Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A Grand Day Out

Yesterday my friend Janet and I celebrated our unbirthdays.  Our actual birthdays are a week apart in October but what with one thing and another we never seem to find the time to celebrate our birthdays then so we always have a day out some other time.

We set off to London on the train and it wasn't long before we arrived at our first destination, North Greenwich.  The station is right next to the O2 Arena, formerly known as the Dome.  We'd not seen the O2 landside before, our previous trips having been made on the Thames Clipper boats.  We stopped for a coffee then made our way to the Emirates Air Line, the new cable car which crosses the Thames nearby.  Remarkably short of customers for such a new attraction we were able to board a car straight away and were whisked skywards with none of the jolting and lurching I remember of cable cars in the past.  We had a super view over London although it could have been much better if it hadn't been so cloudy.  We could see the Olympic stadium and it's weird knotted-helter-skelter sculpture thing, the Thames barrier, Canary Wharf, City Airport and lots of other landmarks.  http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/23863.aspx

After our trip on the cable car we decided to board the train once again and go to the Westfield shopping centre at Stratford.  After we'd crossed under the Thames on the Jubilee line we changed to the Docklands Light Railway at Canary Wharf.  This route took us alongside the Olympic park so we were able to see many of the venues.  We exited Stratford station and managed to miss Westfield entirely (we may have been chatting!) and crossed the road to the Stratford shopping centre.  This incorporated a vibrant market (what were all those strange fruits and vegetables and what do you do with them?) and lots of what I'd consider "useful" shops.  I managed to get some dishes I'd been looking for for months while I was there so as it turned out it was a handy detour.  When we left the Stratford shops and crossed over the road again Westfield was directly in front of us, we couldn't miss it this time!  We managed to find a Pizza Express (it took a bit of finding, the shopping centre is vast and not terribly well signed) for some lunch and I picked up some gorgeous fabric in John Lewis' sale but other than that we didn't do any shopping.  Although they had an impressive selection of shops there there wasn't anything that really appealed to Janet and I, there were lots of frou-frou shops with jewellery, expensive underwear or baseball caps (who knew they could be so pricey?!!!).

Shopped out, Janet said she'd like to visit Chinatown so we boarded the train once more and headed into town.  We'd intended to stop at Charing Cross on the way to visit a little ice cream shop I knew at the back of St. Martin in the Fields but when we arrived there it had closed down.  We felt a little bereft as ice cream is a now traditional part of our day out.  We set off on foot towards Chinatown and reached Charing Cross Road where we spied an Italian Cafe with a freezer full of gelati of all flavours.  What was going to be a cone with one scoop grew a little as we struggled to make our choices (see below!)!  Replete we finally made our way along the road to Chinatown where Janet began her quest for a dragon mask or other dragony item.  We asked in several Chinese supermarkets but noone had any.  Finally we spotted some paper dragons in the last supermarket and asked if they were available to buy.  Sadly they weren't, I was quite tempted by them myself as they were so pretty.  We decided it was time to call it a day and headed for the nearest station so we could get home before rush hour began.  We turned a corner and there, right in front of us was a shop with all manner of Chinese trinkets; tea pots, lanterns, costumes, you name it they had it and Janet was able to find what she was looking for so our trek wasn't in vain after all.