Tag Archives: travel

Tea For Two in Cardiff

Traditional Tea Rooms in the Heart of the City

Finally someone in the refreshment business is prepared to StarBuck the coffee trend. The Pettigrew Tea Rooms are, instead of being a pale pastiche of an Italian coffee house produced on a Seattle drawing board, a traditional British tea room.

David Le Masurier has taken the bold decision to open this marvellous venture in the wonderfully iconic old West Lodge at the entrance to Bute Park. This 177-year-old building has seen many uses over recent years, rented out and more recently used as a canteen for the parks grounds staff but now has been reborn as a classic afternoon retreat.

Along with the tea rooms development of this part of Bute Park there is also a gift shop that provides a home to a collection of old Victorian press clay floor tiles that were originally used to mark out the foundations of the old Blackfriars Monastery site,whose ruins you can also visit in the park.

The tearooms are a perfect jump back in time to a gentler age, sipping proper loose tea; that has been brewed in a teapot and strained, out of elegant porcelain cups. You also have the luxury of dropping your sugar cubes into your chosen brew with tongs while an extra pot of water allows you the opportunity for a second or third cup, should you so desire. Show me a coffee house capable of providing such elegance.

In keeping with the traditional motif, as well as a good selection of teas, you can also nibble on some delicious homemade cakes and scones, or toasted teacakes and crumpets dripping with butter.  But it’s not just the cakes you can sample as they also have a very good selection of light lunches for you to enjoy.

The tearooms offer the weary shopper an idyllic spot to catch their breath or an excellent place to take tea before boarding the nearby river taxi to Cardiff Bay. Bute Park itself is a gorgeous piece of city centre greenery and well worth a walk around. No matter for what reason you find yourself at Canton Bridge you are guaranteed to have your thirst quenched and taste buds tickled at the Pettigrew Tea Rooms. Forget your double decafe, frothy macciato frappuccino lite, this is drinking in complete style and elegance.

Cardiff Bay’s Outdoor Art Gallery

One of the aims of Cardiff Bay’s development was to create a vast open-air art gallery of public sculpture. The idea was to have modern, accessible images that would inspire and engage with visitors to the area. This they have achieved and so much more as the bay and surrounding area are full of imaginative and thought provoking sculptures for anyone touring the foreshore to admire.

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The artworks come in a variety of materials from ceramic tile, wrought iron, stone, cast bronze and wood and ranges for the largest building to the smallest bench. There are also fabulous exhibition spaces too such as the Crafts in the Bay gallery and the Old Norwegian Church and the futuristic, Millennium Arts Centre, which also provides areas for the occasional show.

People, Places and Work

People Like Us

The works celebrate Cardiff’s people, famous contributors and the stories that made Cardiff great. There are statues to the multicultural heritage of the Docks, memorials to the sailors and Scott of the Antarctic as well as a tribute to Ivor Novello and local hero, Captain Ernest Willows who pioneered balloon flight.

Sculptural Buildings

There are illustrations to poems, strange optical illusions and plenty of ships and sails. Many of the buildings around the bay have a sculptural quality to them as well. Many demonstrate a nautical feel, the waves of the Atlantic Wharf Entertainment Centre, the Atradius building shaped like a ships prow or the sails on top of the St David’s Hotel.

Millennium Arts Centre

One of the most sculptural buildings is the Millennium Arts Centre, with its slate sides echoing the cliffs of South Wales and the quarries in the north. The golden copper façade is inscribed with tall, towering letters over the entrance.

Waterside Statues 

The most popular sculpture can be found at Mermaid Quay, “People like Us” explores the diverse, multicultural nature of old Cardiff Docks and has a couple with their dog standing looking out over the fresh water lagoon as if posing for a family photograph.


Other groups of people remembered in bronze around the bay are the original Celts with a large Torc necklace by Harvey Hood at Roald Dahl’s Plass, the Miners represented in John Clench’s piece “From Pit to Port” in Britannia Park and the work of the Dockers is celebrated with Andrew Row’s 2000 sculpture “Rope Knot” in car park behind Techniquest and “Ship in a Bottle” by Melissa Gibbs at the end of Windsor Esplanade.

Seamen’s Memorial

Lost at Sea

The more poignant work is the touching memorial created by Brian Fell to the sailors of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives crossing the Atlantic Ocean during the Second World War. This wonderfully tender piece features a face at peace that morphs into the hull of a ship as you walk around it.

Swiss artist Felice Varini has created a mind boggling optical illusion on the Cardiff Bay Barrage. Taken in isolation they just look like meaningless yellow marks, as if the council’s road workers had gone off on one. However, when viewed from a particular point the marks converge into a massive series of concentric circles that engulf the barrage.

