Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shop 'Til You Drop!

Last Thursday I met up with a group of fellow AWC members in Islington to attend the Country Living Spring Fair.  This is essentially a massive crafts fair that is held twice a year by Country Living magazine.  I had heard several ladies raving about it after attending the Christmas Fair last fall, so I had to see for myself what the hype was all about.
It's all happening at the Fair!
Before we even walked in the door, we were each handed a large shopping bag full of cards advertising promotions for different vendors along with a paperback book.  Someone was also handing out samples of Ecover dish washing soap.  Free stuff!  So far, so good...

Inside, we found ourselves in a cavernous space big enough to house a 747, with three different levels completely filled with vendor stalls.  The top level also had several cafes and a room for demonstrations and craft workshops.  The photo below was taken from the top level looking down onto the second level.  It was completely overwhelming!
Three levels of shopping!
I don't think of shopping as a competitive sport, or a favorite pastime, but I always enjoy browsing at craft fairs and there were a couple specific things I was looking for -- like the elusive teapot.  I tried to be systematic in winding my way through the maze of stalls, but it was so easy to get distracted by all the pretty things...
Diamond Jubilee pillows
Decoupage paper
Cruel!  Bath soaps shaped like cupcakes
I had assumed most of the vendors would accept debit/credit cards, so I didn't think to bring my checkbook or a lot of cash.  When I tried to purchase an item for £28, I realized I only had £30 in my wallet and needed to save some cash for lunch, but the vendor said she didn't take cards.  (Which was odd, as she was selling some very expensive items!)  I suggested coming back after lunch, when I could look for an ATM, but she just wrapped up the item, handed me her card, and told me to mail her a check when I got home.  Yes, really!

Since there was no way we could all stick together in a place like this, we had agreed to meet out front at lunchtime.  We walked to a nearby pub called The Elk in the Woods, where I instantly fell in love with the thematic wallpaper.
Gorgeous art nouveau wallpaper!
The food was pretty good, too, but I was distracted by our server's t-shirt, which said, "The Sunshine State: California."  I didn't think he'd appreciate my pointing out to him that Florida was the Sunshine State, not California (which is the Golden State).  I'm also pretty sure he didn't buy that shirt in the US.  It seems to be a trend all over Europe to wear t-shirts and sweatshirts that appear to be from an American university or business, but any American could easily tell they were fake.  My favorite so far: "South Dakota Tyre & Auto." 

Anyway, after lunch I found an ATM, got some cash, and went back into the fray to pay my £28 and clear my conscience.  I ended up buying a few more things, but easily kept myself in check by reminding myself that I had to carry everything I bought home, which meant an hour-long Tube ride and a half-mile walk back to my house.  I noticed that several savvy shoppers had brought wheeled shopping trolleys and even suitcases to cart their purchases home, but I think I was better off limiting myself to what I could fit in the shopping bag they handed me at the entrance.  Oh, and the perfect teapot continues to elude me....  Sigh.

I wish someone would host a "City Living Spring Fair" for people who live in tiny flats and rowhouses and have a lot less space than people who live out in the country...

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