I’ve just returned from another lovely and memorable weekend in London. I opted for the overnight option, leaving home just after 12:30am; this resulted in very quiet roads coupled with two diversions around Newcastle due to overnight carriageway closures for roadworks. Nevertheless we made good time and were on the A14 to M11 by 6am where I noticed signs warning of a planned weekend closure for bridge repair. I was beginning to feel the need for a rest before joining the M25 so reluctantly pulled in to Birchanger Services for a bit of shut eye. I fully expected the traffic to be heavier when I woke to restart but was amazed to see such a quiet motorway, even the M25 was remarkably peaceful and free-flowing. I thought things had finally caught up with me as the traffic began to queue and I noticed plumes of black smoke ahead. Surprisingly the vehicle fire on our carriageway only caused minimal delay and we were soon past and heading onto the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.
Having arrived safely in New Eltham, Friday was spent in a relaxed way after the ecstatic reunion of Stacey and cat Stella. A trip to Bexleyheath shopping centre brought some shopping back and then we chilled, opting for an Indian takeaway in the evening. The decision of The Royal Nepalese in Blackheath to stop deliveries as far out as New Eltham was disappointing but The Gurkha Square in Chislehurst provided an excellent substitute and confirmed my love of Nepalese style dishes.
Saturday morning saw us refreshed and ready for a day in Central London. We started with a relaxed South Eastern overland train from New Eltham to London Bridge before moving underground to get us to Camden. Emerging from Camden Town Tube Station brought us into a lovely sunny morning and we made our way towards the market stalls.
And so to ‘heaven’, the various stalls around Camden Lock were a joy to behold. OK, there was a bit of repetition, and t-shirt pricing seemed fairly standard, but I just loved strolling around and savouring the wonderful visual feast underscored by a heady mix of food and incense aromas. We enjoyed a lovely brunch in a friendly cafe, mine being an excellent Greek salad.
As we made our way back to Camden Town Tube Station the streets were beginning to fill up and the tube carriages were packed to capacity by the time our train left the platform. Next stop was Knightsbridge, straight out of the station exit, past the protester arguing with a customer, and into ‘hell’. If it hadn’t been for Stacey wishing to confirm for herself how the pets were displayed we wouldn’t have entered Harrods. Having discovered the location of the pet department we made our way up the escalators. Oh how I wished we were still back at Camden Lock, the wonderful smells from there were soon a distant memory as the overwhelming stench of the perfume department seemed to permeate everywhere. In the pet department I first saw some hamsters, behind plate glass walls in conditions similar to what I had previously seen before. It was seeing puppies and kittens in similar, even more featureless conditions that really made me feel uncomfortable. The puppies had a small amount of floor space with the only variety being a piece of cardboard in one corner that had already been used once for urination. Apart from the many people passing in front of the glass fronts to their cells, there was absolutely no sign of any stimulation. Questions began to form in my mind, what exercise regime is applied? Do they have alternative accommodation when the store is closed? I was also reminded about the requirement for Battersea Cat & Dog Home to vet proposed re-homing hosts and locations, what checks, if any, are made to ensure purchasers will properly care for the animals? It was such a relief to get out into the fresh air and leave the horribly pretentious and sterile interior environment behind and head for Hyde Park. During the short walk we were passed by three Ferraris, clearly a very economical and practical mode of transport for the wide empty stretches of open road in the area! On the other hand, many people seem to find it essential to have the off-road function of four wheel drive available – strange people.
Many people were opting to make the most of the lovely weather, somebody in full combats, boots and webbing appeared and ran off into the park, a group of others were clearly getting lessons for using in-line skates and many others were jogging and cycling. After a relaxing break to watch the world go by we hopped on to a bus; I appreciate that it probably doesn’t always run smoothly and certainly wouldn’t like to have to use it every day, but I really am impressed by the relative ease in which travel around London can be achieved with the help of a friendly ‘oyster’.
Next stop was The Strand and we then made our way through Covent Garden to the Seven Dials area, where Winnie wished to visit The Bead Shop, before crossing the Thames to catch a Clipper from The London Eye to The Dome. Although I did have to pay on top of the daily travel charge my ‘oyster’ still enabled me to get a discount on the Clipper. There’s something so refreshing about being able to travel down the river on such a lovely day. I made the most of it and was very much ‘the tourist’ as I made full use of my camera on the open aft deck whilst also enjoying the fresh air. From North Greenwich Peninsula it was back onto the bus as we headed back to New Eltham, via a stop in Eltham for some supplies.
A good night’s sleep later and it was Sunday morning and time to say goodbye to Stacey and Stella. For once I found myself leaving at a fairly reasonable time of day, usually I try to get through the Dartford Tunnel and off the M25 before 7am in order to avoid the worst of the traffic build up. Having noticed signs on the A14 warning of a weekend road closure for bridge maintenance I continued past the M11 turn off and took the A1(M), only to discover as I approached Huntingdon that the closure only affected the east bound carriageway! Still, it was a lovely day for a drive, and the change of scenery was welcome.
As always, leaving the A1 at Morpeth and driving into the Cheviot foothills came as a relief and reminder of the wonderful part of the world that we live in. Barring unplanned events, my next trip will be in three weeks, via Megabus from Galashiels and down the M6, to catch Kenelis live at IndigO2!


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