Up in (the) Smoke - London October 2019

Most of you reading this will know that I - as last year - spent the school autumn half-term break first in Brighton, then London. You hopefully will also have already read Sandra’s excellent blog post about her stay on the South coast so I’m not going to write about that part of the trip. Suffice to say that it was wonderful to have the company of good friends who I enjoyed showing around, doing and seeing new things - something I all too often lack the motivation to do on my own. A good time was had by all.

I’d booked to head up the A23 to Crystal Palace on the Monday, previous experience suggesting that traffic would be lighter than on a weekend when seemingly everyone heads to the retail parks and superstores on the Purley Way. Mercifully, so it proved although I, as always, mentally breathed a sigh of relief as I turned into Old Cople Lane and the site. I’ve said before, I don’t enjoy towing and find it particularly tiring now it’s just me, but it’s a means to an end and this route is one I at least know well - this was my ninth visit.

Pitches are always allocated here according to unit size and I was to find myself on no 31, one that I think Patsy graced with her presence a few years back. As usual I reversed on to get her thereabouts but used the mover to get her up the ramp needed on the nearside. The mover was working very well after my efforts in the summer changing the rollers and bearings.

Tuesday dawned with some lovely Autumnal sunshine, so first stop after brekky was Crystal Palace Park, right next door to the site. Despite, as mentioned, numerous stays I had not been around it in nearly six years and then it was at the end of December. It was looking lovely and worthy of my attentions with the camera. A little of the original Crystal Palace still remains and the dinosaur trail was getting plenty of interest from some little ones on their half-term break.

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The afternoon saw me heading into ‘town’ on the dear old number three bus. I had plenty of time before my first show of the week, so jumped off at Parliament Square for a wander down Victoria Street past Westminster Abbey towards Victoria Station. No camera - apart from my phone - and no plan, just being a tourist wandering aimlessly was very liberating.

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There was, of course, the inevitable pit stop and afterwards I started to head in the general direction of the theatre, traversing the eastern edge of St James’ Park along Horse Guards Road, cutting through Horse Guards Parade to Whitehall and around Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly. There may have been another pit stop or two on the way. I love the pubs in the centre, such great places for people watching. From be-suited but largely tieless workers quaffing a pint or three before the ride home, to tourists in search of food that won’t require a mortgage. That’s my excuse anyway…

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With dinner taken at lunchtime in Patsy, I didn’t fancy much, so my evening meal consisted of a sarnie, wolfed down in the milling throng of Piccadilly Circus watching the world go by - or a fair portion of it given how busy it was. I know it’s not for everyone - for some it would be akin to torture - but I did love just standing there as night descended, taking it all in.

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The show was ‘A Comedy about a Bank Robbery’ at the Criterion Theatre. I must confess it took me a little while to get into it but it was very funny. Some of the gags were old enough to be in a home but the timing of them was exquisite and well executed and overall it was very enjoyable indeed.

Wednesday saw me head to Notting Hill, famous, of course, for a carnival and a film of the same name. Time being entirely my own I took the bus - three of ‘em - rather than the tube. Number 3 to Brixton, then the number 2 to Victoria, finishing off with the 148 towards Shepherds Bush.

My walk took me almost the entire length of Portobello Road, the first stretch being largely residential with smart terraced houses, one of which was home at one time to writer George Orwell.

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Further up were the antique and bric a brac shops and what I suspected was a growing number of outlets selling the usual tat aimed at tourists. I passed the Electric Cinema - said to be the oldest working cinema in the world - and off on a side street could be found a shop selling cookbooks that doubled as the travel bookshop in the film.

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Despite it’s clear popularity with fellow tourists it had a relaxed feel and was clearly a pleasant - and no doubt pricey - place to live if that’s what you are after. It did remind me to a point of Camden but much less busy and certainly more genteel.

A combination of bus and tube brought me back to the site and in the evening I had a wander up to the Crystal Palace triangle where I was rewarded with several new beers to try for my efforts.

Most of Thursday was a washout but having given my troublesome knee a good pounding for the last couple of days, an enforced rest was probably just as well. I was back on the bus into town by late afternoon for an aimless meander, ‘researching’ a couple of pubs that I hadn’t yet tried, wolfing down a cheap but forgettable burger before the main event of the week; the musical Only Fools & Horses.

Now I’m a big fan of the TV show. I watched it as a kid first time around and have re-watched many times since - it is undoubtedly my favourite and for this reason, when the musical was first announced, I said I wouldn’t go. I wanted to remember it as it was and couldn’t possibly imagine anyone else playing Del Boy, Rodney et al. However, thanks to many recommendations online I changed my mind and I’m mighty glad I did. It was superb, combining sublime comedy with touching emotional moments, much as the original series did so expertly thanks not least to the wonderful talent of writer John Sullivan. It is scheduled to come to an end in February 2020 but I’d highly recommend it if you get the chance.

Friday was my last full day and despite protestations from my knee, I was determined to make the most of it so, set off once again, this time for a walk around Chelsea, taking the tube to Sloane Square, then heading down Chelsea Bridge road and along the embankment, past the Royal Hospital with Battersea Park across the other side of the Thames.

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I continued just past the Albert Bridge along the pretty Cheyne walk before turning in, through some of the side streets, dodging the plethora of vanity plated black 4 x 4’s on the famous Kings Road before the inevitable pit stop just the other side of the Chelsea Farmers Market.

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Refuelling completed - a pint of Timothy Taylors’ Landlord which clearly hadn’t suffered on it’s journey down from Yorkshire - next stop was just across the road in the garden of St Luke’s Church, where Charles Dickens got married in 1836.

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A couple more turns brought me back on to the Kings Road, and whilst there were still plenty of shops whose window displays were notably devoid of price tags, there was plenty of the usual chain store suspects diluting things somewhat.

Across the road were the smart Wellington Square and then the Royal Avenue, both worthy of a pic or two.

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So an enjoyable afternoon. I don’t recall visiting it as a kid with my parents and certainly not as an adult so, another area ticked off. I took a rather circuitous route to Victoria, getting the tube to Brixton before swapping to the bus for the final leg back to the site.

Departure was swift Saturday morning, thanks to getting most of the packing up done the night before. I always like to try and avoid the inevitable traffic as much as possible and was back home in the flat by midday, Patsy all tucked up in the storage yard.

Next up is the Christmas getaway, that trip will be more about spending time with friends and family but my first stop is a new one so there should be a blog post or two along the way.

Thanks as always for reading - if you’ve got this far! Until next time.

Cheers & Beers.

Rich






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