5 Gift Ideas from Independent Businesses in and around Cardiff

If, like me, you’re on the hunt for some unique Christmas presents in and around Cardiff this year, then you only have to wander amongst the gorgeous Christmas Markets, the Victorian Arcades, Castle Emporium or Cardiff Market and you’ll be spoilt for choice, and that’s even before browsing online.

If you don’t know where to start and you’re looking for some giftspiration, I’ve got five suggestions for you from some wonderful independent businesses.

I could have gone on forever but I’m super busy.

You know, eating the chocolate decorations off my Christmas tree whilst watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

1.Cute and dainty sterling silver jewellery from Lushchic Jewellery

103 Bute St, Cardiff CF10 5AD

Shop here

Browse lush chic Instagram page here

If you or someone you know is a fan of cute and quirky sterling silver jewellery, then look no further!

Lushchic Jewellery specialises in eye catching trinkets which are girly, distinctive and affordable.

I personally love the sterling silver and pearl cat ring which I think would look great on it’s own or stacked with other rings to create your own unique combination.

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I was lucky enough to try out the new Winter Range with matching bracelet, earrings and necklace sets inspired by classic Victorian Christmas decorations including christmas trees, ornate baubles, snowflakes, poinsettias, ginger bread men and bells.

The heart snowflake necklace is my favourite- so detailed, pretty, dainty and sparkly- and nothing says Christmas more than swarorvski crystals.

And guess what, the kind guys at Lushchic have offered to take part in a giveaway- share my blog post on Facebook or Twitter for a chance to win this little beauty, usually worth £47! Bonus points for following Lushchic on Instagram.  Perfect gift for any age (if you’re not too tempted to keep them for yourself to wear to your Christmas doo that is!)

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Follow the link below to enter the giveaway.

I want a snowflake necklace!

Shop the full range here and give them a little follow on Insta to feast your eyes on these twinkly treats!

2. Sassy succulents from Secret Garden Florist

Store in Victorian indoor market selling fresh blooms for bouquets and functions, plus delivery.

St. Mary’s St, Cardiff CF10 1AU

Shop their website 

Follow them on instagram

What pinterest worthy office desk or dresser is complete without a succulent?!

Pop on in to the Secret Garden Florist located in Cardiff Market to pick up a succulent or two, or if you’re feeling super sassy…a glitter succulent! I KNOW?!

For the more traditional amongst us, they make the most beautiful  Christmas wreaths and lots of other blooming gorgeous gifts.

3. A Christmas Hamper from Wally’s Deli

38-46 Royal Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AE

Browse the website here

Follow them on Instagram here

One of my  favourite go to places for gifts all year around but especially at Christmas time,  and of many others as exemplified by the crowds that flock to this store in the beautiful Royal Arcade for their Christmas goodies.

Just stepping foot inside the store is guaranteed to give you the Christmas feels- the hustle and bustle and delicious aroma will transport you straight to an Austrian Christmas Market. 

Create your own hamper choosing from a wide selection of gourmet continental foods including cold meats and salamis, cheeses, fresh bread, olives preserves, condiments, herbs and spices, chocolates and ales.

Heads up; they also have a new shop, Wally’s Liquor Cellar, which is situated in the Castle Arcade in Cardiff, as they had run out of room to display the ales, wines and spirits in the deli itself. 

Or if the choice is simply to much, pick up a ready make hamper or gift set and then treat yourself to a coffee in the Kaffeehaus upstairs. 

4. Homeware from Bodlon

12 Park Rd, Cardiff CF14 7BQ

Yr Hen Lyfrgell, Working Street, The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1BH

Shop here

Follow on instagram

With an established extensive online range under it’s belt, Bodlon opened a gift shop and cafe in Whitchurch a few years ago and now has a second home in the Old Library in the heart of the City Centre.

Bodlon are passionate about selling contemporary Welsh goods, from kitchenware to candles, cushions, pottery and other locally sourced treasures, you’ll be able to find a gift for everyone, from an under £10 secret santa challenge to beard soaps and waxes to fluffy sheep door stops.

