Mar, 2010 12

markets/shopping 3 MUST SEE Shopping Jewels in the Covent Garden Crown

Under the covered marketplace in Covent Garden are a great number of regularly appearing, or occasionally appearing vendors who make fine, unusual, high-quality English goods that stand out in a crowd, without a doubt.

Covent Garden is a shopping mecca for tourists, of course, but for the English, as well. The three vendors that I mention and highly endorse here are vendors that I have bought from, have spoken to at length about their products and am very impressed with. I love the fact that all of their items are made in England and made with pride. Please check out their beauty and very reasonable prices:

AMY CHRISTIE: sells “hand blown and kiln- fired crystal glass jewelry”. The glass is paired with sterling silver and each piece is its own unique statement. Amy and Simon, a husband and wife team own and operate the company and the stall at Covent Garden. Their work is of exceptional high quality; is substantial-looking, with contemporary styling that will truly impress. My cousin recently bought three pieces from them and I went back a few days later as I could not get one of their rings out of my head. You know that feeling of “I must have it…!” So, off I went and purchased my ring which happened to be on sale that day.  Since, I have received countless compliments on the ring, even having a woman following me in Heathrow to ask me where I got it! And, the bonus?: not only is the jewelry beyond statement-making, it is incredibly comfortable to wear.

Sometimes Amy is at the stall, sometimes Simon and often one of their helpers. The helper I have met was one of the most gracious shop-keepers around and went so far as to ask someone to watch her stall as she searched for my cousin in Covent Garden who had left behind her credit card.

Each visit, I have been greeted with politeness and enthusiasm for their product, plus a willingness to allow us to try on as much as we would like. Do pay them a visit and tell them that April sent you. Visit their web-site here:

SUITCASE ~ Recycled in London: is a stall that I have visited on several trips to London and have to say I am well impressed with not only the quality of work, but the ingenuity of idea that is SUITCASE. Edson Raupp founded the company in 1995 and still personally operates his company that sells the cleverest, sleekest looking messenger bags and small and medium bags for men or woman that can be worn over- the- shoulder, or over-the-chest. The real gem is that all the bags are made from sections of recycled men’s suits.

You won’t believe how cleverly sleeves, lapels and buttons are incorporated into the design and become a part of the usefulness of the design, as well. The detailing is intricate and beautifully thought out. I am really impressed by the craftsmanship. This is a product that would appeal to those with contemporary taste in accessories, or to the true traditionalist.

Edson’s SUITCASE stall is open in Covent Garden on Tuesdays at Stall 7 and Fridays at stall 34. Please tell him that April sent you.

His products are also available through the Victoria and Albert Museum on-line shop @ : . His web-site is:

MARTIN JONES WOODEN FLOWERS is a stall that I have regularly bought from since 2001; buying their lovely hand-turned wooden tulips made by British workers of mostly sustainable wood. The flowers are very affordable items of lasting beauty. They have made wonderful gifts for co-workers, friend’s birthdays and I often add to the large bouquet I have of them on my desk.

The tulips come in “open” and “closed”, along with wooden leaves if you choose. Martin Jones sell their own handmade wooden vases to accompany them, but my choice has been to put my bouquet in a very contemporary vase which makes a striking statement that reminds me of Spring, even in the dead of winter.

The stall keepers for Martin Jones are also polite and welcoming, willing to help you make your selection, or to leave you to shop in peace. Sometimes I have met Martin’s son at the stall and he is a great ambassador for his father’s work. Visit their web-site here:

Mentioning in each of these instances the welcoming attitude of the stall keepers or owners is intentional, as their attitude is not exhibited by all in Covent Garden. It is a true shame, that. Maybe the daily onslaught of shoppers causes some to be less welcoming. In any case, I can happily point out that at these three stalls your business will be most appreciated and you will be greeted accordingly.

Come along with me….London calling….

Mar, 2010 11

markets/shopping Give Your Shopping $ to a Good Cause in London

One of the many things the English do so well is support their charities with “charity shops”, (somewhat like our thrift shops, but much better) dotted plentifully all over London. The difference with these shops is that each shop supports one particular charity (breast cancer awareness, hospice, Oxfam, Save the Children, etc,), most of the shop help is volunteer. You can chose what charity your shopping dollars/pounds will go to according to the shop you buy from.

These charity shops are often an absolute surprising wealth of vintage, near- vintage, like new and actually new. My recent score were Ben Sherman summer flats, never-worn, with the tags still on for 9 pounds. They retailed for 68 pounds.

