I have the attitude that you should just explore anything at least once. It doesn’t matter where, what or when. So when I found out that due to work my Mom was going to be staying in Swansea, South Wales for two weeks and she said she had space for me to come join her for a weekend, I got a ticket (a very ridiculously expensive ticket – what has happened to UK train fare pricing – sorry rant over) and the next weekend I was booked to visit Swansea late Friday to Sunday.
I will confess, I didn’t know much or really anything about Swansea before I went. My initial thoughts were that it is a old seaside town that economically had struggled but was rebuilt following the reduction in coal and mining industry. It is also Wales, so didn’t have high expectations for weather. However, my Mom had also told me about the modernising of the Marina area and been told by a few people about the great coastline and especially how beauty Mumbles was.
So the journey started in Paddington finding my seat on a jammed packed train set for Swansea after a long work week. The train was filled with people going for weekends away in Cardiff – including a group of men going for a 30s birthday weekend away (think stag weekend vibes) that had its annoyances and also comic value especially when they loudly share previous times in Wales – I will leave that up to your imagination to think of the stories shared. Then we arrived in Cardiff, where it seems a lot of men had a head start on drinking and sang all the welsh anthems for the whole carriage all the way to Swansea.
Arrived in Swansea, it was pitch dark (you forget about the light pollution of London continuously has) so didn’t get much of a first impression but could see how many new buildings there was in the Marina area, and that the city was still very dated in other areas.
I was staying in great Air BnB in one of the modern apartments with a view over the beach. It was lovely to arrive to darkest, the sound of the water and fresh (yet very cold and wet) air.
In the morning, I woke with a clear mission and excited for something I had been thinking about and dreaming about for a few days, to get my trainers on and go on a nice long run along the Swansea coastline, bright in the early morning sun. Well, didn’t get the sun, instead got a very cold, misty, drizzling morning – but had lovely views of the sea and blurry views of Mumbles to run towards.
Personally there is nothing better than an early morning running out in nature and there is no way better to explore a new area than running around it. So bright and early, despite being dark and spitting rain, I got headphones in and a general sense of direction of where I should head, I was off.
It was stunning and so peaceful, beautiful, green and easy under foot coastline route to run – with little noise besides my music, a slight wind, pounding of my feet and the sound of waves crashing. I ran along the beach, alongside the road and a few bits of woodland – was great, just such a motivating scenery had to force myself to turn around as could of kept running, exploring and the path seemed to have no end in sight.
As the morning got later on my run (past 8am) I started coming across fellow runners and dog walkers and it was so nice to actually have even just acknowledge you, not just a random smile (a delightful rarity in London) – everyone I came across smiled lovely big smiles at me and a few were kind and sweet enough to even wish me a happy morning – got to love Welsh people. Add, in that as my run progress so did the misty start to lift and the view of Mumbles slowly came into focus, still pretty grey and dark.
10 kilometres, a number of motivating “one more turn to go”, “just get to that post” and very tired legs, I got back to the apartment. To make the most of being on the sea front, decided to cool down by walking along the beach, which was on the apartments doorstep. Just took lovely deep breathes of sea air and collected some stunning shells to keep as mementos. An absolutely great start to exploring Swansea.
Both my Mom and I had done some research especially for some plant-based/vegan friendly restaurants and for possible adventures for this short weekend, but as always open to adventures to find us – and they did. I have to say ,
My Mom said she had found a great place for brunch, Crumbs Kitchen. An organic vegan (extremely) friendly cafe in Uplands. The atmosphere is like a sweet family run old school cafe and very homely. It had lots of good options from sandwiches, quiches to traditional full english, tea to a variety of juices. In terms of plant-based options it wasn’t your token single menu items like beans on toast or if you are lucky avocado on toast, no Crumbs even had a special full Vegan english breakfast.
I had to have it, it had baked beans, home fries, cooked tomato, sourdough toast, avocado, vegan sausage, mushrooms and spinach. I have never seen a breakfast on a menu like this before. I paired it with a fresh juice as well, a classic cleanser cucumber, apple, ginger and celery. I have to say I was really impressed by this breakfast, it wasn’t overly creasy and was full of flavour – the mushrooms well not slimy but nice and crispy. I just kept telling my mom how yummy it was, and it was massive but too good it was hard to stop eating. I wish there was a Crumbs in London, which I could have a regular weekend hangout. I could easily just sat there with a book, juice, tea and breakfast and spending a good morning there.
Then we found out they have vegan cake – OMG. Well we had to get some to try, so took a slice of matcha pistachio cake and a pecan and pear cake. They were so good, full of flavour and get consistency. Again, so sad that there isn’t one in London. However, can’t recommend this place enough.
