Yanks turn the page on another great European tour
by Ralph Finch
Another great and exciting trip with 24 collectors from across the country - California to New Jersey, Minnesota to Florida (and even Australia) - getting on the 12th AB&GC bandwagon for an antiquing trip through two of the world's great capitols: London and Paris.
From late January to Feb. 4, we shopped, explored, conversed and traversed, and ate. And ate some more.
"This was our ninth trip," says Tom Hicks, summing up the feelings of the group, "so the whole experience was what we liked best: the people, the places, the things all combined."
Pssst: There are Yanks in town. We had a wicked time going to London's West End theaters - here, 12 of us enjoy an evening with the wonderful musical "Wicked." "The voices and especially the wonderful sets and action on stage in 'Wicked' were great," says Tom McCandless.
"I just enjoy passing winter days in the company of friends who share some of the same interests," explains Tom McCandless. "I never have to go on my own. Just go to the lobby and someone comes along saying, 'We're going for fish 'n chips; want to join us?' "
And while we traveled with American friends, it was a time to visit old English friends, and make new ones, too.
We had a lot of applause for the West End theater this time, with the group seeing "Spamalot," "Wicked," "Blood Brothers," "Buddy" and "Chicago." "The voices and especially the wonderful sets and action on stage in 'Wicked' were great," adds McCandless.
Here are a few specific memories taken from the travel diaries of some of the crew:
Tom McCandless of New Jersey:
As the senior member on the trip, Tom says "I always enjoy the Portobello Road and Covent Garden shows. I bought several interesting bottles for resale. One had what is called a bullet stopper. The stopper is wooden and has a rubber ring. I suppose it's rare because it was not a success."
"I always enjoy Dave and his bus service. This time we got to see more of his family, partly because of the bus breakdown during his donated tour of Paris. They brought another bus from London!!!
"Paris is a beautiful city, and the street market is interesting. I bought a mouse trap that I am keeping. I passed another. It was pricey and I was short on Euros.
"I liked the second market in Paris better than the (first). I didn't cover 50 percent of it, but I saw many more items of interest to me. Only problem, the exchange rate makes everything seem expensive."
New Jersey's Tom McCandless found plenty to smile about at the WinterNational bottle show outside London. "I just enjoy passing winter days in the company of friends who share some of the same interests," Tom explains.
Ralph Riovo of Pennsylvania:
Ralph's group, totaling six people, rated "the WinterNational bottle show" as their favorite experience, where Ralph "bought several English nursing bottles for our customers back in the States," while at the Covent Garden market he found "only a few tea plates for Patty." At Portobello, "We bought a silver tea set."
At the indoor-outdoor Kempton Park antiques market "I bought several cream cans and pitchers in brass and copper."
In London they enjoyed visiting the Tower of London as well as the West End theater " 'Wicked' was great and 'Spamalot' was hilarious."
Dave and Vickie Green, at left, are "dealers we met last year in England and they in turn visited with us in the States," says milk bottle collector Ralph Riovo, right. "They keep us informed of what's happening at the British shows. They collect Breweriania."
"We really were looking forward to touring Dover Castle and the WW II tunnels, but the weather just did not cooperate.
While Ralph's group said "the evening boat trip on the Seine was the highlight of our tours, we always like the Porte de Venves street fair and bought a nice Lemoges child's plate with Disney characters on it. Amy bought a bunch of Asterix books to finally finish her collection - it only took four trips to France to do it."
But shows aside, "traveling with friends who all have similar interests" is really great.
"The only disappointment was not being able to go to Swinderby and Newark," which switched their dates just after the AB&GC trip was set in scone. I mean, stone.
Tom and Mabel Hicks of Georgia:
Tom and Mabel seem to enjoy everything, but Tom's testosterone really kicks in at the antique shows.
On Saturday morning, at Portobello, Tom bought two square-pattern target balls in a strange blue color, from England's top glass dealer, Lawrence Cooper, plus an Uncle Tom's Cabin book.
Tom says of the WinterNational: "We like the English shows because of the large volume of material, the crowds and the enthusiasm, although all were down this year." Still, he bought, among other things, a target ball, a blue-and-white Staffordshire plate, two wood fishing reels, a Pratt potlid frame, a clear ball, a small blue-and-white Schweppes plate, a blue-and-white eggcup, a mini-syphon or seltzer bottle, three ceramic Santas, six mini-Goliwogs, a ceramic red fox with a hedge hog, an 1860s salt-glaze inkwell, five Chinese soy sauce or ginger jars, a blue-and-white Scotch bottle opener ...
