”

Alongside the markets, Cardiff Arcades provide shops selling things from food, clothing, jewelry, books and souvenirs so avid travellers can find places to immerse themselves and dig for hidden treasure. There are seven arcades in the city centre; go and explore.

Pushing the boundaries

“Would you jump off a cliff if your friends did?”

For those who find the irony in fulfilling these words uttered by every mother on Earth, adrenaline racing and heart pounding adventure is available in the city for those who believe the true joy in travel is living life on the edge.

Townsend describes the many adventurous outlets Cardiff has within its city’s walls:

St Fagans is placed in beautiful surroundings, such as this rose garden

The National Museum of Wales can be a fascinating place for everyone

Cultural fascinations

Markets are not the only thing available to explore, however. History lovers will be enamoured with Cardiff’s cultural prospects.

St Fagans National History Museum has been open to the public since 1 November 1948 and the museum was placed in the grounds of St Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th century manor.

You can walk from decade to decade through re-erected original buildings from different historical periods, allowing you to see the workshops where craftsmen still demonstrate their traditional skills.

Users of TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel review site, voted the museum as one of the UK’s top ten free attractions.

Another place to visit, a mix of art, archaeology, and geological evolution, the National Museum in Cardiff has something to interest everyone.

It educates people on how Wales has evolved over time, examining its history, different environments and artifacts, producing a rich and exciting educational experience.

The museum’s National Art Gallery is deemed one of the finest collections of Impressionist paintings outside Paris which is no idle claim, says Townsend.

Moreover, Townsend believes Cardiff Castle, placed in the centre of Cardiff,  is one of the finest visits a city can provide.

“It’s right in the middle of the city centre and has stunning state rooms, lovely grounds with peacocks, a Norman keep, Roman walls, a regimental museum and, to cap it all off, an interpretation centre,” he describes. ”I mean, what more could you want for 15 quid?”

Delectable delights

Many people find that experiencing local cuisine abroad is one of their favourite parts of travelling.

Often it’s not expensive, designer restaurants but street food that encapsulates the tantalising food a place has to offer.

Cardiff’s Riverside, Roath, Rhiwbina, and Llandaff North food markets are all a treasured part of Cardiff’s local community and sell things from homemade jam, parsnip soup, curry pots, Christmas wreaths to breads, meats and vegetables.

In addition, Cardiff offers a plethora of restaurants that try to emulate street food found abroad.

Thai Basil provides popular street food such as Pad Thai, Las Iguanas’ menu includes Latin street food such as fajitas and enchiladas, and Chai Street is a restaurant whose entire menu is based on street food available in India. In addition, 1Malaysia Cuisuine Restaurant has also opened recently to bring the spices and flavours of Malaysia to the UK.

Moreover, restaurants are continually being made to encapsulate food that people cherish as a yearly holiday luxury.

Anand George, renowned celebrity chef, has recently opened Purple Poppadom to create Indian nouvelle cuisine that is more authentic to its origins.

A city with a view

As cities go, Cardiff is aesthetically beautiful, especially for those who prefer the country’s sprawling landscape to the concrete jungles found in most cities.

Wales has a variety of beautiful views and beaches that rival those abroad; travellers can find what they’re looking for right, such as Rhossili Bay and the Brecon Beacons:

Not only are its surroundings treasured by many, Cardiff has parks, such as Bute and Roath, and a river that winds its way through the city that brings in scenery often missed by city regulars.

Townsend describes all that Cardiff has to offer:

No jetstreams needed

Cardiff Bay provides a beautiful waterfront for wonderful sunsets like these (Photo by Neil Ramsden)

So, put your overtaxed credit card down. Place your passport back in its appropriate drawer. Calmly unpack your already overflowing suitcase.

Overturn your jaded notions of a city you walk through every day and unearth its many possibilities.

Perhaps what you’ve been wishing for is a train ride away or, for the lucky ones, right outside your front door; while sun is in no way guaranteed, fun always is.

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