My favorite place in London is, without a doubt, Notting Hill. It’s not just because I have been hoping to run into Hugh Grant for years (movie Hugh Grant not real life Hugh Grant)…though that wouldn’t be an awful turn of events. Notting Hill is filled with colorful houses reminiscent of Rue Crémieux in Paris (though it is much more crowded), with streets of creamy white houses thrown in for good measure.
Every Saturday on Portobello Road, there is a huge market, with everything from antique jewelry and china to clothes to fresh produce. As the cold sinks in, several vendors take advantage and ladle out cups of mulled wine for shoppers. The market is always crowded and it takes a discerning eye to see what’s authentic and what’s a ploy for tourists.
The last time I went to the market, I was overwhelmed by crowds and despite my searching, found nothing that really caught my eye (that, however, didn’t stop me from leaving with armfuls of scarves and dresses). This time was much more fruitful – we found deals on English teacups and “antique” jewelry (everything I touched was, “60 years old! From the 1950’s!” Perhaps one of the aforementioned tourist traps) and watches.
What I find most interesting abut Notting Hill, though, is how it changed after Notting Hill. The blue door from the movie adorns postcards and books and paintings all over the neighborhood, as tourists scramble with cameras to find it in real life. Though the Travel Bookshop became the Notting Hill Bookshop just months after my last visit, the shop still draws crowds — and now is more lenient on the photography indoors (they also now carry books other than travel books, including one about Notting Hill the neighborhood and how it’s changed).
We ended our long day of marketing with Caribbean food and cocktails at The Rum Kitchen, a small Caribbean chain in London. (Fun fact: Notting Hill used to be popular among Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s because of the low rent…which now is a mere dream for all Londoners). The chicken was spicy and the drinks were strong; it was the perfect precursor to an evening at Harrods and at Oxford Circus.
Though I’m still holding out hope for a run-in with Hugh Grant during future Notting Hill visits, this is the London neighborhood that keeps me coming back again and again — next time, hopefully for longer.