Over the Christmas period I took a break from Cluj life, returning to England to spend some much needed time with friends and family. So, in a break from my usual Cluj fare I’m going to take you on a little journey with me, following my route back to my home county of Lancashire, via a short stay in London.
Traveling from Cluj to the UK is not a journey fraught with choice. There’s only one direct route; to London’s most northerly airport – Luton. The “Luton Experience” as I fondly refer to it, is a fair example of all that has gone wrong with modern air travel. Obviously it’s not alone in this but as an older airport Luton seems to encapsulate the essence of the problem. The crowds, the queues, oppressive security, overpriced everything, lack of seating, overused facilities and finally – why can’t I hear anyone speaking English? Blah, blah, blah.
And I could go on, in fact if you were here in person I would – people who know me will be nodding their heads sagely in agreement and thinking – thank God I’m not there in person, he can really go on… Anyway all I wanted to do was get out! And that’s why there are no photographs!
Having arranged to stay with a friend, Paula, for a couple of nights I hopped on the shuttle bus to the nearest railway station – Luton Parkway. This shuttle is a “bendy” bus, they pivot in the middle. Be assured, at 7:45 in the morning you don’t want to be on a bus where when you stand in the middle – everybody avoids it so for some reason I always end up there – the front and back view continually twist about, completely dis-orienting you on the winding airport service roads. It’s like being in a spin dryer with strangers – an experience I’m normally prepared to go to extra lengths to avoid.
Anyway let’s get started!
Most everyone likes a nice animal photo so I’m going to start with one. Meet Roger, Paula’s little friend. He’s very cute and let me, actually I had to use a zoom lens, take this photo of him relaxing in Paula’s kitchen.
Roger Wishes He’d Ticked The ‘No Publicity’ Box
Once I was settled in with Paula I had to make tracks back into London almost immediately. The whole reason for my London stopover was to meet my good friends from San Diego, Debbie and Steve. They had been vacationing in Europe and were passing through London on their way back home to California.
We hadn’t seen each other for two years and went all out to get together on this date, the 17th of December, the only point of crossover we had. I arrived at their hotel at 2pm and after hugs all round we set off for some back street exploring and then dinner.
We visited a couple of Victorian shopping arcades, the first on Old Bond Street. The Royal Arcade opened in 1879, this and other London arcades are widely regarded as the first true examples of shopping malls. The very first was opened in 1816 on Piccadilly – The Burlington Arcade. For the curious Piccadilly got it’s name from a type of clothing collar; the piccadill, sold in the area. Consumers flocked to the select tailors, corsetieres and jewellers around Piccadilly and our love affair with shopping began!
Royal Arcade – Old Bond St. London
Burlington Arcade North, Piccadilly, London
Burlington Arcade South, Piccadilly, London
Xmas Decorations Off Carnaby St.
After much walking we made it to dinner. Steve was determined to have traditional Fish & Chips before returning stateside so after some Googling his wish came true. After, we took a slightly more leisurely walk back to their hotel and following more hugs all round, I left them with a promise to visit San Diego in the near future…
The next night I had a rendezvous with another friend I hadn’t seen for even longer – Pam – who I’d last seen some ten years ago. We were meeting in the early evening at a restaurant, The Archduke, on the south bank of the Thames near the Royal Festival Hall.
I arrived a couple of hours early because I wanted to walk down the Thames’ south bank and take photos. I had a plan to head for Southwark’s Borough Market, which I’d read about and sounded interesting.
The first thing that caught my eye was this art installation, painted on a first world war battleship, HMS President, by Victoria Embankment. This temporary art work by German artist Tobias Rehberger takes it’s inspiration from a style of optical distortion used extensively during the First World War called ‘dazzle painting’.
Originally devised by British artist Norman Wilkinson and supervised by vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth, the camouflage technique incorporated bold shapes and strong contrasts, aimed to confuse rather than conceal
The sun was just beginning to set when I passed The Globe Theatre and noticed the tide was out. Here you can see the exposed river bank and in the distance, above the red building, the OXO tower, home of the eponymously named OXO restaurant with it’s wonderful views across the Thames.The night swept over pretty quickly after this shot, within twenty minutes it was almost dark, or what passes for darkness here at least! I’d arrived on the edge of Southwark, with the market just a few minutes away.
London’s Newest Bit of Skyline – The Shard
Just a few minutes before reaching the market this nice contrast between old and new hove into view – The Old Thameside Pub – and the glass towers of the City of London on the north bank.Then, a short walk away from the river brought me to the market itself.
Borough Market is housed under a glossy green Victorian cast-iron frame with specialist producer stalls lining the narrow entrances leading in from the narrow streets around the periphery.
Staggeringly the market has been in Southwark (though not it’s current location) for about a thousand years, that’s right – a millennium – opening for trade for the first time in the 13th Century having moved from what was then London Bridge!
At Borough Market – Being Stalked By The Shard
The streets surrounding the market are full of interesting bistro’s, restaurants and speciality foods shops of every imaginable kind. There’s also a micro-brewery called Brew Wharf. Unfortunately I’d arrived a bit late for the market itself so I’ll just give you a few photos from the surrounding, atmospheric, streets.
