Cerys Matthews might have moved away, but her heart remains in Wales. Around Town catches up with the singer and presenter to discover her favourite Welsh places.
Matthews’ go-to restaurants in Wales have changed over the years, as she’s grown up and her preferences have shifted.
A big life change that Matthews has gone through is becoming vegetarian. “Over the past 10 years, I’ve been gradually moving away from eating meat, because my husband is vegetarian and my daughter turned vegetarian when she was seven,” Matthews explains. “I suddenly realised I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, and finally stopped in July of last year. It’s a healthier and cheaper way of living, and it’s better for the environment – so all win really.”
This means she’s been going to some different places for dinner in Wales. “To eat, I would go to Cardiff,” Matthews says matter-of-factly – that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed, but the type of restaurant has. “I would go to the Vegetarian Food Studio, an Indian restaurant on Penarth Road.”
“I would picnic anywhere at the drop of a hat,” giggles Matthews, as we’ve evidently touched upon her specialist subject. “As long as there’s an outside space!”
Whilst Matthews is particularly attached to the fire pit in her London garden, she really is spoiled for choice in Wales – so much so she can barely decide which natural setting to settle down for a meal in.
“I would picnic somewhere in Brecon Beacons or in Powys,” she eventually decides. “It’s an enigmatic kind of landscape. To me, it can be quite haughty and difficult – it’s very brooding.
“I love going there, getting to know the landscape, looking for red kites and so forth. That really makes me hanker for a picnic with a fire at the end of the day. The warmth of a fire counterbalances this natural, brooding part of Wales.”
It’s clear that to picnic with Matthews is by no means a soggy sandwich and crisp situation – this is someone who commits to her outdoor dining, and it can’t be denied that she really sells it.
Even though she has a lot to choose from, Matthews knows exactly where she would go for a walk in Wales – and it’s got a particularly personal connection for her.
“To walk, I would go to Pembrokeshire,” she says. “I’ve got a lot of family in Pembrokeshire – we lived there for 30 years, so it feels like home.
“What’s powerful about Pembrokeshire is that it really is a place where the landscape is constant, and man feels temporary. That makes you feel so insignificant, so it’s a great place to think.”
The pull of the Welsh landscape is strong for Matthews, and she even sounds a bit sad that it’s not as accessible to her in London.
“I think the landscape is calling me, and the voice of the landscape is loud in Pembrokeshire,” she says. “Where I am now, it takes a bit longer to get out into nature, and this voice is muffled by the urban sprawl.”
As becomes increasingly clear, you can’t keep Matthews indoors for long – particularly when she’s in Wales.
Even her favourite place for a cold beer at the end of the day involves fresh air. “To drink, I would go on a nostalgic trip to Mumbles,” she confesses.
The town of Mumbles in Swansea Bay is most famous for being one of Dylan Thomas’s favourite spots, and this literary connection really appeals to Matthews.
“I used to go out there as a teenager, and I haven’t been back for years,” she says. “I like the idea of a Dylan Thomas literary walk with a little bit of alcohol included.”
Indeed, there is a famous walk along the Wales Coast Path that is known as the Thomas walk, on which you can follow in the poet’s footsteps and get a sense of the landscapes that inspired so much of his writing.
To listen to music
When asking Matthews her favourite place to listen to music in Wales, we thought she’d answer something along the lines of a cool Swansea jazz club or an unknown pub with great open mic nights.
However, by this point, she’s almost too wrapped up in descriptions of the Welsh countryside, and instead, talks about where she likes to listen to music on her headphones.
“I love the Preseli mountains,” she sighs. “Again, you feel like the centuries fall away when you’re there. You imagine that you’re around shape-shifting characters from The Mabinogion when you’re walking around and looking at the ancient Neolithic stones.
“In that sense, there’s music in the magic of trolls and bards everywhere in the mountains.”
The Good Life Experience is a weekend of discovery, adventure, music, food, books and ideas. 14th – 16th September. For more details visit www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk.