"OH! Where to she now then?!"
Can it be Thursday all over again, please?! 😍
On Thursday 23rd March, I embarked upon another of my precious solo adventures, and
I bloody loved it!
This time, my expedition led me slightly closer to home, although I still technically spent the
day in another country…
"I do worry when you go aboard on your own," Josh said to me the night before my trip.
"Josh," I replied, "I'm going to Wales."
As a huuuuuge Gavin & Stacey fan, a visit to Barry Island has been on my agenda for quite some time.
Josh and I always joke about how like Gavin & Stacey we are. This was never more true
than when we - as newlyweds - were forced to live apart at our respective parent's homes while waiting to move into our own home during the first Covid lockdown!
("Only four months and three Downing Street cheese and wine nights to go now babe..." 🤣)
My relationship with my Mum is also very similar to that of the one between Stacey and
Gwen. I'm a proper homebird like Stacey and, like Gwen, my Mum is so laidback, she's more of a best friend than a parent. (Pasta bake is definitely more my Mum's famous speciality though - not sure she's quite as hyped about the omelettes! 😉)
I've blogged about this before, but Gavin & Stacey took on a whole new level of comfort while I was living with my Mum and waiting to move into my first house.
Mum and I have always been super close, and despite being 26 years old, I was absolutely heartbroken at the prospect of moving away from her and my childhood home.
Due to lockdown, my move date was delayed majorly, meaning I had a bonus four months at Mum's. We became even closer during those few months, spending quality time together watching Gavin & Stacey, totally relating to the storyline where Stacey is plagued with homesickness after moving in with Gavin.
The sign of a great TV show is when it is so relatable to so many, and actually has the power to offer great solace.
Being a writer and a self-confessed bookworm, I'm used to feeling deeply connected to fictional characters and stories between pages, however I have never been as impacted by a television series as I am by Gavin & Stacey. Over the years, it has made me both howl with laughter and cry my eyes out. Different story lines have touched me at different stages, and I feel strangely grateful to have had Gavin & Stacey to turn to during various moments of my own life.
Gavin & Stacey is my ultimate feel-good, go-to TV binge. It's relatable on so many levels, wonderfully familiar and oddly comforting. I don't know, it's weird - I think you come to feel as though you actually know the characters, maybe because we can all base them on either ourselves or people in our own circle.
Nessa's quips, Dawnie's savage remarks and Pam's amateur-dramatics will never not be funny, no matter how many times I watch.
*Side note: My fave episode is the one where everyone gets 'blottoed' round Pam & Mick's, and Mick ends up asleep on the sofa wearing Nessa's top while everyone drunkenly dances around to House of Fun by Madness 🤣🤣🤣
🤣 QUOTE DROP ONE:
Mick: "We'll take the rest to the Second Hand City."
Nessa: "It's not actually a city, Mick."
Mick: "... Thank you." 🤣
Is it sad that the part of the day I was most looking forward to was the six-hour-round-trip train jourey...?
Six whole hours of writing - headphones in - not having to speak to ANYBODY = pure, unrivalled bliss! 💆🏻♀️
I've come to understand that 'me time' is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity in terms of my own personal well-being.
In the insanely fast paced rat race of life, it can be dangerously easy to lose touch with ourselves. The background noise of others can be more detrimental then we realise, and so it's imperative that we take the time to regularly tune it all out and check in with ourselves.
I find this welcome solitude and peace of mind in running, hiking, and taking myself off for a trip, always armed with my headphones, a notebook and pen.
It's a weird and wonderful revelation when you realise that your favourite person to spend time with is in fact... yourself.
I set off for Cardiff at 6:30am, drinking in the sumptuous countryside from the train window. The sunrise trickled its kisses across the endless meadows; the result was a visual banquet that fuelled my growing excitement for the day ahead.
I arrived at Cardiff Central just before 10am.
The train between Cardiff Central and Barry Island runs every half an hour, and the journey time is 30 minutes (costing less than £7 for a return ticket).
I took a slight detour and actually got off at Dinas Powys (which is half way between Cardiff and Barry), as this is where 'Gavin's house' is located.
