Tuesday, March 8, 2011


London... this dream-like city is ripe with stories and imagery from some of our favorite literature in the world. Close your eyes and imagine London… where the afternoons are filled with the treacle tarts, gollywogs, tea cakes and morning mist dresses of Enid Blyton. Come nightfall, the evenings are attended to by the grown-ups of J.M Barrie who tuck their children into bed with bedtime stories and then slip out of the house — the men in tailcoats and their wives in white satin gloves — into the foggy streets of nighttime London. Not far away, the pretentious laughter of Oscar Wilde’s corrupt and cunning haut monde ring loudly in the air! The rich make merry while Dickens’ young boys dart in and out of the cobblestone alleys, leaving behind them the sooty trails of innocence.

So let's talk about London and how you will love everything about it - sissy sprinkles, puddles, clouds and all. All the grey brings out a kind of melancholy that wraps around your heart and lingers there as you troop down various cobbled pathways under the oyster-colored skies.

Here are some of London's hidden (and not so hidden) gems :

1. Portobello market

Portobello Market is a long street market along Portobello Road in famous movie of Notting Hill. It is open from 8am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The market is absolutely bustling on Saturdays. Portobello Market houses stalls and stalls of antiques, curios, independent designs, handicrafts, vintage clothes, bags and shoes, old cameras and jewelry, secondhand books… and just about any kind of bric-a-brac you’re looking for.

2. Camden Town

Thronged by London’s younger set, Camden Town is garish and brash, but never boring. there is a largely punk rock, emo-kid, gypsy vibe about Camden that is immediately apparent from the wild harajuku-ish merchandise that is both sold and paraded around the area. Granted it is a slightly dodgy zone, but definitely cool in its own way. There are several markets along the streets of Camden Town, but the best one is Camden Lock. Camden Lock is a larger market within a courtyard that vends the arty stuff, mostly handicrafts and trinkets. There are also lots of new age shops in Camden Lock, with palm readers and the like!

3. Marylebone High Street

Marylebone High Street is the main artery of the little shopping district of Marylebone, and while the High Street is most fascinating, the other smaller streets girdling it are definitely worth checking out as well. The shopping here is demure and sophisticated, with the bigger brands giving way to the smaller independent labels. Check out Mascaro the shoe shop which has gorgeous shoes (they also carry stock from Pretty Ballerinas, which makes ballet flats that are to die for…!!), Daunt the bookstore, and the Oxfam secondhand bookstore where you can buy quality books for 1-2 pounds.

4. Regent’s Park

A huge, beautiful park in the heart of London that draws you in even in the winter. It is such a romantic place to be in when the sun is setting. Also watch out for ducks galore, and a rose garden that blooms in full glory during summertime.

Tate Museum of Modern Art

You will love this museum right down to its secret enclosed spaces and the graffiti on the back of the doors in the women’s bathroom stalls. Definitely a must visit in London, if you’re into art galleries.

A piece from the famed water lily series by Monet.

Borough Market

Greek desserts

Borough Market is a roomy food market in Southwark that sells all sorts of international gourmet food under one roof. Foodstuff purveyed: freshly baked bread, imported herbs and spices, gourmet sausages, exotic meats like ostrich and pheasant, burgers, cured meats, sandwiches, falafel, chocolates, candy, mulled wine and a whole smorgasbord of other delectable things. The various vendors here make for good lunch stops.

A delicious chorizo sandwich

7. Oxford & Bond Street

The famous Bond Street is where the almighty Selfridges is located, which is a huge favorite not just with the Londoners, but also the rest of the world, where you can shop from a wide range of high-end luxury brands.

8. Carnaby Street

Quite similar to that of Marylebone High Street, but younger and more contemporary.

9. Soho / Leicester Square / Piccadilly Circus

The Soho / Leicester Sq / Piccadilly Circus area is a lively and spirited junction that teems with good restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs. It’s also where Chinatown is, as well as many West End theaters. Covent Garden, a large touristy courtyard housing some rather interesting toy shops, is also nearby. Some idle hours spent traversing this effervescent area would uncover gems here and there.

Entrance to Chinatown

a little carnival in Leicester Square

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