Chocolate and lights

Sunday, December 4th 2016

The day started, as usual on Sundays, with breakfast, followed by the weekly shopping. Accordingly, we stopped off at the Millennium Cafe in Chapel Market where they do a choice of vegetarian breakfasts as well as the usual cafe dishes. Then we trundled the shopping trolley round to Sainsbury’s. The trick is to get there for when they open the doors at about 10:45am. The check-outs don’t open until 11am so there are relatively few customers in the store at this time, making it easier to move around.

Returning home, we put away our purchases and then settled down for a rest. It was a dull day, not at all inviting for outdoor activities, so we put off our eventual outing till ‘later’. By the time ‘later’ came around, it was already dark. Now, what can you do on a cold day, in the dark?

Well, what Tigger can do is go and photograph the Christmas lights in town! Our first port of call, though, was to a certain establishment in Piccadilly whose name is intimately associated with chocolate and other sweet goodies.

Kahve Dünyasi, Piccadilly
Kahve Dünyasi, Piccadilly

I speak of Kahve Dünyasi, a Turkish establishment specializing in coffee, chocolate, ice cream, pastries and snacks, sold over the counter or to be consumed on the premises. The place was quite busy when we arrived but we spent only a few seconds at the ‘Wait here to be seated’ notice before being shown to a table. They serve so many varieties of coffee (Turkish coffee being a speciality of the house, of course) that they make Starbuck’s look rank amateurs in comparison. I chose a hot chocolate (of which there are three varieties) while Tigger tackled an ice cream dish called Madame Chocolate.

Hot chocolate is oddly comforting on a cold day but it is full of sugar. That served a purpose here, though, because I think the sugar hit carried me through the rest of the outing. Tigger took off to photograph the lights while I tagged along and took a few photos here and there. Our first stop was the famous Piccadilly department store, Fortnum & Mason. Each Christmas, the store creates a set of window displays that have proved to be an attraction in their own right. In fact, there were so many people lingering and taking photos in front of the windows that it was hard to get any pictures at all. Here are three of those that I managed to obtain:

Fortnum & Mason Chiristmas window display

Fortnum & Mason Chiristmas window display

Fortnum & Mason Chiristmas window display

After F&M, we cut through to Jermyn Street, which runs parallel to Piccadilly to the south of it. Here we find what you might call the second-tier retail businesses, some with famous names, and establishments such a private clubs.

Tramp, London
Tramp, London, doorway

One such is Tramp, whose doorways was luminously decorated for Christmas. (In case you are wondering, no, I have never gone beyond the door, nor am I likely ever to do so.)

In the Regency period, shopping arcades were much in favour with well-to-do shoppers and the fashion continued into the Victorian era and even into the 20th century. Piccadilly has no less than three arcades. In order of age, these are the Burlington Arcade (opened 1819), the Piccadilly Arcade (1909) and Princes Arcade (1933). (See Four arcades and some portraits).

Princes Arcade, Jermyn Street end
Princes Arcade, Jermyn Street end

Princes Arcade runs between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street. Their Web site tells us that ‘Princes Arcade forms part of Princes House which was originally built to house the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1883. The Arcade itself was opened in 1933.’ Despite its relatively young age, it impresses with an air of quiet elegance quite in keeping with an earlier period.

Jermyn Street's Christmas lights
Jermyn Street’s Christmas lights

Jermyn Street was aglow with Christmas lights and the chosen theme this year was angels.

We progressed through to a shopping street that is perhaps even more famous in its own way than Oxford Street or Piccadilly, that is, Regent Street. It was very busy with both vehicles and pedestrians, as is only to be expected at this time of year.

Christmas lights in Regent Street
Christmas lights in Regent Street

Here too the theme of the lights is angels, whether planned or serendipitously, I don’t know. The design is similar to, but different from, that in Jermyn Street. Here we are looking south-ish from a point near Carlton Street.

I was happy now for us to call it a night and to climb aboard a bus for home where we sorted out our photos and – yes, you’ve guessed it! – made tea!

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Oxford Street to Peckham Rye

Saturday, December 3rd 2016

The weather continues cold and miserable. But then, it is the winter and in England winters are known for being cold, dark, damp and, in a word, miserable. Perhaps that’s why we like Christmas so much: the lights, the bright colours and the self-indulgence, all these help cheer us up and distract us from the dank conditions.

We set off on today’s ramble with only the vaguest ideas of where we were going. As we walked to the bus stop, I pulled out my geotagger to switch it on and found that it was already switched on and its battery was flat. That meant I could not record our track and explains why I will be rather vague about where exactly we went. It was interesting how ‘lost’ I felt without the geotagger, having become accustomed to using it on all our trips, at home and abroad, over the last few years.