The more chi-chi-la-la the post code in London, the more expensive the donated items sometimes are. Charity shops are also an excellent source of used paperback books, sold for a pittance: an inexpensive way for you to try English authors that may be new to you.

The wonderful resource Time Out, a weekly magazine that is sold at all news agents,( and is now available as an app for your i-phone) has recently mentioned the Goodge Street OXFAM shop (in Fitzrovia, West London) that has particularly good merchandise, in part because it is located near public relation companies and fashion houses. Most of the merchandise is donated by these two sources and a good deal of their merchandise is new.

TO FIND THE OXFAM SHOP: Take the Northern tube line to the Goodge Street Tube stop. I have not yet been to this shop, but as Time Out has pointed it out to me, I will. However, the kind people at the shop have given these directions: Come out of the entrance of the Goodge Street Tube stop, turn right, staying on the same side of the road as where you came out. Take a right at the Hamburger Union and walk past the Tesco (grocery store). The OXFAM shop will be on Goodge Street, about a 5 minutes walk from the Tube station.

Come along with me….London calling….

Mar, 2010 11

markets/shopping Clothes UP~Shoes DOWN

IMG_0227Shopping in London should be a mystery only in what the various shops, boutiques and markets can reveal to us as we enter through their beckoning doors. All too often, though, the sizing in England leaves the average American woman confused–not too mentioned alarmed: that in Britain they wear a full two or three sizes larger in clothes. But, often a size and half smaller in shoes.  You can print this handy chart to take with you or just remember, “clothes up, shoes down”. Go figure….just grit your teeth and buy the larger size according to this woman’s clothing size chart:

2 6
4 8
6 10
8 12
10 14
12 16
14 18


6 4 ½
6 ½ 5
7 5 ½
7 ½ 6
8 6 ½
8 ½ 7
9  7 ½
9 ½ 8
10 8 ½

IMG_0223Oddly, men’s suit and over-coat sizing is the same in the UK as it is in the US:  a 42 regular here is a 42 regular there.

HOWEVER, men’s shoes have their own quirky sizing, as well:

7 ½ 7
8 7 ½
8 ½ 8
9 8 ½
9 ½ 9
10 9 ½
10 ½ 10
11 10 ½


 Come along with me….London calling….

Feb, 2010 12

markets/shopping One of a kind shops~London’s specialty

Travel often equals shopping opportunities not afforded to us in our own patch of the world. London excels at offering chances for your credit card to flex it muscles-and how. The markets are simply fabulous for often affordable, and one-of treasures, but while the boutiques of London may not be K-mart prices ormarket prices, they surely will provide you with items that you don’t see mass produced and sold at TJ Maxx. I have managed to find absolutely striking and affordable clothes and accessories in London’s boutiques by shopping the sales, though.

London is chock-a-block full of the usual designer shops of Armani, Stella McCartney and Burberry, but to my mind the real jewels in London’s shopping crown are the one of a kind shops that flaunt their individuality along with their wares. Some fine examples of these shops are:

Miller Harris: owned by Lyn Harris, located @ 12 Bruton Street in Mayfair, West London. Take the Piccadilly Tube line to Green Park or the Central Line to  Bond Street to get close to the shop. Google maps provides a close up map to the store.   The beauty of this small company is that you can make your own scent using their “fragrance library and laboratory”and  personal consult with the owner. It’s no surprise that such a treat would cost 8,000 pounds. BUT, the scent-obsessed among us with a much smaller budget can purchase eau de parfumes designed and made by Lyn Harris and sold in the shop from 55 to 75 pounds, or an eau de toilette from 39 to 62 pounds. Their newer range,  Nouvelle, goes for 110 pounds per 1/2 ounce bottle. There are body lotions, bath products and candles in the 24 pound to 35 pound range. Each product is made of the most natural source of the scent that can be found. If you strive to make an individual statement with the scent you wear, this may be the London shopping experience for you.

At 188 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill, West London, you will find Couveture (said Koo-ve-ture), owned by Emily Dyson a former designer for my design heart-throb, Paul Smith. Her shop specializes in two things:  luxurious detail-rich bedding and housewares as well as pieces of the collections of young French, Japanese and English clothing designers. Men and woman’s clothing and accessories can be bought here as well as, Quincy, a collection of trendy, unconventional Belgian children’s clothing . Couveture’s new web-site is crisp and beautiful and has a very detailed map of the area that the shop is located in: Notting Hill Gate Tube stop on the Central or District and Circle line, or the Ladbroke Grove Tube stop on the Hammersmith and City line will get you very close to the shop.

