Rugby World Cup Travel Guide: Tommy Bowe's inside line on Cardiff
The travelling fan's guide
Rugby legend Tommy Bowe shares his insider tips with supporters travelling to Wales for RWC 2015.
Ireland and Ulster wing, Tommy Bowe knows too well the power of the Millennium Stadium crowd. In 2006 he sat among a red sea of Munster supporters who noisily urged the province to its first Heineken Cup by sheer force of will. In 2009 he was a try-scorer among the heroes who beat Wales there to claim Ireland's first Grand Slam since 1948.
In March, the tables were turned as Wales channelled the spirit of Rorke's Drift to hold Ireland out, denying them a clean sweep.
"The most recent result was really disappointing - but the atmosphere is always something else. Outside of playing at home it's probably my favourite stadium, a real cauldron."
This autumn, the Millennium Stadium crowd should be on Ireland's side as thousands make the journey to Cardiff for crunch pool games in the Rugby World Cup.
And after the full-time whistle has blown, Bowe knows the best places to eat, drink and hang out - having spent four years in Wales with regional side Ospreys. He lived both in Cardiff and in Wales' second largest city, Swansea, about 40 miles further west.
"Cardiff is a super city. They've really redeveloped it well and turned it around. I lived in Cardiff Bay and it's a great spot when the sun is shining and place is buzzing, it's ideal if you want a coffee or a few beers," he says.
"Just outside the city you've got towns like Cowbridge or Penarth, which are great to just go for a bite to eat, maybe head out and go to the pub and watch a match there."
Bowe's favourite café in the city is in fact in the upmarket suburb of Penarth, as is his tip for a decent dinner.
"Coffee#1 is a lovely café on the main street there. And Pier 64 does great seafood down by the waterside," he says.
"But the restaurant I've probably eaten in the most is Las Iguanas, which does sort of Brazilian, Mexican food and has got good cocktails too for the girls. They have one in Cardiff Bay and one in the town centre as well (on Mill Lane, a stone's throw from the stadium).
"I also spent three years living in Swansea, in the marina there - a really nice area of the city. I'm not sure if people will get that far out of Cardiff but there are some great places to eat in Swansea. My favourite restaurant is The Riverhouse and there's a place called La Fina which does Spanish tapas."
For those who do make the trek at little further west, some of Wales' most spectacular countryside is at hand. Despite its strange name, Mumbles is a quaint seaside resort, while the Gower peninsula is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt coastal areas in the UK.
"You'd need to head out a bit further but they are both stunning," says Bowe. "You'd need the Sat Nav on for the Gower, you can just get lost there - you're sure to see plenty of sheep wandering the roads as well. There are some good old fashioned pubs, it's a bit like the Curragh in many ways. The beaches (like the isolated surfers' paradise Llangennith) are top."
Tommy has brought a bit of Wales back to Belfast with him as he is marrying former Miss Wales Lucy Whitehouse this summer.
"She has really enjoyed the move, and made good friends here in Belfast," he says. "The Irish and Welsh get on really well together and I still stay in touch with the lads from my time at the Ospreys.
"Lucy will definitely be hoping to get over to Wales when we play in Cardiff this autumn."
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