Saturday, February 01, 2014

Holiday hijinks in Bath and London

Hello neglecterinos, yes I've been slack again lately and fallen a bit behind with blogging. So, quick wrap-up of what I got up to over the festive period.

First off, it was a three-train trip across to South-West England: train to Paris, Eurostar (for the first time in many years - very pleasant and it was surprisingly half-empty on Christmas Eve), then train to Bath. I had planned a lot of time between trains, mostly expecting chaos on the Eurostar, since it seems every Christmas brings its share of pictures of unhappy crowds at Gare du Nord or St Pancras, unable to get home for Christmas due to 'fluffy snow' or something. This part, however, went off without a hitch. It was only at Liverpool Street where it was confirmed that things were going quite wrong due to the floods that had hit England. I was *so* early (about three hours) for my train that it wasn't even showing up yet, but the raft of cancellations were not a good sign. Basically, there were trains every half an hour, and all the trains on the hour (of which mine was one) were cancelled. So when, two hours before, my train popped up as cancelled as well, it was no big surprise. I was at that time enjoying my first pint of cider on English soil (drinking vast quantities of cider being one of my very favourite activities on the other side of the Channel) but I decided to take a snap decision, abandon three-quarters of my poor pint and rush down to take the next train going, figuring that a train on the tracks were worth two hypothetical trains in the sidings.

With the trains either side cancelled, everyone toting suitcases and backpacks, and possibly other chancers like me hopping on far in advance, the train was predictably rammed. I spent the first hour standing in the corridor by the toilets, very uncomfortably jammed in alongside dozens of other passengers. Despite this, everyone seemed in pretty good spirits. The only slight sign of bad-temperedness I saw was one woman trying to board the already-packed train at Liverpool Street, pleading "please let me on, I'm desperate to get home for Christmas", which earned the obvious riposte of "what do you think everyone else is doing?" Other than that, not too bad and I even got to Bath early!

Christmas was quiet, just me, Liz and her parents. We started out with church at a lovely old Anglican village church. It's been a long time since I've been to church and I'd forgotten quite how much standing up is required, so I spent most of the service regretting wearing heels and wondering when we would get to sit down again. It was conducted by a Lady Priest, which was a bit of a novelty for this former Catholic girl (she was quite good, as priests go), and of course I was pleased to get some carol singing in!

Liz and me at church on Christmas Day
By about 3 pm, after lunch, the champagne and red wine were taking their effect and I was pretty sleepy! Safe to say there were no ragers for the whole trip: I basically stayed on France time, and since I go to bed every night at 10, thus 9 pm in the UK, most evenings were spent with Liz and I fighting to stay awake to a decent hour.

This was all for the good though, as it meant the next day we were up bright and early for the Boxing Day sales. Ahhhhh, England, how I love your sales! We spent about 3 hours just in Debenhams, and I think by the end of the trip I'd spent up to the tune of around 500€, oh dear. Good things were bought though! Along with my usual pretty dress fetish, I managed to pick up sensible flat boots (the first I've had in my life, but I must say I'm now a convert! Comfortable Boots Are Comfortable: hold the front page), a new trench coat, a black triangle skirt (so versatile), and the one I'm proudest of: a suit for £30! Bargain!

The suit in question
If I'm honest, the following days were also largely spent shopping & having pints of cider in pubs, but we did manage a little bit of sight-seeing too. I dragged Liz into Bath Abbey for the first time ever, if you can believe it. Her parents have lived nearby since she was a teenager, but she's not really big on that sort of thing and spent quite a bit of time sitting quietly waiting for me to finish looking around. It's gorgeous though! (I've been to Bath before but I don't think I went in the Abbey - it was just a daytrip and we saw the Roman Baths and Jane Austen's house.)


The outside of Bath Abbey

Inside Bath Abbey


The gorgeous fan-vaulted ceiling

A pretty chapel inside the Abbey

Best name ever! The Abbey was full of memorial plaques, with a high number of military men and people with connections to the West Indies (slave trade I suppose)
I found this interesting: the English calendar was reformed in 1750, changing to the Gregorian calendar and changing the beginning of the year from 25 March to January. Hence this lady's birth year needed adjustment!