Rellik, at 8 Goldbourne Rd. in Ladbroke Grove , West London  is a little shop with a huge difference. While it sells the sort of sought after vintage clothes from the last 9 decades to the public, it is a shop that fashion magazine editors recognize as well above the usual standards and cull clothes from it for their various fashion shoots. One of the very kind business owners at Relliks explains directions to the shop: “Take the Tube to Westbourne Park, turn left out of the front of the station, turn left again on to Elkstone, turn right at the end of Elkstone. In front of you will be one of the tallest buildings in London, the Trellick Tower. The shop is across the street from the tower:

Accessorize, a very large English chain of shops that sell, not surprisingly, accessories. While it does not fall into the one-of shop category, it is worth a mention because it’s so fun and affordable to shop here. Is a place that I have shopped for years because they offer the kind of accessories you might need to wear to a fancy wedding or your daughter would want for her school prom. Their inventory of kitsch earrings and over-the-top sunglasses are balanced by their lovely beaded bags and scarves that look very, very chic but are actually quite cheap. Their delightful, strappy summer sandals may not be the type that you can walk a country mile in, but they offer a bit of fun  to enhance a special sundress or walking shorts and will help you look more indiviual that the average t-shirt, flip-flop wearing tourist.

Accessorize shops are all over London, but one that is easy to get to is here: Take the Bakerloo Tube line to the Embankment stop. Go out of the station through the Villiers Street exit. Walk up Villiers Street about 30 yards and the shop will be on your right.

Shop along with me….London calling…

Nov, 2009 12

markets/shopping London Can Surely Be Proud of Its Street Markets

street markets

street markets

London can surely be proud of its street markets, some of which date back to medieval times. I wonder if there is another city to rival the array of markets that London offers: each market has its own flavor, expressing its personality via the wares sold and its stall keepers, many who are colorful story-tellers in their own right. Certainly among them you will find a market, or three, that will compliment your tastes and your pocketbook. While each market does have its own personality, many markets are known for specializing in certain things: Camden Passage for antiques, Borough Market for local and imported foods and Petticoat Lane for clothing.

You will find descriptions of various, less well known markets, by clicking on the tabs to the right. Also there will be various shops that I highly recommend. Hours of operation, the type of wares sold, the Tube stop closest to the market/shop and a place for a post-shopping cup of tea, beer or snack will be included. Please check back as more markets and shops will be added as we go along.

Most Americans will be aware of Portobello Road Market from the movie Notting Hill. Go there and think of that charming scene in the movie where the bereft, love-struck Hugh Grant walks through the market while Bill Wither’s song, Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone (sung by the British duo Light House Family in this instance  plays, as the background evolves from Spring, Summer, Fall to Winter and back to Spring again.

Covent Garden Market may bring to mind Eliza Doolittle, the young Cockney flower seller in My Fair Lady. Truth be told, the actual Covent Garden flower market depicted in the movie now exists in Vauxhall, South London, where the present-day wholesale flower market takes up acres of land. The present day Covent Garden Market is now a tourist destination brimming with stalls, cafes and street performers. Avoid Saturdays if you can; the crowds make it nigh impossible to look around. As touristy as it can be, I do love it there, especially the Punch and Judy pub, upstairs above the stalls. From it’s balcony you can look down on the street performers below as you enjoy your pint of beer. I’ve had many a raucous time there, but that’s another story, to be shared once I know you better.

Even though what exists in Covent Garden now and on Portobello Road are markets highly visited by tourists, the vast majority of London street markets are heavily utilized by Londoners who carry out the centuries old tradition of shopping for fruits, vegetables, clothing and collectibles in their own areas of London.  London markets are mostly full of excellently crafted wares, many British made, often by young, up-and-coming designers or artists. There are true treasures to be found with a little searching.

My favorites markets are the Cabbages and Frocks Market located in a church yard in Marylebone, NW London, one of the few London markets whose names does not reflect its location in London. Portobello Road Market draws me always: I know some of the jewelry stall keepers located under the bridge who love to see me and my London friend coming, as filling the coffers with cheap and cheerful jewelry is our unofficial hobby. I barely land in London when we are making our way down Portobello Road on the hunt for cheap and cheerful bling.

Shop away, but be aware pick pockets frequent the markets, too. Also, bartering can be politely done with some stall holders, especially at the end of the day.

London calling….Come along with me….