❗️Fun fact: it's not actually in Essex!❗️
The Shipman household sits on Laburnum Way, which is approximately a 15 minute walk from the station. (I used Google Maps to help, and found the house very easily.)
🤣 QUOTE DROP TWO:
Pam: "Do you know, I've no idea what my name means in Welsh."
Pam: "Because I don't speak the lingo, darling!"
Nessa: "No. In Welsh, Pam means why. Or brick." 🤣
The Shipman Household!
Once I'd taken a cheeky snap of Gavalaaaar's pad, I wandered back to the station and rejoined the train.
I got off at Barry rather than the Island, as this is the closest station to 'Stacey's.'
The 10 minute walk from the station to the West household shyly showcased Barry in all of its gorgeous glory.
In spite of the threat of rain, the weather couldn't have been kinder on my stroll across Barry. The spring sunshine embraced the town, making a masterpiece of the cute seaside houses against the milky blue sky.
I fell in love with the endless rows of high-set homes lining the streets; they oozed so much charm and character!
The panoramic views from the town were simply sensational, and most definitely an added bonus to the setting.
A personal highlight was standing at the top of the steep incline of Trinity Street, looking down at the island with its striking backdrop of craggy cliffs and stormy sea.
Barry is so, so adorable 🥰
47 Trinity Street (the home of Stacey & Gwen), is easy to spot. The owner has dedicated the front window to a veritable Gavin & Stacey shrine, including various still-shots of the cast around Barry.
There is a notice up granting respectful fans permission to take photos.
It was so surreal to find myself in such an iconic location! I almost expected Uncle Bryn to run across the street in his trademark beige attite, or Doris to appear next door and stick her finger up!
🤣 QUOTE DROP THREE:
Smithy: "Do you know what your favourite TV programme is? Last of the Summer Owaine Hughes." 🤣
The West household, with Doris's home next door!
From here, I walked the 20 minutes to the Island, where I was immediately delighted by the site of Stacey's workplace: Marco's Cafe.
If you're a big Gavin & Stacey fanatic, you may have noticed that a Collie dog usually runs across the screen when Marco's is in the spotlight.... Brilliantly, there was actually a brown Collie walking past when I arrived!
❗️Fun Fact: The famous Collie guest star was a local dog named Peroni, owned by Marco himself!❗️
Stacey's workplace: Marco's Cafe!
In the series, the bus stop for 'Dave's Coaches' is in-front of Marco's, although there is nothing there to pay homage in real life (petition for a blue plaque for Dave!).
The vicinity of Marco's is also the well-renowned 'You say it first and I'll say it back' spot. 🥰
🤣 QUOTE DROP FOUR:
Nessa: “I just can’t believe it, Stace. Of all the men I’ve slept with, it’s him who gets me pregnant. Not Nigel Havers, not John Prescott, not any of Goldie Lookin Chain!" 🤣
From Marco's, it was a one minute walk to the next stop of my Gavin & Stacey tour: Nessa's Slots.
Inside, you can have your photo taken with Nessa in her place of work (shout out to the gent working at the arcade who kindly offered to take my picture - I won't include it in this blog as I look like the underside of a frizzy, windswept hoof).
You can also buy some 'tidy' Gavin & Stacey merchandise, including slogan tea towels, magnets and mugs. All were very fairly priced, e.g £2.99 for a ceramic slogan magnet.
Nessa's workplace: Nessa's Slots!
There are many things I relish about my solo adventures, but the element that I perhaps enjoy the most is the temporary removal and abolishment of the outside world.
My solo adventures - whether they take the form of an early morning half marathon, a long hike in the Peak District, or a few days overseas - are my breathing space. It is during these moments that I find clarity, creativity and an indescribable inner joy.
I am currently nursing another injury (a stress fracture in my inside ankle) and have been unable to run for a week. As you can imagine, this situation is especially triggering for my anorexia.
My trip to Barry stalled the bitter hiss of anorexia in its tracks. I was too busy being happy to allow anorexia to dominate my thoughts and exert its usual threats.
Anorexia thrives upon despair and worry, and happiness is its worst enemy. Anorexia finds it hard to lash out with its usual force of venom when there's something pushing back at it.
