Monday, July 7, 2008

Next Time - Shopping English Style, and The Most Obnoxious Store I've Ever Been In

April 28th - Chafford Hundred/Lakeside Mall

It's roughly two days remaining in London, and we have a lot of things we'd like to do yet, but it's now deciding what will fit within our remaining time. We got up reasonably early, ate a bit, and then discussed ideas for the daytime. I had wanted to do a little shopping for some clothes, and since we found out there was a very large Tesco near a shopping place girl was familiar with, we decided to make Monday shopping day at the mall. We would then wander into town for Tuesday to pick up any last minute items, and then pack for our flight home.

Going out to Chafford Hundred required another train trip out east, which I wasn't opposed to at all. Traveling by train is a lot easier over here, because the trains are bigger and they run all the time. As much as they have roads and infrastructure here, England also paid a lot of attention to building alternate transport, such as buses, water boats, and trains. We left in the mid afternoon to take the train out east to Chafford Hundred to visit their very large mall, and then make a side trip to Tesco for some things. The train took hardly anytime at all, and since the trips ran approximately 20 minutes apart, there was always a train coming or going.

We wandered over the pedestrian bridge to Lakeside Mall and once inside, it's a pretty typical mall. Outside of the different shops, you probably wouldn't notice any difference to any American shopping place. We decided to check out the Lillywhite's outlet, which had become a home away from home for the TA during our trip up to Seaham, then check on any clothes stuff for girl and myself that would be fashionable and stuff we don't have here in the US. The Lillywhite's was very similar to Seaham, things stuffed where ever you could find space, and random things thrown about. I found a nice England kit for cheap, but not much else that said buy me. We found a Boots book store, where girl bought a few Harry Potter editions she didn't have, and a light snack, and then we headed off for clothes.

Debenhams reminds me a lot of a Meier and Frank or Nordstrom's here at home, as we wandered through the front entrance. We wandered to an area with jackets and slacks, and nothing struck us as buys. I looked about and found a sale rack, which had a couple of buys that might work, but so far the shopping had been disappointing until we looked over and found the dress shirts. Then, girl went to work. One of her goals was to get me a pink shirt and ties that matched, and sure enough, she found two shirts and ties to match. Plus, there were a couple of other nice colors as well (I'm currently wearing the purpleberry shirt as I write this), and we found ties for all of them. And at only 88 pounds, it wasn't a terrible deal either. We did look about for some things girl might like, but nothing struck her fancy.

Downstairs, they had a West Ham store similar to the stadium, so of course, I had to peek in. I found a couple of nice things, including a nice tie rack, and so I bought a bit more. We finally wandered to Sports World on the other side of the mall to see about kits and such, but they didn't have a whole lot of things unless you were a Chelsea fan. Since we weren't, it was time to wander out of the mall and find Tesco.

It wasn't quite the walking adventure of Canary Wharf, but it took us a bit to find the pathway from the mall to Tesco, but once we got ourselves oriented, we walked past the manmade lake to the Tesco across the way. And this was a super huge location, about as large as Wincos here in town. Tesco is basically like a Fred Meyer, but they have cheaper things and vodka to die for, as part of my traveling part from our 2006 trip would remember. We decided to walk as many of the aisles as we could, and find what we could keeping in mind we didn't want to haul too much stuff to the train.

Wandered through some of the games and toy section, my resolve to keep the buying down didn't last when I found a version of the remote controlled dalek that Pete had from yesterday's dinner. Of course it was coming home with me, along with a sonic screwdriver. Then, we searched some of the clothes but found nothing, and then it was wandering the food. And boy, do they have a lot of it. Tesco's vegetarian selections are very good and tasty, but we found dessert stuff and some breakfast things, plus some things to leave in the flat for future use since we'd used a lot of the tea and condiments left there. We filled about 6 grocery bags of random stuff, including a bit of alcohol and an elderflower cordial fizzy drink that was amazingly refreshing. Just add some of the liquid to water, and it makes a light, refreshing drink. Some other cool desserts were also packed for the ride home, and now it meant hauling this stuff to the train station. It didn't take too long to walk over there, but by the time we made it there, we were exhausted from hauling. With about 15 minutes before our train was to arrive, we got some drinks and watched the sun set into the nighttime. The colors were amazingly clear and crisp, and so I was happily taking some photos while we waited. The train arrived, and within 35 minutes, we were back at the Fenchurch Station and walking back to our flat.

