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With the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations and the Olympics all in one year, London is certainly the town to be in at the moment!  I’m lucky enough to visit London a few times a year, ostensibly to keep my husband company, he HATES to travel alone, but basically, to fit in a shopping spree of epic proportions.  Living in South Africa for a large part of the year, I feel like a deprived child when it comes to fashion, so, oh boy, when I get to London, I let loose, and rue my credit card statement for the next few months!

Ideally, I like to go in spring, as, except for skiing, I’m mostly in my summer wardrobe, and I hate shopping in autumn when the shops are full of black and grey and brown.  Soooo depressing.  I also can’t stand the sales in London, everything jammed on rail after rail, women pulling and shoving and bumping, and places like Selfridges and Harrods are the worst.  They’ll actually step over your unconscious body.  I also find people on Oxford street incredibly rude, someone will bump into you so hard you’re left with a bruise, and they’ll pass you by without so much as an ‘excuse me’.  Maybe it’s because that’s where all the tourists are?  It’s very much every man for himself.

That said, I love a bargain as much as the next girl, so if there’s a pair of Choo’s you’ve had your eye on for ages, the sales would be the perfect time to pick it up, but your timing has to be impeccable, and then you pray that they still have your size in stock.  Generally, I’d just rather pay full price for something that I love, than go home with something that’ll end up hanging in my cupboard with the tag on, because it was less 70%.

London is the most amazing place for shopping.  I love high-street fashion, and they do it so much better than in New York, Paris or Milan.  And, strangely enough, I’ve compared prices of the big designer brands, and Prada or Gucci was no cheaper in Milan than it is in London.  And the variety…., I get complete fashion overload.  3 to 5 days is normally enough, then I’m exhausted and broke.  We’ve discussed a few times moving back to London (my husband M lived there for 20 years), but, like he rightly said, we’ll be bankrupt in no time.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the food.  I think restaurants in London are among the best in the world.  I’ve had much much better Italian food in London than I’ve ever had in Italy.  There are just too many good ones to choose from.  We had lunch in a little place called Cavallino, not somewhere we’ve ever heard of before, and it was FANTASTIC.  The best cotoletta alla milanese I’ve tasted in years, if not ever.  M used to be in the restaurant business in London for many years, so it’s always great to see what’s new and happenening, and to eat VERY well.  We had dinner at the new hotspot, members club, The Arts club, and even though it was 11 o’clock at night, and the place was absolutely bursting at the seams,  they managed to serve the best meal I’ve had this year.  Out-of-this-world.   Don’t ask me what I had, there was a whole table laden with food, but I recall the creamiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever had (especially for dinner?), with white truffles, and there was a yellowtail tartare with lime and ginger dressing I’ll remember forever.  Tian of crab, lamb chop with red pepper relish, the rest, after many many cocktails, is a bit of a blur, but I will be going back for more for sure!  Also, after spending enough time in Switzerland, the prices don’t even seem that shocking.  Food in supermarkets are certainly cheaper than in most European countries, in fact, some of it’s even cheaper than in South Africa, and the general quality and variety is fantastic.  Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Tesco, I just love walking through the aisles.  Oh, and the food department at Harrods…………  and the chocolate area in Selfridges, and the teas at Fortnum and Mason, and the rooftop supermarket in Harvey Nichols, and the Hummingbird bakery, and Ottolenghi, and Nobu and the Borough market, oh, I’ll be bankrupt, and fat!, if I lived in London…

Well, needless to say, with all the eating and shopping, I never actually do any of the sights in London, but isn’t it enough to just soak in the atmosphere?  But one day, one day, I’m going to make it to the natural history museum, to see what a PROPER cabinet of curiosities looks like….

Tea tea lovely tea, I can never get enough of all the gorgeous packaging, even though I don’t actually DRINK tea….  Fortnum and Mason is one of my favourite stops for a tin or two, and they’re lovely as gifts.

And is there a more elegant picnic basket than this?

Talking of tea, that should of course be one of the ‘must-do’ things when visiting London.  A good old fashioned afternoon high tea.  One of my favourites is at the Berkeley London, where their designer afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea, is inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world.

