An Afternoon in Notting Hill

Notting Hill is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is one of my favourite areas of London. Made famous by Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in the namesake film, Notting Hill is home to so much more than the “blue door” behind which Hugh Grant stored a celebrity and his broken heart. Some of London’s best and rarest records, maps and antiques can be found in Notting Hill, as well as the historic Coronet cinema and The Gate Cinema and Bar. The food is divine, with multiple cafes, pubs and restaurants to suit every palate. (Including Jamie Oliver’s Recipease) It’s also home to the famous Portobello Markets.

Portobello Road is still littered with open shops during the week but only a few stalls which are reserved for the Saturday Portobello Market, which can get pretty crazy. I suggest you get in early and be done by lunch and avoid the “new” clothes and tourist traps and head for the legitimate bargains and vintage items. Along Portobello is Hummingbird Bakery, whom I had heard about incessantly and their lengthy lines on Saturdays. So, on a Tuesday, I headed in their to avoid the crowds. After ordering a Chai Tea Latte cupcake and a small hot chocolate, I can see why they have a following. But the place is tiny, and there are only 4 seats inside to sit comfortably at and the prices increase for “dining in” a 2.75 cupcake becomes 3.25. It’s yummy but cramped, so avoid the excess charges and eat your treats as you wonder down the colourful and delightful streets.

After the Markets and taking in the sights of some of the brilliant houses (I want one!!!) I headed to the Record and Tape Exchange shops (now Music and Video) and a second-hand book – Music and Goods Exchange – where you can easily spend hours rummaging through books. I picked up Paulo Coelho’s Brida for 2 pounds, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson for 2 pounds, I walked around the corner and found the same books for almost 8 pounds. They also buy and trade books.

There is a walking movie tour of Notting Hill which will take you to that ‘Blue Door’ Hugh Grant lived behind and the failed restaurant of his brother-in-law (as we all want to embrace others miserable failures, admit it) You can see the Powis Terrace Loft used to film the American TV show Real World: London. I don’t know what’s so real about some fraternity lads and lasses in a house they clearly could never afford shagging about a neighbourhood who has a clear disdain for anyone earning less than 80,000 pounds a year. Even Van Morrison (whom I seem to unconsciously stalking around the globe) mentions Notting Hill Gate in his song, He Ain’t Give You None.

(I am moving to the Ise of Mull (337.97 sq mi) in Scotland tomorrow but I will finish a week before my birthday in November. The Isle of Mull has some famous shipwreck stories, 2 castles and has been inhabited since the second Ice Age in 6000 BC. It also has the world number 2 wildlife tour (beaten only by a tour in Kenya) so it should be exciting, although spur of the moment.)

Have you been to Notting Hill or the Portobello Markets? What did you think?

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