I’m a very routine-oriented person: I have specific days where I do specific things and they generally happen at the same time every time. Before we were all thrown into the chaos of a global pandemic, my Saturday mornings were reserved for grocery shopping – a task that seems utterly mundane and like a waste of a weekend morning when you live in an exciting city like London. So imagine my delight when my local grocery store went back to pre-pandemic opening times and I could do my shopping on Friday before working from home instead. Suddenly I had entire weekends ahead of me to do whatever I pleased!
I spent my first “free” Saturday enjoying one of London’s best Saturday activities: visiting Portobello Road Market.
While Portobello Road Market is open six days a week, Saturdays are considered the highlight. All the antiques dealers open their arcades, and you can walk up and down the street and not only try out delicious food, but also get your hands on some vintage treasures.
The market has become a bit of an Instagram sensation and is usually crawling with tourists. I parked my bicycle down a side street in Notting Hill and was shocked when I reach Portobello Road to see how comfortably full it was.
Of course, a market without tourists is still charming – especially when you are meant to socially distance, having a bit more space in the street is always welcome. All of the stall owners were friendly and chatty. It was a great opportunity to see the locals pop down to do their shopping.
I made sure to walk the whole length of the market before buying anything, but in the end I couldn’t resist. I bought jewellery from a fellow Canadian and an adorable tier cake stand made of old china. (You know, for all the afternoon teas I serve at my place.)
I was spoilt with choice for lunch. Just after the A40 underpass is a collection of food stalls – but these are not your average food stalls. You can get food from all over the world here, and almost everyone was offering free samples. I settled on a Venezuelan cachapa which was the perfect fuel to keep me wandering through the neighbourhood.
Notting Hill is a famously charming part of London thanks in part to Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, but I have to admit to having very limited experience with it (and I’ve never seen the film). It didn’t take very long for me to see why this part of the city is so beloved. While plenty of corners of London have quaint, brightly-painted terraced houses, Notting Hill has them on another level.
Every street I looked down I saw a burst of colour or a palette of pastels. The trees were perfectly placed and every house door brought character to its home. I pictured myself living in that house, then that one, then that one! And to be honest, it made me appreciate London all over again. In a year where travel has been hugely disrupted, I can’t think of another place I would rather be “stuck” in. Around every corner there is something new to explore.
While in the neighbourhood I decided to visit a couple of places recommended by The Londoner. First I picked up a cookie for the road at Biscuiteers Baking Company.
And for an afternoon snack, I headed to Ottolenghi. I queued for quite a while behind couples and families keen to stock up on their deli items, but I had just one thing in mind: a croissant.
From there I took a walk to Holland Park. It was the first time I’d actually been inside the park, and I was mesmerized by the long, tree-covered pathway to enter. The park itself is full of little treasures like the Kyoto Garden, rose garden, and Holland House.
I took a seat in the sunshine to enjoy my croissant in all its flaky goodness. It really was amazing – no butter or jam required.
(I thought I had a photo of it but I guess I just couldn’t wait another second to devour it.)
It’s safe to say Notting Hill has become a regular part of my weekend walks since this visit. I fell in love with Portobello Road Market. When my mom came to visit I took her there during the week and treated myself to a vintage coat from one of the fashion shops. I’ve already got my heart set on a few more old-fashioned dishes. If I was a local, I’d be there all the time! Sadly I will have to settle for the occasional shopping trip limited to whatever can fit in my bike basket.