London: Shop Until You Drop…or send me instead

Harrods has long been known as one of the premiere department stores anywhere. In its day, at the height of the British Empire, you could literally outfit an entire expedition to anywhere in the world within the walls of Harrods.

I first explored it 10 years ago. My mom and I started at the top and slowly made our way down each elevator, walking on each level. We were in the store over four hours!!! Graham and I walked it again last summer, visiting several departments on purpose to check out certain items.

Egyptian escalator

The architectural details and decor touches in the store are pretty amazing themselves….but then you need to enter the shopping areas…..and you are lost.


Elevator floor

The food court is fascinating. Actually, it is several large rooms. One is only fresh produce. Another has meats from around the world. We saw there the ham produced in Spain from pigs who only are fed acorns….we noticed this because we know there is a farm in Ohio that also raises pigs for market this way….the ham sells for over $200 a pound. Also cheeses from around the world and pastries and candies…and the list goes on and on….

For the shoe lovers in my life….here was one very small section of the designer shoe salon….anyone still wanting Jimmy Choo? Third Floor.

This cascade of Swarovski crystals was on sale marked down to 14,000 pounds from 19,000 pounds.

Musical instruments on display for sale seemed to be limited to pianos and guitars, but what a selection!

Rugs were displayed for sale in the typical piles laying on the floor, but these caught my eye as we wandered the store.

Rocking horses, bibs…and the most gorgeous christening dresses were for sale between 60 and 150 pounds….roughly 90 and 225 US dollars.

Golf carts were positioned strategically for sale in the area where you could purchase clothes to wear while playing golf. This bike and manikin were at the head of an escalator near the vast displays of bicycles for sale.

How many of you remember the Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks? I watched it a lot with Dan and Lisa when they were small. I don’t really remember much of it, but there was one part that stuck n my head. Angela Lansbury was a witch or something and needed to get everyone to another place. With the right incantation, the bed could fly, but one of the bedknobs was missing. Angela’s character says “Let’s go to the Portobello Road Market…you can get everything there!” They break into some song and shortly later, go to the market, find the perfect bedknob and fly off to whatever mission they needed to achieve.

Well, on MY list of things to do in London was to go to the Portobello Road market.  This flea market is on a city street, and goes on for about 20 blocks or more….we lost count!

You CAN find many many things there–antiques, fresh food, books, jewelry and clothes. Lots of funny tee shirts.  

The buskers were pretty good. This steel drummer was one of two that was there and since he was in a wheel chair the quality of his playing had to be respected more for the angle of play.

But one of the best stories of our trips culminated at the Portobello Road market, so I will tell it here.

I had asked my sister Laura what she would like from our trip for her birthday, since it is at the end of June, and I told her I would bring her back something special. She pondered for a bit and then asked for a poster of Stonehenge. Piece of cake, I thought, knowing the gift shop at Stonehenge has a tremendous selection of posters.

Well, because of the mess made by the people who had paid to spend the night to watch the sun rise at Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice, we were not able to visit Stonehenge that day, which was the only day we had. Oh no…I was in a quandary and had to laugh a bit. The first time I went to Europe was on business for 6 months back in 1981-1982. Laura had asked me to bring her back a tapestry and since all I was seeing was museum quality pieces I had written her that there was no way I could afford to meet that goal. Here I was again, going to fail.

Well, I checked in a poster shop in Oxford and came away with a postcard….not quite the goal. As we headed further north I gave up….but here we were back in London and at Portobello Road and Angela Lansbury had promised me EVERYTHING can be found there. I was hopeful.

We stopped at each booth that sold posters….nope nope nope…this one only had sports stuff, that one musicians, that one cars…you get the picture…and I wasn’t getting the picture. (sorry, bad pun)

As we headed out from the market, Graham pointed out a shop on one side of the street….it advertised photos. So I shrugged and went in, told my story and the guy said…hmmm, I think we had one but it wasn’t selling so it went into the sale bin. And there it was!! My sister’s picture, not on paper, but on canvas, rolled up in to a tube but not before being signed by the photographer!!

So, on my first trip to Europe I went to Paris one weekend and went to a huge flea market there. I found a tapestry for Laura that I could afford and met the goal. Here I was again, success!!! The moral of the story……if conventional shops fail, head to the flea markets…or better yet, send me!!!!

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