Why am I posting old photos of Cardiff and London today?
Because today marks NINE years of writing SoCal Mom! The launch of this new site is one way I’m commemorating my “blogiversary,” especially as I speed to to the decade mark. (What do you get a blogger for her tenth blogiversary? You have a year to figure it out!)
Over the next year, I’ll be highlighting some of the better posts I’ve written over most of the last decade — especially those you are likely to have missed. (Want to see that first post? It’s still over at Typepad.) I think I was a better writer then. There were no rules every blogger HAD to follow. I never expected anyone other than friends and family to read my blog, so there was no pressure to do any SEO. And nobody I knew even understood what a blog was – let alone companies, PR people, marketers. There was no Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or any other social media platform to distract me from doing what I wanted to do: write an honest account of what I was experiencing at the time.
I started blogging in December 2003 to share one of our family vacations in the UK – which included a brief fling in Paris (my first — and so far, only time there).
We snapped a ton of photos with our first-ever digital camera (they had only just become affordable then), and upon our return, I created a Typepad “Photo Album.” I put together a number of these until 2005, when I began sharing my photos on Flickr instead. As years went by and my sidebars became more and more crowded, I stopped displaying the photo albums on my home page. So I suppose it’s fitting to make this the first post I’m porting back from the original site.
These are shots taken in my husband’s home town of Cardiff, Wales. Much of what is depicted has changed — especially my husband, my daughter and me.
Gareth and I really love to shop at this supersized supermarket, the first store we’ve seen in Britain that’s open 24 hours. Except on Sunday. Gareth and I joke about it being 24/6. Still, my sis-in-law says this has saved her, because between raising three rambunctious boys and going back to school for her degree, she can shop late at night. At least, they are moving in the right direction.
While shopping in the Tesco SuperCentre, I found this display of Christmas baking items and thought my nice Jewish family would get a kick out of it.
Here’s the the entrance to the more traditional Cardiff Market, one of my favorite places to visit in the City Centre. It reminds me of our own Los Angeles Farmers Market, where my grandmother used to take me for an international lunch… and where Gareth and I often visit now with Megan. The one in L.A. was established in 1934. The one in Cardiff opened over 40 years earlier.
Gareth snapped this shot of the booths (which sell everything from fresh meats, fish & produce to rugs & clothing, etc.) from the second level of the Market (where vendors sell fast breakfasts, lunches & teas — as well as used records, videos, pet supplies and collectibles). Check out the Victorian glass and ironwork ceiling!
The Cornish Bake House
No trip to Britain would be complete without a savoring a hot pastie (pronounced “pah-stee”). These are like meat turnovers and were the original bag lunch for the men who used to go off to the coal mines. The Cornish Bake House in Cardiff makes some of the best we’ve ever tasted.
Unfortunately, there’s no seating inside the shop — and our picky little eater refuses to even try them. So we hit upon a great idea: after buying our pasties, we hightailed it over to the nearest McDonald’s, where we purchased a Happy Meal and some nice soft drinks… then went up the stairs to find ourselves a comfy table and chairs. (This McDonald’s was decidedly upscale, with a large-screen TV showing music videos and expensive Internet kiosks.)
This is the hood where my husband grew up. Most of these houses were built around the turn of the 20th century.
Home Away from Home
When I first started visiting Cardiff, this was a Lloyd’s Bank. On our last trip, we discovered that it was now a Starbucks! Looks just like the ones in the States, doesn’t it?
One of the nice things about this trip is that after 12 years, I finally feel confident enough to walk to the shops on Albany Road unaccompanied by Gareth. I know that sounds weird, but my instinct when crossing the street is to look in the wrong direction — and pedestrians in the UK do not have the right of way, and motorists will not stop for them!
But I guess I finally licked the fear of becoming roadkill — so this time around, if I awoke before my husband, I didn’t have to sit around and wait for him to go and get a paper — I said good morning to Neil and Marion, walked out the door, bought a couple of papers — and if I really craved a cup of coffee, I stopped off at this Starbucks. (Note: My husband tells me our beloved Starbucks on Wellfield Road is no longer there. I will need to find another spot for coffee the next time we visit.)
I found it amazing that the ice cream truck at the park gets such great business, even on days that just hover above freezing. Then again, I am also perplexed by the fact that the Brits will often drink a steaming cup of tea on a hot summer day (and pronounce it “refreshing”).
After Cardiff, we moved east to London for a 24-hour period before we had to catch our flight back to Los Angeles.
That’s where Megan took this shot of Gareth clowning around in a phone box. It was rumored a few years back that these distinctive booths would be discontinued in favor of something more modern. I’m glad that didn’t happen. But I just read in a magazine that BT is converting some of them to Internet kiosks, which would allow people to hook in and check their email. I think that’s a wonderful way to integrate the traditional with modern communication needs. (You can tell this was written before the advent of affordable smartphones!)
There was very little we can afford at Harrod’s (even truer in 2012!), but I’d heard they held a great January sale. Alas, even at 40% off, Dior clothes for kids were still too rich for my blood. They do have fun souvenir items for tourists, and over the years have expanded that department so that it now takes up about half the floor it is on — and we did end up buying a lot to bring back home. The Food Hall is also something that is not to be missed.
As the signs around Harrod’s expressly forbid photography, we were not able to show you the in-house Starbucks and Krispy Kreme (imagine! at Harrod’s!). But owner Mohammad Al-Fayad has been on a crusade to prove to the world that the deaths of his son Dodi and the Princess were the result of foul play, so a sign next to this memorial announces that photos are allowed here only. Encased in plexiglass in front of the pictures are the wine glasses the couple drank from prior to embarking on that fatal ride, as well as a huge diamond engagement ring that Dodi purportedly was going to give Diana that evening.
The Paris leg of that trip included an enjoyable cruise down the Seine, so we decided to repeat the experience in London. Unfortunately, we opted to ride the Thames in the wrong direction, toward Greenwich, which means that the Tower Bridge was the first — and final — famous structure we would see on the voyage. However, all was not lost as we did enjoy visiting Greenwich.