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5. Vibrant prints from Yorath Designs

Shop here

Instastalk here

So this lovely lady is based out of Swansea, but I did say in and around Cardiff right?!

From hummingbirds, to ice creams, flamingos to pineapples, cacti to rubber ducks, and more recently added to the collection, a rosy red robin, these colourful motif prints would make the perfect present.

Each print is derived from an original acrylic lovingly hand painted by the talented Helen Yorath herself; the colour motif in the centre of a crisp white frame would  add a pop of colour to any wall, desktop or bookcase. 

Buy one and turn any old desk in to a fresh instagrammabe workspace #deskgoals.

Where is your favourite local independent place or website to buy those special gifts?

 

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5 Gift Ideas from Independent Businesses in and around Cardiff

5 of my favourite coffee stops in Cardiff City Centre

If, like me, the time distribution of your Christmas shopping trip  in Cardiff is essentially 5% shopping, 10% panicking about shopping, 75% coffee stops and 10% cake  (quick maths), you’ll know that finding the perfect pit stop or two for that caffeine hit is an essential, and possibly the most important and enjoyable part of your day.

To help you with this critical decision this Christmas season, fear not, I’ve prepared a quick guide to my favourite coffee stops in Cardiff City Centre- you’re welcome.

 

  1. The Little Man Coffee Company

Ivor House, Bridge St, Cardiff CF10 2EE

Leave the hustle and bustle of St David’s 2, onward past the sparkly lightening bolt, and there, across the zebra crossing next to the Traders Tavern is The Little Man Coffee Company.

The vibe is always relaxed, with the smell of coffee (usually sourced from local Welsh Roasters) and the sound of funk and soul music in the air.  The food menu offers a selection of classics with a twist, from toasties to colourful salads and, most importantly, they have a breakfast bar filled with fruit, cereals, breads for toasting, and Pop Tarts  for less that a fiver.

 

2. Coffee Barker 

Unit 13, Castle Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1BU

Situated in the Castle Arcade, this quirky little coffee shop is the perfect spot to sink in to a comfy armchair and cwtch up with a cuppa.

If you’re unable to find a a seat inside amongst the eclectic decor, don’t worry, you’re sure to find a spot in the seating area outside, where you can settle down at a candle lit table,  pull on a blanket and watch the shoppers pass you by under the beautiful Christmas lights.

Oh, and the coffee is great too!

If you really want to treat yourself, grab an ice cream in sister cafe,  Barker Gelato.

And they’re not going to stop at coffee and ice cream….soon, you’ll be able to grab a swift one at the new Gin and Juice bar if you’re looking for something stronger to take the edge off!

3. Hard Lines

Castle Emporium, Womanby Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BS

Cardiff Central market, Unit 25, Cardiff CF10 1AU

Grab a speciality coffee to go from Hard Lines as you weave through the hustle and bustle of Cardiff Market or search for unique treasures at the vibrant Castle Emporium.

The shop in the Cardiff Market sports a retro pink coffee machine and neon lights, whilst the shop in Castle Emporium sells newly released vinyls alongside your caffeine hit.

Both shops pride themselves on their passion for providing great single origin coffee.

4. Uncommon Ground

10-12 Royal Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AE

Nestled near the St Mary’s Street entrance of the busy Royal Arcade, Uncommon Ground is definitely a hipsters’ paradise (and I for one am not going to complain about that!)

The vibe is really laid back and  friendly and the shop itself has so much character with an industrial feel, from it’s exposed brick to the copper kettles and lights hanging in the window.

The in-house roasted coffee is insanely good- possibly my favourite flat white!

Uncommon ground is the perfect place to meet with friends, or to sit in the window, read a book and watch the world go by.

5. The Plan

28-29, Morgan Arcade, St Mary St, Cardiff CF10 1AF

The Plan is often said to serve the best range of coffees in the city centre, and not only that, it has arguably stolen the ideal spot, taking pride of place in the heart of Morgan Arcade, spanning two floors at the cross junction between the 2 branches of this Victorian building.

If you’re lucky enough to grab a much coveted seat, allow the expert baristas to recommend a cafetiere….and you might as well have some Eggs Benedict whilst you’re there too- shopping is hungry work!

