London Day 2: Camden Markets and Hamilton

We eschewed our usual breakfast at home for an early wander up the road to Camden Markets. So early that half the shops weren’t open but we found coffee and sat for a little while.

Camden high street.
Cyberdog, sadly not open.

I bought a bead necklace (blue of course) and a hand-painted tile for the kitchen wall.

I had a delicious bowl of salad for brunch. Luke got a Shake Shack burger. I really feel like there haven’t been enough salads and vegetables in my diet lately. I’m getting to that point in the trip where I miss my own kitchen.

After a couple of hours at the markets we went back to the apartment to get ready for…. Hamilton!

We got to Victoria Station early and had time for a drink in a roof top bar. Everyone else decided to play it safe and not have a drink before the show but I had a glass of wine.

The sun came out for a little while but the day was quite cold. In the city every alleyway is a wind tunnel but the underground is always boiling hot. It’s very annoying!

The building looks big but inside it wasn’t huge which meant that, even though we had seats fairly far back, we could see pretty well.

Theatre foyer.
Luckily the family in front weren’t too tall.

The songs were catchy and the singing was great. I enjoyed it but I still can’t say I’m a fan of musicals in general. My favourite song was Washington’s first song and my least favourite was his final song, which felt like a waste of time. A controversial opinion, no doubt!

After the show we walked past Buckingham Palace. It really is a very boring building.

I like the shiny gold thing over the road better.

Then we walked to Soho via Pall Mall (Paul maul or Pal mal??) and then caught the tube to King’s Cross. No less than three independent sources had recommended we try Dishoom, a chain of Indian restaurants. there’s one in Kings Cross. We headed there only to find there was a 1.5 hour queue. They don’t take bookings so we decided to try again another day.

Instead we walked to our suburb and chose a little Greek restaurant that did lovely food. All very simple but tasty.

We got home around 8:30 and spent a couple of hours eating cheese and planning the future days in a bit more detail.

I sent Bonnie a postcard a couple of weeks ago, I don’t think she was very excited.. is this a yawn?

London: Day 1: Covent Garden

We arrived yesterday and met Lea and Pete at Mark’s office before heading to Camden and our accommodation. Our tiny apartment has two bedrooms and a kitchen and bathroom.

I used a wide angle on this. It is TINY. Our feet hang off, or would if some complete idiot hadn’t chosen a bed frame with a wooden fence at the end.
The kitchen, which is the only place we can all sit together. One of the chairs is so wobbly you have to prop it against the oven but luckily that means you can still reach the table because the room is SO SMALL.

After being slightly shocked by the tiny apartment we went for a walk around the block to get some supplies (wine and cheese) and check out the neighbourhood. There is an unbelievable quantity of garbage around the streets… it’s worse than Naples, which is notoriously filthy. However the location, between Euston and Kings Cross, is excellent and Camden is certainly very lively. Street sweepers do come along frequently but if anywhere in Melbourne was this bad there would be outrage.

Also it’s above a kebab shop. That’s our door.

On our first night we went out for a late dinner at a place I found called The Blues Kitchen.

It’s just around the corner from where we are staying and I had no idea what it would be like except that there was live music every night.

Luke and I shared a full rack of ribs and they were perfect, although very spicy!
It was very dark but very ornate.

Yesterday was Amanda’s Big Day Out! We walked the 40 minutes straight south to Covent Garden so everyone else could enquire about theatre tickets and then I took everyone to Bone Daddies for lunch. They do top quality ramen. I’m not sure everyone loved it as much as I did but that’s the price of putting me in charge!

You can press raw garlic into your ramen! They also have sesame grinders, which I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I have one prime mission for the day though: Gudrun Sjoden. I have spent many hours over the last few years browsing this Swedish designer’s online store but never bought anything. She sells brightly coloured, hippy-ish, organic and ethically produced clothing. It is much more expensive than the clothes I normally buy.

About a week ago it occurred to me to see if she had a London store. She did!

I had a quick look in before lunch but then decided I needed much more time, so after lunch Pete and Lea went off to do their own thing and Luke said he was happy to come with me.

The ladies inside were so nice and the store had a basement level as well! Every piece of clothing except perhaps one or two was available in every size (amazing) and they had the entire range that’s online.

I was so excited I only took one photo in the store.

The store has a little table and chairs with glasses and a water jug for those poor souls accompanying the shoppers so Luke had a place to sit while I tried things on. Eventually I decided to buy everything I liked and worry about getting it into my backpack later. Mostly I chose things I couldn’t make myself or that weren’t like things I could get at home. Mainly cardigans and jumpers with knitted patterns, such as these:

Top left, bottom right.