When I'm alone, mid adventure, I rediscover my purpose and my voice. This gives me the strength to defy anorexia, which is how I ended up sitting on the beach with a hearty portion of chips and peas.
My spontaneous lunch tasted all the better served with the knowledge that today, I had succeeded in silencing the controlling bark of anorexia.
It just feels kind of obligatory to tuck into a chippy lunch when at the seaside, doesn't it?
As soon as I arrived at the island, my mouth watered at the thought of chippy, but I didn't think I'd actually be brave enough to satisfy my cravings.
At the same time, I didn't want to look back on this day with the sadness that anorexia has the potential to bring to even the best of occasions. I wanted to forever bask in this day and the triumph that I had won this particular battle. So I got my chippy, and I have zero regrets!
And that is just one of the reasons why I loved Thursday so much. ❤️
'Oh my Christ!!' 😍
My epic lunch was from Boofy's, which is a few doors down from Nessa's Slots. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that it was the BEST chippy I've EVER had in my life! 🤤 And for just £4.20 for that mammoth portion, you really can't complain!
(I was a little worried about ordering a 'bread roll.' We're all too aware of the relentless debate that surrounds the name... Is it a bap? Is it a cob? And I was, after all, in a place where a cuddle is mysteriously know as a 'cutch'... Thankfully, I got my bread roll without hassle!)
The wall overlooking the beach outside Boofy's and Nessa's Slot's also features at the end of the last Gavin & Stacey episode (series 3, episode 6). Nessa, Smithy, Gavin and a heavily pregnant Stacey sit on the wall with the establishment behind them.
🤣 QUOTE DROP FIVE:
Mick: "Well it's not what you expect to find when you come into work in the morning!" 🤣
After lunch, I went for a long walk across the beach.
Whitmore Bay lies directly in front of the island and is the main beach in Barry. It features in various Gavin & Stacey episodes - the most famous one being series 3, episode 5, where the Shipmans, the Wests, Nessa, Smithy and Doris all spend the day there together while Stacey works at the nearby Marco's Cafe.
Boofy's can also be spotted in various scenes throughout this episode - the Elvis convention seem to be big fans!
The sun had vanished by the time I set out on my walk, and threatening grey clouds took to the sky's stage overhead. Intermittent bursts of rainfall accompanied the sudden ferocious wind.
It was the perfect weather to well and truly blow the cobwebs away.
I joyously gave in to simplest of pleasures, like writing my name in the sand and seeking out shells.
There's something quite liberating about sharing your time with the sea.
One of life's greatest raptures is running barefoot across the sand and into the waves - sea spray nipping at your calves with every step.
I've been hankering after that sensation for as long as I can remember.
I walked the full length of the beach, twice, before taking the steps by the huts up to the promenade. I decided to just keep walking, and followed the costal path without any sense of knowing where I'd end up.
10 minutes later, I found myself at a sublime deserted cove, which I later found out to be Jackson's Bay.
I was instantly captivated. It's not often you get a whole beach to yourself!
Jackson's Bay is jaw-droppingly beautiful. With its golden sand and vibrant ivy-clad cliffs, I felt as though I could be anywhere in the world. Quite by chance, I had stumbled upon my very own private paradise.
It was the perfect place to sit and write, so I gifted myself some quality time with my notepad and pen.
Deliciously, it was half hour before I saw another soul.
Jackson's Bay ❤️
The wind and rain had really gained in momentum by the time I made it back to the Island.
Despite the plummeting temperature, there was only one thing left to do...
I headed to Zio's Gelatria on the seafront and ordered a double tub with scoops of apple crumble and 'unicorn' ice-cream.
The apple crumble scoop was TO DIE FOR.
I sat outside overlooking the beach, savouring the fierce freshness of the weather. That moment of total contentment was heaven on earth.
The thing that struck me the most about Barry was how lovely everybody was! Like, seriously, every single person I spoke to in the shops, cafes and generally out and about was so welcoming and friendly.
Straight away, Barry presented itself as a really cheery place, which just made me fall in love with it even more. It definitely exceeded my expectations in every way.
