Have you ever wondered how one mug of black Americano can make you hallucinate enought to believe that (just by crossing a small space) you are in a completely different country???
I had just over an hour to waste in Market Harborough on Tuesday afternoon before I could catch a bus to Lutterworth (having just missed one by a few minutes) - so I decided to investigate an establishment I had heard about.
The building was actually familiar to me - but not in what you might call its current format. They had apparently tidied the Library and Council Offices away upstairs and left the downstairs free for a slightly surreal experience - to me any way.
When you walk into the Symmington Building in Market Harborough, (Ex-library and Council Offices building) you will find that the former Library space is now filled with a Coffeeshop and Wine Bar with - what I think is - a very appropriate name. (That was just based on the strength of the coffee I had from there.) The former Reception bit for the Council Offices is now taken up with something I found even more intriguing than most people might. (More about that later.)
The Coffeeshop and Wine Bar is called "Insomnia". The best way for me to describe it is a cross between my two favourite cafes. (I didn't stay until it turned into a Wine Bar.)
It had the comfortable feeling of St Martins Coffeeshop - but the armchairs were more like I would expect to find in someone's home.
The crockery reminded me of the "Douwe Egbert" Coffeeshop in Rotterdam. So much so that I was half-expecting any cakes to be served on a cakeplate with a slot for the fork.
I must admit I am not a big fan of "Branded" cups, etc, when I intend to consume what I have bought in their own establishment. It just seems a bit of a waste to me. But I liked the logo on these.
No - this is not what you are likely to get as a result of visiting this establishment.
The serving area looked a bit posher than I was expecting.
In fact, the last time I saw something look that inviting I was in the cafe at Rotterdam Central Station.
However, my favourite touch was found on one wall (and I think my Mum would have loved it as well).
Old fashioned sewing machines on the wall.
I also loved the fact that - when I had placed my order I was advised to sit down and it would be brought to me. The person who brought it over was very polite too.
After I had finished consuming my coffee and snack I decided to investigate the shop on the other side of the entrance - and promptly thought I was in a Railway Station in Holland. I also thought I was standing in a supermarket with a different name but the same nationality as the one I was actually in.
Allow me to explain.
The shop I was standing in was called "SPAR". For those of you who think SPAR is English - I am afraid it is actually Dutch. (Its name is actually an abbrieviated acronym - the original Dutch name was "DE SPAR" - but the SPAR bit still means something. "Samenwerking Profiteren Allen Regelmatig" translates into "Working Together Profits Everybody Regularly".
I said that I thought I had walked into another supermarket from the same country, didn't I??? I also said I thought I was in a Dutch Railway station???
There is a simple explanation for both of the above.
There is a Dutch supermarket chain which I absolutely love. It is called "Albert Heijn" or "AH" for short. Stand me in this shop and I will be amused for hours. Now - AH have got a chain of smaller supermarkets (usually found in Railway Stations) called "AH To Go". Forget "Tesco Express" - these are compact and very well laid out (usually).
The layout of the SPAR shop in Market Harborough reminded me so much of an "AH To Go" that I was quite surprised not to find myself looking at Dutch train timetables as I exited the building.
It was a shame I couldn't stay longer in both places.
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