After spending a moderately exorbitant amount on clothes I spent ten pounds on two pieces of cheese.

This place smelled amazing.
The guy behind the counter let us try four different types and the ones we ended up with were a very melty Camembert and a really ancient cheddar.

We ended up finishing the day eating cheese around the tiny table and planning the next week’s entertainment. Luke heroically took charge of the buying of tickets and so now we have a lot to look forward to.

To finish, here’s the most curious shop we walked into yesterday!

No, really!

And yes, they’ve sold quite a few!

Fenstanton: Visiting Andrew

Winston was more interested in the ball.

We come to Andrew’s house for one reason and one reason only. To hang out with Andrew. To be fair, I lived in Cambridge years ago and so I’ve seen everything there is to see and so we come to do the following things:

1. Sit on the couch.

Not trying to take a photo after a ball came into play was much easier.

We watched almost all of season 3 of Ted Lasso, some Bluey (Andrew had not even heard of it!), the first episode of Severance and Dungeons and Dragons (the new movie, not the old one).

2. Eat – it goes well with the television and couch, to be fair.

This pizza, full price, was £25! Luckily Andrew had a half price voucher.

3. Play board games. This time we played Outer Rim (a Star Wars game) and an expansion of Machi Koro, one of our favourite games at home.

Outer Rim. Complicated but I got it in the end.

4. Go for a drive in Andrew’s car. We did a little trip to St Ives.

Fancy! Andrew loves cars. I’ve known him long enough to tell him to stop explaining them to me.

I’d never been to St Ives. It’s a small town with a fancy bridge.

We looked at antiques and had an excellent Sunday roast.

Whenever I see cut glass it reminds me of Lea but unfortunately for her I wasn’t going to start lugging around crystalware, despite the excellent selection.
A tower of roast dinner with a Yorkshire pudding crown.
We liked the way the people of St Ives had put their coronation decoration right under Cromwell’s pointing finger.

5. A new reason – Winston! We went to the local park with Winston and Andrew.

Luke preparing for cycling in Switzerland.

We also took a walk around Fenstanton and I took some photos of some local houses.

Looks old.
Less old but still old.

There are some huge houses in Andrew’s village, and some very old houses, but I have to be honest, the style of southern buildings just doesn’t charm me as much as the slate style of the north.

I haven’t seen this for a long time!
The local churchyard is the resting place for Capability Brown, possibly history’s most famous landscape designer.

What else? Not much, to be honest. We don’t come here to do newsworthy things but we always have a lovely time.

Andrew’s guest bed has a really great mattress but I struggled to sleep well the first night and the last night. The middle night I’d had most (all) of a bottle of wine and slept like a log. I know drinking is supposed to cause bad sleep but I find it’s the opposite. Also, after all the drinking we did in Spain and very few alcohol-free days since the trip began, I am yet to have even a whisper of a headache from drinking. On one hand it’s good, on the other there’s no incentive to restrain myself.

May as well enjoy it while it lasts, I guess. Much like the English strawberries that are in season at the moment. Perfection!

Right now we’re at Cambridge train station. We caught the busway, a bus that drives along cement tracks in its own little road.

Finally Luke has had a full English breakfast!

He’s been talking about this for weeks.

We have a couple of hours until our train to London, where we will be meeting Lea and Pete at Mark’s office near the Thames. They are leaving their bags there until we get in then we’ll be catching a taxi across the city – getting giant wheeled suitcases through the underground is not ideal. The apartment we’re renting for a week is tiny so hopefully there’s a nice pub nearby we can use as a loungeroom!

One last photo of Winston!

Cumbria to Cambridge

Goodbye Cragwood!

Yesterday’s journey from Cragwood to Andrew’s house went relatively smoothly apart from one train connection being cancelled.

Thrilled to be up early.

We caught the bus from Cragwood to Windermere on time but found the short train connection to Oxenholme, where our booked train tickets started, wasn’t running due to lack of staff. Luke tried to talk to the station manager behind the counter but he was on the phone and ignored us then went into his back office and shut the door.

Thankfully there was a taxi waiting outside so we jumped in and heard all about how incompetent the guy running the train station was. Apparently he leaves the station during his shifts to run personal errands and is really rude to customers all the time but there’s no one else to do the job so he just gets away with it.

We got to Oxenholme with time to spare and had some breakfast. I managed to drop a large chunk of my pie on my freshly laundered trousers.

We had to change at Preston then again at Birmingham but both other trains were on time.

