From Dylan Thomas to Arthurian legends on the Gower
It's big, is Swansea Bay. A proper arc of coastline stretching as far as the eye can see. I found myself gulping in great lung-fulls of Welsh ozone when, ordinarily on a break, I would probably be bathed in the soothing sunshine of foreign climes.
Open heart surgery on the wife, however, meant she was a no-fly zone and we were grounded. Having not done South Wales, we darted over the Severn Bridge and very soon were checking into the Waterfront Premier Inn hotel in Swansea's re-developing maritime quarter, down by the docks.
It turns out Lenny Henry was right when he extolled the virtues of Premier Inns in the TV ads. Room 208 was extremely generous, with a nice big bed, pristine en-suite bathroom and waterfront view.
Tempting though it was to stay put, have a coffee and sprawl out in front of the flat screen telly, we got back into the car and headed for Mumbles.
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The pleasant, September afternoon brought mums, dads, children and dogs of all shapes and sizes teaming to the multi-coloured jumble of seaward-facing homes and shops. High on everyone's list seemed to be Verdi's Italian café, dominating the promenade, offering a huge menu of pizzas, pastas, baguettes, ice creams and sundaes. Though the place was teaming, our food came quickly and Joe's Ice Cream is definitely recommended.
A walk was in order, and we strolled via Coakley's traditional fishmongers and game shop up to Oystermouth Castle. This imposing relic, overlooking Mumbles, has just re-opened after years of conservation work and is well worth a visit (adults £2.50, concessions £1.50).
All the walking meant we arrived at Patrick's restaurant in Mumbles that evening with good appetites, which was just as well. We dined on sumptuous sea bass and local Welsh lamb, rounded off with white chocolate pancetta and apple and blackberry crumble with more of Joe's Ice Cream.
After a good night's sleep, and still rather full, we waddled down to Premier Inn's all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for a vast array of breakfast goodies.
With the car groaning under the strain, we spent day two with a drive to the nearby Gower peninsular. This dramatic, sweeping coastline is truly an area of outstanding natural beauty and was first in the UK to achieve that accolade.
We went to Worm's Head, which culminates in a dragon-shaped peninsula thrusting out into wind-swept surf where seals bob in imposing waves. I enjoyed a pint of Worm's Head Ale in the cliff-top pub, where stunning views can be found of Rhossili Bay's golden sand sweeping into the distance.
We drove back to Swansea through Reynoldston and across Cefn Bryn, where an ancient standing stone has links to the Arthurian legend, and there are fantastic views across the peninsula.
Our next port of call was the free Dylan Thomas Centre exhibition, a short walk across the waterfront from our hotel.
I cannot help warming to a man who, after proudly declaring himself to be a Welshman, proclaims he is a drunkard and womaniser. The exhibition, which even has one of the suits he borrowed complete with pocket ink stain, charts the great man's life from cradle to grave.
We rounded off day two with an excellent dinner at Premier Inn: a tasty rib eye steak for me and delicious salmon pasta for the better half.
After another voluminous breakfast, we took an early morning stroll along Swansea's Wind Street, where all the world's bars seemed to have assembled in one mighty strip.
I looked at that road and thought: Saturday, midnight, teenagers, messy.
Our last glimpse of Swansea was at Wales' largest indoor market in Oxford Street. This sprawling complex, which has been part of daily life in Swansea for generations, is a proper market with everything on offer from jewellery and gifts to carpets, handbags, tools, shoes, seafood, greengrocers and cafes.
After hitting the road we headed for the picturesque seaside town of New Quay on the West coast of Wales, where Dylan Thomas lived and drank for a while. As soon as we strolled out on to the pier, we spotted the black dorsal fins of dolphins carving through the choppy waves.
I thought how, but for an operation, I could be in Spain. But I was glad to be at home in Wales.
Waterfront Premier Inn Hotel tel 0871 527 9212. For more information on trips to Swansea Bay, Mumbles or Gower, visit www.visitswanseabay.com or contact Swansea Tourist Information Centre on 01792 468321.