There’s lots of places that put a smile on my face and one of them is most definitely Wales, that beautiful country of song, tradition, rugby and many other lovely lovely things like THE best brownies and crazy ice cream to name but a few!
I’d been to Wales on a school or Brownie visit, we parked outside a big building in Cardiff and then went to St Fagans. For many years that was my experience of Cardiff. Lots of my school friends lived in Wales and I have happy memories of holidays in Dale, Newquay and Aberaeron. My grandparents lived in Bath and junction 17 was the furthest I regularly went on the M4. All that changed on some enchanted evening when I met Big Welsh, the roughy toughy cricketer friend of my brother.
Shortly after meeting him we went to Cardiff Arms Park to see Simple Minds in concert, we stayed at his parents’ house in the valleys and met up with his friends – all of whom had nicknames relating to a funny incident or scrape. We had a great weekend and returned home with the car full of Brains and Welsh cakes.
As the years went on we returned to the valleys to see the inlaws and friends, visiting people along the way. Many friends from school had moved away and lots of Big W’s friends had moved to England, so our visits to Wales tapered off. When the girls arrived a long car journey with little people wasn’t anyone’s idea of fun! We used to spend time with my sister in law but when she died our visits were shorter and didn’t involve as much daftness!
All that changed when a school friend who had lived over the world came home following the heartbreaking news she had an incurable brain tumour. Friends rallied together and we began the familiar journey to Wales for weekends and high jinkery. Being in Cardiff meant I was nearer to my inlaws so would nip up the A470 and pop in for coffee, and when I wasn’t staying in Cardiff I would stay with them, sometimes leaving the girls to spend precious time with their grandparents. I caught up with lots of friends I’d not seen ages and the girls loved visiting the arcades in Cardiff, gobsmacked that their middle aged parted used to buy DMs from Buzz & Co.
As our visits increased so did my familiarisation. Cardiff is no longer somewhere I get lost, Brecon is my bolt hole and the drive through Pontsticill is something I yearn for. It’s so funny that we head down the M4 to my inlaws without my husband when so many of my friends don’t have great experiences with theirs. I’m blessed.
There’s still a lot more places I want to visit but for now we’re looking forward to weekends at Glanusk, visits to the valleys, bimbling in Brecon, Hay Festival, climbing Pen y Fan, lazy days in the Gower, cultural and shopping days in Cardiff as well as nipping in to places we’ve got to know along the way and seeing friends.
Wales is firmly in my heart and with a Welsh husband, 3 girls who are Welsh in all but country of birth and a dog from Brecon I couldn’t be happier!