Welsh-Inspired Christmas Gifts

There are plenty of traditional Welsh gifts out there. Love spoons, slate coasters, salt… but to be honest, as a 24 year old female who isn’t a grandmother I wouldn’t be that impressed with a spoon, no matter HOW MUCH?!?!? it cost.

Instead, here’s my pick of Welsh-inspired Christmas gifts, which prove that Wales can be cool…right?

Welsh Girl Problems

I once had a fictitious Facebook profile named Welsh Chick Issues. Then Welsh Girl Problems came along who was much funnier. I catch up with her posts on social media when I’m feeling homesick, and now she’s got some lush merch on offer.  I actually bought the ‘Tywysoges’ jumper a couple of months back.

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Gemwaith Lora Wyn

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I am head over heels with this pendant! Alternative colours available, whilst alternative location for heart can be requested (Rhyl will be rejected). Anglesey shape also available. Buy here.

Dwi ‘di mopio. 

Bolycs Cymraeg

Translated to Welsh Bollocks, the social media persona aims to re-tell our country’s history, picture by picture, word by word:

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And now there’s a book, which I’ve already ordered Dad. And not just cos it costs a fiver.

Naiswon!

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Dwi am brynu’r ti-shyrt yma i’r brawd ‘fyd:

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Niki Pilkington 

Regular readers will have caught my previous post about Penllyn-raised illustrator Niki Pilkington. Despite now working from the Big Apple, having been commissioned by everybody from Paul McCartney to Topshop, much of her work still draws themes from Welsh culture and language.

These are a go-to when my parents need to find me a gift, and my collection contains about 10 prints right now.

There are some gems in the ‘Merched Cymraeg’ collection by Twinkle & Gloom as well:

 

Monopoly 

If you have to be stuck in a house with the fam for an entire day, some regional monopoly will help kill a few hours. The Sir Fôn and Wales editions cost upwards of 80 quid on Amazon, but this Cardiff edition is available from John Lewis for £21.99:

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‘Sgynai’m byd doniol i ychwanegu. ‘Sa well ni herio’r Saeson? ‘Sgwn i os ‘dyn nhw’n gwbod fod popty ping mond yn air i’w difyrru nhw, ag mai meicrodon yw’r gair cywir? 

Cawl

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I met author Siôn back in 2012 at the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Awards in Swansea (shudder). After I read aloud my work he came over to tell me it was funny, so obviously I liked him immediately.

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                                                     Siôn yn dysgu’r bychan sut i gyfarch Saeson

Siôn is himself a highly entertaining writer, unfortunately even more so than me, and I can’t wait to read this collection of essays, short stories, cartoons, poems, comics and a recipe for cawl. Nice one mun!

Toffoc

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Toffoc is the ffocin one. Like having a big toffee-flavoured cwtch.

The Little Chilli Shop

I visit Wales’s first chili shop in Beaumaris whenever I need a present for Dad. The owners are fab and customers are free to sample the huge range of products available, and conveniently there’s a legendary ice cream shop situated across the road.

I like the Cheeky Girl, whereas the boyfriend prefers the Bad Boy. Reckon we’re a bit wrong for each other if you ask me.

The chili marmalade is surprisingly moreish, and there’s even chili jewelry.

Fydd dy dîn di ar dân.

And finally…

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Angan rwbath romantic i’r fodan? Sorted.

I would say you’re more than welcome to buy me this for Christmas but to tell you the truth I impulse bought it at the Electric Mountain gift shop in Llanberis several years ago. Tidy.

 

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If you’re wondering what else I’m giving this Christmas, Mam’s getting this vaguely overpriced but had-to-have-it bunting by Elements Crafts (£15), whilst I bought soap containing world-renowned Anglesey Sea Salt for the boyfriend’s mum (£4.50 wrapped), in the hopes she’ll like me cos I’m exotic. And for Dad, an album by the true love of my life Meilyr Jones, partly so I can steal it.

Even if my suggestions are too ridiculous for your tastes, I hope I’ve inspired you to shop local.I’m a firm believer that unless you’re gonna put thought into presents, you may as well not bother. I love searching independent shops for Christmas gifts, especially around Beaumaris and Betws y Coed.

Now that I spend most of my time in Liverpool, it can be lonely without anyone to speak Welsh and discuss sheep with. I personally would love any of these gifts to remind me of home.

Swsys a snogs,

Lows xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vaguely Alternative List of Things to Do in Llanberis, Wales

Having grown up nearby on the Isle of Anglesey, Llanberis is my absolute favourite place in the world. When I have mates from Liverpool visiting, I always bring them to here.

Situated at the foot of Mount Snowdon, Llanberis boasts the highest point in Wales (obvs). At any given time the summit is chokkers with tourists, where they’ll admire this cracking view:

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…unless it’s foggy and wet, in which case they’ll have wasted four hours.

You can catch a heritage steam train up for a hefty £37, and I’m not being funny, but it’s a bit of a cop-out unless you’re old or disabled. However there’s no guarantees you’ll nab a seat even if you’re old, as this elderly man found out when the train was too full of fat people.

