We generally have a weekend in London just before Christmas to see the lights and on the Sunday we popped back into London and went to the South Bank for lunch and to visit Foyles. Waterstones acquired the Foyles chain in October – they were founded in 1903 and the acquisition adds six branches to the Waterstones portfolio. This is the first one we have visited since the takeover – it’s a small but smart, light, shop on the south bank overlooking the Thames mid-way between the Oxo Tower and the London Eye.
The South Bank
The Christmas Lights 2018
Bond Street and Regent Street
Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly
Although we’ve been to Cornwall quite a few times we had never been to Truro before. It’s a pretty town, dominated by the cathedral and the Waterstones is in an attractive 18th century building which was built as a house before being converted to a shop – probably in the late 19th century.
No Waterstones in Cornwall could fail to mention Daphne Du Maurier’s excellent novel Rebecca which is acknowledged to be set in Cornwall, despite that not being specified in the book. It is highly likely that Manderley was based on Menabilly House. The Truro branch has a Rebecca mural on the stairs wall.
We popped into the cathedral whilst in the town and were treated to a full choir/orchestra rehearsal for the Mass The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins, which we love, so we sat and listened for about an hour!
The picture of the cathedral taken from a distance is © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0) and used with permission.
The other Waterstones in Plymouth is in a red-brick neo-Georgian building. Called Leicester Harmsworth House after Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth who acquired the Western Morning News in 1920, it used to house their offices and has a lovely feel about it.
This is a photograph from when it was the newspaper offices – the image can be seen here.
Located on Plymouth Hoe, this was originally the third Eddystone Lighthouse in Cornwall. It was damaged and the top portion was erected in Plymouth as a memorial to the designer and civil engineer, John Smeaton.
Using up the last of our annual leave we booked a few days in Cornwall at the start of November and decided to leave from work on the Friday to break up our journey with an overnight stop in Plymouth. We have been to this city several times before, latterly we spent a few nights seeing in the new year of 2016. Plymouth is probably best known as the birthplace of St Francis Drake and the departure point for the Mayflower carrying the Pilgrim Fathers – it is also home to Plymouth Gin – the country’s oldest Gin distillery! There are two Waterstones in Plymouth – this branch is in a modern shopping centre called Drake’s Circus.
The Beatles visited Plymouth in 1967 whilst filming The Magical Mystery tour – their photo was taken by David Redfern on the hoe.
Currently reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and listening to The Black Book (Rebus #5) by Ian Rankin on audio book.
Final stop on this trip was to Maidstone. When I was a child we used to visit Maidstone occasionally and go to lunch at the Royal Star Hotel – it was a real favourite, but sadly I discovered that it is a shopping centre now! Maidstone has changed an awful lot since I was a child (understandably – that was a long time ago!) – the Waterstones is in a new (to me) outdoor shopping centre called Fremlin Walk which is set on the site of the old Fremlin’s brewery and opened in 2005. The design of the centre incorporates the original brewery entrance under a reproduction of the old Fremlin’s clock.
Fremlin Walk Shopping Centre
Photo Credit – Andy Potter
We left Maidstone and drove through the Medway towns on our way to our hotel. There was a most fantastic sunset so we stopped at Rochester and I look some pictures of the River Medway looking towards the castle and cathedral and looking rather beautiful. I have a soft spot for Rochester as my first ever job as a Saturday assistant in an Estate Agents was here!
Photo 1 of Fremlin Walk taken by Andy Potter and used with permission under Wikipedia’s Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0
Peter dropped me at Brentwood on his way to his next appointment so I had a few hours wandering round this small town. The Waterstones here is in an attractive building but I haven’t been able to find out anything about its original use. It has a cosy feel inside and the two staff members I spoke to were both very friendly.
Brentwood has a Catholic cathedral which I would have like to have looked round, but there was nothing in the lobby to say whether it was permissible to go inside, and when I peered through the inner door I could see a small group of musicians inside rehearsing, so I didn’t go in.
I came across this…
Which after Googling I have discovered is the Brentwood Column and was designed to celebrate the town’s heritage – it would have been useful if they had some information by it for non-locals! After stopping for coffee in M&S I just had time to pop into Brentwood’s independent book shop ‘Chicken and Frog’ (great name – I don’t know where it comes from) before meeting up with Peter to head to our next destination.
Peter had to go to see some customers in the south east so I went along with him. We stayed in Essex overnight so I was able to do a couple of branches of Waterstones. The first was in Romford – the store here is in a modern shopping centre and set over two floors.
Romford holds an open air market three days a week. It is one of the UK’s oldest markets, having been granted a charter by Henry VIII in 1247.
Behind the market is the Anglican parish Church dedicated to Edward the Confessor (confusingly there is a Catholic church of the same name in Romford!) – it has a couple of beautiful, modern, stained glass windows but sadly I haven’t been able to find out any information about them.
Currently reading Keep You By My Side by Callie Langridge and listening to The Black Book (Rebus #5) by Ian Rankin
Our last stop of the day before heading home was to Teddington where we decided to stop for lunch. The Waterstones here opened in 2004 and used to be an Ottakars store and, like the Newport and Doncaster branches, they have a tiled mural done by artist Chris Burke behind their tills. (Incidentally, according to Chris’s website there were some in other former Ottakars stores, but of the shops we’ve already done they were either covered over, have been removed or we simply failed to notice them!).
The lady in Teddington looked rather bemused when I asked if I could take a picture of the tiles and asked why I wanted to so I muttered about it being unusual! As you can see, theirs is covered with adverts!
We had lunch in the King’s Head pub – a delicious Malabar fish curry – and then headed down to Teddington lock to walk it off before heading home!