Journalist and broadcaster Iestyn George has travelled the world in search of the Next Big Thing for magazines like NME and GQ. When he brings his young family home to Swansea, he finds that while a lot has changed for the better, some things have stayed blissfully the same.
Coming home to Swansea
Sometimes you take a break that gives you the opportunity to experience something completely new. On other occasions you’ll get great satisfaction from returning to a familiar scene. One offers an injection of adrenalin, like taking the scales from your eyes. The other builds comforting layers of memories.
I get the best of both worlds from Swansea.
I left the city many years ago to do the Dick Whittington thing. While I wait for my invitation to become Lord Mayor of London, I return to Swansea to find the city is not the one I left – mostly in a good way.
The Gower Peninsula remains as wild and wonderful as ever. No, scratch that. It’s better than I remember it. Having lived in great cities and travelled the world, it’s made me appreciate that there aren’t many greater sights than surveying the grandeur of Three Cliffs Bay from the ruins of Pennard Castle.
Mumbles and Gower’s surf culture has not been particularly commercialised compared to some UK destinations. It offers authentic surfing experiences and a host of other attractions besides. Rhossili Bay is a playground of activities. You could go coasteering along the Worm’s Head and surfing on Llangennith, which pumps out the kind of gentle but consistent swell that’s ideal for learners. Then there’s the kayaking and the windsurfing and the rest…
Swansea for sporting fans
I get waves of nostalgia passing St Helens, the home of my beloved Swansea RFC and the scene of a nerveless leg glance for four by yours truly in the dying overs of an Under 16s cricket cup final (they still haven’t put a commemorative plaque up).
The sporting landscape has changed dramatically in Swansea. Regional rugby now dominates the area and The Ospreys share a stadium with Premier League outfit Swansea City, who attract sell-out crowds of over 20,000 for every home game at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea city centre is steadily undergoing the kind of regeneration that is designed to make the most of the landscape around it. There is a general move towards the coast, with remnants of the old Swansea Docks being developed and joined up with the established Marina.
Family friendly days out
There is plenty to do with the family around here. The LC has an impressive indoor water park, but if you’re concerned about the kids developing webbed feet during their stay, the National Waterfront Museum offers an interactive guide to the invention and innovations of Wales during the industrial revolution.
A few miles east of Swansea is the 850-acre Margam Country Park estate, home to the largest deer herd in the UK and a relatively recent addition to the George family itinerary.
Of course, with all this energetic activity adequate refuelling is a necessity. While we all know that a balanced diet rich with plenty of fruit and vegetables is desirable, no visit to Swansea is complete until you’ve tasted the unmistakably salty vanilla ice cream served at Joe’s. The recipe hasn’t changed since Joe Cascarini first opened for business in 1922. I’m all for progress, as long as some things never, ever change.