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December 10 2013 Latest news:
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Cardiff Bay is an area enjoying regeneration. It's proudly Welsh but you won't find many<br/>ladies wearing traditional black bonnets here. WORDS BY LOUISE ALLEN-TAYLOR
Wow! We are so high, were looking down on birds flying below. Our suite on the 21st floor of Cardiffs Radisson Blu hotel gives us a view over the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff railway station with trains coming in and out like snakes and on to Cardiff Bay.
I must admit that Cardiff was undiscovered territory for me and I loved what I saw. Like so many of Britains major cities it has capitalised on its waterfront, invested in the leisure economy and now has a striking mix of old and new statement architecture: to see how that works head for Cardiff Bay where the vast canopy of the Welsh Assembly building is just yards from the terracotta grandeur of the 19th century Pierhead building.
This was constructed at a time when Cardiff was exporting more coal than any other port in the world giving a sense of importance reflected in the design which caused the Pierhead building to be nicknamed the Welsh Big Ben.
A short walk from the bay is Cardiff Castle, a fort which is quite awesome, has a Norman keep, extensive gardens and a history spanning 2,000 years. So visitors to Cardiff are not short of culture to explore but theres also a lively bar and restaurant scene which makes it popular with stag and hen parties.
Like Chester, Manchester and Liverpool, Cardiff has a crop of big retail names but it also has a healthy independent sector, particularly in the charming and extensive 19th century arcades. Here youll find quirky teashops, wholefood cafes, upmarket delicatessens and chocolate shops and even a crop of vintage clothing and bric-a-brac boutiques. All this alongside House of Fraser, Crabtree and Evelyn, John Lewis etc. Theres certainly energy in this city.
And after a busy day of sightseeing and shopping what better than to relax in our hotel bedroom with panoramic views before heading to the first floor where our table at Filini awaited. This Italian ristorante is a cut above many hotel eateries. It is fine dining and embodies the best aspects of Italian service and style.
Sure there are some pizzas and pasta dishes on the menu, but we found the specials and fish dishes enticing and were impressed by the authenticity...nothing corporate about this restaurant. Theres a good range of wines and champagnes too, and decently priced. A dinner for two with three courses, coffees, Italian breads made on the premises and a bottle of Pinot Grigio (20) came in around 87.