Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wandering Around Notting Hill

I'm in Cairo right now soaking up some sun and no doubt stuffing myself silly, but here's an old post I wrote awhile back...

Wandering about Notting Hill a few days ago, I remembered how great the whole area is. I know I keep banging on about it, but I really do feel lucky to live so close to iconic places like Portobello Road on one side and Kensington Gardens on the other. On the weekends, The Man and I often go for walks to take-in the local sights.

One of our favourite routes is up Kensington Church Street to Notting Hill Gate, our closest tube. From there, we turn right and follow the crowds up the curving street towards Portobello Road. The whole look of the architecture changes from gleaming white Victorian terraces to small, brightly painted cottages. Notting Hill used to be piggeries in Victorian times, and then a slum in the 1960s, home to Caribbean immigrants. The whole area got a lift when the film Notting Hill came out, and since then has continued its gentrification. Housing prices have shot up and now the area is populated by media and film types, known as 'Notting Hillies'.

Standing at the top of Portobello Road, you see a mish-mash of different stalls on the narrow road and brightly coloured houses and cafes lining the street. The road is known for its variety of antiques, and many people come looking for bargains, but I think it's pretty safe to say that there won't be any bargains found here! As in any touristy spot, prices are jacked up and haggling is pretty much a no-go (but you can try!). Mixed between the jumbled antiques are cheap clothing stands selling scarfs and other items that will fall apart after one washing.

Further on down the road is where my favourite bit begins. You have the infamous Electric Cinema, where a ticket for £15 gets you a leather armchair and side table for the duration of a film. There's a bar in the back of the cinema where you can nip back to buy any drink you like. It's so comfortable, the only issue is keeping your eyes open!

The accompanying Electric Brasserie is a sure place to spot celebs and is buzzing every night. Great cocktails, too!

Hummingbird Cupcakes makes 'fairy cakes' (as they're called here) to die for, my favourite being red velvet which has a chocolate centre and cream cheese frosting. I'm salivating just thinking about it! And across the street is Gail's, an organic bakery/cafe with great sandwiches, quiches and coffee.

If none of that does it for you, you can always catch a bite to eat from the many stalls selling everything from Bratwurst to Paella and lovely churros with chocolate sauce for dessert.Mixed between the restaurants and cafes that dominate this stretch are some funky shops with one-off buys. One of my favs is Fussy Nation. If you're looking for a card unlike any other, than this is the place to get it. My favourite bizarre thing I saw there was the 'Jesus Action Figure' set.

As you continue down the street, you'll come across the fruit and veg stalls, with the traders looking like they've stepped straight out of 1960's East London. And then the Westway, a enormous motorway overpass, looms and just when you think it's over, you discover a whole new massive clothing, vintage and jewellery market underneath. You could get lost in there for hours looking at the treasure trove of items.

And if that leaves you hungry again, there's the best place in London for falafels: Falafel King. Even The Man agrees that this is fine stuff (and having grown up with the food, I trust his judgment).

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