London is home to some of the best (and most expensive) shopping in the world. Everyone knows about Oxford and Regent Streets, home to some of the most famous designers on earth. Then there's Harrods and Hamleys and all the other quintessential tourist shopping destinations. Those places are not on my list. They're great, but once I settled in here, and started exploring, I discovered many other hidden (and not so hidden) gems scattered about this city. Such as:
1. Foyles- Oh, how I love Foyles, let me count the ways. This legendary independent bookshop (est. 1903- see above pic) has such a unique selection, it's hard to know where to start. Looking into cognitive psychology? Head to level 3 for that. Interested in the Philosophy of Religion? Look no further than the 2nd floor. How about some French poetry? Coming right up. And on top of all that, Foyles has an extensive contemporary fiction section (it basically covers the entire ground floor) and its own cafe. Definitely one of my favorites.
2. Paperchase- Let me preface this by saying that I used to work in an overpriced stationary store, so cards and gift wrapping and bows and pens and all things paper- related are kind of my thing. And the first time I walked into a Paperchase, it happened to be the huge one on Tottenham Court Road, and I was blown away. Three enormous floors full of beautiful, carefully selected greeting cards, ornate, hand made paper, notebooks, diaries, art sketchbooks and more. Simply lovely.
3. Scoob- This is a really cozy secondhand bookshop located near Russell Square. The place is tiny and cramped and every square inch is filled with books. They are piled on the floor, on chairs, on desks, teetering off shelves, stacks and stacks of them, everywhere you turn. Scoob has an impressive selection of international literature, American and British classics, and everything in between. AND it's super cheap. Awesome find.
4. Selfridges- The department store that trumps all other department stores. Like Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom in the States, Selfridges is THE high end destination for anything your heart desires- everything from designer bags, women's fashion, shoes, accessories, makeup, fragrance, oh- and they have stuff for men too. And kids. And a food and wine section. Selfridges has a nice mix of high and low end designers, everything from Alexander McQueen to Adidas. They also have the most amazing Shoe Gallery, basically an entire floor dedicated to women's heels. Trust me, you'll never want to leave.
Waterstone's- Last bookshop, I promise. Although Waterstone's is a chain (I know, I know, lame), their flagship Piccadilly store is simply stunning, and must be included on my list. So the store is enormous, and the amount of space makes you feel like you could spend your entire day there, perusing their carefully stocked aisles. And with all those invitingly plush armchairs scattered about, I dare you not to eventually succumb, and sink deeply into one, with a pile of brand new books in your lap. That's what I did, anyway.
6. Shops at Canary Wharf- So Canary Wharf is not the first place one would think of in terms of shopping. Known to many as the financial heart of London (it's the European headquarters of many big banks, including Barclays, HSBC, and J.P. Morgan, to name a few). Canary Wharf actually has a really cool underground mall, with the likes of Hugo Boss, Zara, Gap, Next, Ted Baker and even a Tiffany and Co. Plus it's home to plenty of restaurants and bars. So head on over to this warm underground mall on a chilly afternoon and prepare to do some damage.
7. Brick Lane Market- So I'm especially partial to Brick Lane Market (otherwise known as the Truman Markets) since David's flat happens to be in the area. He took me here on my first Sunday in London and I fell in love immediately. Brick Lane was once known as the best place to find an authentic curry (due to the large Bangladeshi community) but has now morphed into an artistic hub for young Londoners, foodies, hippies, and everyone in between. Street performers, food stands from all around the world, vintage shopping and even tea and cake rooms make this the perfect place to spend your Sunday. With five unique markets, you're bound to find something you like.
Now, I know I said I'd get to the best neighborhoods, parks etc etc, but those may have to come in another post, this is getting long. For now, I'll leave you with that play I keep raving about:
The Busy Body- Instead of seeing a traditional West End play, David has been introducing me to fringe theater, which I've enjoyed immensely so far. The first play we saw was at the Southwark Playhouse (a charming little theater located under the London Bridge train station, with patrons like Michael Cane). I had no expectations coming into it, but The Busybody blew me away. Written in 1709 by Susanna Centlivre, this play centers on two witty women, both of whom are trying to escape arranged marriages to be with the men they love. Marplot, the busybody, just gets in the way of it all, causing mischief and mayhem everywhere he goes. Musical interludes pack a punch, both mocking and encouraging the characters, a chorus that is brilliant and cheeky and hilarious, all at once. It was just such a great show all around, everyone left the theater smiling, ear to ear. The Busybody has now ended its run, but I hope another company picks it up soon. It's simply too good to miss.
So there you have it! Stay tuned for Part 3, where I promise I'll get to everything I've missed (and more!)