223 – Part 6 – Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan / Louise and Melinda’s Wales Holiday

Our week’s stay at our cottage in Itton sadly came to an end, so soon it was time to move on to our second destination, another holiday cottage on a working farm. Redland Farm is near the village of Bonvilston in the Vale of Glamorgan, situated to the west of Cardiff and just a short drive from the city. The friendly owner warmly greeted us and made us feel very welcome.


On our first full day in Glamorgan I decided to show Melinda around Cardiff, one of my favourite cities. It was a chilly day with a biting cold wind. We drove into town and parked up at Sophia Gardens, one of Cardiff’s large public parks which is located close to Cardiff Castle. This park takes its name from Lady Sophia, who was the second wife of the 2nd Marquess of Bute.  The Millenium footbridge traverses the River Taff into Bute Park.



A little history …

The Stewarts / Stuarts were an aristocratic family of Anglo / Norman origin who settled in Scotland in the 11th century. Over the course of many years they took over large estates in the South Wales area. In 1794 John Stuart was awarded the title of the 1st Marquess of Bute. He owned Cardiff Castle and considerable areas of surrounding landscaped parkland. When he died in 1814 the title passed to his son John Crichton-Stuart, who became the 2nd Marquess of Bute.  He became known as “the founder of modern Cardiff” as he brought prosperity to the area by setting up coal and iron mining industries in the South Wales valleys, and by building Cardiff’s extensive docks for the shipping of coal.  In its heyday Cardiff was the largest exporter of coal in the world. In 1913 alone approximately 10.7 million tons of coal were exported from this port.

The 2nd Marquess of Bute also set about restoring and refashioning Cardiff Castle into a grand mansion. The 3rd Marquess of Bute and his architect William Burges continued this work with extravagant plans to transform the building into a lavishly decorated “fairytale castle” of eclectic neo gothic styles.









Melinda and I walked past the “Animal Wall” which was erected in front of the castle in 1890.





The castle’s elaborate clock tower.




We peeked though the gateway to see the Norman stone keep which was built on the site of a Roman fort.




Across the road Melinda had a browse in one of the Welsh souvenir shops.


There was a wonderful display of intricately hand carved Lovespoons and an array of other Welsh woolly delights !!!






We then took a wander through of one of Cardiff’s several old shopping arcades which include the High Street Arcade, the Royal Arcade,  the Wyndham Arcade, the  Morgan Arcade and  Duke Street Arcade. The Castle Arcade was opened in 1887 and contains many small cafés, bistros, shops and boutiques.






An array of tasty cheeses at Madame Fromage.




St John the Baptist Church offers an oasis of calm in the heart of the bustling city centre.















The church runs a little tea shop where Melinda and I treated ourselves to a reviving cuppa and a tasty bite to eat.



Closeby in the Hayes is the Old Library which is now the home to the Cardiff Story Museum which is dedicated to the history of the city and contains many interesting interactive exhibits.


Across from St John’s is the entrance to Cardiff’s undercover market.


The Central Market opened in 1891 and even today there are numerous stalls selling all varieties of fresh produce, cooked food, local and foreign delicacies, fruit, vegetables, flowers and other goods.











Melinda is something of a beer aficionado and was keen to try some of the local brews. Brains Brewery was founded in Cardiff in 1882 and its beer is one of the best known in Wales. Melinda delighted in sampling several varieties.


We finished off our little tour of Cardiff city centre with some therapeutic shopping of course !!! No trip to Cardiff is complete without visiting some of the large shopping malls and central shopping areas.

You can read more about Cardiff and see more of my photos of this vibrant city here at one of my former blog entries:  140 – Cardiff – “The Land of My Fathers”.

* photos by Melinda Abbott

#  public domain photos

All other photos by me © Louise Shapcott

#cardiff #city

#glamorgan #wales #castle #welsh #lovespoons #welshcakes #market



Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga / Itri, South Lazio, Italy



155 – Bargains Not To Be Missed

One of the things Kay really likes to do here in Italy is go around all the local markets.  Throughout this area of South Lazio in the various towns of the area, a lively open air market can be found each and every day of the week.

Friday is Itri’s special day, and it is transformed into a vibrant, bustling market place. Each stall holder has his regular pitch.  One section is dedicated to food and eager housewives set out early to shop for the best, freshest of ingredients for a hearty family menu.  Well stocked Salumeria vans offer tempting selections of: plump juicy olives, some stuffed or marinated, capers, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and grilled vegetables preserved in oil or in vinegar, salted anchovies, “Bacala” or dried salted cod, and an array of olive oils and vinegars.  Then there are the numerous types of salami and also cooked and cured meats such as: Bresaola; Mortadella, Carpaccio, Speck  Pancetta, Prosciutto Crudo, Prosciutto Cotto,  Guanciale etc some of which are made from cuts of meat, and animal parts, that have long ago fallen from favour in the UK.



