What’s wrong with the old?

You talking to me?Juno never did seem to mind sharing her living space with what she would occasional refer to as an ‘old git’ (as long as she was fed to order, and everyone present fully respected her generosity in sharing HER home). But then her sprightly demeanour belied a substantial number of cat’s years (but beware never to ask a lady her age!).

She was also a secretly avid inquirer into the state of contemporary architecture and the ebbing and flowing trends between conservation and speculation. She always seemed content with her move from the Victorian terraced splendour of London to the relative modernity of docklands regeneration in Cardiff. But, she would occasionally suggest to me, as the cooler of cats have a tendency to do, that the race to build empty new offices to the detriment of the existing architectural gems was a tad out of balance (though I’m not entirely sure that ‘tad’ was one of her preferred turns of phrase).

“Where is your evidence for such assertions?” I would remonstrate. To which she would less than politely retort “Try walking around the place with your eyes open, specky!” She had a point… about the architecture that is, not about me! Just take a look at what’s up in the so-called Capital Quarter these days…

New offices

Right next to the newest largely empty office building is the erection of, you guessed it, another soon to be largely empty office building; with a crane out of view to the left starting on the foundations for… drum roll… another largely to be empty office building! Better than the previous derelict land, some might say; but the best productive use of such land? Guess who got to decide on that conundrum, the landowners & property developers or the creative locally knowledgeable minds of the indigenous folk?

What the world really needs now is more of the blandly cold looking accumulations of glass and steel that will be completely out of bounds to the vast majority of people living in the local area. Meanwhile, a mile down the road, we get to see the stranger side of the coin, as buildings that could surely outlast the current soulless edifices under construction receive treatment of a very different variety…

IMAG1298

While even more grand old edifices remain in a derelict condition, instead of receiving the attention that would restore their iconic visage…

IMAG1326

We seem to have developed an aesthetic ability to allow perfectly functioning historic buildings of architectural interest to rot to a point where more clamour mounts to have them bull-dozed. Then seemingly replaced by something altogether shiny but more flimsy and of a lesser potential lifespan. Juno would occasionally imply that these old buildings, even in their run down state of deliberate neglect, are far more visually interesting than the newer upstarts (or at least that is how I chose to interpret her meow responses when I was talking about architecture to her!). But then I would expect nothing less from a beautiful cat!

Until we speak again examine your own reflections on the possibilities of restoring the majesty of what we already have, before we rush to over-populate the built environment with a myriad of bland lookalike boxes (or don’t… however the mood takes you).

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Anatomy of a beach

BatmanJuno was often known to occupy her strategic position while she pondered the meaning of life in her adopted home of Cardiff. As summertime struggles to make itself known the reflection currently coming to mind is that ‘life is a beach‘, or so they say (I think that needs to be deciphered in some sort of southern European accent for the meaning to be realised!).

Opening day [2]

But a beach is surely a design of nature… or is it? Not for the first time, strange things are happening in the city of Cardiff! Beware men at work, particularly as the kids school holidays are arriving imminently:

Beach 2015 [2]Beach 2015 [3]

 

 

 

 

 

The phenomenon of the ‘pop-up shop’ or ‘pop-up street food gig’ now seems to have crossed the divide from the artificial world of commerce to the natural world.

Nature may have taken thousands of years to erode rock formations in order to create beaches along our shorelines, but in the commercial world what’s a week between glances at the balance sheet?

Beach 20 07 2015 [2]

As the bones of the beast begin to take shape it is time to add a little flesh…

23-7-15 [2]

Then as the sun rises on an opening day, no sooner can you utter the most fashionable of terms in the commercial lexicon… transformation… while adding that most crucial of money generating ingredients… people; hey presto, you have a playground for cats both local and from far away…Opening day [5]

Does the lapping of the shore against the beach make a noise if nobody is there to hear it? Who knows, or even cares! Where there is fun to be had, with the occasional tug on the purse strings, there will always be the sounds of the beach to be heard at strategic times of the year in the face of the old dockland.Opening day [6]

23-7-15 [3]

 

 

Transformation in action:

<<<<Before & After>>>>

 

 

 

 

23-7-15 [1]

 

Transformation in action:

<<<<Before

Opening day [4]

 

 

 

After>>>>

 

Until we speak again I’m sure Juno would wish that all of your beaches be bathed in sun and filled with smiles.

Opening day [1]

Decisions decisions!