Andrew met us at the station in his new (well, new to us) car. It has more buttons than any other car I’ve ever been in.

We went back to his new (to us) place in Fenstanton and said hi to his wife, Lila, and met his corgi, Winston!

After a cup of tea and tour of the house we walked to Fendrayton, the next village over and the site of a mini beer festival in the local pub.

I couldn’t help reflecting on the fact that we’d gone from the most rugged landscape in England to the most flat. Cambridgeshire is fens, land that has been largely reclaimed from wetlands. It makes cycling a dream but views aren’t precisely what you’d call inspiring.

The Three Tuns, ‘tuns’ being barrels that beer is stored in.

There were lots of people but a couple of free tables.

There were only two ciders on the list so that made life easy.
I had the sweet one first then the dry. It was so dry it verged on salty. Andrew and Luke both thought it was disgusting but I managed to drink half then changed to wine.
Baked Brie!
Crumbed halloumi and pork belly bites.
Wait… my brother is here???
No, too much hair.
Second sighting of the lovely clematis.

We sat for a while and listened to the band, who had at least two singers but neither could hold a tune. It wasn’t bad background music though and wasn’t too loud, which is the most important thing!

Back home along a new route thanks to my OS map app.
At least the landscape makes for easy post-pub journeys.

I woke up this morning to find the latest Betoota Advocate headline was about me!

Windermere: Cragwood Estate

From Buttermere we needed to get to Cambridge, which is pretty much at the opposite end of the country.

This would mean a bus, a bus, three trains and possibly a bus, so we decided to split the journey over two days.

This option became even more enticing when we found a relatively reasonable room rate for Cragwood, a hotel that is part of the same group as Merewood, where Mum and I first stayed on our last big trip. It was one of the loveliest hotels I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting, so finding out we could stay in the affiliated hotel, which is just over the road, was a no-brainer.

But first we had to catch the bus to Keswick.

A visit to the laundromat was in order. After four days without a washing machine we were in no state to swan about a fancy house pretending we belonged there.

Seven pounds just for a single load! Ouch. Still, it did mean visiting my favourite clematis, which grows right outside.

‘Dr Ruppel’ or so Google tells me.

The washing and drying took about an hour so we had time afterwards for a quick visit to Mrs F’s cafe for a last bowl of soup.

Luke was treated to the full Mrs F’s experience, with the lady who owns the place talking non stop to us and an American couple from the moment we entered until the moment we left.

She even remembered me from my visits a month ago, which was lovely.

The cafe is decorated in the style of her nan’s house.

Now that we were relatively clean and presentable it was back to the bus interchange. We found a park bench as we’d missed the last bus by only a couple of minutes. Fortunately we made a new friend to keep us entertained. A boxador!

There’s friendly and then there’s ‘I’ll lie on your feet before we’ve even exchanged names’.

Then we made another friend on the bus.

Bus views

The bank holiday traffic flowing the other way was a slow and steady stream – we were making our escape at the right time!

The bus stop was right outside Cragwood, which was handy. Not too far to carry my bag, which has grown heavier and heavier with new clothes, gifts, and even a chopping board that was given to me by the lady at the Booths cheese counter.

First stop was our room, which had a window seat that was bigger than my bed in our previous accommodation.

I think our bed was bigger than the room we slept in at the cottage. After a bath and getting into our newly-washed clothes, we headed out to look around.

The old part of the building had beautiful wood panelling.
A cosy sitting room.

The grounds were lovely, with a perfect striped lawn looking out over Windermere.

The last of the wisteria.

The gardens were full of rhododendrons in flower.

We got a drink from the bar and went to sit in the shade.

We had booked dinner at 7pm but when we walked in there were two women with two small children, both of whom were playing with phones that had the volume up. I don’t judge or care if people give children devices in restaurants to keep them settled, but having one, let alone two, with the volume up is so irritating that I asked if we could come back at 8pm. Fortunately they weren’t busy and didn’t mind.

We were glad we asked to change because we ended up enjoying a peaceful and delicious meal and talking to one of the waiters. He was from Valencia and had moved to the Lake District many years ago.

The food was very fancy!

I had mackerel then chicken, Luke had pigeon then pork. We both had desserts and the only problem I had was the same one we’d had throughout the Lake District – not enough icecream with the sticky toffee pudding.

Is this icecream for ants?

After dinner our waiter gave us a little sample of Kendal mint liquor, which tasted just like after dinner mints but in liquid form. Very nice but a lurid colour.

We took our last glass of wine out to the terrace.

Tomorrow is a long day of travel but I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew, his new house and his corgi, Winston!