Despite the number of times we have been to London, we have never managed to make it to Notting Hill’s famous Portobello Road market. That’s finally set to change today.
The morning is lost to domestics getting ready for our sojourn south, to Cornwall tomorrow, but once that’s done, we’re off! We set off on foot – it’s only a mile or do up the road.
Along the way we come across an upmarket boutique/home wares shopping strip. They’re not silly, these proprietors. Most shops have café seating out front, many serve coffee. It’s here that husbands and boyfriends are parked, whilst the girls shop unfettered inside. Very sensible too – there is nothing more annoying than a man trailing behind “helping” by asking if you are “done yet” and “don’t you have one just like that” when one is trying to shop.
We are soon there – it’s huge stretching and winding some 3 miles up and down Portobello Road. It’s clear that it draws a large crowd. The road is sensibly closed off, with market stalls of every type on either side of the road, flanked by shops behind them on both sides too. There are many antique stalls and shops, quite a number that specialise in silverware, endless clothing merchants and curio stalls. Best of all, always, are the food stalls. In the centre is a farmers market and a myriad of cooked to order food options from around the globe. Best of these is a paella stand, with 4 large pans on the go, each over a metre wide. Fabulous! Fresh fruit options feature too with fresh juices in hollowed out pineapples, young coconuts and fresh cut fruit. Summer berries are present in all their glory – the English grow the best berries, hands down.
Off the side streets are Notting Hill’s three up, one down terraces. Very similar to the New York brownstones, although these are in their original white, but sadly, in poorer condition. That’s a surprise, as this is a salubrious area. Here and there splashes of colour can be found. One set of terraces is painted in pastels, another has highlighted their bay windows in dark jewel tones. We come across the street where each of the houses has a blue door – there’s a story here. Once, there was one house with a blue door, made famous as being Hugh Grant’s residence in the movie, Notting Hill. Following the movie’s success they were inundated with tourists. In a show of solidarity, the other houses in the street painted their doors blue. It’s either a case of if you can’t beat them, join them, or perhaps, more generously, quite an effective way of confusing theblo
In our meanderings I look longingly at all the silverware, remnants of a bygone era when four or five course dinners were de rigueur, each course with its own silverware. Heaven forbid one’s fish course might be eaten with the wrong fork. Eyebrows would be raised. Altogether, a more elegant time. Deterred though by thought of carrying silver around for the next three months, I settle instead for a pristine set of woodland creature Snap cards from the 60s. Chris makes a more prosaic choice; another Panama hat.
A few hours later we are spent and make our way home, stopping, finally, for an excellent coffee. On the way, I conjure a squirrel out of thin air. I have this skill, being able to conjure animals it seems. Let me explain. Many years ago, on a drive home from NSW, I say to Chris out of the blue “you never a black rabbit in the wild”. A few moments later, a black rabbit appears, nibbling peacefully on the side of the road. In New York a few years ago, buoyed up by seeing a rare black squirrel and Gus the New York polar bear at the Zoo, on the way home I tell Chris that the only thing that could beat that would be seeing a raccoon. Sure enough, moments later, a raccoon appears. In broad daylight. Seriously. I’ve also conjured a stoat in broad daylight – one our first UK trip. See. Skills. One day I’m going to go the Arctic and focus really hard on arctic fox cubs. And steal one and make a pet out of him.
Later that night we head out to what proves to be a disappointing meal at a Lebanese restaurant, despite good write ups. The entrées are good – halumi and a hummus, served hot with lamb strips and pine nuts, but the main course mixed grill is dry. The waiters are off piste too, more interested in their plans later tonight vs customer service. Between you and me boys, quite frankly, you’re not as fabulous as you think you are. A little more focus on the task at hand would be an excellent idea.
It’s our last night in London. That went quickly.