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What’s your favourite coffee shop in Cardiff City Centre? 

I’d love to hear your recommendations.

 

 

 

 

5 of my favourite coffee stops in Cardiff City Centre

About Cardiff: Guy Christian Salon

Choosing a hairdresser that you trust is a really difficult task. I mean, they practically have your life in their hands!

Ok, that may be a*bit* dramatic but if you’ve ever had one of those almost-crying-walking-out-of-the-hairdressers-wearing-a-baseball-hat-for-3-weeks situations (who hasn’t? Also… who uses the phrase ‘baseball hat’….I’m really sorry everyone!) you’ll know what I mean.

I was lucky to find a wonderful hairdresser when I moved to Swansea as a student when I was struggling to drive back and fore to my local hairdresser- I loved her and trusted her so much that I continued to get my hair cut and coloured at her salon every 6 weeks looooong after I had moved back to Ebbw Vale and later, to Cardiff.

After a few years however, I decided to bite the bullet and try to find somewhere that I loved just as much but that was more local.

My friend recommended Guy Christian Salon- and so I tried it out!

The Cardiff Bay salon itself I would describe as ‘gothic glamour’. It feels luxurious but edgy at the same time.Think stripped back, bare, warehouse style walls and ceilings and exposed brickwork paired with elegant chandeliers and elaborate ceiling to floor mirrors.

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Photo courtesy of guychristian.com

Every time I’ve been to the salon, I’ve always received a warm welcome from one of the devastatingly beautiful/quirky/cool but down to earth guys and gals who work there (I want to know where they all shop?!) alongside a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

But most importantly, I’ve always LOVED my hair. Every time.

Sarah Worthing is usually my hair(stylist)y godmother of choice. She is now stylist to quite of a few of my friends (luckily, we don’t all share the same haircut!)

I wanted to tell you about my experience having ombre at the salon.

Just before Christmas, my friend suggested we volunteer ourselves as models for a Colour Contouring workshop at the salon led by a Wella colour technician.

Now, I’ve always wanted ombre hair. However, I had given it a go a few years ago, when I went through my swooning over Rachel Bilson’s dip dye stage, with not so great results!

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Unfortunately, my hair did not turn out like this hons’!

So despite having been a loyal customer of Guy Christian Salon for over a year, I still remained a little wary of the whole ombre experience. None the less, I decided to give it a go.

I turned up to the salon for my colour contour the day after I’d had my 18 inch hair extensions removed; needless to say, after 6 months of wearing extensions and no trimming, my already fine hair was looking more than a little tired and scraggly!

Stylist Stacey took me under her wing, and took the time to really work out what tone and shade of ombre would best suit according to my skin tone and features.

Crucially, during the consultation, Stacey was careful to take in to account the condition of my hair and was mindful to ensure that we got the result that I wanted and expected without weakening my already fragile hair. She suggested we start very subtle this time around and build up over time.

I loved the result!

Just last week I returned for a touch up with Sarah who, after another helpful and personalised consultation, suggested I could go a bit lighter , bring in more contrast and weave through more colour, building up to a blonder look in the summer should I want to.

2 hours later I sashayed out of the salon after a lush 2 hours of chatting, relaxing and tea drinking, with bouncy, healthy, shiny ombre hair. I then preceded to take 45 selfies of said hair because, obviously.

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So basically, what I’m saying is that I would highly recommend Guy Christian Salon in Cardiff Bay; the salon itself is stylish and luxurious without being pretentious and intimidating, the service and staff are a delight and most importantly, will support you in achieving the style that you want, taking in to account your end goal but balancing this with what is achievable and right for you.

Try them out:

http://www.guychristian.com

Oh and make sure you post your #gcsalonselfie!!

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Rachel Bilson… eat your heart out!

About Cardiff: Guy Christian Salon

About Cardiff: Society Standard

So….basically I’ve discovered the perfect place for your Friday night cocktail  and dinner needs.

Ok, ok…so discovered may be a bit of a strong word given that the place has been open since July and also given that it wasn’t even my idea to go there…but lets not get too bogged down in the detail.

