Thursday, 25 August 2011

Cardiff Baby - Day Four - Cardiff afterlife

I would love to say I got a great night's sleep in our lovely room at the Novotel Cardiff Centre, but alas, despite the squooshiness of the lovely bed, it wasn't to be. You see, a group of girls had decided to stumble back to their rooms on our floor at ridiculous o'clock in the morning and screech the place down. It was just about getting to the point where I was going to go out and literally kick their asses when suddenly all went quiet. Much better.

Except now I was awake I realised our room was boiling hot and I couldn't get back to sleep. Locating the air conditioning panel on the wall using only the light from mobile phone display, I set it to its coldest and most powerful settings and returned to bed, basking in the newfound coolness. That helped me get off to sleep but then I woke up shivering at 6am and had to readjust the settings again. The Yorkshireman somehow slumbered blissfully through it all. Typical.

Luckily when I woke up again later that morning, there was a spa waiting to relieve my tension. I swam fifty lengths of the pool (daily exercise: check!), dodging families with small children and groups of gossiping OAPs as I went, and then relaxed in the jacuzzi, sauna and steam room again. As chilled out as we ever would be, we returned to our room to get all our stuff together and then checked out of the hotel. I wished we could have stayed longer, especially now I'd gotten the hang of the air con. Oh well, there's always next time!

In the meantime, it was almost midday and we hadn't had anything to eat yet, so we headed off in search of sustenance. We ended up in a really cool Wetherspoons called The Prince of Wales, which is based in an old theatre - even the ladies toilets seem to have once been some kind of dressing room. We had a good feed and some more ale and then made our way over to the Millennium Stadium so the Yorkshireman could take some photos. I'm generally quite nonchalant when it comes to football stadia, especially if you can't even see the inside of them, but it kept him happy. Besides, we were making our way to a place of interest for me next.

Yes, you've probably guessed it - I had located another cupcake shop. This time it was Sugarswirlz in Cardiff's Dominions Arcade. Actually this was a pretty famous cupcake shop, having been dragged into the limelight after a lady went a bit mental there when they ran out of her favourite flavour. Don't get me wrong, I love my cupcakes, but that's somewhat of an extreme reaction, no?

So, after the Yorkshireman finished snapping his stadium, we ventured off in search of cupcakes. We found them, tucked away in a lovely little shop with a girl as sugary sweet as her cupcakes serving us. There were so many flavours I found it very difficult to choose. In the end I could only narrow it down to two, each representing one of my favourite sweeties: white chocolate and marshmallow. However such sweetness clearly required the bitterness of coffee to cut through it a little and so a visit to Starbucks was also required.

Unfortunately I got stuck behind a group of awkward people (you know the type: "Oh no actually instead of that hot chocolate you've already started making for me and rung into the till, can I actually have a skinny iced soy latte instead? I'm being good hahahaaaaa. And what sandwiches do you have? Oh no I don't want any of those. Maybe a fruit salad. But then if I'm having a fruit salad maybe I'll go for that hot chocolate after all…"). By the time I emerged fifteen minutes later we had to make a run for it to make sure we would be there on time for our bus to the airport. Sadly, it was already time to go home.

Thankfully we made it to the bus station with plenty of time to spare, which gave us the chance to sample our cupcakes. I had my white chocolate one first, which, quite cutely and awesomely, had a white chocolate mouse on top. Eeee! And, actually, it was so delicious. Okay so if you're one of those people who think that white chocolate, fudge, etc is "too sweet", it's probably not the cupcake for you, but if you love a good, concentrated taste of utter sugary goodness, it's perfect. The cupcakes were pretty big too, which is always a plus. The cake itself was very moist - the Yorkshireman (who had a chocolate cupcake himself) described it as "more like a muffin", which I think sums it up perfectly. The white chocolate flavoured frosting had that wonderful balance between the sweetness of the sugar and actual taste and the little mouse was quite literally the "sugar on top" of a wonderful cupcake.

However it was, of course, very, very sweet. One cupcake would have been more than enough but thanks to EBTB Syndrome (Eyes Bigger Than Belly) I had a second waiting to be sampled, and it was marshmallow flavoured - yikes! The marshmallow cupcake had the same muffin-like cake but was topped with a frosting that was a bit differently textured than the white chocolate one - I think it had some actual marshmallow whipped into it, as well as a big plump marshmallow decorating the top. I can't say for sure whether it was just because I'd already just eaten the white chocolate cupcake but I suspect I would have thought it anyway: it was just too sweet. And trust me, coming from me, that's an unusual claim. But as anyone who has eaten marshmallows straight from the bag knows, it gets pretty sickening pretty quickly, and this was like eating a whole bag of marshmallows in one sitting. Even I, the cupcake queen, left it unfinished.

So, in summary of Sugarswirlz's cupcakes: the white chocolate one was very sweet - almost the antithesis of the coffee cupcake from Ella's in London but yet equally divine; the marshmallow one was just that bit too sweet to fully enjoy the tastes and textures. But those were the last cupcakes of our trip and so a conclusion must be reached; my top three cupcakes ever (thus far anyway) are: Gobble Gobble (vanilla with sprinkles) from Crumbs in New York, Coffee from Ella's in London, and White Chocolate from Sugarswirlz in Cardiff. Don't ask me to rank them - it's just too hard - but if anyone wanted to send me some more samples I would gladly have a go at it…

Back in reality again, we were soon on the bus to Cardiff Airport. Somewhat sleep-deprived, I dozed most of the way (in spite of the sugar and caffeine hit) whilst the Yorkshireman kept an eye out for a glimpse of Cardiff City Stadium. At the airport everything went very smoothly and I didn't even have time to buy a coffee before we were called forward for boarding. And that's where it all went pear-shaped.

For some reason bmibaby decided it would be a fantastic idea to take a plane full of Belfast-bound passengers and fly them to… Birmingham. Yes, Birmingham. Say what?! Apparently one of their planes in Birmingham had experienced technical difficulties and we were destined to provide the rescue mission. Not that I'm not sympathetic to the plights of the Birmingham passengers but it would have been nice to have been asked first!

Lookit, I can understand your flight being delayed or cancelled because your plane or your airport has problems, but for you to be made to sit on a plane for an hour and a half extra because somebody else over 100 miles away had a problem with their plane seems a bit ridonculous. Why should you be disadvantaged just because bmibaby can't provide sufficient service to their other customers? And also? They didn't even give us so much as a cup of tea for our trouble. Bah! I wrote a strongly worded letter to their customer service team when we got back but I haven't had a response yet.

Eventually we landed in Belfast and my very kind mummy picked up our weary souls from the airport and cooked us dinner, even though she was sick. Mummies are the best. Although not the bandaged Egyptian ones - they can be a bit scary. Then again so can my own dear mummy… Hmmm…

So that was the end of our mini adventure in London and Cardiff. I had an absolute whale of a time and I would highly recommend both cities for anyone planning a wee city break somewhere in the UK. In London it was great to stay somewhere out of the main tourist areas and get to see a different side to a city we thought we already knew pretty well. In Cardiff it was lovely to see a smaller city like our own being given a new lease of life. I would love to visit both again, but there are plenty of other destinations waiting for the Yorkshireman and I to explore them before then. Hopefully it won't be too long before our next (mis)adventure… the travel itch is already returning!

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