Keeping it local: a shopping trip to Caernarfon

Niki Pilkington prints at Lotti & Wren, Caernarfon

I have a confession… I don’t shop locally half as much as I’d like to, and nowhere near as much as I ought to!

It’s a laziness thing, you see. After years of working from home, I’ve slipped into bad habits. Talking to the pets and answering as them; working in my pyjamas; and the biggest sin of all, doing almost all of my shopping online. Buying online is not in itself so sinful; plenty of small businesses sell online. No, my confession is not so much about how I purchase – rather, from whom

Yes, I’m one of those lazy shoppers who returns time after time to Amazon and Ebay, despite knowing that I should be doing more to support local businesses.

So I set myself a challenge. I pledged to go out of my way to go on a proper shopping trip once a month somewhere in Gwynedd. Have car, will travel – but first, note to self: remember to change out of pyjamas before setting off…

For my first trip I decided to go to Caernarfon, my nearest town. I’m being brave by leaving the safe cocoon of my home, so I don’t want to jinx things by going too far, too soon. And as it was a Monday, it was market day; perfect, as I needed to stock up on fruit and veg (no, Tesco – you can beg as much as you like, but I shall ignore you).

Armed with an assortment of shopping bags, off I went.

As it was just before Christmas, parking was free – woohoo! I walked to Palace Street where I knew there were some excellent shops stocking exactly what I needed: a fantastic selection of books at Palas Print and some really beautiful Christmas tree decorations at Lotti and Wren, where I also admired the Niki Pilkington art prints and made a mental note to drop some hints at home…

I suddenly remembered that I needed some buttons so I popped into YLP Haberdashery, a couple of doors away. I’m used to buying such items on Amazon, where I usually become frustrated that a Marketplace seller is sending my goods from China and they won’t arrive for 3-4 weeks. Why did I never consider shopping locally for these before? It was so enjoyable browsing physical items instead of photos, and the lady behind the counter was very friendly and helpful when I asked for advice. I will definitely go there again!

Ty Siocled next, to buy some beautiful chocolates for our Christmas feast. The sight (and smell!) of all that chocolate made me hungry, so I nipped into Caffi Maes for a spot of lunch. I have to say, they really do make wonderful sandwiches – the bread was beautifully soft and fresh, and the side order of onion rings was delicious! Refreshed, I remembered that I needed a couple of stocking fillers, so I popped next door to the Occasions gift shop, and then to Y Pantri Cymraeg for some delicious Merlyn cream liqueur (hic!)

Finally, I had a look around the market. Caernarfon’s market is pretty small, but the choice, quality and prices on the butcher’s and greengrocer’s stalls really surprised me – in a good way! I was able to fill my shopping bags with all the meat, fruit and vegetables I needed, at close to supermarket prices (in some cases, cheaper) and at the same time bask in the glow of knowing my money was going to a local business owner rather than a faceless investor on the other side of the world. It felt good!

Was I able to get absolutely everything I needed by shopping locally? In all honesty, no. But will I be doing it again? You betcha! That couple of hours in Caernarfon really opened my eyes, and who knows – shopping locally might even become my new habit!

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