Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This afternoon I took a field trip to Kingston-upon-Thames, which is a 12-minute train ride southwest of Wimbledon.  The owners of the house we are going to rent had suggested that as a nice shopping area, so I thought I'd scout it out to see what's there.  I can't do much shopping at the moment because I don't have a UK bank account or credit card, and Josh only gives me enough cash to buy groceries.  (Did I mention I feel like I've gone back in time?)  I can always use my US credit card or my ATM card to get cash, but then we get socked with foreign transaction fees, so I've been trying to avoid that.

The train ride went very smoothly, and I emerged from the Kingston train station right in the heart of town.
Thanks to the GPS on my iPhone, I found my way to the main shopping area, which was about 2 blocks away.  I passed this sign along the way, and wondered if it meant that trucks were not allowed on the M25, but motorized wheelchairs were OK.  If not, what DOES it mean?
For those of you in Arlington, VA, this shot reminded me of the Ballston Mall -- especially with the hamster tube leading into it.  The TGI Fridays seems fitting...
I came across a John Lewis department store, which I had heard about from Bethie.  She had been to one in central London that was seven stories and sold EVERYTHING.  This one was only four levels -- with an entire Waitrose grocery store underneath -- but it was still pretty massive.  It took up an entire block.
The main shopping street area is a pedestrian mall, and was bustling with activity, even on a Tuesday afternoon.
I wandered around a bit, and poked my head into a few shops, including one called Clas Ohlson, which is what you would get if you crossed Home Depot with IKEA.  Then I headed towards the river to check out the waterfront area, which took me past the ubiquitous T.K. Maxx.
Yes, here it's called T.K. Maxx, but it's the same store.
The area along the river had a nice pedestrian walkway and several restaurants, but it wasn't as much of a scene as Richmond's.  There were a few people sitting on the edge of the walkway feeding the swans and enjoying the sun, and the occasional passing boat.
I found a little cafe overlooking the river and stopped for a cup of tea and a piece of coffee cake before heading back to the shopping area.  I passed through the market square, which had some nice old buildings and stalls selling produce and toys.
In addition to all the shops along the street, there is a huge mall called the Bentall Centre after the department store that anchors it at one end.  I wandered around inside for a bit.
The Bentalls was also quite large, and seemed to sell everything from clothing to furniture to food.  A sign caught my eye, so I had to investigate:
Sure enough, they had shelves of American groceries that I haven't seen in any supermarkets.  Most of it was sugary cereal (Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms), Pop Tarts, marshmallow fluff, and boxed cake mixes, but I did see a few things that didn't make my teeth ache.  I ended up spending over $22 for these three items, but that's still cheaper than flying home and smuggling them back in my luggage:
Expat survival kit: salsa, peanut butter, and pancake mix
I took the train back and stopped at a newsstand near the Wimbledon station to look for some gum.  My ears STILL haven't cleared since we landed at Heathrow on March 31, and it's driving me insane.  I've tried everything -- including seeing a doctor -- but to no avail.  I noticed that my ears pop when I'm eating, so I thought maybe chewing gum would help relieve the pressure.  Now, I stopped chewing gum in my early teens when I got braces, and it's been a point of pride that I've never chewed gum since.  This is how desperate I am to clear my ears.  Unfortunately, gum has changed over the past 20+ years.  Now it is all "sugar free" which means it contains artificial sweeteners instead.  I can't stand the taste of artificial sweeteners -- especially Aspertame -- and I can definitely taste the difference between something sweetened with real sugar and the fake chemical stuff.  My diabetic mother used to have me taste her soft drinks at restaurants to make sure they had brought her Diet Coke instead of regular Coke.  Anyway, after going to three different stores, I could not find a single pack of gum that didn't have Aspertame on the list of ingredients, so I finally gave up and went home.  My gum-free record remains unblemished.  And my ears remain clogged.


  1. Wow, $22 for some lousy PB, Salsa and Pancake Mix. Actually, I just spent about that for four items at Andronico's so...
    I love that the American foods include more pop tarts and marshmallow fluff than you'd ever see here, everything full of cheesy goodness (goldfish, mac n' cheez) plus a display of Cadbury Mini Eggs.

  2. I am so amused by the fact that you live in a place where 'american food' is a category, sort of like in the us grocery with the 'asian' or 'mexican' section. Cuz here in the US, we're exotic. Ohhh yeah. You know, I think one of my favorite episodes of Dr. Who was filmed in Bentalls. Cybermen. Hmm. I love reading about your exploring!


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