October highlights

Phew it’s been a busy month! And not with blog-related stuff; I’ve been busy with work; travelled to London and Mid Wales a couple of times during October, and family stuff has been hectic too, our youngest turned two this month and our eldest had half term, with all the juggling and planning that goes into that. 

Needless to say the blog has suffered a little, but here’s a brief round up of what I’ve enjoyed and would’ve blogged about, if I’d have had a bit more time! 

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that my eldest is well into collecting the snowdogs around Cardiff. We’ve been using the app and are currently at 54! Top left is Mccoo – captured on a grey day at Roath Park lake. Bottom right is Anthem. It took us a while to find him as he’s been moved away from the stadium in preparation for the autumn rugby games. But we spotted him at his new home further along Wood Street. 

Fairy Forest at Mountain View Ranch, Caerphilly
As I said, our youngest turned two this month. She’s really into the Gruffalo books at the moment so we spent the day before her birthday at Mountain View Ranch, doing the Gruffalo Trail, toasting marshmallows, finding fairies in the forest and getting muddy on roly poly hill. I love it at Mountain View Ranch, it’s so well done and there’s something new to see each time we visit. 

Because who doesn’t want a John Lewis cactus on their Christmas tree?!?

I was invited for an early peek at John Lewis’ Christmas department and picked up this cute cactus for our tree (it won’t be going up until December, but no harm in getting into the spirit!). The cactus is from their Peruvian-inspired range; think colourful string lights, poms poms and even a Santa riding a Llama!

I had a fun night with old school friends, seeing Cabaret at the New Theatre (which was great, Will Young in particular was fantastic) before heading over to Penny Royal for Prosecco and cocktails. We couldn’t find Penny Royal at first, we even asked in Barker two doors down who had no clue! But we soon spotted the gold embossed black door and were shown in by the friendly door staff. The bar staff were great too, so knowledgeable. These are ‘real’ cocktails, made with passion. There are no pre-mixes here! The menu is laid out apothecary style, so you choose your drink depending on how you feel (there were ‘relaxers’, ‘revitalisers’ and ‘aphrodisiacs’ among others – oooh er!) It was a lovely place to have a good chat too, no pumping music here (yes, I’m old). If you’re a fan of the Dead Canary, this will be right up your street. 

Middle right is a shot from a very windy Barry Island Parkrun during Storm Brian. The lashing wind and sea spray hitting my face definitely blew the cobwebs away that Saturday! You can read more of my Parkrun posts here and here

Gingerbread cappuccino at Coffi Co, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay

We were meant to be away for a few days over half term but an issue with our car put paid to that (let’s just say spending 4 hours on a lay-by off the M4 and being towed home isn’t my idea of a good Friday night) so we’ve been having a ‘staycation’ instead. Luckily the weather has been gorgeous, perfect for walks (and snowdog spotting!) over the Cardiff Bay Barrage and along the Taff Trail. We also tried Coffi Co’s new location in Mermaid Quay; on the site of the old Bosporus Turkish restaurant. The location and drinks were stunning. Mine was a coconut milk chai latte. Delicious. 

The Christmas bauble was gifted to me at a John Lewis blogger event. Everything else was paid for from my own pocket. This is an honest review of my month in and around Cardiff. 

For more pictures, recommendations and inane ramblings about Cardiff, follow me on Instagram

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September highlights 

Loads of fun snowdog-hunting (get the app here) / gorgeous food from Masterchef contestant Imran Nathoo at Lost Lands outdoor cinema, (check his upcoming events here) / getting sweaty at hotpod’s new studio in Canton / addicted to Milgi Market’s salad bowls – find them inside Cardiff Market / sad to see trees down everywhere along the Taff Trail in the wind / ran our first ever family race at the Cardiff Half Marathon festival of running 

Volunteering at Cardiff Parkrun

I’ve been a regular Parkrun runner on and off for around eight years, with Cardiff Parkrun at Blackweir being my usual Saturday morning 5k.

 A lot of people might not realise that the events are completely volunteer-run; the people marshalling the course are all unpaid and doing it for no other reason than to support the event to take place. 

It was so simple to become a Parkrun volunteer. 

I knew I wanted to lend a hand at some point so ages ago signed up for the Cardiff helpers emails, through the website. There are also details on the Facebook page.

Then, when I had a Saturday free I let them know I was available by emailing my name and barcode number.

It was really that simple to arrange, the organiser emailed me back with my role for the next day (I was to be a marshal along the route at Bute Park) and I just had to turn up at 8.30, don a hi-vis jacket and go to my appointed spot. 

The other volunteers were really helpful and I got chatting to some of them as we walked to our stations, they were a mix of first time volunteers like me and people who give their time to help out almost weekly. 

There are plenty of roles available, mostly course marshals like I was, also flying marshals who run along with the pack, people scanning your tag at the end and organising the finishing funnel. I really didn’t want to do this, it looks so hectic! Luckily I was given a much easier job.

So I wandered down to my place in Bute Park and waited. 

