A Brit and A Swede Conquer Cardiff.
It’s Saturday 13th February 2016 and i’m waiting to pick up my girlfriend (a.k.a. The Swede.) The weather isn’t great, it’s just started to rain. I’m excited, really excited. I’m about to embark upon a four hour drive to Wales. . .
The drive to Wales was awesome. Although, it took twice as long as I anticipated. Originally I had planned the journey to take around two and half hours, but it took four. (It didn’t bother me much as I was doing three things that I enjoy: driving my car, going on road trips and spending time with my girlfriend.) There wasn’t much planning involved either I just simply followed the M4 motorway from London to Wales. According to my SAT-NAV we needed to exit the M4 at Heathrow, drive round the roundabout and rejoin the M4. Stupidly I followed my SAT-NAV rather than my common sense.
We drove on for another hour and then I decided to pull over for a while, for a well needed coffee break. With two or more hours of driving ahead of me I decided to press on and head for Wales. The next stretch of the journey we passed through some nice looking countryside, before we crossed the Severn Bridge and paid our toll of £6.60 to get into Wales.
After we had paid our toll we had another twenty minute drive along the motorway before my SAT-NAV decided to not know where our hotel was. After a few de-tours, re-routes and circles we finally arrived at our Premier Inn Hotel in Cardiff North. After that day I can say that SAT-NAV’s are USELESS! I will never ever rely on one again and will probably just stick to using a conventional map. I’m sure that will please my Dad!
Arriving / Booking A Late Dinner.
After checking in, the Swede and I headed up to our room and threw our bags in. On arrival the hotel looked very clean, quiet and the staff were very friendly. There was an ample amount of car parking spaces (which was one of my main reasons for choosing this particular hotel.) It was then I realised I had just made my first mistake of our road trip. I sat down looked at my watch and saw that it was only 15:00 and I booked the table at the restaurant for 18:00. I had to break this news to the starving Swede. When hungry, this particular Swede transforms into an Incredible Hulk Monster and I had to tell her that it was only 15:00. The Swede wasn’t impressed! 18:00 finally rolled around and it felt like forever before I had something to eat.
The first dinner of any road trip is always the best one. The atmosphere in the restaurant was nice, it was empty, quiet, and the hotel had some nice background music playing which added to the ambience. The waiting staff were pleasant and friendly which made the dining experience all the more pleasurable. The menu was huge and there was a lot of food to choose from. You could have burgers, pizza, pasta, salads, and there was even a steak and grill section to choose from. The Swede and I both decided to order some burgers and they were epic. I forgot to take photos, I was too busy eating! 🙂
After a spectacular dinner the Swede and I headed back to our hotel room and watched some television (T.V.). As I was sitting there I had time to take note of our hotel room. The room was a bit small compared with other Premier Inn’s. We managed okay as we were only staying for four days. I was very surprised how quiet our room was. The hotel is situated next to a busy main road and I didn’t even notice the noise coming from the road. After watching a bit of T.V. I fell asleep and started catching some Z’s.
Sunday 14th February 2016.
The first morning I awoke with a refilled vigour. I was excited for the hotel breakfast. A proper all you can eat breakfast buffet. The menu was vast. You could choose from croissants and pastries, toast, crumpets, pancakes, fruit salads, yoghurts, smoothies, and of course the full english breakfast buffet. There was a big selection of teas, juices and Costa Coffee. The coffee machine was superb, I was very impressed. Of course I looked at the fruit salads and smoothies and decided to give it a miss. After all I am on holiday!!
Valentines Day Present.
As today was Valentines Day I thought I would make an extra effort and cover The Swedes gifts in rose petals. It was something I have always wanted to do with a girlfriend and I thought “no time like the present,” and just done it. So far on this day I have managed to tick two things off of my bucket list.
Heading to The Brecon Beacons and The Mysterious Llangorse Lake.
Today we were going to Llangorse Lake and The Brecon Beacons. Llangorse Lake is the largest natural lake in Wales, plus it had a stone with a sword in it. That done it, because of the sword in the stone I felt compelled to check it out. The Brecon Beacons is a huge natural park. It is also a range for The Black Mountains in South Wales. The Brecon Beacons was something I wanted to check out during our stay in Wales. It was a fairly simple drive from Cardiff. First of all I bought some more petrol and some supplies consisting of Haribo Minions and Haribo Smurfs. I then hopped on the A470 and followed it all the way to Brecon. The Swede done a fantastic job navigating and safeguarding my phone. The weather was great and the traffic was light, which meant perfect driving conditions.
The Mountain Road.
The conditions were perfect, that is until we at a place I aptly named The Mountain Road. I was unsure of the stretch of road but it was currently being resurfaced. The road had no top surface, there were large stones and gravel, raised iron works and a 40 M.P.H. speed limit. It was insane! At point I thought the small tyres on my car were going to burst. I felt like we were in a remote part of the Himalayas not Wales. To add to this, as the road we were driving on was in some sort of valley the weather just closed in. It became very grey, dark, foggy and rainy. It was amazing to experience, especially in my little car! (Sarcasm, if you didn’t realise! 😛 )
Llangorse Lake and Not Finding The Sword In The Stone.