Another little titbit: in 2011 a man was jailed for driving his 4×4 up the mountain in gale force winds not once, but twice.

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This Tweet from back in August gave me a right chuckle as well, after a helicopter burst into flames on the summit:

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Anyway, back to it.

I feel for all these tourists, because there’s so much more to Llanberis than a big rock. So, to make life easier for those of you visiting Wales, I’ve compiled a selection of my favourite and vaguely alternative things to do in Llanberis.

My boyfriend had never been to Llanberis, so our recent visit began at legendary greasy spoon Pete’s Eats.

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Pete’s is always packed full of travellers, all of whom look like they deserve a 2000 calorie breakfast. We, on the other hand, did not.

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With our bellies full, it was time to do some exercise. Maybe.

Go on – show me an English high street with better views.

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But first, we popped in to The Snowdon Honey Farm & Winery. It’s run by a lovely old Welsh couple who let us sample various alcoholic concoctions, fuelling us for our mission to the waterfall.

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Having visited Llanberis countless times, I decided this was the day I would finally find the waterfall. I failed, again – even by following the ‘waterfall’ signs – and ended up walking along the train track instead (not advisable).

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Down at the lake i.e. Llyn Padarn, you can hire a row boat for about 6 quid, or take the Llanberis Lake Railway around it. You can even get in the water for a kayaking lesson, among other water sports.

If you want to experience a mountain without having to actually climb one, you can take a bus deep inside the Electric Mountain, which my mum assures me is brilliant and cracking value at £8.50 per adult.

There are plenty of things to do for free in Llanberis, too, my favourite being feeding the ducks.

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I’m smiling but I’m actually quite scared.

Walking to the other side of the lake you’ll pass my favourite spot, Dolbadarn Castle. I camped and got steaming drunk here last summer, and it’s the best place to watch the sunset from.

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Once you’ve hit the other side of the lake, there’s a cluster of attractions to keep you occupied. The National Slate Museum is actually better than it sounds, whilst the Quarry Hospital Museum is also interesting, housing some of the original equipment from the 1800s (I like to play dead in the mortuary).

Another of my favourite spots is the Vivian Dive Centre, best visited at sunset when you have the entire hidden lake to yourself. The water is so blue it looks like a tropical lagoon. It’s worth noting that although anyone is free to enter, this lake is bloody deep so don’t be doing anything stupid like jumping in (although cliff diving is popular).

Right next to the dive centre is this spot:

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Climb right to the top of the tracks and you’ll find spectacular views from the Dinorwic Quarray and buildings and machinery from bygone days.

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Look closely and running alongside the road, next to the reservoir, you’ll spot a dragon cave.

Though not to everyone’s taste, I’ve saved my favourite ’til last. Located up in another quarry on the outskirts of Llanberis, near the Siemens factory, is an abandoned WW2 bomb store. It took us three attempts to find the place, which involves crawling through fences and various downright dangerous misdemeanours. It’s one of my most beloved spots.

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There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, including the interior, made possible be whoever keeps forcing the door open with an angle grinder (cheers). It isn’t for the faint-hearted: take torches, because you won’t see a hand in front of your face otherwise.

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Image by Nick Catford

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Of course, this adventure technically involves trespassing. However, local kids and urban explorers have been visiting for years. If you’d rather let someone else do the dirty work, you’ll find plenty of reports and photos here.

I would recommend staying a couple of days in Llanberis, maybe at the hostel above Pete’s Eats or The Heights bunkhouse, which is a great spot to chill with a beer after a long day.

The main thing I would say is to explore. Ignore all the advice I’ve just given you and do your own thing. Follow your nose, and you’ll find the lush picnicking spots Trip Advisor won’t tell you about.

What are your favourite things to do in Llanberis? Have I missed anything out? And most importantly, have you found the secret lake? Let me know in the comment section!

Festival No.6: a review

Every single person I know who had been to Festival No.6 had unwavering opinions of it being an incredible weekend. Based in the Italian-style tourist village of Portmeirion on the north Wales coast,  organisers promised it to be the best festival location on earth. I’d somehow neglected to visit in my 24 years of living fairly locally I and was very, very excited.

Anyway, back to the beginning. The shuttle service from Bangor was £10 EACH WAY. Y’what mate? We split a taxi with several other savvy party people, which at £70 still worked out cheaper, and the driver happily stopped off at Maccies. Belter.

On arrival at Portmeirion I was blown away. These photos really don’t do the view justice:

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‘I am not a number’ – Portmeirion served as the location of 1960s TV show The Prisoner.

It was all a bit downhill from there, really.

The rain!

By Welsh standards, the rain wasn’t that bad. “Adverse”, No.6 later called it. Usually I’m pretty well prepared for festivals. I had glitter, wings and fairy lights (why aren’t Pimp My Tent competitions a thing?) but I’d forgotten wellies and waterproofs. Big, BIG mistake.