Society Standard is the place in question.

This cool bar and kitchen is located on Whitchurch Road and is next door neighbour to the kings of pop-up-turned-restaurant Got Beef.

Myself, Hannah and Sarah arrived at around 8pm on Friday night and the it was was packed.

We of course headed  right to the bar to check out the cocktail menu; I chose the Espresso Martini (because 1 Starbucks, 1 Bondlon Coffee and 3 instant coffees just clearly wasn’t enough of a caffeine fix that day…..) whilst the girls both went for the High Society Sour. They looked beautiful and they definitely hit the spot after a long day of dreaming about our first alcoholic drink!



Society Standard
do not take reservations and so we perched by the bar and soaked up the atmosphere (whilst trying to keep an eagle eye on anyone potentially leaving soon so that we could be ready to pounce on their table. So yeah, always playing it cool).

The decor inside is industrial-cool; think exposed brick walls, metal beams, contemporary art pieces and neon-lights. There are a number of smaller tables on the bar side of the  restaurant, with space for bigger parties on the other side, in front of an open kitchen.

It didn’t take long before we managed to secure a table on the bar side, by which point we were Marvin and dived head first in to the varied menu.

 Society Standard has a menu to see you through from breakfast to dinner.

On offer are burgers, steaks, classics such as mac n cheese and fish pie, mussels and fries, along with more exotic dishes and a variety of mouth watering (and hilariously named) sandwiches (Mactorious P.I.G looked divine). Also on the menu are lighter options and sharers (I’m still thinking about the Sea Food and Eat it platter now…one for next time definitely).

Check out the menu on their site:

http://www.societystandard.co.uk/menus/

Both Sarah and I went for the Blackend Chicken and Gumbo and Hannah went for the Flat Iron Steak.

Al I am saying is the food was that good the 3 of us didn’t speak for 15 minutes whilst we wolfed it down.


We stayed a good while afterwards chatting, sampling some more cocktails and enjoying the laid back vibes.

Whilst at the bar I noticed the barman expertly making his own shots which he described as a mixture of a baby Guinness and espresso martini. Had I not already hit my caffeine limit I would have definitely treated myself to one. (How much coffee is too much coffee? Asking for a friend….)

It says something when you just have to return to a place the next day to try out the brunch menu!

Post yoga, myself and the 2 Hannah’s debriefed on our Friday night antics and planned for our week ahead over eggs and avo on sour dough bread- perfect.


Essentially, what I’m saying is that I think this little gem will be a new Friday favourite, especially when we fancy a chilled night ‘out but not out out’.

Tasty food, classy cocktails, laid back vibe. Lush.

I’ll have to go back and try the lunch menu, just for you guys.

You’re welcome.

About Cardiff: Society Standard

About Cardiff: Cafe Brava

What a glorious, balmy summer’s evening we’ve had here in our capital today.

Lol JK, it’s rained for 8 consecutive hours.

Luckily, eating out is one of the best things to do in Cardiff, and you can undertake that particular activity come rain or shine. Luckily.

This evening, myself and one of the besties decided to drag ourselves through the torrential storm (ok…slight exaggeration, but come on…August?! You are kidding me hon?!) to Pontcanna for dinner at the lovely Cafe Brava.

Cafe Brava is situated on the corner of Pontcanna street; it’s cosy, it’s cool and it’s creative (and THAT’s alliteration….it’s why you come here people!)

 

Brava has a coffee shop vibe by day, serving brunch/light lunch- the menu is varied and changes daily.

We sat down at 6:02pm meaning our visit fell in to the ‘supper club’ menu. The menu consists of mainly bistro dishes and gastro burgers (which all look delicious).

Now, I’m usually a massive advocate of Wine Wednesday (and Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, we chilled on Sunday) however there was no wine to be seen today because:

  1.  Bestie is on the C9 diet. If you want to know what that is you can click here. However, in summary, you basically drink pond water and eat 1 meal for 9 days. Horrend.
  2. I am also trying to ‘cut down’ as I am out out on Saturday and I accidentally ate 3 cookies and 2 muffins in work yesterday and so I’m trying to convince myself I can magically lose a few pounds between now and then. LOL.

