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Foyles bookshop, 113-119, Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H

Claim to fame 1: Largest bookshop in the world in terms of shelf space, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Foyles has 30 miles of it.

Claim to fame 2: Most exasperating bookshop in the world. Founded in 1904, it is now presided over by Christina Foyle, the fearsome octogenarian eminence grise of British book retailing.

Atmosphere: Imagine Kafka had gone into the book trade. The stock is immense but finding anything is another matter. Foyles staff - mainly listless graduates who haven't yet found their vocation - can be surprisingly knowledgeable. But most aren't there long enough to find their way about or impose any order on decades of chaos.

Most maddening feature: The ground-floor fiction department is arranged by publisher not author; so if you want to buy, say, the novels of Patrick Hamilton, you need to know that some are published by Penguin, others by Hogarth Press. Apart from being frustrating, this system denies the greatest pleasure a bookshop can offer: browsing.

Second most maddening feature: Buying a book with cash tends to be a two-stage process. Customers must get a receipt which then has to be stamped at another till, where the money is handed over. To be fair, this represents progress: it used to be a three-stage process.

Sample (real) Foyles job interview: Christina Foyle: "Do you play any musical instruments?" Listless graduate: "No". "Do you have any foreign languages?" "No". "Can you start on Monday?" "Yes".

Interesting fact: Danny La Rue owns a flat above the shop. His Jaguar is often to be found parked in the delivery yard.

Reasons to go : Books Etc is opposite at 120-122 Charing Cross Rd. Waterstone's is next door at 121-125.

Top 10 sandwiches at Pret A Manger

1 Chicken & Bacon Club........................................................pounds 1.99

2 Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato...............................................pounds 1.59

3 Free Range Egg & Cress..........................................................99p

4 Chicken & Avocado ..........................................................pounds 1.95

5 Chicken Salad ..................................................................pounds 1.49

6 Mature Cheddar .....................................................................pounds 1.49

7 Tuna Cucumber..................................................................pounds 1.89

8 Avocado & Bacon.......................................................................... .....pounds 1.85 9 Prawn & Mayonnaise..............................................pounds 1.59

10 Chicken Tarragon ............................................................................... pounds 2.10

Good thing

Seal pak, pounds 14.99

Sensible travellers are never parted from their passport and travellers' cheques. But what do you do with them when you reach the beach? Leave them to the mercy of the local water-melon sellers and ear- wax removers? Better not. Instead, buy one of these swimmer's money belts. They're probably sealed and, being in fluorescent diver's colours, don't look too stupid. From the Safari Quip travel catalogue, The Stones, Castleton, Sheffield S30 2WX (01433 620320)

Mad thing

Harrods Traditional Lager, pounds 1.25

Harrods ready-mix Pimms, certainly, but Harrods lager? Is the store trying to create some new species of Harrods lager lout, swaying through SW1 after closing time, clutching the distinctive green and gold six-pack? We think not. Price, looks and time of launch indicate that this is aimed squarely at tourists. The tin describes it modestly as "the best looking, best tasting canned lager ever", but our tester's verdict was more restrained - "Not bad." From Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (0171-730 1234)

Which brand of mineral water

is the coolest?

With escalating numbers of brands to choose from, what mineral waters are the smart folk drinking? We did a quick ring round and found that the winners by a head were Evian and Hildon. Perrier, once a fixture, is notable by its absence. Seau very Eighties.

EDINBURGH, City Cafe, 19 Blair Street (0131 220 0125) Evian (still), Thirsty Camel (sparkling)

GLASGOW, The Buttery, 652 Argyle Street (0141 221 8188) Highland Spring, still or sparkling

MANCHESTER, The Atlas Bar, Deansgate (0161 834 2124) Tynants, still or sparkling

NEWCASTLE, Offshore 44, Quayside (0191 261 0921) Abbey Well, still or sparkling

OXFORD, Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons (01844 278881) Hildon (still), Perrier (sparkling)

LONDON

Quaglino's, 16 Bury Street, St James's, SW1 (0171-930 6767) Evian (still), Badoit (sparkling)

Atlantic Bar and Restaurant, Glasshouse Street, W1 (0171-734 4888) Evian (still), St Pelegrino (sparkling)

The Ritz, Piccadilly, W1 (0171-493 8181) Malvern, still or sparkling

The Fifth Floor, Harvey Nichols, SW1 (0171-235 5250) Hildon, still or sparkling

Orso, 27 Wellington Street, WC2 (0171-240 5269) Valle d'oro (sparkling), Lisiel (still)

Compiled by Julie Aschkenasy

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