I've always loved Wales. Several family holidays during my childhood were based in the north of the country, notably in a converted watermill near Bala and on a farm with a view of Snowdon. It was in Wales that I first rode a horse. Accordingly it was also in Wales that I first fell off one.
Visits to the south have been rarer, although a fortnight in a static caravan in Saundersfoot is a fond memory. Where else could you walk to the neighbouring town (Tenby) via the beach at low tide, then take a trip to a monks' island (Caldey) in an ex-military mini landing craft known as a duck whilst leaning over the side to spot jellyfish?
Cardiff though was new territory. The city has in recent years been accorded worldwide promotion twice over thanks first to the massive modern redevelopment, and second to Doctor Who.
Given that most roadsigns in Wales are written in both English and Welsh, and that it takes mere moments to learn that 'police' in Welsh is 'heddlu,' I now wish I'd learned a little of the language as a courtesy. Just a few basic but essential phrases, such as 'Good evening,' 'Have you met Charlotte Church?' and 'It's bigger on the inside...'
My husband, who was easily persuaded to come along for a short break and sweetly did all the driving, was, in a purely masculine sense you understand, complimentary about Cardiff's shopping. The real meaning of this is probably that there are plenty of bars and coffee shops among the boutiques, but he did also present me with an exquisite little jade brooch and matching silk scarf. Daniel's spur-of-the-moment romantic side is as charming as the waitress in our hotel's restaurant, who, on learning we were newly(ish) married, sent a box of chocolates up to our room later that evening.
We drove home on Thursday afternoon by way of Hereford, home of my beloved Bulls who in a display of unrivalled kindness are still propping up the other 91 teams in the football league. It was sad beyond words to see the damage done to some historic buildings by the recent fire, but a joy to pay a fleeting visit to the town and enjoy an enormously generous bar meal beside a real log fire. There was even a labrador curled up in front of it.
All this notwithstanding, there's no place like home, and the moments when the M4 becomes the M25 becomes the M23 and Gatwick Airport hoves into view are reassuringly familiar. But thank you, people of Cardiff and Hereford. We'll be back...