I have a very exciting weekend away planned for December. We are going to Paris, to the Christmas markets, and I just can't wait. I have been to Paris for a single evening, ten years ago, and Carl has been, but we have never been together. We are going with a group of friends, and our hotel will have a view of the Eiffel Tower!
There was only one small problem - having said we would love to go, I realised that my passport had expired five years ago, just after we got married! When I looked into renewing my passport, I realised that there was only just enough time to do it in the usual fashion, and there was still a chance that it would not come in time. There is a special service you can pay for, where you go up to London to the passport office, and take your forms and documents with you, and they fast-track your application and deliver your passport within a week.
Although it does cost extra to do that, and the cost of the train ticket as well, I decided the peace of mind would be worth it, and made the appointment. Then I decided that if I was going all the way up to London then it was sensible to take myself up early and make the most of it. So, I set off with my envelope of passport documents safely in my handbag, and my new purple snood-scarf wrapped around my neck, and sallied forth into a cold, wet day.
It is very rare that I am in London on my own, so I made my first port of call the book shop at Liverpool Street and bought myself a tiny A-Z of London. Then I caught the underground to Temple station, and got off. The lovely thing about being in London on your own with a whole afternoon to fill is that you can meander off as the mood takes you, so when I spotted some lovely public gardens, I took a stroll through them before heading to my first destination - the Twinings Tea Shop.
If you are ever in London, do pay it a visit. It is the original shop and has been there since 1706. It is on the Strand, and very narrow, but it goes back a long way. They do 'pick and mix' individually wrapped sachets of tea, as well as boxes and all sorts of other lovely tea things. There is a lovely display at the back of old caddies and tins and boxes and labels, and even a tea bar where you can taste some tea.
I took myself off for some lunch, and decided I would walk until I saw somewhere I had never been before. I walked in the direction of St Paul's Cathedral, and popped into a little French place for a Croque Madame and quite the nicest coffee I have ever had. I was then moving onto Soho to visit another tea shop, but stopped in at Waterstones on the way to buy a book in case I had a long wait at the Passport Office. I picked up Angel by Elizabeth Taylor. I have never read her before, but certainly will again. Although it was published by Virago, it has put me in mind that I would like to start a project of reading all the Persephone Books, in the order they have been published. I have already read quite a few, so I suspect there will be a fair few I will be re-reading, but they are so heavenly, I look forward to it.
I discovered The Algerian Coffee Store when I was in London several weeks ago to hear Prue Leith speak. It is like an old fashioned sweet shop, and inside has shelves lined with jar upon jar of coffee beans and tea leaves. The window has tiny saucepans with long handles, for making coffee over a flame, and all sorts of other such things. I went in with a list, as I have decided to make up a tea and coffee hamper for my parents-in-law for Christmas.
I hailed a London Cab for the first time ever, crossed London, and made it to my appointment at the Passport Office. Having concluded my business there, I met my lovely husband from his work, and we enjoyed dinner together before going home. It felt lovely having a day for myself in London, having time to do the little things, look at statues, peep into shop windows, and find my way on my own with my little A-Z.
All in all, it was a lovely day - and now I just have to wait for my passport to arrive! What has worked out very well is that I can use my payment for poll-clerking to put towards my passport, so the extra I had to pay for the special service will be mitigated somewhat!
Have you been abroad lately? Or to London? Where is your favourite place to go?