So the long and short of it is that I had a skinny flat white (because Basic Bitch) and bestie had water. Wild.


Great cup of coffee though!

On to the food. I went for the jerk chicken salad from the specials menu (because No Carbs).

And Oh.My.God.Best salad I’ve had. Not kidding.

It had pineapple and mango and coriander and it was so spicy and refreshing at the same time and YUM.

Like, tbh, cucumber and cherry tomatoes are not going to cut it anymore now I’ve been exposed to the salad high life.
Feast your eyes on this.

 


Bestie had a veggie chilli with rice and guac and grated cheese which also looked dreamy.

The service was slick and the vibe relaxed.

All in all, if you’re looking for things to do in Cardiff on a cold rainy winter’s evening (in August)….Brava is the one.

Also, you can bring your own champagne and you don’t have to pay corkage.

So there’s that.

About Cardiff: Cafe Brava

About Cardiff: The Dock

Well, isn’t Cardiff becoming a right little winner on the food front?

Don’t just take my word for it; our lush little capital was recently named as home to one of the top five fastest growing food and drink scenes in the UK , with a wave of  restaurants opening over the last few years, an 82% increase in food and drink events in the last year alone and a thriving pop up and street food scene (Wales Online, 2015).

I love Cardiff. And eating out is my absolute favourite. Therefore, I thought I’d help a girl out by writing some reviews (I use this definition very loosely!) of some of the places I visit ‘about Cardiff’ given that we are SO spoilt for choice at the moment and settling on somewhere to eat can actually be a bit of a mare (Absolute First World problems).

Seriously though, no one wants to be scurrying up and down the Hayes in a blind and hungry panic, trying to work out which of the 25 new places they should try  out whilst frantically trying to find reviews on TripAdvisor with little to no 3G,to the point where you just decide to eat a Macdonalds and be done with it. We’ve all been there.

I’ll put it out there; I’m not a ‘foodie’ by any stretch.

I mean, a gourmet deconstructed spag bol served in a selection of mismatched champagne glasses is probably going to be in the Not For Me Box (I’m trying to be ironic but I cannot 100% promise that meal doesn’t exist on a menu somewhere in a pop up in and around the Clapham area which makes me really sad for humanity).

So, don’t expect any kind of fine dining, sophisticated analysis or elaborate Master Chef style descriptions here. I’m not your girl. Soz.

But I will fill you in on all of the important things.

Like if the food was lush, whether it was reasonably priced, whether it is looking pretty sexy and totally instagramable inside and what their gin selection is like.

You’re so welcome.

The Dock 

So, this little treat takes prime position in the centre of Cardiff Bay’s Mermaid Quay.

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In a previous life, it used to be Terra Nova, which I have to be honest, was never my personal fave.

I mean, it was ok wasn’t it? It was fine. The food was reasonable. The drinks were more than reasonable. But it was a little bit dark, a little bit dingy, a little bit like being sat on a pirate ship . A pirate ship with a really bizarre layout. In the middle of a pirate battle. Occurring in a thunder storm. And the ship has a hole in it. And it’s sinking (maybe a *slight* exaggeration but you get my drift ).

However the bar/restaurant has had a complete makeover and a new identity; it has undergone a £1.25m refurbishment and reopened as The Dock in April this year.

A party of 11 of us chose The Dock as the lucky venue for our boozy lunch prior to going to the theatre in the evening (I know, we are super sophisticated and cultured but don’t be too intimated).

The Instagram Factor 

Well, the refurb looks great.

The restaurant has stayed true to the nautical theme but it’s fresh and airy and open with lots of natural light.

I mean, I felt like I was on a much improved, much sturdier ship sailing in to the sunset with a Mojito in hand, and had complete confidence that we were going to reach our destination in one piece and not get like, hi-jacked by an enemy pirate ship or indeed, shipwrecked .
The views across the bay are stunning especially from the upper floor, where our table of 11 were sat. The restaurant has a lovely terrace area which I’d imagine would be delightful on a sunny summers afternoon. I have to imagine because on the day we visited, it was in fact belting down with rain all day, because Wales.