And I must say, I do have to disagree with Pam! Pam reckoned that Barry (like Billericay, as Gwen pointed out...) would be a depressing place in the rain, but I can most definitely testify against that!
I personally don't think there is a better combination than the beach and stormy weather. The concoction somehow makes me feel grounded. Nature's elements - the burning roar of the wind and the galloping power of the waves - are heightened, and this makes me feel quite alive.
🤣 QUOTE DROP SIX:
Waitress: "So you want fish and chips... With chips?" 🤣
When the rain began to pour and I had exhausted every inch of Barry Island, I reluctantly said my goodbyes.
I headed back into Cardiff to spend some time in the company of the capital city before my train home.
We used to have family in Cardiff, so my Mum and I would frequent the city quite often when I was little.
I have such fond memories of shopping trips, rainy mornings wiled away at Techniquest on the Bay,
and devouring fancy slices of cake at various tearooms in the city's quirky arcades.
Becoming reacquainted with Cardiff was nothing short of a pleasure.
My first stop was the INCREDIBLE St David's Centre (thank Christ for payday!). It has everything from trusty old Primark to the uber trendy stores of Bershka and Stradivarius.
It even boasts one of my fave shops of all time: Flying Tiger (yes, I did buy a pencil sharper shaped as a rainbow, a strawberry decorated cereal bowl and a novelty mini shopping basket to store my snacks in...).
I'm usually more of an online-shopping-to-avoid-human-contact-at-all-costs kinda gal, so it felt really indulgent to potter round the shops in person. I really enjoyed it, and the rare luxury of treating myself.
Cardiff is full of magnificently kooky little arcades ✨
For me, the beating heart of Cardiff will always be Bute Park. I'm a sucker for an inner-city park, and this one is spectacular.
Bute Park borders the majestic stature of Cardiff Castle and offers a haven of serenity in the midst of the city's merry bustle.
The park beholds the power to entrance and steal hearts all year round, but it's undeniable charm is never more alluring than it is in the spring.
Being fortunate enough to witness Bute Park in the spring is a blessing.
The park's colour palette is electrifying; show-stopping. It vibrates with opulance, exploding into one's eyeline in a flower bomb of blossom and daffodil.
Bute Park: Sometimes, there are no words justifiably strong enough to define the true radiance of a place... 🌸
I yearned to walk around Bute Park all evening. I wanted to stand beneath the shower of blossom and dance amongst the daffodils.
Take me back to Bute Park 🌼
'If truth be told, at the end of the day, when all said and done,' my Welsh day trip was crackin' from start to finish. 😁
Barry is certainly a must-do for any avid Gavin & Stacey fan. The main filming locations are all situated relatively close together and are very easily accessible. If you're seeking an easier option, I think actual organised tours are also bookable.
I also can't recommend Cardiff enough for a city break and a spot of shopping. There are so many things to see and do in and around the city, and it makes a great base for nearby places of interest, such as Barry.
Could Bute Park actually take my breath away anymore?! 🤯😍
A solo trip as fulfilling as this one was exactly the tonic I needed to keep me on the right side of sane. 🤣
My day was cram packed with writing, music, exploring, good food, the beach, luscious scenery, shopping and space to breathe - all in the company of a TV show that has played a big part in my life. I couldn't have asked for anything more.
I've made a promise to myself to prioritise days like these; days that make me feel inspired, strong and remarkably elated. Solo adventures that I'll forever recall with much fondness.
Because more and more, I'm starting to realise that it really is the little things in life that mean the most, like eating a chippy on the beach, racing barefoot along the sand, and picking up shells from the shore. Anorexia - and whatever else life chooses to throw at me - can't take those moments away from me.
My solo adventures instill a certain hope within me. They release life's shackles and allow me to reassess my thoughts. And suddenly, just like that, things don't seem quite so bad after all.
I leave a little piece of my heart in every place that evokes this beautiful liberation within me, meaning Barry Island - and the memory of Thursday - will now always be a part of me. ❤️
🎶 Tell me tomorrow, I'll wait by the window for you... I'll wait by the big house for you... 🎶
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©