And I am not entirely sure if any amount of time could ever be 'enough' when it comes to London for me. When I was planning my visit, I was confident that ten days would be great! I would get time to see everyone I wanted to and even a bit left over to get a bit of my 'tourist' fun on. False.
The truth of the matter is that I have no reason for complaint. My week and a half was spent running from place to place, person to person, making sure that I saw as many of my nearest and dearest as possible. And how could that ever be a problem?! I have too many people who I adore :) And London is nothing to me if not the people who define it for me.
I could wax lyrical for days about what my friends mean to me and how special they made my visit (including the excuse of my birthday, to which people showed up allll week for!) but I hope it goes without saying to them and to you...they mean the world to me. So I would like to share some pictures of my visit and thought a little list of some of my favorite places in the city would be a nice way to pay homage.
Kate's Secret Guide to Her Favorite Bits of London
'Jewelry Lady' - Also known as 'Leni'. I stumbled across this gorgeous lady while looking for Christmas gifts years ago for my family on Portobello Road. She has a tiny stall, second into Crown Arcade on the right, but somehow always has the most amazing treasures. My first purchase was a pair of antique diamond and turquoise earrings and since then, I have accumulated gifts and other treats for myself from this gem, and have also successfully helped a friend purchase an engagement ring from Leni.
She has something for everyone. Inexpensive to whatthewhat?! Modern to antique. Large to small. Brooch to ring. And she is more than happy to share it all (and her insane knowledge) as long as you give her your attention back. Leni is keen to help. She wants you to be happy. She wants you to come back and see her, even if it is just to say 'hi'. She asks about my parents every time I visit her and she never fails to know exactly what it is I am looking for before I even know. If you are looking for something she doesn't have, let her know and she'll go on the hunt for you. Need something resized or dipped in silver or gold? She'll sort it out.
I wasn't able to pay Leni a visit on this trip back to London and I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little devastated about it. So go see her for me if you're in London and please tell her that I say hello and I will be back to see her as soon as I can. And try some of her things on...TREAT YO'SELF.
Crown Arcade, 119 Portobello Road, London W11
Topshop - This pick kinda goes without saying. I understand entirely that we now have Topshop in the States and it has an increasing online ecomm website. But nothing could ever beat paying a visit to their flagship store. Everyone has their own way of attacking this beast of a brick and mortar...personally, I start from the bottom upwards. On the very bottom floor is the arcade that includes the massive shoe department and collection of independent designers. Move up one floor and you can spend hours in the Topshop collection, including Boutique and Unique. And then head back to the main floor for the pandemonium of the accessories floor. 'Kid in a candy store' can not even begin to describe it. Well, it kinda can. The main floor hosts a pick and mix candy bar, cupcake stand and even frozen yogurt!
If you're getting ready for a night out, Topshop can totally be your only stop without breaking the bank. On the bottom floor, visit the Hersheson's Blow Dry Bar and get your hair sorted in no time flat before you move over to WAH Nails for some sick nail art and even get your eyebrows threaded and fake lashes put on.
Liberty of London - When you finish over at Topshop, walk a couple of minutes towards Piccadilly Circus and stop in at Liberty of London. This historic department store is my favorite in town and a place that I always go when looking for a little 'pick me up'. At its most basic, the building is beyond beautiful. In all the craziness and modernity of Oxford Circus stands this peaceful Tudor-style mansion. It has retained all its hardwood floors, gorgeous carvings and features from the original elevators. Even if you aren't going to shop (which, sorry, but one foot in the door and you WILL), it is an amazing sight and such a retreat into beauty.
But right, the shopping. I mean, it is a store...I don't even really know where to start. Yes, it is high-end but the shopping experience is second to none if you know you want to splash out. And always keep an eye out for their sales because they are a place that knows how to do that right. Their beauty department has recently expanded and is a delight to browse (I actually met one of my best friends while she was working there) and that leads to a wonderful gift hall moving directly in their INSANE scarf department. It took everything in my power to not get myself a scarf there this visit knowing that maybe I should wait until Paris. Their accessories feature known designers as well as up-and-comers which makes for a really fun place to browse and discover. Clothing goes without saying. It's amazing. And their shoe department makes you feel like Cinderella. But make sure to check out the textiles department (hello, Liberty prints) and their home decor which, to me, feels like going to a museum. It's beautiful, fun and quirky. Everything I love.
Lucy in Disguise - I have written about this gem before but it deserves another shout out. Owned by Lily Allen and her sister, this vintage shop is known for its incredible one of a kind garments but also has been making waves with its own in-house collection. They really create an experience at this shop and can sort out a day of styling, hair and make-up to get you ready for a special night out. An extra perk is that if you don't want to purchase anything but want something rather special, you can rent garments to wow your crowd. Get more information here.
Freemasons Arms - If you're looking for some freakin' awesome food with some freakin' awesome drinks, always brilliant service and a stupid beautiful setting, this is the pub for you. This place has been the scene of my birthdays, dinner with my parents (it is their fav), leaving do's, heart to hearts, just an all-round good time. The location is amazing. Right at Hampstead Heath, another one of my 'go to' places in London, where you feel less like you are in a monster of a city and more like you are being fancy on a countryside retreat. They do have a restaurant if you want something a bit more formal and I would totally support that if you're in the mood. The food is beyond amazing. I have never had a meal I didn't leave raving about. It is all surprisingly affordable and they have a delightful list of cocktails if you're feeling a bit cheeky. If the weather is nice, make sure to get a spot in the garden to the side of the building where they don't serve food but you do get a nice helping of vitamin D :) Learn more about the Freemasons here.
V&A Gift Shop - I know I am talking an awful lot about shopping but we all know what we are good at. The fact is that the gift shop at the Victoria & Albert Museum is my favorite in all the world. They have amazing prints, clothing, knick-knacks, books and little trinkets that will never leave you without a special gift to bring home. What makes this stop on my London tour even better is that the V&A is actually my favorite museum of all time. Full stop. There is something traditional yet quirky about this establishment and their special exhibitions are always fantastic. Their fashion collection is extensive and impressive and they almost always have a special fashion exhibit going on which wow's. I attended their show on ball gowns and left feeling a new lease on life. And if you're in London on the last Friday of the month, I demand you attend the Friday Late's at the museum. You get free reign of the museum after hours, there is always a theme and special events going on and there is wine and a DJ. Too cool.
I could chat for days about the things I love to do in London and maybe at some point I'll put together another installment for you but I hope this gives you some fun ideas for your own visit :)
'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life'. - Samuel Johnson