Artistic Poems

Drift of Curlews

Poetic interpretations can be found in the more playful and functional works of Gwen Heeney using Dylan Thomas’s poem “Ballard of the long legged bait” they take the form of benches scattered around Britannia Park and beside Roath Basin. “Cargoes” by Brian Fell is a series of 22 plaques on the walls of the Mermaid Quay that take inspiration from John Masefield’s work on Cardiff Docks.

Trawler Weather Vane

The whole bay area is awash with sculptures both great and small, from the large, mirrored pillar in front of the Millennium Arts Centre to the delicate Willow’s clock tower at Mermaid Quay or the decorative weather vane on top of Woods Brasserie. As you take a leisurely stroll around the rejuvenated bay, keep your eyes open and discover the wonderful, outdoor art gallery that covers all corners of Cardiff Bay’s environs and it will take you on an adventure of your very own.

Sculpture Around Mermaid Quay

Follow the link to an interactive map of Cardiff Bay, with details of the sculptures location, artist, date and a description.

If you would like to find out more about exciting day trips and tours around Cardiff or the Welsh countryside or the many other memorable festivals, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

Umbrian Hills Alive with Music

Throughout the summer months the luscious rolling hillsides of Umbria in central Italy will be alive with the sounds of music. Every year there area a number of well organised, promoted and supported musical festivals in the province that cater for all tastes and preferences.

Soul Christmas around Lake Trasimeno

Each little village, hamlet and town arrange their own sagra, normally a week of live music, dancing and much eating but it’s the larger events that draw in the crowds. Umbria Jazz is probably the provinces’s premier event but there are equally as entertaining events held in Spoleto, Todi and Citta di Castello.

Umbrian’s love music and whether you’re a teenage gothic emo retro punk, a retired army officer with a love for the classics or a smooth jazz freak there will be a weekend to tempt your fancy.  Here are some of the years popular musical festivals around Umbria:-
Orvieto Jazz – Orvieto – February
The little hill town of Oriveto in the south of the Province gets the musical year off to a start with its Winter Jazz collection. This is much smaller and more intimate than the Umbrian Jazz Festival in the summer but none the less important and well supported. Despite being in the depths of winter the festival still attracts top line acts and jazz aficionados from around the world.

Umbria Jazz in Perugia

Umbria Jazz – Perugia – July
The annual Umbria Jazz Festival is the regions most famous event, and every year the capital is turned into one big cool jazz party venue. Piazza’s, café bars and theatres are all humming to the wild sounds of the cool cats. This has long been on the tour dates of many legendary jazz heroes and the likes of Dizzy Gallespie, Charlie Mingus and Count Bassie all brought their inimitable sounds to the Umbrian stage. Now in its 40th year Umbria Jazz continues to be one of the foremost festivals of genre in the world.

Two World’s Festival – Spoleto – June
The famous Two World’s Festival in Spoleto is a musical extravaganza that has been in existence since 1957. Organised by the conductor Gian Carlo Menotti as a multi-faceted event to bring together a wide range of musical styles and people as was possible. The event turns Spoleto into a melting pot of music with such diverse performances as chamber music and jazz all sitting along side each other in the piazzas.
TodiArteFestival – Todi – July
The ancient walled town of Todi is transformed every July into a festival of art and opera. Classical music and performance fill the town’s streets with excitement and entertainment throughout the week.

Trasimeno Blues

Trasimeno Blues – Lake Trasimeno – July/August
The tranquil shores of Italy’s second largest lake are the venue for the Trasimeno Blues Festival. The towns of Passignano, Castiglione dei Lago, Citta della Pieve and Perugia all provide the stages for the melancholic lyrics and soulful guitar riffs that typify blues music.  John Lee Hooker, John Mayall and Canned Heat are amongst the great blues exponents that have made their way to the lakeside venues in previous years.
Festival delle Nazioni (Festival of Nations) –  Citta di Castello – August

Each year the Citta di Castello chooses a different country as a theme and the town’s shop fronts enter into a competition to show off that year’s theme. Performers, choirs and orchestras from the designated country are invited throughout the summer to perform and show off their relative talents. Previous years have seen Citta di Castello full of the sounds from Spain, Israel, Britain and Russia all giving concerts, many of them free, in the piazzas and theatres around the town.
Soul Christmas – Lake Trasimeno – December/January
Christmas in Umbria traditionally rocks to the uplifting sounds of gospel choirs, soul singers and spiritual music. The churches and performance halls of Passignano, Castiglione del Lago and Paciano all echo to the singing of Afro American voices and local Italy gospel groups. This provides Umbria with a unique and emotionally charged Christmas season of entertainment.