After about an hour of driving we finally arrived at Llangorse Lake to find the fabled Sword In The Stone. The surroundings at Llangorse Lake were very picturesque. You could see the snow capped Black Mountains in the distance and it was extremely quiet. I travelled there with high hopes. I had an image of me pulling the sword from the stone and being crowned the rightful King of The Land. That image lasted about thirty seconds after I got out of the car. I forgot how wet the winter had been and how much it had rained. Llangorse Lake was pretty high. It looked to have burst it banks and risen up onto the grass. This meant that The Sword In The Stone would be under water. To make matters worse I as I was searching, in a futile attempt to look for this Sword In The Stone I forgot I was wearing light coloured trousers. I looked down and my boots and ends of my trousers were covered in a reddy brown mud. I immediately decided I had had enough. I called off my search of The Sword In The Stone and went back to the car. The main plan of the day was to come here, but our plans quickly changed and we hit the road once again.
Change of plans – lunch at The White Swan.
After a couple of minutes driving we stumbled upon a quaint looking pub in Llanfrynach. We called in and decided to grab some coffee and see if there was anywhere else we wanted to go. The pub itself was a traditional country pub with wooden beams running across the ceiling, and large open fire places. We had a look at the menu and it contained traditional home cooked food. We thought about grabbing a pub lunch here. I forgot that it was Valentines Day and the pub was fully booked. Shoutout and thanks to the Pub Manager and the Bar Staff who made an effort to try and fit us in for a meal. Earlier in the day The Swede mentioned that she had heard of a railway that took passengers around a lake and she thought that it might be in Wales. (She remembered it from watching it on Merlin!!) I picked up a leaflet for The Brecon Mountain Railway.. We had missed the 12:30 train journey and decided to heard there for the next trip, which started at 14:30. We quickly drank our coffees, used the facilities and went back to the car. Next stop the Brecon Mountain Railway.
Change of plans – take 2 – The Brecon Mountain Railways and Corned Beef Pie.
I quickly set the route on my phone, rather than my SAT-NAV due to yesterdays SAT-NAV dilemma. I handed my phone to The Swede (or should I call her Chief Navigator?) and followed the calculated route. The route my phone had calculated was epic. It took us right through the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Small winding country roads, snow capped mountains, forests. I was in road trip driving heaven! We finally arrived at The Brecon Mountain Railway. For two adults it cost £27.00, which I thought wasn’t too bad. The railway itself was quite small. The journey to the end of the line at Torpantau taking around twenty five minutes. There was a ten minute stop at Torpantau while the locomotive swapped ends for the return journey. On the way back down to Pant the train stops at Pontsticill for around thirty – thirty five minutes where you can stop in the cafe or check out the steam museum.
We arrived at The Brecon Mountain Railway an hour and a half early, and we were starving! I bought us tickets while The Swede found us a table in the café. The menu was amazing. The Swede chose us a corned beef pie with potatoes, peas, and beef gravy. The Swede made an amazing decision choosing that. It was delicious. Before I started eating I managed to get a photo and I have added it below.
Be jealous readers, be jealous! It was as tasty as it looked. The trip itself was really nice, it took us up past a lake and up partly into the Brecon Beacons. You could see snow capped hills / mountains from the train carriage so it made my day. The locomotive that pulled the carriages on our trip was The Number 2 Baldwin Locomotive. Photos of the train and view can be seen below.
The Drive Back To The Hotel.
The drive back to the hotel was nice. It was really sunny and there was good music on the radio. The image of the snow capped mountains was still deeply embedded on my mind so I was extra happy on the drive back to the hotel.
After todays big lunch I didn’t feel like eating much for dinner. I decided to go for a salad and a dessert. I was quite shocked at how big the salad was. There was lots of green salad, and lots of chicken breast pieces. I thought I was going to suffocate on all the greenery. The ice cream sundae went down a treat. (Yes, I managed to get a photo this time!)
Tonight I felt pretty much the same as last night. We watched some T.V. and soon drifted off to sleep. The Swede, naturally being the Master and Commander of the T.V. remote always found something good to watch and after I had fallen asleep switched off the T.V. Before I knew it my phone alarm was blaring and it was time for our second hotel breakfast.
Monday 15th February 2016.
Today I decided to start eating healthy, otherwise my conscience towards healthy eating would have kicked in and I would have started feeling guilty. I opted for a bowl of grapefruit to start, followed by the biggest full english breakfast ever. The thought and attempt of healthy eating was there at least.
Heading To Cardiff.
Today The Swede and I decided to head into Cardiff City Centre to check out the town and head to the castle. Cardiff seemed quite a nice vibrant city. We set the route and I handed my phone to The Chief Navigator and set off towards Cardiff. There wasn’t much traffic for a Monday morning which was nice, especially as we didn’t really know where we were going.
Mission To Find Somewhere To Park.
Upon reaching Cardiff City Centre the first mission was finding somewhere to park. After countless U-Turns and missed opportunities The Swede spotted a car park and we pulled in. We soon found a space, gathered our belongings and headed for the castle.
