Cities

Travel: London: 1 Girl, 4 Luxury Stores From Conran's to Fortnum and Mason by Ginevra Held

The Iconic Fortnum and Mason Facade

The Iconic Fortnum and Mason Facade

The other day, I hit up four stores, essentially along 1 straight path.  I got out at South Kensington, walked over to The Conran Shop, then onto Brompton Road for Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and over onto Piccadilly for Fortnum and Mason.  Almost turned back at Hyde Park Corner, because no joke, I could not figure out how to cross like multiple merging lanes of highway.  Until I saw a lady coming out of what was labeled a subway, which in my mind I thought was a tube stop, but no in fact was actually a subway.  So note to self, when it says subway it does not mean like in New York the subway, it means actually a subway under a really big street for pedestrians.

The Conran Shop - I have been coming here since before I can remember.  This is a wonderful design store.  It has numerous departments, furniture, kitchen, bed, bath, heaps of books, lighting and lots and lot of other design stuff.  The one in London is located in the Historic Michelin building, the Bibendum building and is sprawled over a large amount space through which you can wonder and oggle.  There is a Conran Shop in Paris as well, to which at this point I have been more times that it is decent to confess.  That store is located very near Bon Marche which is certainly an appropriate design location.  The Conran Shop, either in London or Paris is always worth a visit.

Harrods - So this place is sick.  But like bad sick.  Like its gross. And I would say its not a real working store. It is teeming with tourists (yes, I know I technically am one) and though the helper people in green bellhop outfits are nice, the actual sales staff is a bit loopy. So I don’t recommend it.  I tried twice to buy Chanel makeup there, and they just don't seem very informed.  Maybe if you are buying like a shit ton of Gucci, and I don't mean cool Alessandro Michele Gucci, I mean like the gaudy-label-whore Gucci, then maybe you're okay.  
But, and this is a big BUT, they have a very exceptional Food Hall, which I highly recommend visiting.  And here’s why, the selection of food is incredible, beautifully displayed, and the interior architecture is as delicious as the food.  I would say for some very upmarket take away, and some fun sweets, the Food Hall at Harrods is not to be missed.

Harvey Nichols - This is a modern and I would say working luxury goods store.  I successfully bought Chanel makeup here, the lady actually put some on me as part of their free 15 min consultation, and then she gave me some samples and wrapped it all up in a lovely bag.  So this place is actually shop-able.  They too have a food hall, not as elaborate at all as Harrod’s, but a wide selection of items, some British, some French, overall nicely presented and worth a look.

Fortnum and Mason - Ah, the end all be all of luxury prepared goods.  Amazing delicacies in an equally enchanting setting, Fortnum and Mason is not to be missed.  You feel instantly transported to another place and time as soon as you walk in.  Without a doubt, the Ground Floor is my favorite.  This is where you find tea, coffee, chocolates, turkish delight, tarts etc.  Numerous boxed items gorgeously presented.  I just love it!!!  On the lower floor you can find exceptional quality meats, seafood, cheese, wine etc.  Though with the advent of a more enlightened consumer, it is now easier than ever to find high quality meat and seafood, at your local Whole Foods for example (yea I said it). On the 1st floor you find a nice collection of home goods, and pretty much my favorite thing ever, Hampers!  I don’t know what it is, but Hampers really get me excited.  I just love the idea of a bunch of really nice things in a basket.  That’s it really. I just really want nice things in a basket.

Summary:

Best Food Hall: Fortnum and Mason, with Harrods a very close 2nd.