Stepping outside of home I seem to have everything I need right here on the doorstep. This might well be something akin to Juno’s view of her beloved Cardiff home, located somewhere between the two lines identifying ‘Cardiff Bay Railway Station‘ and ‘Norwegian Church‘ a little over from the top end of the dock occupying the centre of the picture. Porthteigr might be a belated reference to the old Tiger Bay, but Juno would have welcomed any recognition of the importance of cats:

I live here

The problem some days is that I’m confronted with the ultimate in decisions… to relax or to shop?

Which way?

The trouble with shopping is that you can run into the strangest kind of people…

Dragons [1]

But then the relaxation option isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be… decisions, decisions!

Places to go [2]

It does my ‘ead in it does (as the locals often say). And just when you need some guidance from the self-proclaimed guru, what would she be doing?

Chillout cat

Until we speak again it looks like Juno’s view is that it’s going to be relaxation then.

Grazie mille

St John's ChurchItaly is known for many things but churches and food seem to occupy a generous amount of their culture. Juno always managed to recognise the food and religion combination, and as for most cats it usually took the form of a food-food combo!

Understandably, the Italian community in Cardiff would like to reflect the centuries of home-grown cultural significance, and Cafe Citta is a classic example of achieving that very same vibe. Located on Church Street, and in the shadows of the historic St. John’s Church, this is everything you would expect of a family-run Italian restaurant (and more).

Cafe Citta [1]

Forget everything you know about the many Italian chain restaurants that litter our high streets. If it’s authentic you are looking for then this tiny little corner of Cardiff can offer almost everything that any corner in Italy can. The menu is reasonably brief and unfussy, which I have always found to be a good reflection of quality… focus on what you are really good at, don’t try to offer everything to everyone! If it’s not to your liking then you can always go trip over a ‘chain’ around the nearest corner.

This place is both small and extremely popular, so booking is almost always going to be essential…

Cafe Citta [2]

With an open kitchen and wood-burning pizza oven the choice of main meals, after the olives and warm bread entre, wasn’t going to be a difficult choice. The specials board held many a temptation, but I had booked weeks in advance with the promise to my eating compatriot that Wales was going to come up with the superb pizza that our recent visit to Palermo had not! One Diavalo and one Quattro Stagioni for sharing between us were promptly ordered. A great combination of ham, spicy salami, artichokes, olives, peppers, mushrooms and some fiery chilli addition was just right as the Pinot Grigio was sliding down nicely.

Cafe Citta [3]

The dough is expertly thrown in the open kitchen, and comes thin and crispy, but just right as a base for the cheese & tomato essentials topped off with the required fabulous array of ingredients. Pizza heaven had been ascended into!

Neither of us food protagonists have a sweet tooth, so desserts are not normally the order of the day. But this was the quintessential family owned and run restaurant, and they tempted us with the promise that everything they serve is home made. Italian trademark Tiramisu is something I have occasionally indulged in, so the decision was made…

Cafe Citta [4]

… and yes, it was certainly home made and interestingly served up in a coffee cup. It proved to be a delicate and perfectly balanced end to a fabulous meal. Sambucca and an Italian Brandy were a natural compliment to the dessert, leaving two diners completely satisfied with a top class experience.

Until we speak again may all of your dining experiences be culturally crafted to the highest of standards.

The power of food

Juno was an enlightened cat, but among all of the things she knew, the attraction of food was up there. So it was to be with the 2015 International Food Festival ‘down the bay’, as Cardiff once again plays cultural host to the wider world (who really cares about Ashes cricket a mile up the road?!).

What a difference a day makes in the world of eating, as the following pictures attempt to illustrate:

Before…

Food festival prep [1]

 

 

 

During…

Food festrival [1]

 

 

 

 

Before…

Food festival prep [2]

 

 

 

 

 

During…

Food festival [3]

 

 

 

 

Before…

Food festival prep [3]

 

 

 

 

 

During…

Food festival [2]

 

 

 

 

The imagination was truly exercised through mouth-watering choices. The range of Welsh home produce was fully complimented by some English regional fare covering all kinds of cheese, pies, and ice-creams from predominantly south-west border locations. But the real essence of the whole event was provided by a much wider range of exotic cuisines, from ‘Persia‘ and Turkey, the Caribbean to India, with stunning contributions from the Iberian peninsula, Italy and Greece to represent the European Mediterranean countries.