By the time we finish our epic brunch, Wales was living up to it reputation and it had turned grey and a large downpour. So a change of plans was called for and an indoor activity needed. So window shopping and visit Swansea indoor market was on the agenda.
We did do a cheeky pit shop at a charity shop and I picked up a full length silk lined coat for £3 – Dorothy we aren’t in Kansas anymore – Yes, only £3, you can’t even get a coffee for that price in London.
I will admit, the Indoor market is a great place if you are looking to doing food shopping with fresh fruit and veg, bakery (with great traditional welsh bread) and fishmongers etc. Then you have the classic shops selling anything and everything from random labelled make-up, plants, handbags, baby clothes, stall just selling socks etc. However, was very impressed to find in the middle of the market a whole health shop selling nuts and seeds, to vitamins and natural beauty products and also a cupcake stalls which not only sold gluten free options but vegan options. Why is there more vegan options easily available in Swansea than in London most of the time.
In the afternoon the sun came back out, so we drove over to Mumbles, a great seaside town with great beaches, a nice lighthouse and a very sweet village high street. It was a bit too cold still to go for a walk on the beach, but we went for a look and it was nice peaceful to just standstill and listen to the waves and take in the untouched natural beauty. We stopped off and had a nice break in Chai Deli, for as you can probably guess a really good cup of chai. Again a lovely little deli with fresh cake, sandwiches and a great range of tea. They also make their own award winning sourdough bread, so had to get some to make my own breakfast the next day.
We then went exploring the high street, which it was great to see how many independent shops, from homeware, fashion to antiques and even health shops and wine merchants. I will confess I am not the best at window shopping and it normally ends up in shopping. Some of the shops that I loved were Elizabeth Antiques, which had great stuff from jewellery to silver and chinaware, to Mumbles Fine Wine where we picked up a great bottle for dinner and I tried some local welsh gin which nearly knocked me off my feet.
When we finished the day, the sun was coming down and the light over the high street really took my breathe away and made me very grateful for being there. It is an lovely place which is very traditional and even though we weren’t there at the height of season (would love to see it in the middle of summer) it was a great busy and warm place. Everyone we met were so friendly and helpful and so passionate about what they were selling. It left med full of happiness, despite the cold and dark evening setting in and probably partly due to that sip or two of gin.
That evening, the weather had made a turn and it was deathly cold so that meant staying in and getting a take away. As many who live a plant-based diet will understand, it is can be very hard to get take-away but again surprisingly Swansea is more advanced with offering vegan/plant-based food than many places I have been to. We went for Chinese, Gigi Gao’s Favorite Authentic Chinese, which was just the other side of the Marina in a great glass building. We probably over ordered but there was too many yummy sounding options.
Some key highlights from our ordering :
- Hot & Spicy Potato Shreds – Claimed as one of their most popular dishes, I have never had anything like it, literally shreds of somewhat raw potatoes with peppers, onion & chili – so good, such an interesting texture – don’t know how they did it.
- Lazy Cucumber Salad – Crushed cucumber with garlic, soy sauce, vinegar sesame oil – so light and refreshing, going to make my own variety when is warmer.
Ma Po DouFu – spicy tofu which is lovely and silky smooth and has a good kick to it.
Sunday morning greeted us with a major storm with heavy downpour of rain and large winds coming in over the sea. This annoyingly meant not much exploring could happen, no running, so walk along the beach.
Instead of venturing out into the rain, I decided to make my mom a nice brunch. Using great local produce made classic avocado on toast on wonderful welsh sourdough that we got the day before and topped with some cooked tomatoes and some left over potato shreds from our takeaway the night before. Not bad for using what we had in the Airbnb.
However, not someone to miss an opportunity to explore a new place, I found out there is new museum just the other side of the Marina – National Waterfront Museum. So we bundled up and braved the rain (and you definitely needed to brave it – we were soaked within seconds). Nevertheless, the walk along the waterfront to museum meant we found lots of different and interesting pieces of modern art of fishermen, lighthouse to abstract art. The Waterfront Museum is housed in a lovely modern glass building and really runs you through the history of Swansea from industries, people, politics to inventions. We spent a few hours and was a great way to get out of the rain and learn more about Swansea.
I was only in Swansea for the weekend, so I had to make my way home Sunday afternoon and the adventure didn’t end there. Due to the storm, I was strained on and off the train for over an hour and half in Bridgeend. Thankfully I was finally able to get back on the journey to London but did take over 5 hours. I would advise anyone wanting to visit Swansea from London to be aware that the train line between Cardiff and Swansea is most of the time troublesome. However, it didn’t distract from a great weekend exploring a brand new city and area. I was definitely inspired but all the healthy plant-based food options and the views over the water to Mumbles are stunning and will always make me smile in remembrance.
So I definitely loved exploring Swansea.
Here are a few good resources I used when doing research: