7 Sep 2012

The (Late) Lowdown on London (Part 2)

Sorry Mr Lou Reed but when in London I didn't "walk on the wild side". Rather I took the road well travelled. Staying so close to what the capital city has to offer in terms of "mainstream" action, I even had the luxury to be able to walk here, there and everywhere. No need for the Tube, for buses, carts or horses, yay!

This was one of the advantages about the Kingsley by Thistle Hotel, Bloomsbury Way. As you step out, you turn right and carry all the way up. Or you might nip to the back like I did and wander down the back streets in order to avoid the heavier traffic, past the British Museum, down Charlotte Street, and end up towards Harley Street (if vanity is your thing!). I actually had a bit of a field day down the Charlotte Street area, past the media agencies and advertising studios. That took me back years when I used to work in the industry.

As long as your London tastes are pretty tame, you will find the Kingsley Hotel to be at the heart of the action in relation to London's main shopping venues including Oxford Street and Covent Garden, museums (British Museum, Tate Britain) and entertaining hotspots (The West End). The beauty of it was that I could even nip back to the hotel during the day if I wanted to put my feet up for a while, change shoes, brew up a coffee or whatever tickled my fancy. This was no rock'n'roll city break, and this is probably why I got bored somehow!

In terms of refreshments taking you from AM to PM, there's only so many Starbucks, Prêt A Mangers and Costa Coffees you can handle. They have watered down the high street to saturation level and if you are telling me their expansionist mission has not yet reached its peak I scream!

On the retail front, some stores had me wobbly with anticipation but sadly didn't live up to my (somewhat inflated) expectations. Anthropologie (on Regent Street) was one of them. As much as I find the brand identity cool online, it fell pretty flat on the high street, in terms of store design and display. The wares looked lost in store. Interestingly I am told that Regent Street used to be a pretty exclusive shopping destination, once boasting an array of high-end one-of-a-kind flagship stores whereas now it seems to be nothing more than an extension of Oxford Street, pure and simple.

Kate Spade London (Covent Garden)

Talking of Oxford Street, I was left disappointed by another American brand that had me raving years ago when I first discovered it on a trip to Santa Barbara, CA: Urban Outfitters. The one on Oxford Street failed the test. The store design was a shambles and no wares actually caught my eye. I left empty-handed. Where are those cool vintage tee-shirts?

A trip to London wouldn't have been so without Liberty and Selfridges on the list. Liberty is still packed-full with style and character, despite my initial fears. Their stationery department is a treasure trove, and the iconic Liberty floral fabrics still have that magnetic hold on visitors.

Liberty's fresh flower stall

Selfridges is one big high-end shopping mecca, a house of mostly luxury brands that enabled me to get close and personal with the likes of Christian Louboutin and wonder what this is all about, unless you are planning to trade your looks as Belle de Jour... I wandered down the Tiffany aisle and then even treated myself to a deluxe microdermabrasion facial at Groom.

While I was at it, I even booked a hair colour from the Toni & Guy Academy (New Oxford Street) across from my hotel. I might as well have. The colour was fabulous and it made me feel good for the rest of my stay. (to be continued)

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