Sunday, May 19, 2013

Out and about in Paris and London - Part 2

My sadness, the tear in my eye and my trembling lower lip on leaving Paris was somewhat assuaged by first class passage on the Eurostar to London.  More leg room, a table for the free lunch.  Not as exciting as having the compartment on the train from Amboise to Paris - something I wanted to do since reading things like Sherlock Holmes as a child, and watched all of those old films, not to mention Harry Potter in both book and film - but exciting enough to appeal to my shallow side. 

The driver of the black cab to the hotel barely survived the effort of lifting our bags into the cab while pretending they weren't heavy, but cheerfully announced that he expected them to be heavy, since we were women.  Not only strong, but smart, those black cab drivers. I can but hope he wasn't hospitalised after lifting them out again. 

Spring was just starting to come to London, the weather was warmer, the blossoms and the bulbs were starting to appear and there was so much to do and see. So many old things in markets and museums, red buses, black cabs, the stuff of English crime fiction and literature, and the mix of the very old architecture with the very new gave the place a sense of living and breathing and evolving and moving. Paris is romantic history, but London is living it.

I loved the river - as I love all water, the oceans,rivers,interestingly shaped puddles.  I wanted to get to Greenwich, but time got away.  We went on a pub crawl in Wapping, where the pubs were older than Australia. We walked around on the streets which used to be on Monopoly boards when I was a child.  We saw the Prime Minister's car whiz past several times, preceded by motorbike policemen who slid sideways to stop oncoming traffic.  

Everyone had a brother who lives, or had recently lived, in Australia.  Everyone knew that  Australians live surrounded by death - redback spiders, crocodiles, funnelwebs, a host of venomous snakes.  They seemed surprised that we had survived long enough to get out of the country.  Some people thought we were from New Zealand, where life is reputedly slightly less dangerous. 

Although there were less optometrists and hairdressers than in Paris, I was glad to see that the UK has warmly embraced vintage, and there was no shortage of charity shops. They ranged from the traditional to the recycled designer specialists, priced accordingly.  I saw one right behind the Big Palace, from a bus, but couldn't get back there on foot. A vintage tuxedo shirt in a vintage shop on Portobello Road - exactly 4 times the price of  almost the exactly same shirt in the charity shop around the corner.

even the dentists have fashion sense

Vintage markets abound and we know how I like those.  So much taxidermy, so many darned import restrictions. It's probably just as well, or I would be surrounded as I type by stuffed pheasants, hedgehogs and a budgie in a cage - I kid you not.  Not to mention hares, rabbits, deer.... Haggling seems to be expected, but it helps if you know the difference between actual vintage and faux old. 

I found lots of little treasures and trinkets at various markets, but left so many behind. Some of the prices were, in the parlance of The Castle, dreamin'.   The UK postal people really haven't kept up with the whole sending mail overseas thing, pricewise.  Compared to other countries, an English postman could fly out and drop off my parcel for the price.  Perhaps they do.  Why does it take less time for a postcard from France to get to Australia than one from England?  Slower planes?  

Before I go again, I will be checking freight options.

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