I took E to London today as she wanted to visit a couple of bookshops. Not that we don’t have bookshops in Suffolk and Norfolk but a trip to London is fun every now and then and the bookshops there are so big and well stocked.
We didn’t want to spend too long in the city and we wanted to avoid the expensive rush-hour so we set off from Diss just after 9 a.m. and planned to get the 3.30 p.m. train home. Not a lot of time in London when the journey from Diss to London Liverpool Street takes nearly two hours A trip to London is very expensive so we only seem to make it once a year. Parking at the station car park for the day costs £5.50 and the train tickets for the two of us cost over £100. We then have to consider buying something for lunch and then the books….
We took the Underground Central Line to Tottenham Court Road station and walked down Oxford Street. I grew up in a town just south-east of London and worked in London for some years and Oxford Street then was a really good place to shop and looked good. Now it just looks tired and seedy, full of Bureau de Changes and old tat shops. There was some building work going on so maybe things will improve soon but I just feel sorry for visitors who have heard of the place imagining it to be a shopping mecca and so arrive there and are disappointed. Regent Street is much better and well worth a visit – as long as you have plenty of money!
The first shop E wanted to visit was Gosh; a bookshop that specialises in graphic novels, comic books, manga, illustrated books of all sorts. It is in Berwick Street in between Oxford Street and Wardour Street. She was in seventh heaven wandering about the shop and found a number of books to buy. She wants to be a book illustrator and draws all day.
When she had finished in there we walked back to Tottenham Court Road and tried to turn down Charing Cross Road. The work on the new Cross Rail Link is going on in the centre of town and the top of Charing Cross Road is blocked off. At least I think the work on the Link is the cause. We were directed round the building site and almost immediately found our second bookshop. Charing Cross Road is full of bookshops. I remember when there were even more – second-hand bookshops with heaps of books oozing out of the doors and lying in heaps on trestle tables on the pavement outside; speciality bookshops with maps or biographies or art or music books. Just off Charing Cross Road were all the music shops selling music and all sorts of instruments. Are they still all there? I don’t know, as London looks so different now. The shop we were aiming for is Foyles which has just moved to its new location next-door to where it used to be. The new shop is wonderful with lots of pine shelves and glass and shallow-stepped staircases and lifts that glide up and down and a cafe with views out of windows. The old shop was good too and E was looking forward to re-visiting it. I also remember the shop when Miss Foyle was still in charge. Lots of dark-wood shelves and creaking floorboards and cashiers in wooden cupboard-like offices. Stairs that climbed up and up to dusty rooms full of tomes – wonderful! We spent a while and a few pounds in Foyles and then decided to have some lunch. We found an Italian Restaurant in Shaftsbury Avenue and E had a pizza and I had a pasta dish. Now that we had done what we had intended and had an hour and a half to spare before our train we decided to walk down to the river and find a quiet and shady spot to sit awhile.
I thought that now was the time to get my camera out and take a few pictures to prove that we had visited London. My only difficulty was getting a photo without a van or a bus getting in the way.
We had walked down Charing Cross Road, past St Martin’s in the Field church and into Trafalgar Square. We then turned into The Strand and walked towards Charing Cross station. Just before the station is Craven Street and we turned down there.
We reached the Embankment and walked half-way across the footbridge that crosses the Thames.
We returned to the Embankment and went and sat in the Gardens for a short while.
The gardens were peaceful, green and shady and had a number of statues in them. We enjoyed our rest and then took the Circle Line on the Underground from Embankment back to Liverpool Street. Our train back home left on time and we were home just before 6 p.m.