Nov, 2009 12

markets/shopping Camden Passage

A quaint pedestrian passage, known the world-over as an antiques shopping destination, Camden Passage is nestled among 18th century buildings and located just steps from the exit at the Angel Tube stop in Islington…not Camden.

New Englanders would recognize Islington’s Camden Passage as a place reminiscent of Boston’s Faneuil Hall: bustling shops and shoppers perusing the most incredible assortment of fine antiques, vintage clothes, military medals and 60’s jewelry, all collected in a tidy area that makes shopping such a pleasure. Camden Passage’s shop keepers are known for their abundant knowledge of the antiques they specialize in; if your London travel will include shopping for antiques; this is most definitely the place to go.

The present Camden Passage was conceived and created by John Payton in the 6o’s. The area, having fallen into disrepair post-war, was turned, according to its web-site:
in to a “center for excellence in the antiques trade” reflecting Mr. Payton’s vision. A clever vision it was, too, as some of the shops that you see there today were built in what were formerly WWII bomb shelters, adding even more cachet to an area already rich in history. Interestingly, the founder’s daughter carries on family tradition to this day, overseeing the market and its wonderful assortment of some 200 dealers.

Intermingled with the antique shops are more modern, high-end, independent shops plus restaurants and a pub – making it a complete shopping-day-out experience. While at Camden Passage, be certain to check out the 14 different shops in Pierrepont Arcade; each shop keeper a specialists in their own field.  There is a friendly, village-like atmosphere here, with the shops’ contents spilling out onto their forecourts, where everything from a hat pin to a large piece of furniture can be found. Finbar MacDonnell, Camden Passage’s longest trading dealer, is to be found here selling an enormous selection of old prints and maps. Tell him that April, Karen’s American friend has sent you.

DAYS/HOURS: Wednesday and Saturdays- Antiques markets, 7 a.m. to approx. 4:00 p.m.(depending on the weather)
Thursday- Book market, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

TUBE STOP: Angel (Northern line)

BUSES: (ask for The Angel, Islington) 1, 19, 30, 38, 43, 56, 73, 153, 205, 214, 274, 341, and 394

POST SHOPPING DRINK/FOOD: I love the Med Kitchen, 334 Upper Street, seconds from Camden Passage, , a wonderfully decorated, welcoming spot open for beautifully prepared breakfasts, lunches and dinners from 9 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week.

Nov, 2009 12

markets/shopping Portobello Road and Covent Garden Markets: Hours and Directions:

Covent Garden Market is open 7 days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., just steps from the exit of Covent Garden Tube station (Piccadilly Line).

Portobello Road Market
is open Monday-Wednesday 8 a.m-6 p.m., Thursday 9:00 a.m-1:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 7:00 a.m.-7 p.m. Go to the Ladbroke Road Tube stop (Hammersmith and City line) or the Notting Hill Gate stop (Central, Circle and District line). While you will find shops and cafes open for a few hours on Sundays at Portobello Road, the market stalls are not open on Sundays, except for a few excellent ones under the bridge.

Nov, 2009 12

markets/shopping East Street Market

Visit this market for the true flavor of an indigenous London street market. It’s one of London’s oldest markets, operating continuously since 1880. Listen closely to hear the distinctive South London accent and the even more distinctive South London sense of humor as the stall keepers “take the Mick” out of their customers and fellow traders.

While this market is not located in the most gentrified area of London, it is definitely a market that speaks “original London” loud and clear: “Oi! Who wants a kilo of luverly-juberly tomatoes for a quid?” I just love the South London (Sarf London) accent and the humor.

Here you will find plenty of produce stalls, inexpensive fabrics and trims, books and CDs, inexpensive clothing and a slice of authentic South London served up in style. This is the market where my sweetheart bought his first Beatles records as a boy while shopping with his mother on a Saturday morning, as I was shopping at J.J. Newberry’s for my first Beatles records thousands of miles away in America. Who knows? You may find a original Beatles record at the market today, for slightly more money than the 1960s price, of course.

DAYS/HOURS: Tuesday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Saturday 8:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sunday 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., closed on Monday

TUBE: Elephant and Castle (Bakerloo line and Northern line). The market is located off Walworth Road.

BUSES: 12, 35, 40, 45, 68, 148, 171, 176, 343, 468

POST SHOPPING FOOD/DRINK: The Electric Elephant Café and Gallery is a 10 min. walk from the market at 186 Crampton Road. Open from 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, Saturday 10:00 a.m.-3:00p.m., Sunday-closed. This is a new-ish café known for healthy home-made soups and pastries, as well as for showing contemporary art by the Pullen Yard artists: