January 29, 2014

A GREAT DAY OUT

We went to the France Show at Earl’s Court in London ten days ago, just for the fun of it and to see if we might pick up any tips for our intended relocation. 

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We were up well before dawn, deposited Lulu with her granddad for the day and got the train to St Pancras.  There was a very nervous half hour after the train manager announced that due to falling electric cables the train MIGHT be terminating at Luton.  Typical!  I hadn’t been on a train for donkey’s years, hadn’t been to London for two years and I might have to make half the journey by “replacement coach”. 

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Luckily the problem was fixed in the nick of time and we arrived at St. Pancras only a few minutes late.  The first thing we did was to book a table for dinner at Searcys restaurant so we could eat before getting the train back home.

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The show was fun but not that useful to us.  It would have been more useful for someone who had no previous experience of buying a house in France but even so we made a few interesting contacts and gleaned a few bits of good advice.

getting started5 There were French estate agents, notaires, ferry companies, holiday companies, wine sellers, sausage, cheese and basket sellers, language holiday companies, seminars about house buying, French lifestyle, French cuisine and all to a background of “Allo allo” accordion music.  Most enjoyable but by 11.30 we had seen all we wanted to see and headed into town for a spot of lunch.

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We adopted our usual “twelve o’clock rule” and dived into the first likely looking place for lunch.  This was a place called “Sophie’s” near Covent Garden and the two photos illustrate the rule perfectly.  At twelve o’clock the place was almost empty and we had a choice of tables.  By the time our food arrived people were having to wait at the bar for a place.  I had steak and chips, Nick had a burger.  All quite delicious and very reasonably priced.

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With the whole afternoon still ahead of us we visited the National Gallery, something I hadn’t done for probably thirty years.  I had taken a couple of photos before it occurred to me that I probably shouldn’t.  Sure enough, ten minutes later an announcement came that photography wasn’t permitted.  A group of enthusiastic Orientals had arrived!

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It was a rather cold, grey day but we enjoyed a walk through the park and an ogle at the Palace before diving into Fortnum and Mason’s on impulse for a cup of tea.

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This was one of those impulses that you immediately regret but once committed we decided to stick with it.  Thirteen quid for two pots of tea, even if served in silver teapots is, frankly, ludicrous.  That didn’t include any cake or even a solitary biscuit. 

The place was full of tourists, mostly English and Americans, including a skwarking child who was not quite far enough away for it to be ignorable.  Anyway, having done it once, I won’t feel I have to do it again.

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By now it was dark so we hopped on the tube to Tower Bridge and did a bit of touristy stuff.  All quite magical and I was enthralled.  That’s when I realised that I’m very much an unsophisticated country girl and a trip to our capital city is a very special treat.

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Booking the table for dinner at the station turned out to be a brilliant idea.  We got the tube back to St Pancras and arrived in perfect time to enjoy a really nice meal in a leisurely fashion and then get on our train home.  Much, much better than eating at a crowded, over-priced place in town, stressing about getting on the tube back to the station in time.  The food was excellent for a sensible price too.  Your station buffet with it’s tired sausage rolls and curled up sandwiches, not to mention the grubby burger bar, is thankfully a thing of the past!

The journey home was long but not without entertainment.  A bunch of jolly football supporters got on at Leicester and the lights went out a few times but we arrived back at the station on time.  We collected Lulu from granddad’s and drove the last three miles home to scramble into bed at around our usual bedtime.  A great day out!

17 comments:

  1. It was lovely to share London with you, and glad that you had a super day out. Hope things go well for your plans to relocate.

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  2. Thank you for a lovely description of your day to London!
    I have a trip to L. in my 5-year-plan :-D

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  3. You really packed a lot in! We went to the France exhibition about 10 years ago and had the same experience, really. It sounds a bit more up-market! Note to self: if ever in London, don't go for tea at F&M. Betty's is much better value, queue or no queue P.!

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    1. Pauline, I didn't know there was a Betty's in London!

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    2. Glad to see you weren't tempted "buy" the goodies that would have been on offer...
      To be honest, The France Show seemed when we went to be aimed at the tourists and wannabuys... and was in two sections...
      Food, Tourism and Fashion downstairs....
      Estate Agents and "Custom Build"ers on a balcony around the top....
      and the foood was ex-torsion-ate!!
      You were probably more knowledgeable about this area of France than most of the gens behind the desks...
      thinking about it, you were probably the only ones there who actually knew about Touraine du Sud!! [T. this time]

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    3. Tim, you're absolutely right!
      It was all on the ground floor, house buying, house building and legal stuff on one side of the entrance, food and tourism on the other side. Most of the property people seemed to be from south west France and the only hint of the Loire anywhere was a small stand promoting Saumur as a tourist destination!

      And we did have a sandwich - one between us which was ridiculously expensive. Which is why we decided to head out for lunch!

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  4. The last time I was in a London train station for lunch, it was exactly how you describe — tired sausage rolls and curled up sandwiches. But I was 20 and thought it was brilliant. Your day looks amazing.

    The price at Fortnum & Mason's is really a very good deal. Didn't you know the silver teapot is a free gift? So sad you left it behind.

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    1. Mitchell, well dash my buttons!
      If only I had realised the teapot was in with the price !!

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  5. Crikey! £13 just for tea, no food? I'm glad the rest of the day was so much better and you certainly packed a lot into your trip. I went to the France show the month before our house-hunting trip in 2003 and found it both interesting and useful, though I've never been tempted to go again.

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    1. Perpetua, the £13 did include a 12% service charge, which seems to be added to restaurant bills in London. That doesn't happen where we are in Derbyshire. Here we leave a tip if we feel like it.

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  6. I love going to London -- occasionally -- but it's always more expensive than expected and always good to get back home again! Thanks for the restaurant tips -- we never know where to go for a reasonably priced meal.

    We went to a French property show quite a few years ago and felt a bit let down so haven't been to any since. I suspect the best way to go about finding a new property is from your present home in France. It's a long process, but I would think there would be some good properties available at the moment. Good luck -- I'm really looking forward to hearing more as the search goes on...

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  7. Yes France Expo, we went and came to the same opinion as you. I used to work in London in the bad old days! I was always glad to come back north but in a strange way enjoyed it. At least I can now say I worked at The Houses of Parliament and the canteen there is superb, I can recommend it. Far tooooo busy for me though. C

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  8. Sounds like you had a wonderful day. I would have like to be at that French show, too because I don't know much about France — other than it has a lot of history. A whole lot! The meals all look and sound delightful (though I'll skip tea). And I'll bet Lulu had a grand day with grandad!

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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  9. We ventured to the exhibition when we were buying in the Alps. These days all the info and more is available on line.

    Looks like you had a really nice day out. We had a similar one in Manchester at the weekend p, visiting the Caravan show.... with friends who are looking to change their van!

    Fortnum and Mason..... Bennett's will have a lot to live up to. I'll bring my CC just in case they serve in silver teapots!!! ;0)

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  10. What lovely photos. I am in awe of the train photos, how clean and useful they look. We have nothing like that here, alas.

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  11. Seeing Earls Court there brought back memories. I exhibited there as an artist. I also illegally took photos of old masters...always do. Looks like you had a pretty good day. Love the photos.

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  12. £13 for two cups of tea???!!! If I had known I'd have made you a flask (with free bourbon biscuits thrown in. Not thrown in the flask but included. :0) Glad you had a super day.

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