Today was a shopping day. I was on a mission. I’ve lost a little weight, and the jeans I’ve been wearing are too loose. Like falling-down-loose.
I’m not exactly skinny, but I finally felt comfortable enough recently to buy some skinny jeans/jeggings before I left. Unfortunately, I’m a tall woman and clothing off the rack from most stores doesn’t fit me well. So the jeggings fit, but they bag in the seat. That kind of defeats the purpose of skinny trousers! Not to mention, it’s not fun running for the bus and hiking up your britches at the same time.
There’s a store called Long Tall Sally from whom I ordered some black leggings. They fit–in fact, they were too long because I had no clue what my inseam measurement was. They have a store in London, on Chiltern Street north of Oxford Street. So that’s where I went today.
First, I stopped at 187 Piccadilly, at Hatchards Bookshop, which I found on Buzzfeed just last night. Founded in 1797, Hatchards is the oldest bookshop in London. I’m sure its proximity to Fortnum and Mason (next door) has helped it, but it’s also one of the most lovely bookshops I’ve ever been in.
Next, I went to Fortnum and Mason, at 181 Piccadilly. This department store has been there since 1707. It has lovely china, food hampers, a food section, things for the home, and everything tea. I wish someone would buy me one of the hampers for Christmas. They are amazing.
It’s quite a posh store. But they are nice–they don’t snoot at you. If you dress up a bit when you go to places like this, you’ll feel like you fit in.
I bought two tea cozies (a thing you put over the teapot to keep it hot), one for me and one for my mum. I also got some Earl Grey in one of their beautiful signature tins. In addition to that, I had some of the Earl Grey and scones in a very nice upstairs ice cream eatery called The Parlour.
Photo: Elizabeth West
Fortnum & Mason is famed for its loose-leaf tea and its world-renowned luxury picnic hampers, which the store first distributed to Victorian High Society for events such as the Henley Regatta and Ascot Races. These hampers – which contain luxury items such as Stilton cheese, champagne, quails’ eggs and smoked salmon – remain popular today, especially at Christmas time and can cost (as of 2008) from £35 to £25,000.
I wish someone would buy me one of those food hampers. They are magnificent.
Speaking of post and quails’ eggs, while trying to find Long Tall Sally, I walked up Bond Street and past some of the most expensive stores in the universe. Prada, Hermès, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and more. One place had emeralds the size of quails’ eggs in the window. I tried not to fog up the glass.
After walking for what seemed like forever, I found it! An hour and an ungodly amount of money later, I had two black and one blue pairs of skinny jeans–THAT ACTUALLY FIT. No more worrying about my trousers falling down, and I look good in them.
It looked like rain (and it did, later), so I decided to go home for the evening even though there were things I still wanted to do. Plus my feet were killing me from walking so much down Oxford Street. Which, by the way, is a zoo.
I’ve talked about the tube and trains, so today I’ll talk about London buses. They’re red, and many of them are double-decker. It’s easy to ride them–you just touch your Oyster card on the button when you get on. You don’t have to touch out like you do on the tube when you get off–it’s a flat rate. Not only are they much cheaper than the tube, but if you sit up top, you can see a lot.
The bus announces what bus it is repeatedly, and there is a digital screen where the upcoming stops appear. It’s quite modern. If you know what stop you’re getting off at, when you see it or hear the announcement, just press the red Stop button on the pole and the bus will let you off there.
Some of the stops have red backgrounds on them and some have white:
At the white ones, the bus will usually stop automatically (if someone is waiting or presses the button), but at the red, you have to flag them down. The drivers will sometimes stop anyway if they see you, but if you stand up and hold your arm out, you’ll guarantee it. You don’t have to wave frantically, or hang it out there for an hour; just stand near the curb and raise it. The driver will see you.
It’s not hard to figure out where the bus you need goes. And you can always ask someone, or ask the drivers. They’re used to questions.
Like the tube, the buses can get crowded at rush hour. Both conveyances have priority seats for older or pregnant passengers, or people who have trouble standing. At peak time, you have to play human Tetris as everyone tries to squeeze in.
It’s the best way to see London–up close and the way a Londoner would. I’m desolate that my holiday is almost over. I’m going to have to come back and just ride around for a week or so, seeing what I can and feeling my pulse sync with that of the city. Going home is going to be hard.