30 September 2013

Shopping in London & Catching the Train with Harry Potter

A foggy morning but not too cold
at the London Fair.
The first of the big antiques fairs for this trip was in London, and what a foggy old start it was in old London Town.  You have to be at this fair by 6am if you want any chance of a car park – many of you will be aware of how hard parking can be in London – but the gates don’t open until 6.30am.  So I collected a cup of tea and Doug had a bacon butty and we milled about with the always sizeable crowd until opening time.  The fog was thick and low so visibility at the outdoor stands was poor, but we groped our way through and came away with some really excellent purchases.
Maybe once in every four trips I find a beautiful typewriter with some serious age to it, and this was the trip for a good typewriter find.  I had seen a beautiful old typewriter at the Porte de Vanves markets in Paris, but at 1000 Euros it had to stay behind.  But here before me in London was another beautiful find, one I could afford, so I snapped it up.  Doug, who had to lug it back to the van, assures me that it weighs every bit of 10kg, so there will be no accidentally knocking this piece off the table.
Around 10am and still very foggy in
London.  You can just see the top of
a very large blue enamel lidded pot
that I bought.
I also found yet more lovely French enamelware, great glass, cool 1950s Midwinter Red Domino cups and saucers (so retro, and these days so hard to find), a very large and beautiful wooden chopping board – not one of the really giant Jamie Oliver boards I’m looking for, but fabulous enough to be scooped up by me.  I also found a good set of iron game hooks, which are just right for hanging copper saucepans, dried herbs, and various kitchen things on.  We have two sets of game hooks of our own, which will be set up in the larder in due course, and now we just have to decide which ones we’ll keep and which ones we’ll flog - always a nice position to be in.
I totally indulged myself at this fair, and bought the best ever French Art Deco outdoor metal table.  I plan to paint it black and use it as an indoor table, even though there is a hole in the table top for an umbrella.  I reckon it’s way too cool and stylish to be left outside.  It cost a lot, and the charming French dealer knew exactly what he had so he wasn’t very negotiable, but too bad because I had to have it.  Even as stock for the shop it would have been too expensive, let alone as stock for an antiques Fair in Nambour, but when you are buying for yourself you can set aside the usual it-won’t-remotely-make-a-profit concerns.

The Scottish Highlands offer no
end of beautiful views.
Then it was time to leave London and head up to Scotland, so we could take a trip on the Hogwarts Express (also known as The Jacobite steam train) on my birthday.  As we crossed the Scottish border I la-la-la-ed at the top of my lungs to the tune of Scotland the Brave in celebration of entering the country.  My sister and I have a tradition of la-la-la-ing the opening lines of Scotland the Brave whenever we recall our visit to Edinburgh together some years ago.  We walked arm-in-arm down the Royal Mile, la-la-la-ing to this tune, and passing Scottish strangers smiled at us but Doug was mortified and refused to walk with us.  Mind you, maybe the smiles from those passing Scottish strangers were of the be-polite-to-the-crazy-ladies type.

Anyway, I digress.  Six hours after leaving London we arrived in Dumbarton, just north of Glasgow and right on Loch Lomond.  I must say Glasgow was a bit of a surprise, with street after street of lovely stone Georgian buildings with enormously high ceilings and beautiful casement windows.  Very elegant.  Loch Lomond is huge and it’s hard to describe just how beautiful it is.  Our visit has reacquainted us with just how drop dead GOR-geous Scotland is and we’ve decided we need to find more excuses to come so far away from our normal buying routes.  Scotland is not good for antiques buying – way too expensive – but we should be able to come up with other reasons to visit.

Take off 'The Jacobite' and add 'Hogwart's
Express' and you've got yourself a
genuine movie prop.
After overnighting near Loch Lomond we headed up to Fort William early the next morning.  What a stunning drive it was – I think one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever taken.  Every turn revealed yet another breathtaking view, with impossibly steep hills in layer upon layer upon layer, often with wildly tumbling brooks and waterfalls cascading down them.  You gained the distinct impression that this was an area rich in glaciers back in the day (like, back in the Ice Age).  And the colour palate was so beautiful and easy on the eye.  A soft grey filter highlights other colours nicely, and the overcast Scottish skies guaranteed a flattering grey filter.  Every conceivable shade of green was in sight, with russets, greys and ochres suddenly highlighted with unexpected splashes of purple heather, or deep pink flowering somethings, or even patches of orange foliage and stands of red rosehips and berries.  It all worked beautifully, and with the cold nip in the air it was invigorating and refreshing.

Our view over lunch - Isle of Eigg on the left, and
the tip of Muck on the right.
Shortly after arriving at Fort William it was time to board the train for Mallaig on the west coast.  This was the steam engine used in the Harry Potter movies, some carriages on the train are set up as they were in the movies and part of the route was filmed for the movies.  But beyond the movie connection, it is said to be the most beautiful steam train journey in the world.  So it draws train buffs as well as movie buffs as well as people who are just interested in undertaking a beautiful journey.  It was quite an unusual mix, and you could clearly identify the train spotters (dressed daggily) and the wannabe wizards (dressed younger but daggily).  The trip to Mallaig takes two hours, and at every crossing or vantage point along the way groups of muggles were out of their cars, waving wildly at us.  I thought this was supposed to be an invisible train? 

The harbour at Mallaig, on the west coast
of Scotland.
We had a delicious lunch of freshly caught langoustines at Mallaig, at a hotel overlooking the Inner Hebridian islands just offshore.  You know how Bonnie Prince Charles fled “over the sea to Skye”?  Let me tell you, Skye isn’t very far to flee.  The pursuing English could have chucked rocks and practically hit him.  Okay not quite, but Skye is surprisingly close to the mainland and I probably wouldn’t recommend it for fugitives who want to go into hiding these days.

Multiple muggles again waylaid the train and waved at us on the way back to Fort William.  Some people even waved at us from their lounge rooms!  Yes, the train track is very close to some homes.  You can train spot from your couch, if you live in the right spot.  “Right spot” being a relative term, of course.

The viaduct on the Fort William to Mallaig
steam train route.  This viaduct features in
Harry Potter's trip to school adventures.
Next Blog:  Walking along Hadrian’s Wall and considering how to fight off Scottish Barbarians while wearing only a skirt.

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