For our personal delectation, this Wales-Trinidad delegation settled for a pig & goat combination to satisfy the taste buds… nothing like a goat curry with rice & salad to set up the prospect of a long walk around the bay. This was shared with a Jerk Pork & Dumplings  combination. The home nations were not to be denied our patronage, as a completely unexpected take on the traditional sausage roll was to leave me never looking at this snack in quite the same way again! The thinnest of delicate pastry was to surround the thickest of tasty pork sausage and chilli, with an additional choice of pork and mushroom. These might have cost about double the standard sausage roll, but they say you get what you pay for… and more in this instance.

The packed crowd were continually entertained by a succession of musicians…

Food festival [4]

… but for us the heavy weight of the fabulous food, combined with the fire-breathing quality of the tiniest sip of the world’s strongest chilli vodka, required the little matter of a 5-mile stroll around the whole of Cardiff Bay, with a brief interruption provided by white-water rafting (but more of that in a later post)!

Until we speak again may your culinary encounters be sumptuous and exotic.

Cardiff at night

I can’t ever remember seeing Juno down a coal mine in the middle of the night, but being as she was a black cat, and if the situation had arisen, then I guess it would have been an encounter along the lines of this…

black-cat-eyes-cute-pet-cat-desktop-pictures-cute-1538612781

Cardiff at night on the other hand, has the ability to offer less predictable images. Firstly, for all of you Led Zeppelin fans out there (and I include myself as one of you) there is always the ‘Stairway to who knows where?’

Smart stairs

In this case it leads to one of those surreal Dr Who type of experiences (Cardiff being the home of the Dr Who Experience of course!). Those cunning Daleks seem to have mastered the art of disguise…

Smart Way [2]

If it’s culture that you’re looking for, beware, the writing just could be on the wall…

Millenium Centre night front [1]

While London Underground may have cornered the use of ‘Mind the gapCardiff has an altogether more sophisticated take on warning you of large gaps…

Atrium [4]

Strolling along The Hayes you might just get an indication that this is the wrong time of day to check out a book…

The Hayes [3]

Or anything else come to think of it, as the enticingly colourful welcome only draws you towards closed doors…

The Hayes [1]

But you can rely on the ancient old St John’s Church to give you an eery indication that the day is done…

St John's Church

So, with your car safely parked out of sight, the only message left is to wish you the best form of relaxation to finish off the twilight stroll…The Big Sleep

Until we speak again this has been a meditation on finding the light in the moments of darkness!

[With thanks to fansshare.com for sharing the cats eyes image].

What to call it?

Juno was always ready when food was on the agenda, delicately poised to catch any stray morsels of fish or meat…

Juno ready

But she was never easily fooled by her resident dreamer’s claim that Cardiff had a distinctly mediterranean vibe…

Corner House [2]

For all of the outdoor eating when the sun was shining, Juno was quite clear that Cardiff had a reputation for being the rainfall capital of the UK. She could think of no better reason for being an indoor cat. Meanwhile, us mere mortals went in search of sustenance on a sunny Sunday lunchtime…

Corner House [1]

Choice would not appear to be a problem, in the heart of a capital city centre. But discerning tastes were drifting away from dropping in on the ubiquitous chain restaurants that have come to dominate, making everywhere a carbon copy of everywhere else. Juno was a distinctly individual cat, and it was the legacy of her spirit that drove the food enthusiasts on in their search for a unique port of call. The question is, what might it be called amongst the sea of familiarity?

Corner House [3]

Wine stocksThe Brewery Quarter has a certain liquidity about it, but Juno’s discerning tastes were more towards the vineyard than the brewery…

Still the question remained, would we know the place of supreme individuality when we saw it?

Caroline Street

Caroline Street has achieved a certain world renown as ‘Chip Alley‘ for its succession of good old fashioned ‘chippies’, but we were not in the mood for a bag of chips and curry sauce while strolling by the somewhat more sophisticated diners (i.e. people sitting on chairs).

Perhaps if we looked to the corner of Caroline Street we might just find a source of inspiration…

Corner House [4]

Anyway, while we pondered what you might actually call a unique eatery with a prominent location, we decided that searching should give way to eating. It might have been a sunny Sunday, but that is no excuse for missing out on a Sunday roast of beef. And maybe a nod to Mediterranean culture with a bottle of fine Spanish Rioja

Corner House [5]

Once refreshment was complete we were able to go back to the challenge of thinking what you might call a house on the corner of Caroline Street if you were projecting your distinctiveness in the sea of chains!

BatmanAs for Juno, she would no doubt have been keeping watchful eyes on the idiots she was attempting to mentor! Until we speak again, if you find a Corner House it probably does what it says on the tin.