Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A bit whiffy

Six or seven years ago, probably about the time she changed jobs, MrsB and I started using National Express coaches as our preferred method of reaching London for a day out. Rail tickets had just got horrendously expensive and connections from Felixstowe to Ipswich were never convenient. So we sacrificed a bit of time for tickets at half the price and the ease of starting nearer home. And of course the Tourist Information Centre where MrsB works sells the coach tickets so it was a doddle to book a day at short notice. Unfortunately a recent timetable change means it now takes over four hours, and no matter how much you enjoy your coach travel 8 hours in one day is too much.

So on Monday we returned to the steel road, and what a joy it was. Everything was on time, clean, comfortable and as we had booked in advance we got to come back First Class at no extra cost. Which was nice. I know this is not the norm, and have made enough work journeys to have experienced the full hell of train travel, but really can't complain at all. Of course the weather could have been better (unexpected freezing blizzards were not on the agenda when we chose the date) but even they didn't stop things working.

The whole purpose of the jaunt was lunch and a cruise on the river which MrsB had received as a birthday present. We didn't make full use of the river rover, only travelling from Tower Hill up to Westminster, but lunch on the Hispaniola was delicious. And hilarious as the couple at the table behind us were wonderfully opinionated, ex-theatricals and both stone deaf so they shouted at each other with no regard for who else might be listening. I just wish I had noted some of their observations down as all I can remember now is her having trouble explaining to him what a Risotto was, and how she met a friend at the party following the 100th performance of some play she had been in. And then we got stuck on the boat due to extremely high spring tides which had risen up over the gangway. Cue a free coffee then use of Wellys the manager had bought specifically for the assistance of unstranding people who didn't have two hours to wait for the water levels to drop.

As the snow was still swirling and the wind howling we forsook the pleasures of more time on the water and decamped to the National Portrait Gallery. It must be at least ten years since we last went there, and thoroughly enjoyed getting re-acquainted. I think I prefer the National next door, as I like a bit of variety rather than spending all afternoon just looking at people, but still, some very good stuff on display. And we saw Tony Robinson in the cafe so ticked off the required celebrity spot which is an essential part of any trip down the smoke.

Oh yes, and the final joy of the day (and another reason to travel by rail) was a visit to the international cheese shop at Liverpool Street (I think they also have one at Victoria) to obtain some Danish Esrom. My favourite cheese, and one that has a peculiarly pungent aroma than gained us strange looks on the train. Heck, even one shower and at least four hand washes since making my sandwiches today I can still smell it on my fingers...