Portobello Road Market

I think I’ve died and gone to heaven, except if that were true I wouldn’t be worried about money. A mile or so of narrow cobblestone road is closed to vehicle traffic and all sorts of eccentrics are putting up stalls. I could shop for a thousand years and never look as good as these old ladies in their fur hats and sequined vests and cigarette holders. 
The street is roughly divided into three sections- antiques, food and clothing. Everything I’ve ever wanted to wear or eat or decorate my house with is here. Everything from Wedgewood china to flowers to huge saute pans of paella, its here.
Coffee in hand (take your pic from the plentiful Kensington/Notting Hill shops surrounding- they run the gamut from Starbucks to hole-in-the-wall independents), I set out early hearing that the market gets very busy, especially on Saturday. That may be true in the summer, however around 9 a.m in January wiry men wearing tweed flat caps and buttoned vests, leather jackets and ankle boots are still setting out their wares, smoking and bantering.

Racks upon racks of fur coats, short, long, mink, beaver, glassy eyed foxes with spring clasp jaws, bunny tail pompoms, angora tams (guilty…) Beaded swingers dresses, filmy silk blouses, more silk scarves than Grace Kelly and every magician on earth could shake a stick at. Cable knit wool sweaters, leather & lace driving gloves, plaid shawls in plenty. Victorian button boots, schoolgirl kilts and soft knitted toques.

The food smells wafting around from sizzling prawns and lusty, grilling butcher fresh sausages are overwhelming. There are stacks of sourdough, untidy heaps of baguettes, mountains of pain au lait. Next door oversized pastel meringues are enroaching upon piled eclairs, rich with cream & mirror finish chocolate. There are more varieties of absolutely perfect cupcakes than one can possibly choose from, hand crafted delicate chocolates, donuts of all varieties. The sweets compete with cheesemongers presenting wheels of camembert and shropshire, the ubiquitous Stilton present along with cured meats & chutneys.

There are stalls of first edition books, financial death to any bibliophile with the beautiful clothbound covers & top notch illustrations (Arabian Nights? Alice in Wonderland?) Next door shallow crates are full of hundred year old printing blocks still reeking of ink, from ornate to miniscule, A-Z and more. Old map prints are sorted roughly ‘America”Europe ‘Africa’, crumbling edges giving a clue to longevity before you even see the stamp ‘1922’.  Pots of mauve heather and bouquets of tea roses sit beside tulips and lilies. Next door, a shop window display is dozens of antique Singers, carefully polished and shelved.
Antique shops make Canadian shops look bush league, with expertly curated displays of ornate rocking horses and plush velvet ottomans. Another window is hung with a variety of crystal chandeliers. There are rings and necklaces and tribal jewellry, opal, amber, pearl and turquoise. Tawdry costume jewellry is neighbor to expensive pure silver. There are china doll sized tea sets, clear plastic boots, knee high stockings, garters and neon hair ties. There are buskers playing saxophone, young men doing covers of ‘Wonderwall’. 

There is the people watching too, of course. All sorts of eccentrics both peruse and man the stalls & shops. There’s an infiltration of shoddy tourist traps with loud displays of ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ tees, postcards & overpriced London-themed tchotchke, polyester mittens with Smart phone fingers and Rosie the Riveter fridge magnets, though thankfully these are decidedly few.

It’s an overwhelming feast for the senses and in my opinion, a London must do. 

Please excuse brevity, typos & formatting errors. Smartphones are remarkable but not great for blogging.

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