Christmas decorations, Oxford Street
Christmas decorations, Oxford Street

We got off the bus in Oxford Street and I took a quick photo of the street and its Christmas decorations. Oxford Street is not a favourite haunt of mine at the best of times and at Christmas even less so because of the crowds. As it was still fairly early, it wasn’t too busy but I was glad to branch off into the side roads.

Decorated doorway
Decorated doorway

In Argyll Street, we came upon this decorated doorway. It belongs to the London Palladium which resides in this street.

Liberty from Argyll Street
Liberty from Argyll Street

Looking down Argyll Street, you can see part of the massive ‘Tudor Revival’ style building that houses Liberty’s department store. It certainly stands out and I don’t think there is any other London store like it.

Guarding the entrance
Guarding the entrance

It was built in the 1920s to a design by Edwin Thomas Hall. It’s a fascinating store to visit but we did not go in it today.

Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street

This is Carnaby Street, once an unknown backstreet but famous since the 1960s as a centre for avant guard fashion. It was originally laid out in the late 17th century and took its name from the first house built in it, called Karnaby House. The derivation of that name is uncertain though I have seen a suggestion that it may refer to the village of Carnaby (near Bridlington) in Yorkshire.

Ganton Street
Ganton Street

Despite the archway bearing the motto ‘Carnaby Carnaby’, the name of this street in Ganton Street. It is one of those that lead off Carnaby Street. It doesn’t seem particularly interesting but I photographed it because of the Christmas decorations which look rather like pink light bulbs. If memory serves, they had the same ones last year.

Copyright © 2016

Cafe Pomodoro, Kingly Street
Cafe Pomodoro, Kingly Street

We had not breakfasted so far and so, when we found ourselves in Kingly Street, in front of an establishment called Cafe Pomodoro, it seemed opportune to rectify the lack. Inside we found warmth and a typical English cafe menu, just as I like it. If the name suggests that the cafe is run by Italians, there is nothing odd about that because the Italians have for generations been running fine English cafes.

In the late 17th century, the street became known as King Street but was renamed at a later date to Kingly Street. I don’t know when the change occurred or why the street was renamed. Perhaps it was to avoid confusion with the other two London streets called King Street, though that seems unlikely.

Leicester Square Christmas Market
Leicester Square Christmas Market

Continuing on, we eventually came to Leicester Square where the annual Christmas Market was being held. Stalls were displaying goods and food from the UK and other countries, quite an impressive sight if you like that sort of thing and don’t mind the jostling crowds.

French Crêpe stall
French Crêpe stall

We spotted this stall run by French chefs selling French crêpes made to order and I gloomily wondered whether Brexit will mean fewer such sightings in future. (In crowded conditions like this it is virtually impossible to take a photo without someone walking into the frame as you press the shutter release.)

Leicester Square and Odeon Tower
Leicester Square and Odeon Tower

In this photo, the tower of the 1930s Leicester Square Odeon cinema is seen peering over the market stalls.

We next went to Peckham Rye and here we explored an area that we hadn’t visited before. It was in the area of Rye Lane and that is as much as I can say without my geotagger to help me. Perhaps we’ll go back another time and I can locate it better.

The Pizza Bus
The Pizza Bus

We encountered this unusual pizza restaurant. Called Crust Conductor, it is housed in double-decker London bus. I believe it can move to other locations though it seems quite comfortably installed here. (No, we didn’t sample their wares!)

The Face on the wall
The Face on the wall

What attracted my attention here was the face on the wall and then the chimney. The face is a nice piece of street art but I have no idea who the artist is or when it was painted. The chimney intrigued me because the name on it – RONS – seemed unusual for the name of a firm or factory. It turns out that the chimney has in fact been truncated, as suggested by the relative newness of the brickwork at the top. Originally, it belonged to a store called Holdron’s which closed in 1949, though I do not know for what purpose they would have had a tall chimney. Today the building in the photo is occupied by what seem to be a set of lock-up shops.

CLF Art Cafe
CLF Art Cafe

We arrived at what I believe is called the Bussey Building. We had for a while been thinking that it would be nice to sit down and have a cup of tea and so we were pleased to find a venue that could meet our needs. It is called the CLF Arts Cafe and describes itself as a ‘Versatile, multi-level warehouse space, staging innovative theatre, art, cabaret and music events’ but it was serving tea and cake and that was good enough for us!