An unspectacular picture of the Royal Crescent

The Bath weir
We also made a trip to the village of Bradford-on-Avon, not to be confused with Bradford not on Avon. The pub behind Liz in the photo below may be old and pretty but featured such incompetent service that we ended up leaving. I think we waited about half an hour and enquired three times, no pints were served. By the way, the South-West is cider country, and I found my new favourite, Thatchers Dry cider! Unfortunately, the supermarket we visited had none in stock, so I came back to France hauling the medium-dry variety with me, which is not the same at all :( 

It wouldn't be England without a little bit of rain
We also visited Bristol, to have dinner with Liz's brother, but not much to report from there. We saw a pretty church but we had to leave to buy Liz some phone credit after she received a text from her Dad reading "At hospital. Your mum had an accident. Getting plastered". Turned out she just broke her arm (well, that's bad enough) but the plastering involved was of the arts-and-craft variety, not the "something awful has happened, I'm getting blind drunk to cope" kind, which is a bit better! And then we went to a pub and had some more cider and checked out a lovely indoor market, where as luck would have it, there was an entire stall selling about 50 different masks, perfect for our New Years masked ball!

So that was the South-West, next stop was London for a few days. I stayed with my uni friend Amber, caught up with Rick and Kiwi Liz, visited Borough and Camden markets, popped into Tate Modern (so nice that it's free), got my hair cut and paid my respects to my main man John Gower in Southwark Cathedral. I like to think he was pleased to have a visitor who's read (some of) his stuff.

Scary church in East London. Have these people not heard of Heaven's Gate?

Gower's fancypants tomb

And then it was time to get our glad rags on for NYE. We were going, as mentioned, to a Masked Ball at the Paradise, somewhere around Kensal Green I think. I don't have particularly high hopes for NYE, but I must say it was a fun night. Not amazing or particularly different from any other night out, but fun for my first London NYE. I've got to say the highlight of the evening was probably the greasy, greasy delicious fried chicken we got on the way back (only something ridiculous like £3 or something like that). Amber and Jen were busy getting chatted up by some drunken lads and I was there just like "omnomnom CHICKEN you guys!" It made me realise that I don't think there are any fried chicken joints in France (probably Paris) other than the odd KFC. Oh my god, you are missing a trick, it was the best thing ever!

Anyway, here are a few snaps from the evening to close out the holiday report. I struggled back to France on the 2nd with an insanely heavy suitcase AND a giant sports bag I had to borrow from Liz's parents because of all the shopping! Worth it though!

Me, Amber and Jen before heading out for the evening (I don't have my shoes on yet if you're wondering)
And a little NYE selfie

Drinking cider on the tube on the way out. Pure class

Group shot at the Paradise, once the other girls finally arrived (and Charlie on the left made it over from France too!)

I have my eyes closed, but it's not quiiiiite so bad with a mask on. My mask spent most of the night on top of my head, but Amber loved hers! I think she'd wear it full-time if she could

Me, Liz and Charlie. Horrible photo, but the only one I got!

Liz loves the old "finger in the mouth" pose when she's had a few

11 comments:

  1. Didn't GK Chesterton get to Paradise by way of Kensal Green?

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    1. Did he? I read The Man Who Was Thursday last year, but can't say I thought an awful lot of it. The club's full name is indeed "Paradise by Way of Kensal Green" though, so you must be on to something there! http://www.theparadise.co.uk/

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  2. WHAT!!!!!!! Attending an Anglican church. The jesuit death squads are on theirn way!

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    1. Very much of a muchness with a Catholic church, Lady Priest aside.

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  3. I must admit I have a whole new appreciation of the wonders of those cathedrals since I read the two Ken Follett books 'The Pillars of the Earth' and 'World without End'. (Love the black dress with the lacey top!) M x

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    1. Thanks! Well maybe I'll give them a go sometime x

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  4. I love your NYE dress too!

    I missed the UK sales this year :-(

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    1. Thank you! Another sales purchase, from Apricot, which I don't think I've ever been in before, but I got two dresses there this time.

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  5. Flat boots are the best! Stylish and comfortable is the way to go, I say.

    Fried chicken!! You made a good choice. You can find drunken lads anywhere, but you gotta appreciate good fried chicken when you find it.

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    1. Definitely, I was totally like "can't talk... eating chicken..." it was the best!

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  6. GK was having a joke, as he meant paradise via Kensal Green cemetary!

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