Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Initial Impressions # 1: Swansea

(An occasional travel guide for first timers)

Swansea: a work in progress

Provisional towns; they're everywhere, just look around you! Why on earth would anybody want to save their hard-earned just to blow it on an all-inclusive fortnight to Benidorm when there are so many delights in the British Isles to explore? Sure, Benidorm's got sun, sea, sangria, excellent seafood and dubious entertainment for the over eighties, but apart from that, what have the Spaniards ever done for us?
Ok, let's forget the Spaniards for a moment and focus on the Welsh. Over quarter of a million of them live in a place called Swansea, which at first glance looks very town-like but has recently celebrated 40 years of city status. It's not the sprawling, towering metropolis that you'd imagine a real city to be, it's perhaps more like a cross between Basingstoke and Crawley with a marina shoved on the end of it. The surrounding countryside (which can be physically seen from some parts of the so called "city centre") is rather hilly and green. It keeps the sheep happy, and if the sheep are happy then so are the natives.

Swansea Transit Authority - Don't touch that handbrake

Bad sheep shagging jokes aside, this former Viking trading post has a rich culture of sorts, most notably it has been the home of classic writers Dylan Thomas (born and bred in Swansea) and Kingsley Amis (Swansea University lecturer). Other luminaries of celebrity who hail from these parts include Chris 'Cookie' Coleman, Micheal "Tarzan" Heseltine, and Lily Allen's dad. Fantastic - it's more than what Croydon ever came up with (Scouser Steve Coppell's makeshift centre forward Coleman was respected by the Selhurst crowd and they voted him as part of the Centenary XI in 2005).
Let's move on to the important tourist sights. Any self respecting day tripper should take time out to pay their respects to the Vetch Field, the former home of Swansea City AFC from 1912 to 2005. Holding a capacity crowd of over 30,000 at its peak, this historic stadium was named after a fruit (not Rob Brydon) that used to grow on the pitch. See it now in all its post glory gory before the local council flog it off to housing developers.
A natural progression after checking out the Vetch Field would be to take an energetic walk uphill to The Liberty Stadium which is the current home to The Ospreys as well as Swansea City AFC. The Liberty Stadium or Stadiwm Liberty as the locals call it, is in nearby Morfa, seats 20,532, cost 27 million quid to build and was made by Geordies. It's efficient, durable and above all else, soul-less which seems to be a prerequisite of every new stadium development. I'm sure the Swans' local rivals at Ashton Gate aren't in the least bit jealous.

Liberty Stadium ratings:
Entry price - is in GBPs
Transport links - chaotic post match exit of vehicles from park and ride facility
Stewards - bi-lingual; all staff are competent in Welsh and Bollocks
Steak slice - soft, elastic-like pastry that holds boiling hot Bovril
Beer - fizzy Carling, pre poured to ensure speedy delivery
Burgers - rank but still alive

Visit Swansea soon before it gets forgotten. Tell all your mates - the ones that have nothing better to do.

(S City 0 - C Palace 0. Attendance: 18,794)


Geoff said...

A drive through Swansea in rush hour on the way back from the Gower Peninsula is recommended as part of a relaxing holiday.

My favourite Scottish team is Dundee United but I'm afraid I haven't got a favourite Welsh team. Though I'd like to see The New Saints F.C. in the Premier League as an example of Anglo-Welsh understanding.

Furtheron said...

Wales is a beautiful land... in other places rather than Swansea it seems... ;-)

rockmother said...

Don't they all say "There's clever, 'ows your caaaaar'? in Swansea in answer to whatever you ask them? Or is that Cardiff - can't remember. There's clever - or not so as the case may be...

Istvanski said...

Geoff - The New Saints strip is just sooooo Celtic that they deserve Premiership status.

Furtheron - I can vaguely recall driving through Welshpool many years ago. It wasn't exactly a bag of laughs.

Romo - It must be the Cardiff lot who say that. I thought my car had been stolen until I realised that I was looking for it in the wrong carpark. St Davids & The Quadrant; two identical looking carparks right next to each other - whose bright idea was that then?

MJ said...

I'll add Swansea to my travel list along with Penistone.

Istvanski said...

MJ - You're such a brave lass, you really are!

Liz said...

St David's and the Quadrant car parks are not in the least alike. That's like saying that Tom Jones can't sing!

As a Swansea girl I agree that the city is a work in progress. Probably best to avoid it and head straight for Gower.

Istvanski said...

Liz - Tom Jones can't sing.
To an outsider, those car parks seem identical as they're both hanging onto the arse end of the shopping centre. They're next to Cranes music shop and the internal layout is similar so it's easy to walk into the wrong car park if it's your first time in Swansea.
The nice thing about The Quadrant car park is that you get a fantastic panoramic view of Tesco's from the 5th level.

Liz said...

A handy tip for you: you can recognise the Quadrant by the Big Issue seller outside. There isn't one outside St David's.

Sylvia said...

Ah Swansea - we were trapped in a car park there for hours one day - it was called a long word beginning with A. We also visited the Swansea University Eqyptian Centre - well worth a visit!! - where mummification is explained by means of knitted items and you can actually touch stuff!!! I loved Swansea - what a fab place to be a student in! A big Tescos and the beach - what more could you ask for???

I also loved the Gower Peninsula, sitting in our coats on Oxwich beach, and the Mumbles, especially Verdi's on the sea front - fab for when we had small children.

Alas, the rest of the family hated it, so we've never been back.

Istvanski said...

Liz - Thanks, I shall take note of that for next season. Q-bis (a type of memory word association in this case; "Q-bis" stands for "Quadrant = big issue seller"). It's the only way I'll remember it.
Failing that, I'll just ask someone next time instead of mooching around in the wrong car park wondering who nicked my car.

Sylvia - Another recommendation for the Gower Peninsula. I have put it down on my Places To Do list. I wanted to visit the Swansea museum to get a more cultural feel of the place but it was closed (Monday).
Tesco's and a beach. I never knew students were that easy to please. Is there a University of Bognor Regis?

Sylvia said...

No, it's just me who's easy to please!!!