Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trains, Planes, Chocolate and Yarn

Mrs Brown says that in London everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in. I think she must be right - because although I don't look like anyone else, I really do feel at home. I'll never be like other people, but that's alright, because I'm a bear. --Paddington Bear
Last Wednesday, we boarded a train leaving from just outside Exeter to Waterloo Station in London. I'd been on trains in England before, but they ranged between the London Underground and Rail Service to the touristy trains in the Lake District. This train was different: it was for common ol' folk who wanted to just wanted to get to London: a commuter train, of sorts.

It was interesting to watch the world fly past. I watched the landscape change from the bucolic English countryside, filled with sheep and dairy cows and moors and fields:

I sat back and ate a sandwich and knitted away on my Estuary Shawl. It's nowhere near finished, as I'd suffered a bit of a debacle with it earlier in the week when I discovered that, despite the fact I was religiously tracking the lace rows with a pen and ruler, I'd somehow completely gone astray about 60 rows back. Yes, I ripped it out and did them over again. That, children, is what knitting is:

I could tell we were getting close to London when the stations started to look less and less like a scene from Sherlock Holmes, and the people started to look less like little old ladies out on a day trip, and my personal space became smaller and smaller:

I knew for sure we were close when a man with dreadlocks got on with a guitar and a didgeridoo. I've always known that London is for all sorts of people:

And then we reached Waterloo Station in London:

Busy, crazy London: you never change:

Luckily, after hopping onto the Tube, we reached our small haven for the next couple of nights, an Airbnb in Finchley in Northern London. It was a lovely loft conversion in a large house: quiet and comfortable and private:

I lived and worked in London just after I finished university, and so I am no stranger to navigating my way through its mass of trains and Tube stations and buses and people, but it always surprises me how many faces London actually has. I think most of us think of Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings and Buckingham Palace when we think of London, but it also has some real gems up its sleeve.

I'd happened to see a tv program about Hampstead Heath earlier in the week, and we discovered it was quite close to where we were staying, so we decided to go and explore. It is a little piece of the countryside right within the confines of metropolitan London. There were legions of people walking their dogs off-leash and swarms of children playing amongst the trees, but it's so big that you wouldn't know it from looking:

Near it is the borough of Hampstead, filled with charming shops and even more charming alleyways:

We encountered an ice cream and chocolate shop, and I declared it of utmost importance that we stop for gelato:

And while we were there, I spied this incredible sight: two taps dispensing chocolate hazelnut olive oil spread. They let me have a taste, and the world must have rumbled with my delight:

Naturally, I took two little jars home with me. I'm not crazy, you know:

I was all ready to head back for a rest when the hubby suggested we go up a less busy street. It was there where I saw this:

Which led us to this place:

And then this room:

Knit For Peace is a Charity which collects items and raises funds for charitable projects, including providing warm clothing for people in homeless shelters and to refugees both within Britain and abroad. I was shown a room almost half-filled with bags of newly knitted blankets, sweaters and hats for distribution. The yarn above is donated from shops that close down, from people who are destashing, or from families who had a knitter in the family who has passed away. And it's not all acrylic: the tub in the lower left hand corner was full of bags of skeins of angora (£5 a bag - I resisted, but only just). There was a corner packed full of boxes of knitting needes: aluminum, steel, wood, you name it. I walked (read: nearly ran) away with four skeins of sport weight mulberry silk/merino for £20. I can't say I've ever made a more pleasureable charitable contribution:

The next day was our last day of our vacation before we were to head back. We decided to explore Borough Market, a place neither of us had been before. If you've read my blog before, markets are one of my favourite things to visit when traveling, and this one certainly did not disappoint. We smelled and sampled and ate our way through it:

Afterwards, we decided to make our way toward the West End. On the way, we saw this shop, the Golden Hind II, a replica of one of Sir Francis Drake's ships which circumnavigated the globe:

And, despite being a modern city, London keeps coughing up vestiges of its past, like these ruins of Winchester Palace, which was unearthed after a 19th century fire (which I really can't figure out - how can you find a palace after a fire?):

We trotted past Shakespeare's Globe Theatre:

And then crossed the Millenium Bridge towards St. Paul's Cathedral:

After that, we found ourselves caught up in what I consider to be the most unpleasant thing about London: the traffic and the swarms of people, but even on Fleet Street, history abounds. I stopped to take a photo of St. Dunstan-in-the-West:

And there, I saw a sign for "Temple Church." We found ourselves in a quiet, peaceful courtyard and found the church,built by the Knights Templar and made famous by the author, Dan Brown (though, I admit that I'd never heard of it).

We followed the little streets and alleyways as far as we could:

And we finally emerged where I wanted to go: Covent Garden. It's one of my favourite parts of London:

I love how there is often a string quartet playing in one of the courtyards:

But this is my favourite part: the handmade section:

It was an exhausting day, and so, we headed back since we needed to be up early to head back to Canada the next morning. So, after an early start, we found ourselves here at Paddington Station to catch the Heathrow Express to the airport:

It seems suitable to end with a station synonymous with a bear. I feel a bit like a teddy bear that's been stashed in a suitcase and dragged around the world. I'm grateful for it, if a little bit tattered and smudged.

We're back on Vancouver Island now, and I've had a good night's sleep and some breakfast and coffee - though I woke up at 4am. I have to go back to reality tomorrow, but I'm grateful for the escape, and for a glimpse of a different perspective. The sun has yet to rise this morning, but I think I'll go wander into the kitchen and figure out what I'm going to have for lunch this week and try to dip my toe back into the real world again. I don't know how I feel about that yet, but I guess I'll take it as it comes.

Happy Sunday, all.


Marsha said...

I'm pretty sure that "Wool Sale" is a mere announcement to nonknitters, but to knitters it is code for "TIME TO BUY SOME MORE YARN!"

AdrieneJ said...

My heart MIGHT have leapt when I saw the sign. And I MAY have drooled when I saw how reasonable the prices were.