So this weekend saw me hurtling up and down motorways and A roads to see friends in various parts of the home counties. I visited two market towns in under twenty- four hours and enjoyed their differences from London proper and the outer London excursions I normally go on. I hasten to add that is because a change is as good as a rest and not because I am out of love with London at all.
Firstly parking in market towns. It's still as tricky as it is in London but here we must park in either circa 1960 multi story car parks that have not been updated for many a year OR those pay and display car parks that don't have change machines. So if you're like me you bowl up the machine to pay very full of yourself because for once you actually have cash in your purse (I am the sort of person who uses their debit card to buy milk or a newspaper) and then find your £10 note is not wanted and you are a bit stuck. Still when I did find a multi story after having got back into the car it was incredibly reasonably priced and there was no stressing about parking because the little spaces are all marked out nicely.
So on to the town. The first market town was somewhere I periodically visited as a child and it was always nice in a the army and navy store is as trendy as it gets kind of way. Well it's all change now; Celine, Chloe and Marc Jacobs bags are available in the town's department store (I don't like it bags really but it was interesting). What I do like, obviously, it perfume and there was a little Roja Dove boutique with Creed, Donna Karan essences, Lalique and other scents. Amazed and very content I sniffed away for quite some time. Then it was out to the street where I found lots of nice and reasonably prices independent shops together with all the usual chains. I did think 'so this is where the independents are now that they are slowly being priced out of Notting Hill, Marylebone, Richmond and aren't trendy enough for East London'.
I found the market town quite stress relieving and having boosted the locally economy a little but not too much I headed back to the car park. Bizarrely it only seemed to have one pay machine for all nine levels but I queued up, twentieth in line (I did have time to count) paid and scooted off on my way.
This is where things get more interesting because rather than hopping on the M4 like a sensible person I decided I would use country roads to authentically reach my next market destination. Reader I had no map, no sat nav and the road signage, well I think it was out to trick me. I did get to see some extremely pretty small towns with very little road lighting and rather a lot of speed cameras but got hopelessly lost and not a little tearful. I eventually saw a sign to the M4 and hurtled towards it. I finally arrived at my destination only an hour late and really quite hungry. The next market town has no multi story but ample road parking and I slotted in without too much parallel parking concern.
I enjoyed a lovely dinner at a free house and a very speedy journey home. I have accepted that country roads by night are only exciting if you know them. I have to say I was the annoying, obviously not local, Granny driver doing 40 mph on the all the deregulated roads. Sorry people of Oxfordshire who wanted to drive more quickly. When I eventually hit the street lit roads with signs for London I had the surge of happiness you always get when you are going home but really for an interesting stress free shop and park (but not drive) I think it's less about London and more about the market town these days.