On Monday morning, Tom joined the gang at Covent Garden's antiques market, and bought two U.S. Walking Liberty 50-cent pieces, a shield nickel, two Brer Rabbit books and two wood fishing reels.
Mabel Hicks - Tom is behind her - indicates that the WinterNational is her cup of tea. And little pitcher.
Later in the week, at Kempton Park, which Tom says "has always been one of our favorite venues," he bought four Goliwogs, a Snoopy car, an iron mortar and pestle, an Imari bowl, a green Carnival bowl, three other Carnival bowls, a wood plane, a wood fishing reel, another Uncle Tom's Cabin, a clear glass inkwell ... and that's without being able to cover the whole market! Tom is a buying machine.
Tom obviously loves buying, but he loves history, too, another reason he is a frequent tripgoer. "The bus ride from Calais to Paris was new territory for us. We were impressed and saddened by the numerous WWI cemeteries as we passed through the area of the terrible trench warfare. And we continue to be amazed at the high percentage of France that is farmed."
Tom loves collecting memories: "An old windmill between Calais and Paris; the waves on the English Channel; Richard Galgano's approach to the trip; meeting the new people on the trip; seeing (and spending time with) the regular cast of characters; fish and chips; and smoke-free pubs."
About the only thing Tom didn't like was, "the exchange rate".
Pick the Tom: There is Tom Hicks, far left, and Tom McCandless, far right. McCandless struck out, but Hicks could find something to buy in an empty box.
Richard Galgano of Connecticut
Richard rated the WinterNational bottle show and the London and Paris flea markets as his favorite activity, but also enjoyed "staying overnight at the nice hotel in Dover, right on the beach. I got to walk through the town alone and took in the different culture."
In London, "I walked through Westminster Abbey. That was impressive."
At the WinterNational show "I got a black-glass seal wine bottle from circa 1760. I also picked up a few figural clay pipes. I enjoyed looking at all the vintage advertising signs for sale. I think, looking back, I should've picked up one of the many different inks I'd never seen anything like."
At Covent Garden, he "bought some ancient little trinket artifacts that were taken out of the Thames River. I also found a neat little aqua coffin flask with the original colorful label that read 'Old Jamaican Rum,' with an illustration of a sailor leaning on a wooden keg."
At Portobello, Richard "got a stoneware flask with handle."
At Kempton Park, he was 'shocked that a large show like this is open in the middle of the week! I purchased a beautiful cranberry Vaseline Nailsea flask circa 1880s. The color is striking, with the white looping. My favorite find of the trip! Looks real nice in the display case!"
Dover was Richard's "favorite hotel stay of the trip. The rooms were nice, with the harbor across the street. I walked through the small town and took in the culture and visited the ancient ruins of St. James Church."
In Paris, Richard says "the boat ride on the Seine River was fun, and the museums superb. There's nothing like visiting the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame."
Richard enjoyed the Paris street antiques show: "I got a very nice inkwell with 'Madagascar' stamped in the polished wood base, and a nice geometric looking yellow-olive insert glass piece in the top. There are images of people cutting down trees and hauling them by ox to a waiting ship along the sides-embossed on metal and attached to the sides of this circular ink well.
"I really had a nice time on the 'London Eye,' the Ferris wheel, with some of my colleagues. ... All said, I really enjoyed myself."
Greg and Helga Dean of Florida:
Over all, Australian natives Greg and wife Helga say they enjoyed "meeting new and old friends on this very unique trip. The revised itinerary to include Paris was GREAT, despite the adverse weather and bus mechanical difficulties. The Paris hotel was comfortable and adjacent to the city's second-largest tube station."
In London, the Gregs enjoyed everything, even the food: "The Bombay Brasserie for Indian, and the North Sea Fish Company for fish + chips. And the local pubs and casinos are all non-smoking, which is good. It was nice to watch live cricket, which we never see in the U.S.," says Greg.
Helga enjoyed "catching up with all the regulars from the previous trips, as well as meeting people who were on the trip for the first time. ... What I liked the best," Helga continues, "is the ease of getting around London for the restaurants, theater and of course the sightseeing. Also it's nice to hear an Aussie accent wherever you go."
