It’s that time of year again when I, like most of the British public, are dreaming of summer holidays, Caribbean sunsets, flaming cocktails, warm seaside breezes and city streets brimming with culture and colour. My year pretty much revolves around a sightseeing Easter city break and a relaxing beach holiday come August. But with the pennies running low and spring not quite peeping into view, a DIY approach can sometimes be the only option. For someone who calls Cardiff home, I am guilty of neglecting it and not giving it the recognition it deserves by always taking the option to flee to Bristol airport instead of discovering a different side of the city. So last weekend, when my friend came to visit, I made a concerted effort to see Cardiff from a different angle. I was on a staycation. Here are my top tips for making your hometown a hot destination.
1. Sparkle and shine. As mundane and backbreaking as it can be, giving your home a spring clean can make all the difference. The more Airbnb your place looks the better. After scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom, putting the washing to go and reorganising my wardrobe I felt like I could relax without tripping over plastic bags, odd socks or dry shampoo lids. If your space looks like an Instagramable hotel, you’re more likely to enjoy a 5* stay.
2. Change your mindset. As Cardiff has been a place where I’ve worked hard studying for my Masters, written my dissertation and undertaken work experience, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between where I work and play. In recent months I’ve spent hours tucked away in a corner sending endless emails and writing job applications. But this weekend I decided to give my laptop a rest and emerge from my homework hole and plonk myself anywhere other than in front of my computer screen. And just like that, I started to see my apartment as my favourite retreat again.
3. Shop different. I didn’t realise how programmed I was to walk around on autopilot until my friend ushered me into shops that didn’t normally clock on my radar. I had no idea Superdrug had its own nail bar and hair salon right in the centre of St David’s shopping centre or that Holland & Barrett stocked frozen vegetarian food. Despite walking past these places weekly – and spending a considerable sum on almond butter, sugar-coated ginger and my amaretto flavoured lip balm in H&B – it wasn’t until I let someone else take the lead that I discovered new places to pick up a few pamper items and veggie snacks.
4. Shake up where you eat. Cardiff has plenty of independent restaurants and chains to choose from, yet I find myself eating out at the same places. I’d been to Wagamama before in Solihull, but visiting the same franchise in a new location had a completely different feel. We ate in Cardiff’s city centre after walking for hours on empty stomachs and pretty much inhaled our meals and smoothies. We left about two dress sizes bigger and regretted nothing.
5. Just relax. Rule number one of entering holiday mode is to unplug and unwind. Naturally, I embraced staycationing wholeheartedly and detoxed from my inbox, enjoyed lazy lie-ins and watched a few old classics. Still drowning in soy sauce and celery smoothies by Saturday evening, we opted for peppermint teas and onesies over a night on the town. My friend had never watched Ice Princess, and I felt it my duty to introduce her to its enchanting powers. Watching Casey blossom into a confident young woman and kickass ice-skater as Aly & AJ sing ‘No one’ will always give me the feels.
6. Go indie. I finally stepped foot inside the Depot, one of Cardiff’s most interesting and eclectic independent food venues. A converted warehouse hosting the best of the city’s street food, bingo nights and karaoke, I was impressed by how homey the vast space had been made to feel with fairy lights, lanterns and wooden tables. It was free to enter and we grabbed a prime view of the big screen and soaked up the atmosphere ahead of the Italy v Wales game. Rugby players, Peroni and supporting local produce gets a big thumbs up from me.
7. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Having drunk a pitiful total of a glass of wine and a Peroni between us, we were merrier than anticipated on a Sunday afternoon. Post-match, we headed back to my apartment and got down to the serious business of performing Wicked duets. Letting loose to ‘Dancing through life’ and ‘Popular’ is well worth the noise complaint.