It was eating time, so we snacked and ate and drank, and settled in for another bad night of TV and relaxing. And I must say I liked the shirts I bought very much, and it was touching to see girl go through so much trouble to see me dressed nice. And hey, I got a dalek for my trouble as well, so not a bad day all the way around....

April 29th - Knightsbridge, Tottenham Court Road, Girl's Birthday

It's girl's birthday, and she's in one of her favorite places in the world. However, it's also our last day in London, so there wasn't much time for celebration at least in the morning. We got up, cleaned a bit about the flat, and then headed off to inner London to see the sights. Our plan was to not stay out too late, so we could come back, eat dinner, pack up our stuff, and then clean the flat in time for checkout in the morning. We wanted to avoid a cleaning fee, so it was imperative to clean the place very well. And with trash day on Wednesday, we could get a lot of stuff disposed of quite easily.

We wandered into Tower Hill Station to catch the Tube to South Kensington, then up to Knightsbridge, as girl wanted to show me the world of Harrod's. Not really sure what I'm getting myself into, I said sure let's go. I knew this was a rather posh store, but that was about it until we got off the train, went up the stairs and wandered inside. And it was then I saw what was truly one of the most remarkable but disturbing things I've seen. We wandered into the men's section to find suits for about 1500 pounds, or shirts for 300 pounds. We then veered into the jewelry section, where the cheapest thing we found was about 1200 pounds, and then to the perfume area, where any brand of stuff you could think of had a display. As we wandered from section to section, it was like watching the old show Life Styles of the Rich and Famous but up a few notches. Nobody was buying anything except in the gift shop and food courts, where you could actually afford things. We then visited one of two tapestry rooms, next to the grand piano area. While I love the whole concept of capitalism and free market, opulence and waste is something I despise, so this whole store was a bit of a struggle for me. But at least we saw a 30000 pound chandelier with a sold sign on it. I suppose if I could afford something like this, it might be a nice touch, but it's the frugal part of me that finds a lot of what was there a waste.

After the sensory overload there, we then made our way north toward the Virgin Megastore, which girl spent a lot of time in getting music sheet books, posters and some of her rare albums and CDs. We wandered through Oxford Circus near many of the theatres in town, and some rather nice looking restaurants. Once we found Tottenham Court Road, we looked about to find the store and found what looked like a rather large record store but had the name Zavvi's on the front. It was after wandering in that girl realized that this was actually the Virgin Megastore, just renamed and completely stripped down. We decided to shop anyway because she wanted some specific albums and posters, so we were off. I found a couple of rare CDs, and she completed her Robbie Williams collection with two CDs she didn't have, plus some old vinyl. We paid for our purchase, and then decided to head back to the flat.

A couple of train stops, and we were back at Tower Hill. The Tube was extremely packed this afternoon, with tourists and commuters, but it was similar to taking the MAX to a Trail Blazer game. We stopped by Waitrose for some final household items, and then it was cooking and drinking time. I ate the last of the Quavers I had, and drank some cider while we ate random foods. We had also found a special dessert at Waitrose that came in glass dishes, which closely resembled the gelatto dish that I accidentally destroyed here that she got from Rome. So she ate a lot of dessert rather enjoyably, and we got to packing and cleaning. I was pleased that I was getting all of my stuff into a home in my luggage, even being able to offer girl some space in my second bag. And they both felt a bit lighter, but boy, we have a lot of stuff packed in here. Once the packing was about done, it was cleaning and vacuuming everything. This involved doing dishes, deep cleaning the shower, vacuuming the rug, and cleaning up the sink and stove. We wanted to get as much done as we could not to keep Arthur up with noise, so we focused on louder activities to get them out of the way.

Packing and cleaning kept us busy for a while, but knowing we had an intercontinental flight in the morning, we wanted to stay up as much as possible knowing that at 4 AM we needed to be up and moving to make sandwiches for the trip, eat breakfast, and do any last minute things needed before we needed to catch the Tube to Heathrow. Our flight was at 10:30 AM, but we wanted to be there early to check in, get through security, and not be completely rushed.

Finally around 2 AM, we found some NBA action on one of the BBC stations which became our fall asleep program. I suppose even we couldn't find enough dirty TV to watch, but as I dozed off that night, I couldn't believe that within 24 hours, we would be back home and our oddessy was done.

Next Time - Flight Home and Travel Epilogue

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