The morning after my arrival in Wales, my friend drove us to Cardiff, where we went to a mall. This may sound like a generic activity (plus I’m from New Jersey, the capital of malls), but since we were in the U.K., I found a number of novelties.
Outside, I exclaimed at this billboard. Are there any John Malkovich fans out there? He is my favorite actor.
Why he has his own hotel suite in the capital of Wales, I do not know.
At the mall, for the first time I had a pretzel from the chain Auntie Anne’s and entered the clothing store Hollister. Both are American brands. I suppose it’s not any stranger than the fact that I tried Kraft macaroni and cheese for the first time in Paris, in spite of the fact that many American kids grew up on it.
At a discount store, I went a little nuts buying cute greeting cards that were as low as 29 pence. Can you blame me? I had just come from Paris, where 5 centimes is considered a discount.
At Marks & Spencer, my friend showed me food items I was unfamiliar with, such as Madeira cake and Victoria sponge. I was also charmed by cakes in the shape of characters named Harry Hedgehog and Percy Pig.
“Percy Pig flavoured icing”… whatever can that mean?
We paused at Marks & Spencer’s upstairs café to share a slice of Victoria sponge, which is a vanilla sponge cake with cream and strawberry jam filling. My friend also had tea, of course.
We strolled on High Street, a cute pedestrian street that reminded me of Dublin, before going to Primark, a huge inexpensive department store that I first encountered on Oxford Street in London some years ago. In my memory, cute tank tops for four pounds, bathing suits, pajamas, and all types of clothing abounded, and I didn’t even in make it upstairs to look at shoes and bags. Unfortunately, the line to the fitting rooms was so long that I ended up just getting pajamas for my sister and booking it. Since then, I had been dreaming of Primark. This is before they opened in a suburb of Paris.
Perhaps I had built it up too much in my mind, or my style had changed or Primark’s selection had, because my friend and I spent a long time in the Cardiff location, and we only walked away with socks and a couple of other ordinary sundry items.
Outside, we saw Cardiff Castle as the sun was setting.
After dinner, we went grocery shopping at Tesco for my friend’s granddad. I was excited to go, as I had good memories of browsing there when I visited a good friend in Edinburgh, Scotland a few years earlier.
I was shocked to notice a sack of 480 bags of Yorkshire tea. Why would anyone ever need that much of the same kind of tea?? A couple of months later, I mentioned this to a British acquaintance, who didn’t think it was a big deal and said that it can go fast if you drink it regularly. Still, I can only imagine buying this if I had a family of ten or hosted a tea party for the block.
Perhaps these tea drinkers have the same appetite for their national drink that I have for sweets. I went for the bourbon creams and custard creams. Funnily enough, I hardly ever bought packaged cookies in Paris, choosing the fresh pastries instead, but in the U.K. the biscuits appeal to me. I think the cookie itself is softer—not like the chewy American cookie, but not as crunchy as the chocolate-topped French biscuit.
My friend and I said “Hwyl Fawr” to Tesco for the night. I found it interesting that their sign was in Welsh, then English underneath in slightly smaller letters. English and Welsh are the country’s official languages.
We headed to her granddad’s house and unloaded the groceries and sat with him for a little while. He was very sweet. He wore a dark pompom topped bonnet and tartan scarf. He was hard of hearing, so we yelled to have a conversation. I later learned that he tells the same stories over and over again, but since it was my first time hearing them, I found it novel when he told me that he had built houses in the neighborhood. By the fireplace was a black and white picture of him and his late wife as young people.
That night, my friend and I had planned to watch “Gavin and Stacey,” a Welsh British comedy, but we ended up Skyping with my her long-distance boyfriend and friends instead. We left the DVD on the main menu. Her poor mom, or should I say mum, told us the next morning that the continuous loop of the show’s theme music drove her crazy.