Monday, 20 December 2010

Shopping for Christmas Presents

Christmas shopping began in earnest on Saturday, with a trip to Warsaw to buy presents. I've always been happy just to be a supporting part of this process, as I find buying presents very difficult.

I guess its just a hang over (not hangover) from the childhood ideal of Christmas presents being a completely unexpected delight. I would take ages going round shops looking for that something a little bit special and different. I would never buy clothes without the person being there to check size and style, whilst music, books, women's perfumes, etc are normally the wrong ones, and so on.

Saturday was largely a matter of going round clothes shops, where my main task is to agree how nice the choice is. There is the odd occasion when I don't like something, but I have to be careful how to word my comment, since that translates into me being negative. Carrying, sometimes paying and driving is what I do best.

I do, however, get the chance to look at men's clothes if the shop has them. I am pretty fussy, but Marks & Spencer in Galeria Centrum (maybe now just called Wars & Sawa) did have a thick jacket that I liked - their Christmas promotion has all men's and women's jacket half price. It was just a bit too close cut to allow for any significant increase in weight, so I was hesitating. Anyway, we left quickly to go to the next shop so I didn't need to decide.

I did buy cotton handkerchiefs in Marks though, which I have been looking for for some for some time. They are difficult to buy in Polish shops. People prefer to blow their nose into their hands and wipe them on their clothes, rarely having the paper handkerchiefs that they consider better.

Time ran out, so we returned again on Sunday. Most of the time was spent in the dreaded Złote Tarasy, which I always think of as being one of those shopping centres full of internationally famous clothes shops, all selling roughly similar, limited, uncoordinated selections of bland ranges of over-priced, low taste, last decade's fashions. (The better shops, that is.) However, winter sales now seem to have fully set in as standard in Warsaw and the range was far better than I remember last year. It was no way near as much of the excruciatingly awful experience I had expected. We were generally successful, with just some additional purchases to be made from the local Maximus, which has a much wider and better range than Warsaw centre, but not so many of the big name shops.

We also popped into Marks here and I took the opportunity to pop into the food closet - sorry, food section. I tend to treat these as a sort of working museum of English shop foods rather than a serious purchasing option, but I was interested to find that teabags are again competitively priced compared to normal, weaker teabags in the hypermarkets and probably cheap compared to small Polish shops. I say 'again' here because I have noticed this before, but when I next went there most of the range had disappeared and the one variety was very expensive. I have plenty at home already so I didn't buy any.

They also had 'salad cream' on sale. I have read in various places how awful this is compared to mayonnaise. I can't remember what it taste's like - see this BBC site for more information, but since mayonnaise is one of the most overused food ingredients in Poland (and because mayonnaise is one of the reasons I hate McDonald's), I did think for a second about buying it. No more than a second, because I could not stand the social disapprobation. How can it be possible that some Polish people really believe that English food is the worst in the world? The world's worst meal must be Christmas Eve supper in Poland - great if you can't use a knife and don't have any teeth, but otherwise forget it.

Oh, and while I remember it, we went into Restauracja Fryda on Nowy Świat for a meal on Saturday evening. I had to try the Chilli Con Carne, which I like, but it was the worst I have ever had. The meat had the consistency of the inside of a meat pierogi - that is to say it might not be meat at all; there were only two red beans - which, from my later digestive reaction, may not have been boiled properly, and the chilli was little more than subtle after taste. Everything else may be fine, of course - well, OK the coffee was cold. I was going to give a link to their website to offset my negativity, but the Union Jack in the corner seems to be just for decoration: it only gives you the Polish version again - if they don't care, why should I? It is recommended by Polish friends, however.

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