Anyone for Coffi?

Now that the sunshine has arrived, fancy a seasonal Turkish meal at Bosphorus down Cardiff Bay? Tough… it’s gone! And, just when Cardiff is beginning to drown under the tide of coffee shops, it’s been replaced by… you guessed it…

Outside [1]

Outside sign [1]

At least it is a local confection, not just another national chain (though I still pledge my allegiance to Coffee#1). Stepping inside, this does happen to capitalise on its location, with a light and airy feel, as well as seats outside…

Inside [1]

And, if you are prepared to part with something approaching London style prices, there are some interesting twists on the coffee menu…

Menu sign [2]

The Gingerbread Cappuccino and Hazelnut Bueno Latte were certainly two temptations worthy of taking out a mortgage on…

With occasional live music (currently only on Bank Holidays) for those needing to be entertained, and the offer of giant pasties for the peckish, this looks like a worthy addition to the Mermaid Quay pleasure emporium.

Inside looking out

Or, if you are a bit strapped for cash, there is always a timely reminder of other ways to satisfy some of your needs…

Inside wall mural

Until we speak again, any clue as to where I am going to get a proper Turkish Kofte Kebab these days?

 

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]

Older and bolder

For any cats around the world stowing away on boats, determined that Cardiff is their desired destination (and why not I say!), you will know when you have arrived. The magnificent Pierhead Building will be there to greet you. For all of the modern development of the former world famous docks into the Cardiff Bay ‘leisure and government administration zone’, the eye can’t help but be drawn in by the older building.

Across Bay [4]It was designed by a Welsh Englishman named William Frame (1848-1906), because nothing in Wales is that straightforward. But there is no doubt about the 100% Welsh materials making up the French-originated design… Ruabon in North Wales was apparently known as ‘Terracottapolis‘ for the Etruria marl clay that forms the base of the distinctive terra cotta materials. It was paid for by a Scotsman, John Crichton-Stuart (3rd Marquess of Bute); so all that were needed were Irish and Italian builders or visitors for the locally revered ‘Six-Nations Rugby’ to be represented in the one building! It took 3 years in construction, opened in 1897, and cost a mere £30,000… which would realistically only pay for the furniture for us cats to sharpen our claws on in today’s prices.

Cardiff Bay sweep 5As I stroll around the Bay area I can do nothing but purr contentedly at the framing of this building from different angles. The Gothic revivalist architecture contrasts with the modern buildings surrounding it, with its strong lines and attention to detail marking it out against the sweeping and blander images of some of its modern neighbours.

Pierhead Building [1]

Close inspection lets you know the original purpose of this Grade 1 listed Victorian gem, established as the home of the Bute Docks Company. It also sat at the gateway for seamen from the world over who settled in Tiger Bay to make it the first multicultural community in the UK. Early in the 20th century it transferred to accommodate the Cardiff Railway Company, and later on to offices of the Great Western Railway.

Bute Dock Company sign

As the docks declined and closed, this proud building that had in its days administered the Port of Cardiff and the railways necessary for transporting much of the freight, lost its way, a bit like a stray cat, and fell into the same disuse as most of the surrounding industrial waste land. As the 20th century entered its final couple of decades it recaptured its original splendour within the new commercial vision for the docklands redevelopment.

Pierhead BuildingIt is now a part of the neighbouring Welsh Assembly buildings, complete with its own smaller version of ‘Big Ben’, but too small to provide the Assembly with its debating chamber… now accommodated in the wooden stingray beached next door. At least this architectural treasure is spared the need to accommodate political hot air, unlike the original ‘Big Ben’ of London framing the Palace of Westminster.

Pierhead Building [2]The detail on all parts of the building is exquisite, and just like many iconic buildings you can spend a great deal of time actually reading the building itself, as a bold statement of its designers and its place in time. Even the well preserved gargoyles are enough to remind any self-respecting cat of the dangers posed by a pack of ugly dogs! Now the building houses a visitor attraction with a 5-minute visual montage of the history of the surrounding area every 20 minutes in the Main Hall, as well as space for other Welsh history exhibitions, events and conferences.

Pierhead Building [3]

 

For this cat it is very reassuring that at least some remnants of the once great industrial heritage of this area are preserved, even if it also manages to show up the relatively poor standard of architectural fare that passes as modern progress and development. The Victorian age may now form a diminishing legacy of the older stock in our built environment, but it still shows how bold they were in some of their grand statements.