Best Place to actually buy stuff: Harvey Nichols

Best in Modern Design: The Conran Shop

Best Tourist Trap: Harrods

Adresses:

The Conran Shop (Chelsea): Michelin House, 81 Fulham road, London, SW3 6RD

Harrods: 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL

Harvey Nichols: 109 - 125 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ

Fortnum and Mason: 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER

The Michelin Building home to The Conran Shop

The Michelin Building home to The Conran Shop

A bed display at the Conran Shop

A bed display at the Conran Shop

Dining and Living at The Conran Shop

Dining and Living at The Conran Shop


The Side entry to Harrods

The Side entry to Harrods

Oyster Bar at Harrods Food Hall

Oyster Bar at Harrods Food Hall

Caviar Selection at Harrods Food Hall

Caviar Selection at Harrods Food Hall

Window Display at Harrods

Window Display at Harrods


Harvey Nichols Facade

Harvey Nichols Facade

Chocolate Bars at Harvey Nichols

Chocolate Bars at Harvey Nichols

More Chocolate!!!

More Chocolate!!!


Fancy Candy at Fortnum and Mason

Fancy Candy at Fortnum and Mason

Sweeties!!!

Sweeties!!!

All Hampered Up!! My favorite thing at Fortnum and Mason, a Hamper.

All Hampered Up!! My favorite thing at Fortnum and Mason, a Hamper.

Glass display at Fortnum and Mason

Glass display at Fortnum and Mason

Travel: London: Neighborhood of Islington by Ginevra Held

Islington is a lovely Northern London Neighborhood.  Exploring London’s neighborhoods I have come to the realization (and please excuse me if this is obvious) that neighborhoods consist of a “high street” with shops and places to eat, all located together, and around that, comprising the bulk of the neighborhood is residential.  That is in essence a neighborhood.  And most cities are simply a compilation of neighborhoods, or rather, little villages all joined together.  The main financial area of a city differs from this neighborhood formula, in that although there is still what one could call a high street, instead of houses there are offices.  That is pretty much it.  And this neighborhood/village formula is pretty much true of any city in the world, be it London, Paris, Milan, San Francisco, you name it that is what it is.

Now back to Islington.  As I said, it is a very nice Northern London neighborhood, whose High Street is I would say jam packed.  The High Street in Islington is called Upper Street.  Basically you exit the tube at Angel and walk a little to the left and then on and on and on.  Upper Street has everything, one off stores, eateries, boutiques, makeup, broken glass, human fire hydrants …..wait no, those last bits were from an SNL sketch - I love and miss you Stephan!

Shops I noticed included Jigsaw (you may remember the Duchess worked there briefly as an accessories buyer), Space NK Apothecary, Benefit Cosmetics, Uniqlo.  There are also real estate agencies everywhere.  Which I suppose tells you this is a popular residential area. There is a lot of stuff to eat and buy in Islington.  Which frankly I find a bit scary.  

Personally, I was on a mission to find Ottolenghi, the upscale food boutique founded by an Israeli chef, who’s cookbooks I own and cherish.  I am going to save my discussion of him for a another post.

Islington's Upper Street

Doors on Charlton Place

Doors on Charlton Place

Before I went on my long walk along upper street, upon exiting Angel Station  I wandered to the right and into Camden Passage.  In terms of cuteness, this pedestrian alleyway is adorable.  There were cute little boutiques here, and places to eat of course, and some antiques for sale.  All very lovely and very pleasant to meander and enjoy.  Small but fun, and much more fun than the upper Street in my opinion.

London's Islington Neighborhood

Down from Camden Passage, you can wonder over to Duncan Terrace/Place which consists of lovely brick Georgian homes, with brightly colored doors.  Very cute.

To conclude, although I enjoyed exploring this Northern London Neighborhood, if you are in London for the first time or even the second, I certainly wouldn't bother.  London is huge and this is not a must see.  If you are looking for a place to live, or you have seen most of London, then this is certainly worth a visit.

Of Note in Islington:

Camden Passage - Pedestrian alleyway with small boutiques, eateries, antiques. 

Duncan Square/Place - Residential area with brick buildings with brightly colored doors.

Upper Street - lots of boutiques - some high street names (Jigsaw, Uniqlo), some one off places, eateries - beauty (Space NK Apothecary), fashion, interior design boutiques  - real estate agencies everywhere.
Of note particularly for me was Ottolenghi : 287 Upper Street, London N1 2TZ

Really is its own village or city within a city

London Islington
London Islington