An Upstairs Dining Room
At this point I was beginning to run a bit short on time so headed back along the embankment for my get together with Pam.
On the way I dropped by Hays Galleria, named for it’s original owner merchant Alexander Hay. Now refurbished and re-purposed, in 1650 it was a brewery, then around 1840 it was converted into a wharf (dock). During the 19th Century it was one of the main delivery points for imported leaf tea and is certainly today an amazing site.
Hay’s Galleria, Southwark, London
Hays’s Galleria – The Navigators – Sculpture David Kemp
During what was becoming a brisk walk as time was marching on I took a few more night-time shots. I was heading back towards the Royal Festival Hall, passing a number of atmospheric (well I thought so) scenes that I thought might turn out to be interesting photos – you decide.
New London Bridge
Millennium Bridge To St. Paul’s Cathedral
London Eye From Royal Festival Hall
A Wintery Dusk – Houses Of Parliament
With just a few minutes to spare I made it to The Archduke, a wine bar and restaurant built into an arch under Hungerford Bridge, for my get together with Pam.
Not seeing someone for at least ten years, and having a time limit, tends to lend a sense of urgency to a conversation I can tell you! Pam was as delightful as I remembered but tight on time. Having to meet her hubby Pete for drinks with friends later meant we had just a couple of hours, but we applied ourselves to the task at hand, managing to eat something, drink wine and gasbag – a lot – so as you might imagine, time had wings.
Parting, we resolved not to leave it so long before getting together again, I really do hope that’s the case.
So, I made my way back to Paula’s in south London, arriving there about 10pm. She had spent the day indoors, other than walking Roger, and we gravitated toward the dining table, me, Paula, her daughter Betty and a bottle of wine – with Roger snoozing quietly under the table – a delightful end to a lovely afternoon and evening.
The next morning, after a restful night, I headed off to the centre of London again, this time to catch the train from Euston to Manchester. Paula – a perfect host I might add – kindly dropped me at her local station and we said our farewells, promising to stay in touch.
I decided to swing by St. Pancras station as I love the renovation job that was done there. I particularly like the huge bronze statue by sculptor Paul Day at one end of the concourse, depicting a couple in the act of either parting or arriving, who knows…
St. Pancras – The Meeting Place – Paul Day
St. Pancras Shopping Concourse From Eurostar Level
And so north I went! The service to Manchester is operated by Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains and as usual it left on time. Journey time for the 250 mile (402km) journey? Two hours and ten minutes – enough time to relax a little and take in the scenery on what was turning in to a very cold period, for England anyway!
Arriving in Manchester I was greeted by a very frosty scene, so I wasted no time getting to my final destination, Whalley (pronounced ‘wall-e’). I was going to be spending most of my time at Brian’s, my sister’s father-in-law who very kindly picked me up from the station. I was ready for a cup of tea at this point!
After a quiet night I awoke to this scene from my bedroom window – a bit frosty!
Frosty View From Bedroom
Anyway, that’s enough of my yacking! Suffice to say I spent the following week visiting friends and family, catching up with events and generally chilling.
I’ll leave you with a set of photos of various places I visited as I travelled around in my trusty Mini Cooper – big thanks to Brian for looking after it! On my first morning back I was able to get in it, start up and drive away; perfect!
Here’s the gatehouse of Whalley Abbey, a few minutes from Brian’s house in Whalley.
Whalley Abbey Gatehouse (14 Century)
I met good friends Rowena & John at the Assheton Arms in Downham for a very pleasant lunch.
My Mini Outside Downham Village Church
Cottages At Top Of Main Street, Downham Village
Assheton Arms, Downham
Main Bar, Assheton Arms, Downham
Pendle hill From Assheton Arms, Downham
Here’s a shot of Clitheroe Castle, looking towards Pendle Hill, famed for the Pendle Witch Legend!
Clitheroe Castle And Pendle Hill As Dusk Approaches
Here’s a few photos of the very quaint Barnoldswick Town Square.
Barnoldswick Town Square Looking Towards House Of Flowers
Barnoldswick Town Square (Albert Road end)
Bench In Memory Of My Partner- Gail Usher – Who Was a Superb Florist
St Mary-le-Ghyl Church, Barnoldswick
A wonderful afternoon was spent here at The Angel At Hetton with friends Mellissa & John plus Rowena & John. We had a fantastic traditional English roast-beef Sunday lunch in front of a roaring fire and gasbagged for hours, sublime…
The Angel At Hetton
Main Bar, Angel At Hetton
Angel At Hetton – Night-time!
Pendle Hill is a place to see wonderful sunsets looking toward the Fylde coast…
Dusk On Pendle hill
Finally, people who know me well are aware I like to cook and bake. For Christmas day I was tasked with supplying a desert so I made this – a merengue roulade with autumn fruits, the fruit lays on a bed of whipped cream, it’s all very wholesome.
But it was almost a disaster as the first merengue wouldn’t rise , luckily I’d planned for a retry – the second one was spot on and proved very popular.
I needed some help with the rolling and Brian stepped in – that’s his hand!
Rolling The Merengue – The Tricky Part
Autumn Fruit Merengue Roulade, Rolled And Dusted With Icing Sugar
Anyway that’s it! I realise this was a bit long but what the hey, sometimes there’s more than others…
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