We drive to the train station in Clandon, a village 15 minutes from Shere. It is still icy and cold, so we’re bundled up, but this time in our town clothes. Instead of anoraks and wellington boots, we wear top coats and leather shoes. Bern parks while I buy our tickets, two senior day- returns with tube and bus travel, which costs only eight pounds. Seniors get a real break in Britain; we don’t have to pay for our prescriptions, either. The train takes about 50 minutes to get to London’s Waterloo Station, time enough to read the paper or do a difficult SuDoKu.
a huge, bustling, Victorian railway palace with three- story ceiling height, newsagents, restaurants, cafes, and people travelling to destinations all over England, as well as to airports,. We take the underground to Sloan Square where I know a bistro called Oriel, which serves French-ish food, has marble pillars, little tables with white table cloths and waiters in black and white. It is also usually packed with people, but we have arrived early so we are able to get a table. We spot a television actress, but no one else looks familiar. At least, not to me. I have not been here long enough to recognize most minor celebrities who might show up.
We have a light lunch and then cross the square to a department store called Peter Jones. We are still furnishing our house, so we look at bathroom fixtures, sofas and chairs, mirrors. We see some things we like, and so feel we have achieved something. We usually fight over furniture choices. Then, when we finally make a decision, neither of us is 100% happy. This time, we’ve come together on our choices.
On the fly, we run through the women’s clothing. I’d like a new outfit for New Year’s Eve. I try on a few not-quite-rights, then find filmy black trousers and a copper top which fits and doesn’t cost the earth. Perfect, and only 30 minutes or so out of our schedule.
Next stop is the Royal Academy to see the Paul Mellon collection. We take a taxi there, and arrive an hour before closing time. It is a smallish collection, with excellent examples of Reynolds, Constable, and even some small-sized early Turners. There is an intimacy to this collection which you don’t find in museums, due not only to its size, but also to the quality of the works. You know that the same person chose them, they are all in line with his taste. It includes old manuscripts and books, too, like two by William Caxton. One of these is of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
The museum is about to close, so we have no time to browse the museum shop. We walk then to Covent Garden, where the holiday season is in full swing. The shops and streets glitter and sparkle. An Irish string folk band is performing lively music on a lower level, pulling people towards the source, and stalls line the streets with everything from richly textured scarves to jewelry to pictures to wooden artifacts. We join the throngs in an unusual toy store to buy extra gifts for the nieces and nephews we will see after Christmas. Outside, a slim young woman in a shiny white body suit is climbing up a diaphanous band of cloth to perform acrobats up above the crowd. It is magical. (I tried to upload the little video I made, but so far, no dice).
It’s nearly 7:30, so we head toward the restaurant we have booked for dinner. It is casual, more of a brasserie, called L’Etoile, which the good food guide says its very good. It’s dimly lit, the servers are cheerful. We order a hearty cassoulet and some red wine, reminisce a little about the wonderful day we’ve enjoyed, then taxi back to Waterloo for the drowsy train ride home.
- THE HOLIDAYS