There’s a general consensus among bloggers that you should only say nice things, because who will risk inviting you to review events or beauty products for free otherwise?! But basically I’m not a kiss arse, so there.

Festival organisers treated this wet thing falling from the sky as if they had never encountered it before. Every single festival I have ever been to has laid down hay, gravel, bark chippings or steel sheets to ease walking, but inexplicably, they failed to do this.

The campsite in particular became a swamp, as did the main arena. I fell down several times, and as har har lol as it was the first and fifth time, wading through mud that deep is exhausting and also dangerous.

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How it was supposed to look.

Word came that the park & ride had flooded, leaving vehicles submerged. Local farmers – apparently not “employed” as No.6 claimed, but voluntarily – used their tractors to drag cars out, many of which were later written off.

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Did I mention that organisers inexplicably chose a flood plain as the location of the park & ride? In a statement, they claimed that ‘although showers were forecast, there were no advance or flood warnings…’  Did you not just use your noggins?

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Unhappy campers even created a Facebook page to air their grievances.

By Saturday, I was cold, wet and on the verge of abandoning ship and swimming home. To make matters worse, Lucy made me watch the Kaiser Chiefs.

But then a guardian angel in the form of a family friend showed up with fancy woolly socks, wellies, AND waterproofs for me. But oh no, she did one better. She drove us to her mother’s house, where we showered and dried our clothes and I wore Nain’s dressing gown. I felt like a new woman!

Back at the festival I remembered that the world record for cracker-eating is two in one minute, and because we just happened to have access to crackers we attempted this record, and failed. Unfortunately there are no photos for your viewing pleasure, but here’s me blowing up Lucy’s mattress instead.

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Wandering between the late-night tents alone, I met who I came to think of as my “festival boyfriend” during a Craig Charles Funk & Soul set. I asked whether he fancied a snog, and the rest is history.

Unfortunately, another criticism is that there were too many damn people, with an additional 5000 tickets reportedly sold. We became lodged at a key entry point between the main arena and Portmeirion village for 20 minutes. How much would a metal barrier to separate those going in and out have cost?! Meanwhile, the village itself was so rammed, we didn’t actually go inside any of the venues because it was such a faff.

The best area of the festival for me was the woods, with its various folk and dance oriented stages such as Audio Farm and Gottwood. Popular with the younger crowd, it was unfortunately closed at 8pm each night supposedly to stop people drowning in the lake and whatnot.

The woods are the best part of festivals – there’s nothing better than sitting under a tree with your new mate and sharing a bottle of straight vodka to minimise the need for toilet breaks – and I reckon closing before dark is a right mistake. If organisers invested in staff to keep everybody safe and lights to make the place snazzy, it’d be spectacular.

Wander through the woods long enough and you’ll  access the cliffs. I’ve always thought Porthmadog was a bit of a dump but we spent a long time just taking in the views. In the forest we bumped into one of the London poshos from the taxi, high as a kite, who told the festival boyfriend that I was a wonderful woman who he should treasure forever.

The highlight of my weekend was watching Noel Gallagher with the boy, singing our hearts out to Half the World Away in the pouring rain. I’ve always been team Blur, but it was honestly a magical experience destined for the memory bank. Oh, and he was joined by Paul Weller.

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As a boutique festival, I had expected portaloos to be of a decent standard. They were pink, to be fair, but the decent standards stopped there. These were amongst the worst toilets I’ve ever experienced. Cleaners weren’t hired, as is custom at many festivals. Or maybe they were, but it was only the glamper wankers privileged to hand sanitizer?

I actually ended up missing a lot of the acts I’d planned to see – Blossoms, Bastille, Dr. John Cooper Clarke and so on – because there didn’t appear to be any programs on sale. Download the app, everybody told me. But my phone is the kind that lasts 20 years with the enviable features of a flashlight and Snake.

As a result everybody needed their smartphones recharged after two hours, and No.6 had conveniently supplied an extortionately priced phone charging stall. Sly.

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La Compagnie des Quidams and their herd of creepy luminous horses at the Central Piazza on Sunday eve.

In their greed, over-selling and corner cutting, No.6 have lost credibility with many fans. Instead of spending all that money on a legion of shiny No.6-emblazoned 4x4s, organisers should maybe invest in a bale of hay and other luxuries for 2017.

They seem so concerned with reaching their ideal demographic through the “glamping” bollocks, they’ve forgotten that the majority of people who go to festivals are young, skint and just want a boogie. We don’t care about the Michelin-starred 7-course Dinner At Clough’s, or the fact that our tent comes with a doormat/sauna/personal stylist and has only ironically been named the Titanic.

It’s unfortunate that the weather put such a damper on the weekend, but I still had an amazing time. The festival boyfriend is now my real-life boyfriend!

Because of the location, and the hope that organisers have well and truly learned their lesson, I would definitely recommend Festival Number 6. Let’s just hope that next year it falls on that one day a year when summer occurs in Wales, eh?

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