The decor has lots of nods to the bay’s industrial past which is great.

There is a massive bar in the middle of the ground floor with an impressive bar-to ceiling feature piece filled with  bottles, and so I had to take an insta pic (obvz).

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They also have a gin wall; basically, a wall with loads of different types of gin bottles displayed on it, and it’s absolutely HAUNTING me that I did not get a picture next to it.

Regrets. All of the regrets.

The Food

The menu is essentially your  gastro/pub food classic with some nice little twists. I’m talking bacon crumb hens eggs, black and blue cheese nachos and venison burgers. There’s variety and definitely something for everyone.

They also have an extensive breakfast and brunch menu which I must try #BasicBitch. The steak and eggs, crumpets, avocado on toast and american style pancakes all sound amazing.

We went ALL IN and had 3 courses.

I had scallops to start (because…nautical) which were just lush and cooked to perfection.

For my main, I had the ABC burger which was a naughty little combination of a chicken breast, avocado, melted Monterey Jack cheese and bacon. And so yeah my diet is going well.

The burger was massive…I couldn’t fit it in my mouth (heeeey…watch it!) Oh and It had this little breaded jalepeno on top. Cute.

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I have to be honest I am kind of generally a bit over the whole “let’s serve our food in absolutely anything other than a plate” trend and I’m very much part of the We Want Plates Brigade (if you don’t follow them on twitter….do it!!)

However, the presentation wasn’t too over the top at all and it did fit in with the general theme and I know it’s what the kids love these days so I just went with it. No issue.

The fish and chips did come with vinegar in a fragrance, spay bottle thing (I can’t remember the proper name).I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about that and my butty next to me did spray some on her arm thinking it was a nice complimentary perfume…so, MEGA LOL.

There was a an irresistable  selection of deserts, from Baked Alaska to  gooey chocolaty fudge brownies and lemon meringue pie.

I went for the peanut butter cheesecake.

I didn’t even get chance to take a picture of it because I practically inhaled it.

(I ABSOLUTELY LOVE PEANUT BUTTER…I can’t even keep it in the house because I eat it straight out of the jar…it’s a real problem but admitting it is the first step).
It was the dream. It was all rich and peanut buttery and chocolatey. I can’t explain it, you just have to try it (HA.. I know, I’m totally nailing this reviewing /describing food thing).

The service was great-friendly staff and our food for the 3 courses all came out at the same time which is always a tick isn’t it?

Drinks

At our table we mostly drank Prosecco and Beer. Some of our party did have the Pina Coladas from the specials menu which looked fit as.

There was a large selection of cocktails and craft beers available.

After dinner, I basically bullied everyone in to having a jug of White Sangria with me (essentially by repeating White sangria? White sangria? White sangria? White sangria? on repeat until people just gave in).

It came in a really cool crystal decanter thing- I really wanted to put it in my bag, it was so pretty.

I didn’t though. Everyone just calm down for a second.
It was basically white wine with some peach and grapefruit but it looked lovely and it was really refreshing.
We enjoyed The Dock so much that we decided to return after the theatre for an evening drink.

They have an extensive gin selection complete with recommendations for the perfect accompaniment which is a nice touch. I went for the Portobello served with tonic and a twist of grapefruit. It basically came in a vase which I can’t complain about.

I also have to mention the packet of choirzo crisps that made the rounds. Because crisps are important. We all decided they were essentially just smokey bacon but they were really nice all the same.

In a nut shell…

The Dock is the perfect little haunt for a casual and relaxed dining experience. The food was good quality pub food with a twist, the menu was varied and it was great value for money.

It was ideal for a pre-theatre boozy lunch but equally there was a mix of birthday parties, hen parties (Cardiff Bay…standard!), couples and families.

Put it this way; it’s going to be an absolute winner on our next beautiful sunny day when we all stampede our way down to the Bay on mass and fight over a seat in the outside terrace.

You know the drill.

About Cardiff: The Dock