On the downside, Greg found the WinterNational bottle show "very disappointing. Big drop in tables. No catering beyond tea and coffee and crisps in machines, and the adjacent Subway was packed."
(In defense of the WinterNational's lack of catering, show chairman Pam Ball also was disappointed, In fact, furious: "I talked with them months ago, weeks ago, and days ago. All seemed in order, then the full catering staff never showed up.")
Bitters collector John Feldmann takes a long, lean look at a bottle at the WinterNational.
"It was disappointing that there weren't as many people there as last year," notes Helga. "Greg and I went through the hall pretty quickly and didn't find anything."
Greg continues: "I would be interested if, in coming years, as a comparison, we could work in one of Alan Blakeman's shows, as I have never attended one of his."
While the group was disappointed it missed the giant Newark and Swinderby markets due to their managements' late switch of show dates, "Kempton Park was a pleasant surprise, with the sheer number of dealers."
"I did enjoy the theatre as you know, you took me to see 'Buddy Holly,' " says Helga. "I don't get to see a lot of theater as Greg isn't a big fan, so it's nice to go with other people who do."
Greg and Helga did enjoy the abbreviated visit to Dover: "The weather was unkind, but we made the most of the stay," says Greg. "Dave, the bus driver, volunteered to take us to the castle on the White Cliffs. Unfortunately the park was closed but the security there allowed us to take a few snaps from the top. The channel got closed as we arrived. I was looking forward to the ferry crossing but the train/tunnel crossing was a cool, last-minute alternative. Thank you, Jim, for bearing that additional trip cost!"
"I would have loved to have seen the castle and the underground caves," agrees Helga. "Maybe next year."
And they especially enjoyed antiquing in France, and "learning about those extensive antique markets north of Paris. Kind of like the Queen Victoria markets back in Melbourne, Australia. Tin roofs and rickety buildings, but with quality antiques in most every stall. A really interesting place, but in a less than salubrious part of town.
"Glad we had a guide (Jim) as it was some way on the tube. Lots of stalls. Was cold as hell in those early morning shadows, and very tough to find a bargain. The most interest was with new sellers or the house cleaners. The latter folks turn up and bid to clean out local estates, then plunk everything out in tubs on the street."
"While everyone was antiquing in Paris, I was sightseeing," says Helga. "I did the hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I had a blast, what a shame that we only had a short time in Paris. To see the Eiffel tower at night with all the lights flashing was amazing. And to see Paris at night cruising down the river, the Eiffel Tower lit up like a Christmas tree, and who could forget the English Channel with the waves crashing over the barriers, and having to take the train because the ferry was closed because of the bad weather, and poor Dave's bus breaking down in the middle of Paris and trying to catch the train back to the hotel."
Jay and Amelia Jacobs of California:
The trip had a few problems - a bus breakdown and a storm across the English Channel - but the worst problem was Amelia Jacobs getting so ill that an early return to the States was required. Despite that, Jay reports:
"We really enjoyed the theater. Thanks for getting us those good seats, not easy to do."
On the downside, Jay "found that the U.S. $$$ had really lost a LOT of its value and made everything very expensive. Because of that we bought almost nothing. I think that we spent a total of $20 US at ALL the antique shows. The answer could be that I am cheap!
"One of the best parts of the London visit was the location of the hotel.
"One more thing, and this has nothing to do with our trip, but I had forgotten that the English have much better manners than their counterparts in the United States. It was nice to experience and remember what good manners are once again; it's a lost art in the United States."
Arlene Caruso of Florida:
"On the day we arrived in London, a group of us hopped on a double-decker city bus near our hotel and rode it to the end of the line. Then we walked across the street and caught the same bus back to the hotel. A great way to sightsee London for a couple of hours - and 'free' of charge with our seven-day Underground Pass. Sitting in the front seat of the upper deck is not for the faint-of-heart.
"Auntie Vi (Noska) and I skipped Portobello Market and went to Greenwich to meet our American friend, Donna, check out the weekly market and the upstairs bottle shop, and have lunch. We usually bring Donna something American she likes and can't get in England. This year it was Double-Stuff Oreos instead of the usual Butterfinger candy bars!
"The bottle show was smaller than usual, but still offered a few bargains for resale," says Arlene, who bought "a plain pottery baby feeder c. 1830s, also called a 'murder bottle,' because it was difficult to clean and led to many infant deaths.
It was nice to see Pam Ball, who organizes the show, and the other familiar Brit dealers. We missed Kath Goodacre, who was ill.
