Resurrection NYC Style

New York City has constantly been in the process of reinvention, and sets a great example for taking old industrial relics and creating new spaces that people love. Chelsea Market is now 20 years old, but could easily have become a bland new-build paean to commercialism. Instead it is a cool use of an 800 metre long former biscuit factory in the meat-packing district.

A long and meandering thoroughfare now occupies a complete New York block with quirky shops and delis of all shapes and sizes that put the art into artisan…

You might even be serenaded by an impromptu jazz combo when you least expect it…

Then there is the thorny issue of what to do with a derelict rusting elevated railroad. The reborn High Line was first built to get goods out of the heavily industrialised Chelsea and MeatPacking districts without adding to the road traffic in midtown Manhattan
Many places would dismantle the old eyesore, and New York nearly did. But the foresight of a couple of environmentally savvy guys kept the structure standing. And now it is a stunning elevated walkway that provides tranquillity at the heart of the madness!

But, perhaps the best reinvention is actually a rebirth of a 1940’s institution. How could the Empire Diner on 10th Avenue in Chelsea possibly have been closed down? 

Fortunately for me it reopened 6 months ago, and I get to tuck into an American meal I can actually finish. Just add a berry-based fruit salad, and you might even lay claim to something healthy going on!

Until we speak again, if you’re feeling slightly dilapidated, why not reinvent yourself? You could do worse than take a lead from NYC-style reinterpretation.

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What could possibly happen?

So 2016 has gone, and you are no doubt left wondering what on earth happened there? It was a year when some of the great seats of power were reduced to simply spinning the wheel…

city-hall-and-big-wheel

Across the world the light touch paper was ignited, as populist decisions set off fireworks under the seats of the so-called western democracies…

fireworks-2fireworks-3

And, with all of the celebrity departures leaving so many sobbing into their record and film collections, there was always the great reassurance that shopping never dies…

royal-arcademorgan-arcade

So, what will 2017 bring? Who knows, just try asking Bella and see what reaction you get… ready-to-eatUntil we speak again, Cardiff sends you the very best of wishes in whatever happens across the next 12 months!

January sales

There I was ambling along City Road in Cardiff the other day, when it suddenly seems to me that you can buy just about anything in the January sales these days. But just don’t expect all of the items to look so pleased about being for sale!

City Road bird mural

What's that?

 

Until we speak again this Bella is going to have a keen eye on such sales. Anyone know of a good talon removing service, and an extra large feeding bowl before I buy?

Why go to Newport?

If Newport is the answer I would have to be very curious as to what was the question! Well, it’s the christmas season, so how do we get to avoid all of those obsessive bargain hunters flooding a shopping centre near you, purchasing all those things they don’t need just because the marketers have substantially dropped the price? It turns out that a couple of cats in the City Arms in Cardiff decided that Newport was the best way of avoiding the strange seasonal habits of the human race.

So three Cardiff-based cats… Yours Truly, Fat Freddies and The Banker (aka India Pale, Chocolate Stout and Organic Cider) set out to investigate…

Ye Olde Murenger House [4]Could it be that Newport has the highest respect for preserving its history? Here’s a novel way of showcasing those spare circa 1530 inns you happen to have lying around down the road from your railway station. Ye Olde Murenger House is so old that everything around it is either closed down or falling down!

Ye Olde Murenger House [1]

Perhaps it’s the modesty of the locals that shines through? Though when a place is often thought of as a beer desert you would be well advised to listen to local wisdom…

Ye Olde Murenger House [2]

Is it the haute cuisine that attracts inquisitive travellers from quite simply miles (well yards) around? The antidote to turkey is probably best found elsewhere…

Ye Olde Murenger House [3]

How about the courteous service? Though my ‘intrepid lotion-guzzler’ suggested that The Lamb has had an interesting recent makeover, providing pleasant surroundings, tasty beer, and perhaps a new innovation in the form of self-service (due to customer invisibility at a distance of a couple of yards). It was probably the desperate efforts to achieve a re-fill that got in the way of any photographic evidence of the makeover.

Or, is it the hotbed of sporting achievement that encourages mere mortals to simply look on in awe? Nuff said…

Newport v Plymouth [2]Truth be known, The Banker has been long exiled in Cardiff from somewhere mysteriously unnamed in south Devon, and has waited more than 66 years to watch the boyhood local team (Plymouth Argyle). Out of pure unadulterated respect the home team, Newport County, lost the match 2-1 not to spoil the occasion. The Banker has the truly unrivalled record of 100% success (take that Leicester City FC fans, with your altitude-induced nose-bleeds at the top of the Premier League!).

Call this food!Until we speak again I intend to be Bella, content with the thought that I can employ a personal envoy to represent me when trips to places such as Newport are on the agenda! Though my ‘ignominious traveller’ claims to have had an enjoyable day in the grunge capital of Europe. Please form an orderly queue when making your unnecessary purchases for temporary pleasures at over-filled emporia near you.

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.

Cool at One

How time fly’s when you spend most of the day either sleeping or licking your nether regions. There I was, deep in meditation…

Chillout cat

… when my ‘kidnapper of culinary dreams’ decided it was time for a literary celebration. It seems that a year has already passed since the resident ‘Nonsense-in-Chief’ decided I would become a star of the blogosphere. No, I haven’t got a clue what that means either. To my personal dismay I am told I have been a Cool Cat for precisely one year… this of course is complete tosh; being a lady I’m not giving away my age, but I assure you I have been a Cool Cat wherever I have been for the whole of my life!

