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Thursday, November 12, 2009

London shopping

Sunday afternoon I went to London with Norwegian Air. I arrived at Gatwick airport and took the express train to Victoria Station, and then a taxi to the hotel. The hotel was of rather poor quality, it looked run-down and there was no bathroom in the room (even though the info I received said so). The hotel was three blocks from Oxford Street, however, so the location was excellent. It was late in the evening when I arrived, but I went a short round to see where the stores were.

Monday I walked along Oxford Street, Bond Street and passed Piccadilly Circus on the way to Leicester Square where the ticket booth for the musicals is. I got a ticket for a show that evening, and then started browsing the stores selling books, clothes, shoes and souvenirs. There were lots of super expensive designer boutiques like Burberry, Calvin Klein, Herm├ęs, Bulgari, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and so on. Interesting to see, but not for my budget. The exchange rate made everything pretty expensive, unfortunately. I did get some books with cookie recipes, though. (Since some readers of this blog will receive items I got in London as Christmas gifts, I cannot reveal all the details)!

Monday evening I saw the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre. It was a marvelous musical with complicated decor changes, powerful music and singing, impressive costumes, and it included a falling chandelier and a theatre ghost, among other things. High class entertainment.

Tuesday morning I went shopping again. The underwear department at Marks & Spencer is large, and I got some things there for myself. There was another store, Evans, that sold clothes of my size (the only one I could find, sadly) and I got some small items there. After dropping off the bags at the hotel, I took the subway to South Kensington. Riding the subway in London requires orientation skills and patience. After three train rides and a walk through a long tunnel, I arrived at the Victoria & Albert Museum. It's a large place with very diverse collections, gathered from all over the world, but mainly from Asia and the East. I looked at the enormous tapestries from the 16th century (some of them over 40 square meters large), and the textile department with laces, embroidery and woven materials from the 5th century and on. Incredible craftsmanship. There was also a room filled with jewelry and gemstones from 1000 B.C. until the present day. Very interesting.

Lunch was at an Italian brasserie, a chicken club sandwich with chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Very tasty. Spent quite a long time at Harrod's, the big and famous store. They had a large area with Christmas decorations and I made some purchases there. I browsed through the other shops in that area also. One sales assistant in the Accessorize store changed language when she saw my credit card - she was Swedish. There are lots of Swedes in London, not only tourists. I had dinner at Hard Rock Cafe - the original restaurant. The Cobb Salad was very nice. Talkative waiter. The stores close at 9 pm, so there was more time to shop after dinner. I went to Selfridges, a large department store celebrating 100 years, and found even more Christmas decorations there. After a short rest at the hotel, I went for a walk in the area just west of there. It was different than the touristy areas. The stores had signs in Arabic and sold strange food items and offered Chinese herbal medicine.

Wednesday I left the hotel in the morning and walked north to the Marylebone area. There were some book stores and charity shops there. I walked up Baker Street and looked at the statue of Sherlock Holmes and visited the memorabilia store that bears his name. After even more souvenir shopping (an egg cup for my collection, for instance), I took the subway to Victoria Station. Lunch was once again at an Italian place, Bella Italia. The chicken was excellent and the dessert, The Godfather, was too. Brownie, ice-cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, chocolate chips and pieces of fudge..... It was raining and there wasn't much interesting to see or do in that area, so I took the train back to the airport in the afternoon. Did the last shopping in some of the taxfree shops there and had a traditional bacon cheeseburger for dinner before boarding the plane back to Copenhagen in the evening. It's a two hour flight and it was actually on time. I was lucky with the train connections on the way home, and arrived at my apartment at midnight.

Generally, the visit in London didn't include as much shopping as I had thought. I never had to check my luggage on the way back, it passed as carry-on. Personally I didn't find that much to buy, but it was still interesting to see what's in fashion, and the museum, the show and the architecture were fascinating also. It takes a while before you get used to the traffic, since they drive on the left side of the road. Even though there were few ordinary cars in the city center (due to toll roads), it's not a healthy city to live in. It's very dirty and noisy. And I can't help comparing the subway to the one in New York. It's definitely easier, cheaper and faster than the London system.

There were no surprises at work today, but I was told I had been missed. It's a fairly busy time of the year. I did notice that I had been walking a lot lately, my legs and feet hurt.

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