Waiting for the runners at Parkrun

The spot I was supervising was quite an important one, the route is a loop so the front runners start coming back when the slower end of the pack (this is usually where I am!) are still heading up. So there’s a lot of reminding people to keep right so they don’t crash with another runner (the front ones are so fast!).

Apart from reminding the runners to keep right I found it a bit awkward to know what to do or say. I really don’t like aggressive shouting from the volunteers when I’m doing the run, (“COME ON! YOUR PB IS IN SIGHT! STEP IT UP!” – this is the kind of thing I HATE) but I know some find it a good motivator. 

Many of the runners were calling ‘thank you marshal!’ as they went past, which was really nice, so I took to saying “good morning” back and generally trying to be happy! 

As the end of the pack started coming back along the route there was a lot more humour and camaraderie, lots of people joking to me about how slow they were, but obviously enjoying themselves and not taking it too seriously. 

Volunteering really made me appreciate the role of the marshals, and when I next ran the route I was sure to thank them all! 

Being a marshal isn’t the easiest of jobs, ensuring that the runners stay safe and that non-runners can still enjoy the park is tricky at times. But I really enjoyed seeing it from the other side and had a lovely warm glow for the rest of the day.

Some of the regular volunteers go for coffee afterwards, but there’s no pressure to join them, and I really appreciated the fact you could give as much or as little time as you wanted. 

If you’re a regular Parkrunner you should definitely give volunteering a go. 

Parkrun organisers were not aware I’d be writing this blog post. 

www.parkrun.org.uk/cardiff


A festive afternoon tea at Pettigrew tea rooms

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I do enjoy afternoon tea, in fact my post on places to go for afternoon tea in Cardiff is the most popular on this blog.

When Pettigrew Tearooms in Bute Park opened about 18 months ago, I really wanted to try their afternoon tea, but until last Saturday had only made it there for a single slice of cake.

A friend and I booked a table for their festive afternoon tea (£15pp) ages ago and I had high hopes. And it didn’t disappoint.

Owner David greeted us with a teacup of non-alcoholic mulled wine and a mini mince pie each on arrival and we were then treated to endless pots of tea (we went for the Christmas blend, a black tea very similar to Chai with warming Christmas spices) finger sandwiches, cranberry scones and a slab of cake of our choice. Luckily they are equipped with plenty of cake boxes for you to take home whatever you can’t manage!

The food and drinks were faultless and the setting of the tea room makes it really special (it’s right inside Cardiff Castle walls, at the entrance to Bute Park). The interior has been cleverly designed too, with authentic tiling on the floor and lovely mismatched vintage china.

This place is a must-visit in Cardiff. But if you’re planning to enjoy the festive tea, book soon – David told me Saturday was their busiest ever day, with 40 covers pre-booked for afternoon tea. I can see why it’s so popular.

www.pettigrew-tearooms.com

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Place to visit – Cardiff Castle

It’s been a long time since I’d been inside Cardiff Castle. When I was young, my parents took me there as they tried to find new ways to entertain me during numerous school holidays. I have particularly fond memories of getting up very early one Sunday to see hundreds of giant hot air balloons take off from the castle grounds. But since then Cardiff Castle had become one of those ‘places that’s just there’ for me – yes it’s pretty and a great tourist attraction, but I never really paid much attention to it.

A few years ago I went to see The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing inside the Castle. The performance was wonderful, but the evening also made me realise how beautiful the castle actually is. Perhaps it’s due to seeing the place through adult eyes, or the atmosphere at the play, but I vowed I’d come back for a proper visit soon.

Then, when a friend pointed out that visiting Cardiff Castle is free for people who live or work in the city, I could resist no longer.

The Animal Wall at Cardiff Castle

So on a sunny afternoon last summer, my other half and I took our filled-out forms, passport photos and our proof of living in Cardiff (council tax bill was fine) and claimed our residents cards.

The card entitles you to free entry to the Castle, grounds and an audio tour. We spent a lovely few hours listening to the BBC’s Huw Edwards guide us around, using what looked like a mobile phone circa 1996 to listen to his facts.

The card also allows you entry to the opulent Castle apartments, which were vastly refurbished in the Gothic Victorian style in the 19th Century and just breathtaking – all gold and marble ceilings and ornate carvings.

However, my favourite part of the Castle is the Norman Keep in the centre of the grounds. Not one for the faint hearted, the steep steps are worth negotiating for the fantastic views of Cardiff from the top. The masthead at the head of this blog was actually taken from the top of the Keep during our visit.

The Keep at Cardiff Castle

The outside of the Castle is also wonderful, and well-worth a closer look if you don’t have the time to go inside. The lavish decor of the Clock tower is actually rather breathtaking and the iconic animal wall outside is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s also currently under refurbishment, so expect the animal collection to start looking even better soon.

Now is a perfect time to visit the Castle, with the autumn colours of Bute Park in full fire. Have a look at Lee Smith’s blog for some wonderful images of the Castle in Autumn. Or, if shopping or eating is more your thing, Cardiff Castle has the benefit of being right in the heart of the city centre. What’s not to love?