Peckham Rye Station
Peckham Rye Station

On our way to the main road to catch a bus home, we passed in front of Peckham Rye Station. These days it is in the middle of a built-up shopping area and you reach it through a covered passage between shops in Rye Lane. It is invisible from the street and when you reach it, it surprises you with its size. Built in the 1860s, it was obviously intended to be an important station but these days seems oddly out of proportion to its reduced staus. The handsome three-storey building is Grade II listed, I am glad to say.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Stratford Westfield

Saturday, November 26th 2016

After the relatively mild months of September and October, the weather has turned very cold. Even though the thermometer has so far rarely fallen below freezing, we have experienced a very British cold, a damp, biting cold that sneaks down your neck and up your sleeves and trouser legs however warmly you dress. It has put a damper on our enthusiasm for getting out and about. At weekends, we have tended to dash out for breakfast, and perhaps the weekly shopping, and then to dash home again where it has been comforting to lie on the bed and read.

Leadenhall Market, Black Friday
Leadenhall Market, Black Friday

This week contains that curious day called Black Friday when retailers make plans to bamboozle people into thinking that prices have been slashed on their goods. Mostly this is sleight of hand and clever, if mendacious, advertising though I am told that careful shopper can pick up a bargain here and there. So successful has this annual event become that Black Friday has spread itself out and it would now be more appropriate to speak of Black Weekend. The above photo was taken on the way home from work yesterday evening and shows Leadenhall Market, packed as usual on Friday evenings, with City workers celebrating the end of the working week.

We had arranged to meet friends today, it being our last chance to see them before Christmas as they are soon making their annual trip to Bruges to enjoy the Christmas Markets and everything that goes with them. In view of the weather, we had agreed to meet them in Stratford (East London) in the big shopping centre called Westfield. There are cafes where you can sit and chat and shops to roam around if you become bored. And, above all, it is sheltered from the cold!

Christmas decoration, St Pancras Station
Christmas decoration, St Pancras Station

A quick and easy way to get to Stratford from the Angel is to walk or take the bus to St Pancras and there take the HS1 train to the station pompously (and inaccurately) called Stratford International. (Whoever named it presumably hoped that the Eurostar could be persuaded to stop here on its way south, a hope that has never been realized.) Stratford did enjoy a brief flash of glory in 2012 when some of the Olympic events took place there in the stadium specially built for the purpose.

Inside the Westfield Shopping Centre
Inside the Westfield Shopping Centre

Disembarking at Stratford, we went straight to the Westfield Shopping Centre. As we reached it early, there were still relatively few shoppers about and one could stroll about comfortably and explore the shops which were just getting ready for what they expected to be the busy day ahead. Later, this would change…

Christmas decorations at Westfield
Christmas decorations at Westfield

After wandering around for a while, we took up position in the Marks & Spencer store’s cafe as this would be an easy place for our friends to find us. They did so and the question then was ‘What do we do now?’ and the obvious answer was ‘Stay right here and have some more tea!’ So we did this and spent some time catching up as friends do.

Looking down one of the light wells
Looking down one of the light wells

The shopping centre has several floors – I’m not sure whether it is three or four or even more – and at intervals there are light wells down which you can peer at the floor below and frighten yourself by imaging falling over the low barrier. (I’m surprised no one has yet thought of committing suicide by jumping.)

We thought that as we were, after all, in a large retail centre, we should at least take a tour around. So we did so, each pair following its own itinerary with plans to meet up again later. By now the crowds were noticeably denser and it was becoming more difficult to move about, especially in the interior of the shops. I didn’t envy the shop assistants having to deal with a this heaving mass of potential customers.

We now saw our friends to the station to start their journey home while we returned to continue our explorations. The crowds were now so thick, not only with bargain-hunting shoppers, but also with sight-seers and groups of young people who these days use shopping centres as places where they can meet and ‘hang out’, that we gave up and decided to head for home.

Footbridge, seen from the Shopping Centre
Footbridge, seen from the Shopping Centre

This photo is a view from a window in the shopping centre showing the big pedestrian bridge that crosses the railway lines to the bus station. We crossed it ourselves as we had decided to travel home by bus rather than the train.

Bow Church
Bow Church

We changed buses at a stop which London Transport calls Bow Church. The church in question is the parish church of St Mary and the Holy Trinity at Bow and we visited it on a previous occasion (see Bow Church and some other bits).

We had to wait a while for the bus and as it was now quite cold, I was relieved to see it arrive. Before boarding, though, I took a photo of the sunset sky.

Sunset Sky at Bow Church
Sunset Sky at Bow Church

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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