Episode 322 – Kicking Back A Bit: A Slow Start in England

We’ve been in Greenwich (Blackheath) London for 2 days now, and have done NOT ONE SINGLE TRULY BLOGGABLE THING! (That’s not stopping me diarizing our days though….)

After settling in late on the 31st, we enjoyed our first full night’s quiet, cool sleep since leaving Berlin at the end of July; no sweltering heat, no motorcycles, no loud mid-night parties. Plus, wonderfully comfy pillows for the first time in 2 months. It was heavenly.

Our flat is in a 1960’s building that our landlord described as “brutalist architecture”. There’s no question that it is not as charming as all the Victorian homes in the area, but the flat itself is bright and cheery, with lots of windows and spectacular views all the way to the lights of Canary Wharf at night.

That’s us in the yellow circle, with wraparound windows (like all the flats).

DAY ONE

We rose late and headed out in search of breakfast and groceries, in that order.

Our flat is just 15 minutes from the Greenwich Observatory and the Prime Meridian. Views like this, taken standing on a path inside the park, are going to fill our souls.

We strolled through Greenwich Park (sadly nowhere near as green as we remembered it, due to a severe lack of rain this year)to King William Gate, and then left onto Nevada Street, where we found that Heap’s Sausage Café make a quite wonderful cup of coffee – as well as quite wonderful tasty sausage baps (a bap is a lovely soft floury bun) and nice spicy sausage rolls. Breakfast accomplished.

Then it was off on our first UK shopping adventure: Sainsbury’s Local. Our landlord thoughtfully provided a wheeled buggy for us, knowing that we’d be shopping on foot, so we filled it up with a fresh whole chicken, lots of salad fixings, some fresh potatoes, onions, peppers, bagels (much to Ted’s delight – he’s been missing bagels, and European kitchens don’t have toasters anyway), peanut butter, yogurts, apples and grapes, crackers and eggs.

That’s when the “adventure” started. Sainsbury’s is completely automated self checkout, which is great…. except that all the items you scan must remain on the little tray under the scanner until you’ve paid. Only then can you bag them. That meant that we had to complete three entirely separate transactions in order to bag our whole order. At least we’ll know next time.

However, the one thing Sainsbury’s didn’t have a great selection of was cheese, which is a staple for us.

Almost right next door was a large Aldi Shop and Go – and Aldi ALWAYS has great cheeses. I left Ted outside with the wheeled buggy, so that I could just “pop in and out”.

Nope.

Aldi Shop and Go is a new concept in shopping, where customers may only enter if they have the store’s app on their mobile device, and absolutely everything is tracked in the app. First, you open the app and touch the store entry code. Scanning that code opens the gate into the store, for one person at a time. Then you can put the phone back into a purse or pocket. From this point on, the store “senses” the app (or maybe it’s the other way around). Any item picked up from a shelf or taken out of a refrigerator case is automatically registered and charged to the credit card on file. Each item put back down is credited. When you’re done shopping, you just walk through another sensor gate and leave! It feels a bit like shoplifting, except an electronic receipt is issued into the app and the charge appears on your credit card.

Apparently if you find a mistake you can “edit” the receipt in the app.

I have to say it worked beautifully … once I actually got the app set up. Thank goodness for the patient worker helping newbies like me at the entrance. Hopefully not everyone needs three tries to get set up, the way I did.

Attempt #1: I enter all my info, including credit card, and put in my Canadian phone number (currently inactive while we travel). The app sends a verification code to that number, which I can’t retrieve. I also can’t change to a different number, because my account isn’t verified.

Attempt #2: I create an account using Ted’s email, our Skype phone number (fingers crossed, since the Uber app wouldn’t accept it), and …. get a verification code! Verification completed, store accessed, cheeses picked up and carried out of the store.

But… when we get back to the flat and I get the notification that my receipt is ready to view, and try to sign back in, the email/password combination is wrong.

Attempt # 3: Apparently in my multiple attempts to enter all the relevant information into the app on my phone while standing just outside the entry gates, I typed a digit of Ted’s email incorrectly. Fortunately, I’ve done that before (it’s frankly amazing that I type anything correctly on a phone), so I had a pretty good idea of what the mistake was, and was eventually able to log in using the incorrect email just long enough to see my receipt and delete the entire account, since there was no option to update the email address. Having done that, I still couldn’t create an account with my own email (since it was tied to that “unverified” account), so I set up an account with Ted’s CORRECT email.

Good to go. Finally.

Our day ended with a low-key chicken dinner at home, cooked in a wonderful convection oven that created terrifically crispy skin; the leftovers were set aside for chicken Korma.

Our flat’s kitchen.

DAY TWO

My big priority after 8 weeks of travel was finding someone to cut my hair. ESPECIALLY in England I did not want to maintain my progressively more dishevelled “Boris Johnson” look. Using a combination of Google Maps and on-line reviews I decided on One Hair & Beauty on Trafalgar Road, a 15 minute walk away. The entire salon is staffed by Eastern European stylists; even though Svitlana spoke very limited English, she did a fabulous job of giving me the extra-short cut I wanted. An awful lot of blonde hair disappeared, leaving a lot more grey visible, but I’ll deal with that (or not) when we’re briefly back in Canada in October.

We experienced our first lovely gentle English rain, which is so desperately needed here and frankly didn’t last long enough.

We planned our first theatre outing. No, not a big show in the West End, but the “world premiere” of a musical about Sherlock Holmes, being presented at the Greenwich Theatre on September 21st. With a more than 2 hour run time, I really hope that “Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear” shows promise.

Late afternoon we ventured back to the grocers in the hope of buying a paring knife. As is the case in most places we’ve rented, all the knives are so dull that prepping food is almost impossible. We’ve bought and left behind one or two knives in almost every locale. Unfortunately, knives aren’t easy to find, and our search was unsuccessful. It made me hungry though, so we ended up enjoying our first authentic English fish and chips at The Rose & Crowne.

Tomorrow we hope to do some more interesting exploring – maybe something actually blog-worthy!

14 comments

  1. I see that the Banqueting House in Whitehall is included in the Open House London Festival. Building with wonderful history and sublime Rubén’s ceiling not accessible very often as prime location for…..banquets. Take a look Rose. Not nearly as challenging as Aldi shopping 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If you go to Neals Yard in Covent Garden you will discover a lovely cheese shop. Also at Somerset House there is an amazing exhibit, Eternally Yours, about reusing materials. A live repair shop is in it. Book ahead but free.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like you are off to a good start. Gosh, the grocery apps sound quite neat… Your flat actually reminds me of your old condo, with the wrap-around windows! But, oh, such yummy fish and chips! With mushy peas, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s nice to have lots of windows. The flat is about 1/3 the size of our old place, but quite do-able for 2 people, and enough space to invite 2 more for lunch (not that we know anyone….)

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  4. Sounds great!! Cheese shop does not sound fun but everything else sounds calm and yummy! I notice the difference i n the portions of chips! No wonder we have so much obesity here. PRIME MERIDIAN!!!! WOW,! Love you

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    Liked by 1 person

  5. A new Amazon Grocery is being built here in Nashua, NH. I hope it will have a system like your Aldi’s It will be fun to try. There is an Aldi’s here as well. I wonder if they will automate like the one there in England.

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    • Seems like London is piloting this process. Lots of England’s other Aldi stores use a “scanner” on the cart that then passes the total bill on to the cash register. It’s interesting!

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