The castle itself was really good. The castle is located inside parkland in the very centre of Cardiff. It wasn’t too expensive to get in. It cost me £24 for two adults. There is an extra £3 per adult added if you want a guided tour of the Castle Apartments. I wasn’t really interested as I preferred to take my time looking round on my own. There are also information boards located inside the Castle Apartments that provide you with the necessary information for the current room. Inside the Castle Apartment there was a room called the Arab Room which was painted with 22 carat gold leaf. It looked stunning. The photo below shows the Arab Room.
The main attraction of Cardiff Castle is The Norman Keep (shown below.)
The Norman Keep is a small twelve sided keep built on top of a tall hill. The views from the top of The Norman Keep are amazing. You can get a panoramic view of the city centre and see for miles. It was definitely worth climbing all of the steep steps to see this unique viewpoint of the city. (Shown below are a selection of photos from the top of The Norman Keep.)
Once we were finished looking round The Norman Keep we checked out the Wartime Shelter Tunnels. It gave you a nice insight to see that Cardiff Castle wasn’t forgotten during the Second World War. The tunnels were used to shelter the general public during The Blitz. After a light lunch we headed back to the car. We got back to the car park and I discovered that the owners of car parks are swines! It cost me £17.50 to park for only four hours. It doesn’t really encourage tourists who enjoy road trips to come and visit!
The Hotel Bar.
Instead of watching T.V. in the hotel room we decided to chill out and have a few drinks at the hotel bar. The bar was empty and there was no atmosphere. As it was still only early the hotel staff didn’t have any music to play. The T.V. was on but there wasn’t anything interesting to watch or listen to. The hotel staff were friendly and always made an effort to chat with you while they poured your drink. I bought us some Rekorderlig Cider, I know the Swede likes this brand of cider and thought it would be quite nice to drink this. After all, we’re on holiday! After I drank my cider I decided to buy myself a beer, and that beer had to be a Corona. The Swede was addicted to her new puzzle game and was intently tapping away at her phone. I was drinking some good beer and pondering about things, trying my hardest to drown out the boring T.V. station that was loudly present in the background.
Tuesday 16th February 2016.
The last hotel breakfast.
This morning it was our last hotel breakfast and The Swede made the good idea that we make the most of it. We decided that we were going to fill up on breakfast and just chill out before we hit the road back to London. I had eaten my breakfast, making sure to have seconds of everything I know I will miss when I’m back home. Then I just wanted to have a few cups of coffee and just relax Then, the bright morning sunshine decided to make an appearance and burn out my retinas. I wasn’t going to sit there being blinded by the sun. I downed my latte like a luke warm shot and headed back to the hotel room.
Packing up and checking out.
I hate packing my bags to leave a holiday. It sort of signifies that your holiday is nearly over, and all of the excitement of the build up ceases. I reluctantly packed my clothes and other belongings and waited for The Swede to come back to the hotel room. The Swede, as always, seems to pack her bag quicker than me, I must ask her how she does it!!!! After we packed up our stuff we headed to the reception and checked out. We headed to my car, threw in our bags, defrosted the windows and set the course for London.
The drive home, silence = boring road trips.
The drive home wasn’t great, it was quite boring. If you like silence and being silent then for you it probably would have been amazing. But I don’t and therefore it was boring. For reasons unknown The Swede wasn’t very talkative and to make matters worse I had left all my music at home. It meant I was stuck with terrible daytime radio stations. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my car radio presets tuned in for radio stations outside of London. I couldn’t find Radio X on any frequency and was stuck with Radio 1 or Heart. I’m not a big fan of either stations, but it was better than being left in total silence. I can assure you being on a four hour motorway journey and having any banter, conversation or laughs made the time go really slow.
Dropping of The Swede.
After four hours of motorway driving and forty five minutes of driving back into London I finally reached The Swedes house and dropped her off. She thanked me for the great trip and we soon parted ways. The moment I got back into my car I hit the Radio X preset, folded the roof down, and turned up the volume. The sun was shining and it was a really pleasant afternoon. After an hour I finally got home, I felt absolutely exhausted.
There you have it. That was how one brit and one Swede successfully navigated Wales. It was a great trip for four days away.
Some things I have learnt from this trip:
- Do not rely on SAT-NAV’s they’re useless.
- Do not rely on free hotel WI-FI to work on your device. It didn’t and my plan to watch T.V. on my tablet was ruined.
- Car park owners are swines!
- Do not forget my music / travel playlist.
- Make sure I pack my note book and pen. I spent the entire trip hastily typing notes onto my phones ‘notes’ app.
The best things about our trip:
- Hotel breakfasts, you just can’t beat them.
- The drive through the Brecon Beacons.
- The Corned Beef Pie at The Brecon Mountain Railway.
Recommendations for any visit.
Total price breakdown.
- Severn Bridge Crossing Toll: £6.60
- 3 night stay at Premier Inn (inc hotel breakfast): £258.94
- 2 x tanks of petrol: £65 (inc £5 for sweets).
- 3 x nights food at £35 per night: £105
- Brecon Mountain Railway: £42 (inc £15 for lunch).
- Cardiff Castle: £24
- Car parking in Cardiff: £17.50
Grand Total: £519.04