Other Musical Events in Umbria include:-
Umbria Folk Festival –  Orvieto – August, great range of traditional Italian musical acts and performances.

Umbrian Music Fest  – Umbria – September, throughout the province there
is a whole mixture of musical styles, tastes and genres from hip hop to classical.

San Secondo Pizza Festival, July, pizza and two weeks worth of tribute bands and cover acts. This little Umbrian village regularly plays host to Queen, Pink Floyd, Kiss and Led Zeppelin, even Michael Jackson has been known to make an appearance.

Canti e Discanti – Foligno – July.

Preggio Music Festival – Preggio – July/August, another small walled Umbrian village that organises an excellent timetable of live music, performances and opera.

Bianco, Rosso and Blues – August, the music and food event sees ten soul, blues and jazz acts all on the same stage along with the flavours and aromas of the regions famous red and white wines.
Eden Rock, San Leo Bastia – August The small village on the Umbrian, Tuscan border lays on a popular music festival each year, which attracts both international artists and local talent and provides an entertaining weekend in the quiet little part of Italy.


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Five Tales of Italian Christmas Cakes

The festive season gives the traveller an excellent opportunity to sample the many scrumptious Christmas cakes and treats that are made this time of year and at no other time are there more delicious local delicacies on offer than over the Christmas holidays. Italy is not different in this regard and tourists around the country can discover the many regional variations in cuisine during the festive season. Italy has an excellent collection of tasty morsels that come onto the shelves of local shops around Christmas and many have interesting stories behind their origins.



Cavallucci is a favourite Christmas cake from Italy and has been around since the 16th century, when the people of Siena started making the small sticky, aniseed flavoured, chewy scones. The recipe consists of a rich dough full of walnuts, honey, candied fruit and aniseed. Originally these Tuscan doughy cookies were made for the stable boys hence their name cavallucci, which means “little horses”

Panforte is another Tuscan cake made with almonds, spices, honey and candied fruit. There are two stories about its discovery; the first tells of an orphan who visited the baby Jesus, having nothing to offer the infant, save a dried crust of bread from his pocket. Joseph gave a crumb to one of the birds nesting in the roof and returned the rest to the boy, thanking him. The orphan left feeling upset that his gift was too poor an offering but on his return home he found his mother dressed in elegant clothes and his father in a bright shiny suit of armour. On the kitchen table was a feast, the centrepiece being a cake made with almonds, honey and spices.

The second story from the 13th century is that a nun called Sister Leta found that rodents had eaten through the bags containing the sugar, spice and almonds. The ingredients had become all mix up together in the cupboard, moving a black cat out of the way she suddenly thought “why not just mix them all together in a pan.” Not wishing to waste the scarce ingredients she decided to bake a cake with the mixture.

Once it was ready the cat purring, turned to her and said, “Go on then, try it”. Sister Leta realising that cats cannot talk, therefore it must surely be the devil in disguise and threw the contents from the pan over the cat and promptly banishing the demon back to hell. Upon hearing the racket Sister Berta, the Mother Superior came running into the kitchen and listened to the tale, curious as to what wondrous baking could defeat the Devil and so panforte came to be made.



In Northern Italy, a Christmas cake, containing honey, almonds, eggs that has an interesting story is the Torrone. It was first created on October 25th, 1441 for the wedding of Bianca Maria Visconti and Francesco Sfroza in Cremona, Lombardia. It was made by the city’s pastry chefs for the wedding in the shape of the city’s famous tower, the “Torione,” which at that time dominated Cremona’s skyline. As the Viscounti was well known throughout Europe, guests were invited from far and wide. After the happy occasion many of them took home the recipe for this delicious sweet cake and it rapidly became a popular cake all over the continent.

This Milanese cake is famous the length and breadth of Italy during the festive season and was first made, legend has it, in the 15th century. A nobleman and falconer Ughetto Atellani who fell in head over heels in love with the daughter of a poor baker called Toni. The lord, disguising himself as a baker, made a rich, sweet cake containing nuts, candied peel, and raisins in order to win her hand. The Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro Sforza agreed to the union and at the wedding, which the artist, Leonardo da Vinci was present, the cake Panettoni (Toni’s bread) was served.

Pandoro or Golden Bread has a long history, its existence documented as far back as the first century, where documentary evidence indicates that the Roman Scholar, Pliny the Elder had a liking for it. The cake became very popular with rich aristocrats during the Middle Ages and due to the expensive ingredients of spices, nuts and honey or sugar was mainly served in palaces across the land. The modern version is credited with being perfected in Verona where it was near the spice markets of Venice.

Further Into

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