January 04, 2017

World Class London

I don’t do a lot of shopping when I travel but London has some unique shops to explore including Europe’s largest book store, the world’s largest toy store, and the world’s most famous department store. In between visits to these retail giants, I also fit in a nostalgic hour with the world’s greatest rock and roll band, The Rolling Stones.

Harrods Department Store, London

We began our shopping tour at the top of Regent Street with a small detour past the Liberty department store with its distinctive mock-Tudor design.

Liberty Department Store

A little further on was pedestrian Carnaby Street, the centre of Swinging London in the 1960s. The Spirit of Soho mural at the corner of Carnaby and Berwick Streets celebrates the life and people of the Soho neighbourhood.

London's Carnaby Street

Spirit of Soho Mural (1991)

Back on Regent Street is Hamleys, the world’s largest toy store with seven floors of toys. The scene was like a sideshow as employees demonstrated their wares to an audience of excited children. The life-sized Royals built out of Lego blocks also drew a crowd.

Hamleys Toy Store

Thomas the Tank Engine

The Lego Royals

Regent Street ends at Piccadilly Circus and the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain topped by the statue known as Eros. Waterstones Piccadilly (Europe’s largest book shop with six floors of books and eight miles of bookshelves) was much quieter than Hamleys. We paused for a relaxing lunch at the store's 5th View Bar and Restaurant – much more affordable than neighbouring options like The Wolseley or The Ritz.

Piccadilly Circus

Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain

Waterstones on Piccadilly

Harry Potter Window Display at Waterstones

Waterstones 5th View Bar and Restaurant

Club Sandwich

The Ritz on Piccadilly

Piccadilly is also home to London’s elegant Victorian shopping arcades. The window of the St. Petersburg Collection in the Princes Arcade was filled with decorative eggs by Theo Fabergé. His ancestors created the famous series of jewelled Easter eggs for the Russian imperial family.

St. Petersburg Collection

The chocolatiers at nearby Prestat invented the truffle and their sweet confections were the inspiration for Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The company has been granted a Royal Warrant as Purveyors of Chocolates to Her Majesty the Queen. I treated myself to one of their delicious champagne chocolate truffles for £1.

Prestat in the Princes Arcade

The Royal Warrant

Truffles Fit for a Queen

French patisserie Ladurée (creators of the macaron) welcomes shoppers to the Burlington Arcade where British Vogue was celebrating 100 years with an installation of its magazine covers.

Ladurée in the Burlington Arcade

Returning to Piccadilly we arrived at The Queen’s grocer, Fortnum & Mason, to see the figures of Mr. Fortnum and Mr. Mason bowing to each other as the clock above the entrance chimed the hour. The store windows were decked out in an Alice in Wonderland theme.

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason Clock

Alice in Wonderland Themed Windows

Teas at Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason Staircase

We then took a break from the London retail scene with a visit to the Saatchi Gallery on Duke of York Square. The gallery was hosting Exhibitionism, an exhibit on the amazing 50-year history of The Rolling Stones. The exhibit features a recreation of the band mates' 1962 flat (what a mess!), many of their instruments, outfits worn on world tours, and ends with a 3D concert performance. Photography isn't allowed so I had to settle for shots of the iconic tongue logos displayed in the square. Exhibitionism is now in New York City until March 2017. (The band continues to please fans with their latest CD, Blue and Lonesome.)

Terrace of the Gallery Mess Restaurant at the Saatchi Gallery

Rolling Stones Tongue Logo on Duke of York Square

After the exhibition there was one more store on our itinerary: Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. I made my way to the Food Hall for my first taste of caviar (I liked it!) and a glass of pink champagne. This little splurge set me back £10 for the caviar and £13.50 for the champagne.

Caviar House & Prunier in Harrods Food Hall

Pink Champagne...

... and Caviar

Model of Downtown Dubai

Harrods in Legos

Star Wars Gallery

Next week we'll travel back in time with a journey to the cathedral city of Canterbury aboard the sister train of the legendary Orient Express.

My Tip for the Day:
A taste of luxury can be sampled for an affordable price in some of London’s most exclusive shops.

Next:  Sister Train to the Orient Express


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