Then there is the bank of diverse cheeses made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and buffalos, some dolce “sweet” and some piccante “matured and strongly flavoured, some with hard rinds, some with soft, and some “sotto olio”.  Crumbly Parmesan and Pecorino, smooth Asiago,  Provolone, smoked knobbly Scamorza and Caciocavallo, sweet creamy ricotta, luscious balls of milky mozzarella, to name but a few.

The next “bancarella” has a fine show of silvery, glinting fish and seafood chilling on shavings of ice.



Then there’s the first of the fruit and vegetable stands, which are full to overflowing with freshly picked, irregularly shaped, local produce, artistically arranged in colourful displays. The wide choice of goods, never quite the same each week, reflects the ever changing seasons.  Posies of parsley and basil, celery, carrots, beets, funghi, cabbages, cauliflowers, lush spring greens, spinach, escarole, sprouting brocoletti, asparagus spears, broad beans, garden peas, artichoke heads, chicory, radicchio, salad leaves and rocket, fennel bulbs, radishes, onions, shallots, spring onions, French beans, green runner beans, fresh Borlotti beans, aubergines, zucchini, zucchini flowers, peculiarly shaped squashes, corn-on-the-cob, peppers, and countless varieties of sun-ripened tomatoes on the vine. 



Then the fruits … oranges, mandarins, clementines, lemons, wooden trays of sweet scented strawberries, nespole, soft furry apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, luscious plums, apples, melecotone, pears, kiwi, persimmon, succulent figs, juicy grapes, golden melons and giant thirst-quenching water melons. Often, as the market begins to pack up at the end of a session, especially if there is a seasonal glut, crates of perishable items can be snapped up for a song.


The next stall has jars of local honey, bunches of dried fragrant herbs, tresses of onions, plaits of garlic,  threaded garlands of fiery pepperoncini, an assortment of sacks containing  dried  beans,  peas and various pulses.  Then there are peanuts kernels, chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and dried fruits.


A further stall sells trays of vigorous vegetable seedlings for planting in one’s own orto, as well as potted plants, shrubs and fresh cut flowers. Another familiar face is an Indian pedlar who on fine days walks around selling strings of garlic, whereas on inclement days he tends to switch to umbrellas.

A wizened old lady, wearing a head-scarf and pinny, sells fresh snails from her bucket, which she weighs on an ancient hand-held balance scale. In between sales she shares her time between chatting to the local market goers and attempting to keep all her snails under control and from escaping out of their temporary home.



The other section of market is ablaze with colour and has a fascinating array of wares on sale, rolls of  fabrics, flowing organza curtains,, bed linen and household textiles and furnishings, haberdashery, silk flowers, cosmetics, jewellery, accessories, toys, hardware and kitchen miscellanea, and garments of all shapes, sizes and descriptions, ranging from teeny petite to “big fat spaghetti eating Mamma dimensions”.

There is also a wonderful range of leather goods and fashionable footwear so if you happen to have a passion for shoes this is the place for you.  In China I learned the skill of bartering, the long ritual of negotiating the price, but my ability does not match that of our dear English friend who is renowned for being a “Hand-bag-aholic”, a habit which is easily fed during her visits to us during which she has spent many a happy hour browsing the local market stalls for unusual handbags and bargains.



Most of the traders are Italians however, there are a few stalls that are run by Chinese, Phillippinos, Indians and North Africans.  We have befriended a young trader, from Senegal on the Ivory Coast of Africa, who specializes in selling handbags, belts and sunglasses and always offers us a good “sconto” or discount.  He positively stands out in a crowd as he is remarkably tall and stately, at a height that must be approaching seven feet.  Dressed in his flowing caftan, he enthusiastically rushes forward to greet us with a beaming toothy smile, a hearty handshake and a few words of English.


By mid morning the market is buzzing as shoppers jostle between the “bancarelle”.  However, this is not just a place to shop but provides an ideal opportunity for the locals to mingle, catch up with each other over a caffe or a cappuccino.  A gnarled mustachioed Neapolitan accordion player routinely does the rounds of all the local bars.

As lunchtime approaches the hard working stall holders exchange lively banter as they set about packing up their wares and heading off back home for a tasty filling plate of delicious pasta.

On Sundays there is a huge market in nearby Fondi as well as one in Gaeta on Wednesday Mornings and Formia on Thursdays. Here you can buy a kaleidoscope of  merchandise. Kay especially loves the rummage stalls, where sometimes you can snap up a bargain. 


In fact Kay now has a whole wardrobe of clothes that she leaves here when she goes back home !!!

But she can never turn down a bargain !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

134 – A Well Earned Day Off

The following day the “Welsh Girls” deserved a well earned day off. 

We thought that they could benefit from some retail therapy, so with it being a Wednesday, we took them to the colourful Gaeta market.  Here there is an array of stalls selling almost everything under the sun. 

The girls made some new friends.

