London

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

Random Thoughts: Lord Grantham x Julia Roberts by Ginevra Held

With the ending of Downton Abbey, a thought has been floating around in the back of my head, indeed, it is something I have known since the moment I saw him, and I just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware that Lord Grantham knows Julia Roberts.

If you already knew/know this, great for you, I am going to keep going here.

Now, when Lord Grantham and Julia Roberts first met, he was a bit of an "arse" and that is putting it kindly.  This is what that looked like:

And Julia Roberts was like:

I feel, however, that over the course of six seasons, and many more years, Lord Grantham has really grown as a human being and I feel would be much more equipped to meet Julia now.

In saying that, I think we have now come so far as to say that it would now be Julia doing all that placating to Lord/Mr Downton Abbey.  And for their reunion, she will probably have to dress something like this:

And though of course, Julia is still a far cry from "barely scraping by on 7 or 8 thousand a year" I'd say Lord Grantham has certainly found his calling as landed gentry and is himself a far cry from bumbling Bernie, the worst stock broker in London, because lets face it he was "absolute rubbish".

This has been Random Thoughts with Ginevra Held.

Travel: London: Eat: Ottolenghi by Ginevra Held

London Travel Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi is a terrific take out/ eat in food shop in London.  There are five of them total, I have so far visited two, one in Islington and the other in Notting Hill.

I was first introduced to Ottolenghi after seeing his gorgeous book Plenty at various bookstores until finally, someone (Mom, thank you) bought it.

The book features delicious recipes all concentrating on vegetables.  

The set up of the food stores is a table at the front with amazing vegetable dishes all laid out.  You can either get a number of the salads to go or eat in. I chose to get 3 salads to go.  

Ottolenghi is very inventive when it comes to vegetables.  His dishes are fresh, healthy and intricately and inventively seasoned and spiced.  I highly recommend a visit to any of his shops.  

Check online beforehand to see if the shop is more of a take out or eat in place.  The website is very helpful that way.

In addition to the salads, I highly recommend the pastries.  His s'more cookie was absolutely incredible!!

Photos are from the Ottolenghi in Islington, though personally I liked the one in Notting Hill better, probably because I like Notting Hill better.

http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk

London Ottolenghi

London Ottolenghi

London Ottolenghi

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

London’s National Portrait Gallery by Ginevra Held

My homegirl, Elizabeth I, in the National Portrait Gallery.  Go tudors!

My homegirl, Elizabeth I, in the National Portrait Gallery.  Go tudors!

The National Portrait Gallery is a portrait specific branch of the National Gallery (makes sense, doesn't it?).  Personally my favorite parts are the Tudors, from Henry VIII and all of his wives ( I heard a young girl say Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived - that is the quintessential summing up of Henry’s 6 wives - why they bloody hell they didn't teach us that in school I can not say) to Elizabeth I.  I frankly get a bit bored after that and head straight to the 1960 to 2000 area.  This is where you will see contemporary artists both as subjects and as painters, celebrities, royalty, musicians, actors, designers, the who’s who of British society and frankly its a lot of fun.

Henry VIII - I kind of really like this guy, which is sick but true. He's my favorite wife killing, religion changing, red headed monarch.

Henry VIII - I kind of really like this guy, which is sick but true. He's my favorite wife killing, religion changing, red headed monarch.

I found a new Earl to like, which is pretty significant, you don't always find Earl's you like. His name is Henry, he is the 3rd Earl of Southampton.  He was known for being flamboyant, and for having long auburn hair, which he liked to wear down, sometimes at court.  Uh yeah baby! Check this guy out.  Do you think he also rocked a man bun occasionally? God, I hope so.  Can we do a family tree and check if Mick Jagger and Harry Styles are relatives.

My new boyfriend, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (not to be confused with the 1st or 2nd, thank you very much)

My new boyfriend, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (not to be confused with the 1st or 2nd, thank you very much)

Like the Tate Modern, some of the portraits you may remember from previous visits may no longer be there.  They rotate part of their collection, mainly the contemporary part. So for example, one year there was a series of black and white photos of Kate Moss by Corinne Day, the photographer who had essentially made her famous now revisiting her subject many years later.

There was also a video of David Beckham sleeping.  Just that, David Beckham, shirtless, asleep.  Needless to say, I really liked that one.  Also needless to say, I was disappointed he was not there this time. I even asked, “Do you have the David Beckham sleeping one?” They knew exactly what I meant, and the answer was unfortunately no.

There is a Diana portrait I quite like, its from when she was first engaged, the likeness is very good and I like the setting she is in.

A portrait of Lady Diana Spencer, as this was painted during her engagement to Charles, so she wasn't Lady Di yet. I like the the interior setting (duh, interiors) and the subtle frankness of her pose.

A portrait of Lady Diana Spencer, as this was painted during her engagement to Charles, so she wasn't Lady Di yet. I like the the interior setting (duh, interiors) and the subtle frankness of her pose.

In the same gallery is Kate Middleton’s portrait.  As lovely as she is, I don’t understand how the artist got to this.  And couldn't they have chosen an artist with a bit more imagination, I mean it looks like he copied it from a Hello! magazine photo.  I don’t like it.  It doesn't do her justice and doesn't capture her at all.  

Portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton.  For such a lovely girl, I'd say this hardly does her justice either in likeness or essence.

Portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton.  For such a lovely girl, I'd say this hardly does her justice either in likeness or essence.

They have a really nice one of the Princes, which they have put with the Tudors at the moment to make it a conversation, it is thoughtful and well portrayed, an interaction between two young men, who happen to be wearing full military regalia and are at the same time, contemporary in their attitudes.  I wish someone had given the Duchess the same treatment.

I was struck by a portrait of Sir Paul Smith, the clothing designer.  Its a really nicely contextualized one of him holding a ream of fabric, he’s got a cool stance and it suggests a lot about the sitter.  

Portrait of Sir Paul Smith, the fashion designer, from the National Portrait Gallery

Portrait of Sir Paul Smith, the fashion designer, from the National Portrait Gallery

 

National Portrait Gallery - In the same building as the National Gallery, entrance around the corner to the right if facing the Gallery.

Definitely worth a look, a lot of fun to see the who’s who of England from Henry VIII to David Beckham (if you’re lucky).

Rotating collection of portraits and themes, but Henry, Elizabeth et al are always there.  I would say not to be missed, and admission to the collection is free, special exhibits are not.