Who says an ordinary cat can’t have interests beyond sleeping and eating? Cardiff may not be overly blessed with world class examples of architecture, but it has a number of gems of all ages. Until we speak again I will continue to promote the Juno Architectural Appreciation Society of Cardiff.

Tumbleweed Junction

As a sophisticated cat I have always had a liking for the dramatic entrance. So you will no doubt share my recent dismay as I was strolling around the iconic Cardiff Bay (or Bae Caerdydd for those of you who want to know nearly as much Welsh as me). People seemed very relaxed as they sipped their cappuccino’s and cool beers, gazing out over the sun-drenched waters where the waves form a shimmering dance only briefly interrupted by a passing pleasure boat. The Millenium Centre glistens in various shades of gold and bronze, and the Pierhead Building projects a bold gothic majesty in red, facing out towards the seven seas. The Senedd houses whatever it is that government does these days, as we all look up in wonder at the weird funnel shape on its roof, waiting for the puff of white smoke that will signify that something useful has been uttered inside.

The Bay 2:13

Such a mesmeric place deserves a grand entrance… but if you are arriving by train the only item that probably would escape the call of the council tip is the somewhat less than inviting welcome sign at the station:

Tumbleweed Junction 6

Now, originating from London I am used to the idea of run-down places looking to re-invent themselves. Everywhere you look is trying to become a new centre of leisure… the newest place to drink coffee and buy loads of stuff you don’t need. But, you at least need to make an effort at the front end of the business if you want to attract the punters in (that’s a free business tip I will pass on to you from Sean, who we met last time I spoke with you).

Let’s take the St. Pancras and Kings Cross area of London for example… it has a long way to go to catch up with the development of Cardiff Bay, but they are working on transforming the area behind the stations (previously known more for the pleasures of the night, available 24/7 so I am told, by sources who were told, by sources who might have been in the know, or not). As you approach St. Pancras you are greeted by a very imposing building:

St Pancras Station 1

Meanwhile, back at Cardiff Bay you could be forgiven for not feeling, well, imposed upon:

Tumbleweed junction [1]

The station entrance at St. Pancras radiates a sense of the opulence that might just be lurking within:

St Pancras Station 2

Whereas that at Cardiff Bay just lurks:

Tumbleweed junction [5]

Furthermore, gazing up at the roof structure tells a further story of the fine detail that goes into making a building that will inevitably dazzle all who come into it. For St. Pancras there is one of the world’s great iron roof arches:

St Pancras 2

Meanwhile, for Cardiff Bay there is a clear statement of being at one with nature, a place where conservation of the natural environment takes precedence over the demands of the built environment:

Tumbleweed junction [3]

And then there is the issue of time… where iconic clocks are designed to draw your attention and help to order your day. For St. Pancras there is no mistaking the clock above the platform entrances:

St Pancras 5As for Cardiff Bay you may be forgiven again for having to search around a bit (there is a working clock on the building across the road in the picture), or perhaps make sure you haven’t forgotten your watch!

Tumbleweed Junction 14Now, us cats may seem like we spend most of the day snoozing in between serious bouts of sleeping, but we still have a strong appreciation for irony. Perhaps there is a deliberate plan in Cardiff that travellers arriving for the first time to witness the delights of Mermaid Quay and the Bay, are invited to take a somewhat Narnia-like transition ‘from the ironic to the iconic’.

Even the modes of transport between our comparative sites have something to say about these two places… take St.Pancras for example, you always have a chance to be travelling on one of the country’s leading ‘iconic’ Javelin trains:

St Pancras 4Whereas, down at Cardiff Bay station, every 12 minutes you get the chance to see and travel on the ironic ‘bubble car’ train, as it is described on the Wikipedia page for our somewhat rusty and dilapidated ‘gateway’ to the Bay.

Tumbleweed Junction 12The history books tell us that this station down the Bay was the site of the first steam train in South Wales, and for that it has become a listed building. What we don’t need the history books for is the reason why, if you are coming from Cardiff Queen Street to the Bay (the only two stations on this line), the best thing to do on a dry day is… walk!

The Bay will never have or need a St. Pancras style station, but to a casual laid back cat, this is not a building I would seek shade under, for fear of the building itself being so laid back it might just collapse on me. An iconic station could be small scale and innovative in design, or probably even restoring the current pile to something reflecting its history. I have been Juno, sharing a little social comment with you until we meet again soon.