This included the 7ft tall Moustapha from Senegal who runs an stall selling handbags.

Moustapha and Kay

Moustapha and Elsie

Moustapha and Karen

Mooustapha and Sylvia

Elsie, Kay, Moustapha, Sylvia, Karen

We then proceeded along the coast road to Sant’ Agostino beach, midway between Gaeta and Sperlonga.  and had a snack lunch at one of our favourite little haunts, the Miramare.  Outside tables look directly onto the beach.  It was a beautifully day and we all enjoyed the warm rays of the sun.

Kay, Sylvia, Karen, Elsie, Paul, Louise

Kay and Elsie

Sylvia and Karen

Karen and Kay

We then drove on to Sperlonga, where we showed them delights of this magical little town. 



Kay and Elsie

Sylvia and Elsie

Elsie, Kay, Sylvia, Karen in Sperlonga

Elsie, Kay, Sylvia, Karen in Sperlonga

All in all … a very beautiful day !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

97 – Handbag Heaven

During our visit to the UK we were invited to lunch at our dear friend’s home in Bristol.  Esmé, as a part of the continuing celebrations for her birthday, was keen to cook for us. As always the fare was most delicious and we enjoyed, with Paul’s Dad Peter, a very pleasant couple of hours in her good company.  She has a real zest for life and lives each day to the full.

She has an eye for interior design and her apartment is beautifully decorated, mainly done by her own fair hand, and adorned with many of her own colourful oil paintings and remarkable photo collages.

She is also a dab hand on the old sewing machine.

It has to be said … that Esmé is a bit of a “Handbag-aholic” !!!

A habit which is easily fed during her many visits to us here at “Tre Cancelle”, during which she has spent many a happy hour browsing the local market stalls for unusual handbags and bargains.  Indeed, when she is here she is in “Handbag Heaven”. She never fails to haggle with the North African stall holders, in whatever language is most useful, to achieve the very best discounts. Consequently, she never fails to fly back home rather heavily laden – with many more bags than she came with !!!


Esmé, Peter and Paul, Gaeta Harbour


 Ciao Em !!! Looking forward to your next handbag expedition !!!

All photos by me © Louise Shapcott


Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy



62 – Giugno 2009

Towards the end of June some of our dear friends, the “Welsh Girls”, came to visit yet again – for some this was their fourth / fifth visit to “Tre Cancelle” !!! This time they were “Tall Linda”, Elsie, Kay and her daughter Kirsten.


Unfortunately the weather here in Itri during June was somewhat unpredictable this year, indeed the summer seemed to be tardy in getting going.  However the girls managed a couple of trips to the beach and as always enjoyed shopping for bargains in many of the local markets.   They met our friend “Mustafa”, a young trader who specialises in handbags, belts and sunglasses. 


He positively “stands out in a crowd” as he is remarkably tall, of a height that must be approaching seven feet, with dark chocolate skin.  Whenever he sees us he enthusiastically comes forward to warmly greet us with a few words of English, a beaming toothy smile and a hearty handshake.  We have learned that he came from Senegal on the Ivory Coast of Africa.  He told us that he likes “the English” as he had lived for a short while in London. He was only too pleased to offer the girls some discount on the purchases.

A few days later our younger son Ben arrived with his old school friend, Keith, it was great to see them both.  We celebrated by all going out for a meal at a restaurant in Itri by the name of Hosteria De Gustibus, where we found the food to be good and reasonably priced.


Another evening we were kindly invited to eat at Florisa and Franco’s house, where she put on a wonderfully delicious spread as always.  Grazie Bella !!!


During their one week’s stay Ben and Keith managed to fit in a day trip to Naples to visit the Museo di Capodimonte, then a trip to Rome, including an overnight stay in hostel, to visit some Art galleries and explore some of the famous sites, and generally soak up the atmosphere in the Italian capital.


Wherever they went they seemed to fit in a game or two of Chess !!!




23 – Market Day in Atina

Market Stall By The Palazzo Ducale

Market Stall By The Palazzo Ducale

The family in Atina were keen to meet Paul’s father and thus invited us up to have lunch with them. 

It was a Monday when Atina’s weekly street market was in full swing. 

Farmers flock in from the surrounding countryside with their fresh produce and gastronomic delights. 

There is a wonderful variety of seasonal fruit and vegetables, and also a selection of local cheeses such as Pecorino, Caciocavallo, local salamis, prosciutto, and of course olives.

Atina is renowned for its excellent Cannellini beans,

which we bought fresh that day, still in their pods. 

These  are traditionally served

as a thick and hearty pasta and bean soup known as

“Pasta Fagiole” or in the local dialect “pasta fazul”

… as quoted in the Dean Martin song)  

“When the stars make you drool,

Just like pasta fazul,

That’s Amore !!!”


The Bean Feast or Fagiolata is normally held in Atina in late summer.

This is my New Atina Website (2016) http://atinaitaly.com