The Lost Adventure

While I was sorting through some old photographs, I came across some of an adventure the lady of the house and I shared with Millie and Alfie a few months ago. It was a great adventure and worth remembering.

It was a beautiful Autumn morning and Millie and Alfie had agreed to meet at our home to spend some time together. The Princess Mia was at school. We all had breakfast together, before heading off to find some new things to discover in the wonderful city called Cardiff, which is near to where we all live.

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We headed down towards Cardiff Bay, once a place to avoid, but now a bustling area where many Cardiff people love to go. Cardiff Bay is a diverse waterfront built around a freshwater lake known as ‘the Bay’. You will find a great mix of Cardiff attractions, entertainment and events, coupled with vibrant bars and shops that create a truly unique atmosphere worthy of any capital city!

Cardiff Bay is the area created by the Cardiff Bay Barrage in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. The regeneration of Cardiff Bay is now widely regarded as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the United Kingdom. The Bay is supplied by two rivers the River Taff and the River Ely to form a 500-acre freshwater lake round the former dockland area south of the city centre. The Bay was formerly tidal, with access to the sea limited to a couple of hours each side of high water but now provides 24-hour access through three locks. Cardiff Bay played a major part n Cardiff’s development by being the means of exporting coal from the valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the industrial age. The mining industry helped fund the building of Cardiff into the capital city of Wales and helped the third Marquis of Bute, who owned the docks, become the richest man in the world at the time.

As Cardiff exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay and communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian , Somalian and Yemeni, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Irish helped create the unique character of the area.

After the Second World War most of the industry closed down and became derelict. But, in 1999, new life was injected into the area by the building of the barrage one of the most controversial building projects of the day but also one of the most successful.

We parked in our usual place outside the Coal Exchange in Mount Stuart Square. It is still being renovated and still looks a bit sad these days, but I am sure it will soon be restored to its former glory.

We had two pushchairs, one each for Millie and Alfie and as we set off from the car I really fancied a pushchair race, but as I looked across at the lady of the house, she did not look to be in a racing mood so I let the matter drop. If anyone fancies a few laps of racing pushchairs around Mount Stuart Square some time…

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We moved rather sedately down to the water’s edge and spent some time feeding the ducks. Millie and Alfie loved this. I had raided the good lady’s wholemeal bread allowance, so we were well prepared and the Bay ducks had a healthy meal that morning.

On previous visits to the Bay we have met the Welsh Ladies Football team, had a trip around the Bay and shared many cups of coffee and had breakfast in Subway on more than one occasion. As we fed the ducks I saw the following sign.DSC05141

I really fancied a trip up to town up the River. I mentioned the fact tentatively to the good lady who shares my life and when she replied, ‘As long as you are paying Fatboy!’ I knew this was a possibility.

We waited in the queue along with a large group of school students who were admiring Millie and Alfie. They were obviously kind, caring people because when the boat came in they promptly took all the seats and left the four of us standing forlornly on the quayside. The teacher, incidentally a friend of ours, looked a little guilty as the boat pulled away and I knelt down to wipe the tears from Millie’s and Alfie’s cheeks. We decided to stay and wait for the next one so the two dear grandchildren played around the area and it meant when the next boat came in we had the choice of seats.

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It was BRILLIANT.

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We had a great view as the Lady Katherine chugged across the Bay, past the St David’s hotel where the rich and famous hang out (although I must say from the outside the building looks a bit like a sixties housing estate), up the Taff under the Bay Bridge, past the Channel View Leisure Centre and the Marl where I played many a game for North Clive Street Youth Football team, round past Taff Terrace, up Taff Embankment under the Railway bridge by Cardiff Central and we came to a stop next to Cardiff Castle and Bute Park. It was a splendid trip and well worth parting with three pounds, well six actually because the lady of the house had yet again ‘left her purse at home’.

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We strolled through Bute Park and then up into town.

The strange sounds coming from Millie and Alfie’s tummies reminded us it was lunchtime, so we made for Howells – one of the great department Stores in Cardiff.

James Howell’s first step towards the present Howells department store began with the establishment of a shop under the Stuart Hall in The Hayes, a street near St Mary Street. From there the first part of the current store was built in the late-19th century, this part of the building includes an ornate facade that is visible on St Mary Street. In the 1920s a large and well-proportioned neoclassical extension was built up to the corner of St Mary Street and Heol-y-Cawl. A unique result of this extension was that Bethany Chapel, built on the site of an earlier chapel in 1865, was absorbed into the fabric of the building and its frontage was incorporated into the interior and is still visible in the store today, fronting onto the men’s department.

Further extensions were added throughout the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, causing the building to show the architectural trends of the Late Victorian Era to the Modernism of the 1960s.

Howells Department Store was originally a family-run business, owned and managed by the family of James Howell. In the 1950s, the store was sold to Welsh banker Sir Julian Hodge, who subsequently sold the store to Mohammed Al-Fayed, owner of the Hose of Fraser chain, meaning the store ceased to be an independent department store. The store is still owned by House of Fraser, although the chain was bought by Icelandic investment company, Bauger late 2006. In the 1990s the Victorian frontage on St Mary Street, neglected for the best part of 50 years, was cleaned and restored, greatly enhancing the building’s appearance.

The building is Grade 2 listed. It also has a great restaurant, which is the most child friendly place in Cardiff.

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We had a great time there; Mille and Alfie ate their lunch, played together and watched some episodes of Peppa Pig. The lady of the house and I had tea – served in little silver pots and in Howells you always get a little jug of hot water without asking. Total class!

After leaving Howells, I wanted to catch a bendy bus back to the Bay but the dear lady wanted to walk. It was a nice day so I did what I was told; I mean we agreed to walk back to the car, still parked near the Coal Exchange.

It was a good walk on a bright clear, warm day. We had not even reached John Lewis and the two little ones were asleep, dreaming no doubt of ducks and boats and castles and posh shops. We walked down Bute Street, a street full of friendly faces

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We put them in the car, drove home and carried them into bed and still neither woke up.

It had been a great adventure, but the best part of all was the fact that the friendship between these two beautiful little cousins was growing closer.

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It had been such fun!

The lady of the house graciously allowed me to bring her some refreshments as she rested. It was a good end to the day.

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