"Another ride on the London Eye (440-plus-feet high) on a clear day with its panoramic view of London and surrounding areas.
It was either: A, a chilly morning at Covent Garden's Monday morning market or B, Arlene Caruso is praying for a bargain or C, she is lamenting the lack of a nearby Starbucks.
"Tom McCandless took Linda McLaughlin and me to Pollock's Toy Museum in London. Three floors of toys from all over the world. Pollock's is located in two separate houses; one built in the 1780s; the other in the 1880s. Included were money boxes from Pennsylvania, penny toys from England, optical toys, folk toys from Ecuador and India, and dolls, lots of dolls - one dated from 1822 - and furnished dollhouses.
"After the toy museum and a stop for coffee at Starbucks, we headed to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen. No, wait - we heard that Good Morning America was being telecast live from there, but we saw no signs of it when we arrived, but Ralph did enjoy hearing the military band play songs from 'The Phantom.'
"The Kempton Park market was larger than we had ever seen. Difficult to cover the expanded outside stalls in a couple of hours, but it was fun trying. Bought a Spanish fan, a pair of knife rests and a Persian vase.
"The Premier Inn at Dover was another highlight. The weather was wet and very windy, and our comfy rooms overlooked the English Channel, where we could watch the waves crash over the sea wall with gale force winds. Dover Castle was closed, as was the Port, so, we were confined to an afternoon and evening at the hotel. It turned out to be very pleasant with good company, food and drink, and we were entertained by our own Tom Hicks, resident story-teller, and our trusty driver, Dave, with his bus-driving horror stories. Nice to meet Dave's wife, Eileen, and to have her along on the Paris trip.
"And Paris was lovely, especially after the first almond croissant and cafe au lait. It was thrilling to see the Eiffel Tower at night, with its on-the-hour fantastic light show. We all enjoyed the beautiful night cruise on the River Seine."
Jim and Janice Hagenbuch of Pennsylvania:
"With the exception of the day before we left to go to France, the weather was wonderful," says trip promoter Hagenbuch.
"And even with the dollar being very weak against the English pound, I was still able to make some good purchases that included an aqua Harden's Star fire grenade and a cobalt-blue medicine embossed 'Allen's Anti-fat' from Buffalo, New York.
"As always, Dave, our driver, was great. It was he who suggested that we use the train shuttle to cross the English Channel instead of a P&O ferry, which was neat, and something I had never done before.
"I bought several things at Kempton Park, including a little chicken pen wipe, something my wife Janice collects."
And what's up for 2009? "I may try and include the big Ardingly Antique & Collectors Fair in next year's trip. It's promoted by DMG, the same outfit that puts on the big Newark event. And possibly the Shepton Mallet show, depending on the date."
Jim Hagenbuch is serious about buying bottles at the WinterNational. "I was still able to make some good purchases that included an aqua Harden's Star fire grenade and a cobalt-blue medicine embossed 'Allen's Anti-fat' from Buffalo, New York."
Tom Hicks concludes that this is "always a good trip, and as Ralph Finch always says, why doesn't everyone go?"
"I have had the pleasure of going on all 12 of Jim and Janice's England-in-January trips," says Arlene, "and I highly recommend it! So, for the next trip, grab your partner or come alone and join this friendly and fun group!"
But Richard Galgano had one complaint; he would make the same changes to the trip that others would make: "MORE TIME! I would like to have stayed in Dover for one more day and gone hunting in the surrounding area for antique shops, and maybe strolled along the piers in the harbor ... and more time in Paris, too, and ..."
And, we'll save a spot for you next January.
(Hey - and stay tuned for a possible bonus trip to Europe this November!!)
The cast and crew
* Arlene Caruso of Florida
* Richard and Dolores Dalton of New Jersey
* Shannon Dalton and Amy Riovo of New Jersey and Pennsylvania
* Greg and Helga Dean of Florida
* John and Shelia Feldmann of New York
* Ralph Finch of Michigan
* Richard Galgano of Connecticut
* Tom and Mabel Hicks of Georgia
* Jim and Janice Hagenbuch of Pennsylvania
* Jay and Maxine Jacobs of California
* Tom McCandless of New Jersey
* Linda McLaughlin of Michigan
* Viola Noska of Minnesota
* Ralph Riovo and Patty Ann Paules of Pennsylvania
* Richard and Kathleen Tucker of California
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