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Thursday, January 3, 2013
It might lie in the shadow of its capital city neighbours Cardiff, but the Welsh seaside city of Swansea has no reason to feel inferior as a holiday destination.
We stayed in the Dragon Hotel, situated right in the city centre.
The four star hotel contains wifi internet access, flat screen digital TVs, a restaurant, and a gym. It is handily placed within walking distance of the city’s shopping centre, the marina and the beach.
Prices start at £44.75 per person, per night and there is an option to upgrade to an executive room for an extra £20.
For more information, contact 01972 657100.
All the same, you would be hard pressed to find many people who see it as the first port of call when considering a weekend break in the west of the UK.
Despite being a mere three hours away from London by train, it has Bristol and Bath to contend with, let alone Cardiff to the east and the Brecon Beacons to the north.
So the town’s tourist board has decided to put a bit of money behind promoting what Swansea does have to offer - its beautiful bay, picturesque countryside, and endless opportunities for waterfront fun.
The city centre itself appears unremarkable on the surface, although it is welcoming at this time of year and the Swansea Market should not be missed either, being as it is the country’s largest and packed with every food stuff you could imagine.
We ate at the Grape and Olive bar and restaurant at the top of the Meridian Tower, meaning we were able to dine at almost 350ft, giving excellent views of the city centre and bay.
The tower was completed in 2008, and also contains apartments.
The menu features mixture of Welsh and Mediterranean dishes, including steak, fresh fish, pizza and scallops.
For more information or to book a table, contact 01792 462617
But a short walk down past a marina packed with boats down to the bay itself reveals miles and miles of beach stretching into the middle distance.
If you walk a little bit further to the east and you find yourself in Mumbles, an attractive collection of cafes, galleries, and craft shops. Maybe it should be renamed Shouts in honour of what it has to offer? No?
The bay is also home to the Oystermouth Castle, open during the summer months, so for those of us paying a visit to the area during colder climes, there are ample opportunities for a relaxing walk along the promenade, and the chance to sample some of Mumbles’ famed ice creams.
Quite rightly too, the town is proud of its football club, being as it made quite the impression in its Premier League bow last season.
The team still flourishes in 2012/13 and it was quite fortuitous (well, for me anyway) that my first trip to the Liberty Stadium took in a thrilling 3-4 game against Norwich.
The stadium itself was only a five minute bus ride from the town centre, and it appeared much of the city was on its way there as well.
It’s definitely worth attempting to buy a ticket whether or not you like football, and you can discount any preconceptions about football fans, the atmosphere around the ground was as friendly as I have experienced, while the venue itself is a tidy little stadium with fans fully appreciative of the delightful brand of football continued under Michael Laudrup.
In fact, you also got the sense that the city is proud of its heritage, and why not, when one of the most feted Welsh 20th century poets was born there?
The Dylan Thomas Centre, down in Swansea’s Maritime Quarter, celebrates his achievements with a permanent exhibition chronicling his life and work.
And in keeping with the heritage theme, the National Waterfront Museum, set yards away, successfully treads the line between educational worth and interactivity.
Set in a pretty modern glass panelled building on the waterfront (its name is nothing if not descriptive), it charts Swansea’s growth from a town founded on transport, mining and metal manufacturing, also taking in its sporting and worker history.
Its interactive workstations and draws which open to reveal other surprises, are bound to keep the youngsters happy while you attempt to keep the brain ticking over.
And talking of family entertainment, the Winter Wonderland mini-funfair styled park, was a nice touch (and it runs until January 6, so be quick if you want to go along).
It featured a mini-ice skating rink, carousels, and all the traditional fun fair games you can think of. I prefer to think retro rather than hackneyed, and there was more than enough fun and games there to keep the a whole family entertained for much of the day, provided sufficient vouchers are bought at the start.
And fancying a look at the entire landscape of the city, Mumbles and Gower included, I eased myself onto the Big Wheel, the centrepoint of the funfair. Think of a more prosaic London Eye without the glass covering and you are right there with me.
It was here that I realised the various aspects of what Swansea has to offer, and it dawned on me that I could have done with the extra day.
Do give it a try.