As for this celebration thing… there are limits, and a point when a head down the loo or offering a simple view of a fury rump out of a nearby box have their merits. Or it is just time for the more sophisticated among us to get a grip…

Olive branchApart from you humans, the point at which a year arrives is as good as any to do a bit of reflective thinking. Whereas all you lot seem to have achieved at one year is the ability to scream and wail, and project nasty stuff in all directions from both ends!

So, what should you have learned about this Cardiff place from my first year of imparted wisdom? Firstly, they have a strange way of doing architecture. When the brief says “a sophisticated blend of the old and new” I’m not sure that this is what the commissioning people exactly had in mind:

Architectural wonders

But, when it comes to combining architecture with food, and if food really is your religion,  the locals can come up with interesting new ideas for accommodating the likes of multiple feeding bowls and litter trays:

Chapel [2]

As for those moments when you left your shopping list at home, and you are sure that a violin, a Dalek, and a good cup of coffee were prominent amongst the essentials of the day, then the Castle Arcade is the place of your dreams:

Castle Arcade 6

 

Many a fellow feline in London told me before I moved that they communicate differently in that Wales place, but I was still unprepared. For example, they take health and safety of children very seriously, to the point of being very clear of the dangers of tree-climbing:

No tree climbingAs an indigenous population many of these cats may not travel very far (or is that Americans I am thinking of?), but they like to keep busy. So, there is no shortage of signs telling you were to go… in the politest sense of the phrase of course (unless you happen to be more obviously English):

Places to go [1]

Before, during and after a busy day having been told where to go, you will be in need of refreshment. So, this is when in Cardiff you really have to use your Brains! However, refreshment is also where the true multi-cultural legacy of the capital city comes into its own:

4. Brains journey [1]

The local brew is often to be found in its most splendid clarity (with Chris at The City Arms offering me free beer for the publicity… Not!). But, beware of local historians, all too eager to share their rose-tinted time warp stories of when Brains SA was the real deal.

A pint in the City Arms

However, with all of the zeitgeisty nonsense about immigration going on around these ancient lands of Perfidious Albion, it is the demands of the time warp fraternity that are at the centre of allowing interesting brands of low cloud in from the regions of England. The original multicultural port of Cardiff, giving rise to the infamous Tiger Bay, is now succeeded by little more than multi-regional representation in the brews that local people are prepared to fall over from, as a result of joyous consumption.

Just don’t ask about the local football team… you are a season too late on that one. And as for the historic local rugby team… my coughing and spluttering has nothing to do with choking on a furball. Suffice to say, this is a city that wears its sporting failures with as much ‘anonymity’ as it can muster. They even provide convenient masks lying around in public places in order to avoid being easily identified as a supporter:

Fallen headSo, it has been one year of me filling your bowl with quality morsels, and tugging on your tail about the issues that matter in this adopted city of mine. As I preen my whiskers at the thought of 84 posts in the bag, my final thought before we speak again is “are you looking at me?”

You looking at me?

The City of Arcades

If there is one defining thing about us dames… it is that we do like to shop! Back in the wilds of East London I had to make do with scraps from street markets, and the bins of corner shops and local stores. I am not complaining, at times I had the choice of delicacies from many different parts of the world. It often felt like the United Nations emerged from the diversity of those very streets; and that got me excited about the idea of being near to Tiger Bay… the original United Nations-by-sea. But, that is not to be; I am near it, but the Tiger Bay I heard other cats talking about has long since gone.

It seems my local corner shop is now a great big John Lewis store, a bit more upmarket than I have been used to, but something I can easily adjust to as long as my personal banker keeps the taps running.

John Lewis 1

But wait… it seems this Cardiff place has something else to interest us discerning shoppers. It seems like the Victorians in this part of the world had an idea for building shopping ‘arcades’, and from the Royal Arcade in 1858 to the Dominions Arcade in 1921 Cardiff has become famous as ‘the’ city of arcades. As I slink along the shop fronts it can get quite confusing with all these different arcades with their fancy shops, and some not so fancy shops. High this and Morgan that, the odd Castle, and even a Duke, not to say a Wyndham (whatever that is).

Castle Arcade 1

High St Arcade 2

Duke St Arcade 1Dominions Arcade 1

Morgan Arcade 1

Wyndham Arcade 1

Then I hear there was a Queen Street Arcade, a Dickens Arcade, an Andrews Arcade, and an Oxford Arcade… all gone. It is enough to make your head spin, but at least there is one great industry thriving in all of these arcades… coffee! How much coffee do you think there is in Brazil… well most of it seems to have found its way to Cardiff from what I see as I mooch along these mini glass-rooved shopping cathedrals.

After a smooth cappuccino in the Morgan Arcade I am looking like this:

A few macchiato’s in the Castle Arcade and the world is beginning to look at bit like this [go see loads of brilliant images by my friend Fat-Freddies-Cat at http://www.panoramio.com/user/5357514]:

castle arcade cardiff - balcony panorama

Then an espresso in the Royal Arcade and I’m shimmying across the glass roof looking something like this:

Thank heavens for the dimly lit recesses of The Old Arcade… the more familiar territory of the alley cat, with its stretch of beer-soaked, cigarette-butt littered cobbles leading me directly into the culinary palace that is… the Central Market.

I will have many more tales to tell about my sojourns around these arcades (and the market), but in the meantime if I have sparked your interest in this unique feature of my city I suggest you go to http://cardiffarcadesproject.com/ for loads of stuff and things about each of the arcades. See you again soon. Juno