27 May 2012

Cardiff reflections

A cock-up on the hotel booking front (my fault) meant that I had to use a different hotel for a couple of days and due to another cock-up (not my fault) I ended up in one that claims to be in the city centre but which is actually in a commercial area beyond the main roads to the south and east.

The good news is that the hotel was close to a former dock, was not that far from the Bay, the weather was nice and I only had to put up with it for two nights.

Spotting the dock on the map was easy, getting there on foot was much less so. People are not meant to walk in this part of town and either the roads have no pavements or they have substantial barriers that prevent you from crossing where you want.

Jay walking is a serious hobby of mine so I took the busy roads on and headed for the dock. The immediate reward was this view down the length of the dock towards some new flats in the Bay area.

Walking down the west side of the dock I came across several predictable signs of attempted urban regeneration.

There were a couple of bars, one restaurant and the expected industrial sculptures to remind us that this used to be a working dock, as if the expanse of water was not enough.

Also typical was the new offices for Cardiff City Council in one corner. You could say that the Council was leading by example in showing its faith in the area or, equally, you could say that no other large company wanted to move there.

What let the area down was the considerable number of empty plots and the few empty offices, both suggesting that the regeneration had run out of steam.

The other part of the boiler-plate urban regeneration is the upmarket waterside flats and these are a good example with their mix of colours and angles.

What really makes them stand out is the way that they reflect in the still water of the dock.

This reflection is about as perfect as you can get with free water, though I did cheat and hold the camera upside down (which is much less of a cheat than simply rotating the photo).

Between the dock and the Bay the magic disappears for a new moments and I got lost among ugly commercial buildings and busy roads.

At one point I found myself trapped in the corner of a car park and could only escape by making my way through the hideous Dragon Centre with its cheap attractions (bowling and amusements, etc.) and cheaper fast food outlets. And I was wearing a suit and tie.

Making it out safely on the other side I was welcomed by a side view of the Wales Millennium Centre with its luscious stripes of local stone.

Equally pleasing is the way that the walls are staggered and the stones left with a casual finish that belies the care and attention that went in to their design and construction.

The Centre is most recognised by the large lettering above the entrance.

That and the mirrored Torchwood pillar in the courtyard in front of it. The pillar does not look that impressive without Captain Jack Harkness appearing out of the ground in front of it, so I'll stick with the lettering.

After a brief walk around the Bay area, where I discovered the excellent Moksh Indian restaurant, it was time to turn tail and head back the way I came. The dock was still pretty in the failing light with only the occasional jogger to break the silence and solitude.

Even the final scramble across the pedestrian hostile roundabout and under the harsh concrete flyover back to the hotel failed to erase the sense of calm instilled by the gentle walk along the still dock.

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