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

Grocery stores, the way to feel at home when you are away. by Ginevra Held

Please Note: This is a Waitrose in Belgravia.  There is a net-a-porter car in front of it.  THIS is a proper posh delish Waitrose.  Their poshness varies by 'hood, so keep that in mind.

Please Note: This is a Waitrose in Belgravia.  There is a net-a-porter car in front of it.  THIS is a proper posh delish Waitrose.  Their poshness varies by 'hood, so keep that in mind.

One of my favorite things to do when I go traveling is to go to a grocery store.  Sick right? But grocery stores tell you a lot about the place, and they make you feel like a local and not some tourist getting taking advantage of, eating another god damn pizza. True fact, I saw Japanese people eating American style pizza in Vienna.  Weird.

Why am I talking about this, because Whole Foods is here, people.  Where? you might ask.  Here. In London.  Now what does that mean.  Well as much as I hate to admit it, it is my new favorite place.  I feel better about life when I walk into this Whole Foods.  Like I am not so god damn far away, or lonely, or freaking out about life, or any of that shit.  I’m in Whole Foods and its like you know what? there is a lot of organic food here with my name on it.  So there.

Before I came to London, I was dreaming about Waitrose.  Waitrose is a chain grocery store in England, and I remember really liking them when I was here with my family. The one we went to was in South Kensington and it was lovely.  Probably because everything in South Kensington is lovely.  The one here downright sucks.  By here I mean Fulham.  And if I just walk a little block farther, I am inside a Whole Foods.  So f Waitrose. 

The other super fond memory I have of a supermarket is in Bruges.  We had tried a couple of times eating at restaurants and it was just a bummer, catered to tourists, over priced and gross.  Since we always stay in apartments, we checked out the local grocery stores.  They were phenom! Best part, not only did they have Fage yogurt, hello Trader Joe’s, they also had passion fruit.  Wait whaaaaat? yea passion fruit.  And it was lovely.

Vienna had super weird supermarkets, this must be why the lovely Japanese people were eating the aforementioned pizza.

In New York, we stayed near the Museums, the Met and while it was the Upper East Side, it was not like you know, the Upper East Side.  There was a suggestion of a Supermarket to go to in the neighborhood and I was just like ugh, so we went out and as we were walking, I saw this couple with a Whole Foods bag, stopped them immediately and was like Oh my God, where is Whole Foods?  Well my friends we found it and it was amazing.  It was huge whole foods, all the guys in the produce section were like these really nice African dudes (like actually African, like we spoke French to them), so much selection of stuff, and then the best part was the     queue for the tills.  It was automated! You get in a line, there are two side by side, and then a screen tells you which cash register to go to and which lines turn it is.  In San Francisco, its this bullshit honor system and either you get taken advantage of or the other person does, and no one pays attention, because its San Francisco and everyone is either high or has literally nothing else to do so they are just completely out of it.  True fact.  Anyway, that was New York baby and I loved it!!!!

Paris, well its Paris so everything is great.  Including the Monoprix baby!!!! If you need yogurt or cheese or anything really hit one of these up and you will not be disappointed.  But if you are looking for the ultimate in fine Food Hall experience, its all hail Bon Marche, the Grande Epicerie, possibly the most wonderful place on earth.  Pristine fruits and vegetables, and amazing food from all over the world, prepare foods, more brands of bottled water and boutique beer and my god everything.  Truly the best place on earth. I could live there.  Actually, now I actually could as they have expanded and opened a home section up top.  I think they want me.

Grocery Re-cap:

London:

Waitrose- normally the best but varies by location

Marks & Spencer - good for most things, not as discerning as a good Waitrose

Whole Foods - just as you would expect, lots of organic, lots of good food, at very high prices. But doable if you are careful.

Harrods Food Hall - super bougie, not for everyday use unless you are a Saudi Prince living in the area

Paris:

Monoprix - has everything, reasonable prices

Bon Marche - the gold plated everything, most amazing Food Hall ever, but being Paris, actually reasonable in a way

New York:

Go to Whole Foods, that’s all.  They have that shit down there.

The Crescent in Urban Planning, A distinctly English feature by Ginevra Held

On my walk to the V&A the other day I had to turn left at Pelham Crescent, which got me thinking, what a distinctly English feature of Urban Planning this is.  In Paris, they have many “Place” but I can’t say I’ve come across any Crescents.  The place, like the Place des Vosges (my favorite) is square and modeled on the medieval town square.  Place des Vosges is extremely similar to a Medieval village square in that all the buildings are facing inward, and there is an arcade on the street level! Amazing.  American cities don’t really have this.  If we do, it certainly doesn’t have the arcade, and is often of an overbearing scale.

Here is Pelham Crescent:

Title: There and Back Again, a Hobbit’s Tale.  jk. I’m an elf.  

Here is Place des Vosges:

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

There are many crescents in London, the other one I’ve made a point to visit in the past is   Lansdowne Crescent in Notting Hill, and that is because Jimi Hendrix died there.  I will have to make a point of visiting it again.

Anyway, I just thought this was really interesting.  As I am writing this, I just thought of how both New York and San Francisco have the triangular block which gives rise to a triangular building.  The flatiron building in New York, and Columbus Tower in San Francisco(which is owned by Francis Ford Coppola the home of Coppola’s Cafe Zoetrope).

Side by side of Flatiron and Columbus Building:

The Flatiron building in New York, and the Columbus Building in San Francisco.

The Flatiron building in New York, and the Columbus Building in San Francisco.

What is so interesting about this, is that the carving of a city, determines the type of architecture.  So when you have a crescent, your buildings are curved, when you have a public square they face in and may have an arcade, and when you have a triangle, you get, well a triangle!

xoxo,

Ginevra