The new Spring / Summer 2012 collection sees designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Jason Wu and Valentino grace the Berkeley’s tea stand.  Prêt-à-Portea adds a creative twist to the traditional English afternoon tea with cakes and pastries resembling the latest designs for the style conscious.  I loved when Anya Hindmarch made little handbag-shaped biscuits, I just couldn’t bear to eat them!

Just in time for the diamond jubilee!  Tea at the Berkeley

This their menu at the moment, don’t you just wish you could be there?

  • Gucci art deco Grand Marnier and dark Valrhona chocolate mousse embellished with golden beads
  • Mulberry white chocolate crème de menthe and raspberry mousse topped with a lemon meringue
  • Fendi nautical red and white striped vanilla cake filled with fraise des bois cremeux accessorized with oversized yellow button
  • Christian Louboutin must have neon yellow high heeled chocolate biscuit with signature red sole
  • Jason Wu romantic cherry bavarois and coconut cream topped with playful pink skirt and biscuit heel
  • Miu Miu 1950’s inspired vanilla bikini biscuit with red hot icing and playful white bow
  • Valentino romantic peach cake dress with light pink champagne jelly and edible flower
  • Dolce & Gabbana light blue Sicilian blueberry sponge cake wicker basket wrapped in chocolate
  • Michael Kors safari opera cake with dark chocolate and mocha filling topped with signature leopard print

Now, according to Belleabouttown, the five best places for afternoon tea in London is at The Dorchester, The Langham, The Metropolitan, The Berkeley, and the Orangerie at Kensington palace.  Be sure to try one next time you’re in London!

The arts club is London’s oldest art club.  This grand Mayfair institution, co-founded by Charles Dickens, has entertained the likes of Whistler, Kipling, Degas and many a Royal Academician since it first opened nearly 150 years ago.

Having undergone a major, year-long refurb the place has an uber plush new look (no boho touches or shabby chic here) and a star-studded committee; Gwyneth Paltrow has collaborated on the décor with David d’Almada and Mark Ronson is in charge of the music.  Stella McCartney is a patron, also HRH Prince Philip.  The club’s  restaurant is currently home to the hottest tables in town, with superstar chef Raphael Duntoye (from Le Petite Maison) overseeing a delectable menu, and has a world class contemporary art collection.

I spent a WHOLE DAY in the Selfridges shoe gallery.  Does that make me a bad person?

It seemed that if you didn’t own a pair of glossy rose gold shoes, you simply weren’t current, darling!  And if they look like something out of the Jetsons, living in space, even better!

Louboutin, oh Louboutin

I lost my heart to these…

Every girl needs a pair of party shoes to dance the night away in!

What is not to love about Alaïa?

Lanvin

The stylist, Rachel Zoe, has her own shoe range now.  Not really my style, seeing as I’m nearly 6 foot tall, and with rather large feet, I need to steer clear of the platforms.  Otherwise I scare small children and men.

I also popped downstairs to their interior section, and loved the antler mural.  And can you ever have too many beautiful mirrors or cloches?

Then off to the Harrods food hall for a snack, before I undergo some more retail therapy.

Checked out Tom Ford’s new shoe collection…

Fell in love with these intricate leather pieces…

Then Liberty London for some Liberty print diaries…

I discovered a fantastic new shop by Latvian designer Atis Artemjevs, floating, frothy creations, wth the most innovative draping, and the wonderful assistant, that gave us tips on her favourite Icelandic restaurants, a real gem!

Now, I’m not normally one for second-hand/vintage shops (same problem with digging through rails of clothes), but I did find a fabulous shop, Sign of the times, just off the Kings road, stocking Alexander McQueen, Cavalli, Dior, Gucci etc etc. All lovely, on trend fashion with not a mothball in sight. A McQueen dress would set you back about £150-£300, Dior for £250, and I bough a gorgeous emerald green dress by Bruce Oldfield for £100.  See, told you I loved a bargain!

Had to stop off at two of my favourite shops, French sole and Blue Velvet, to pick up some ballet pumps, I know, we’re so tired of them, but they’re great if you have to walk miles and miles!

I also tried to do lots of research on interiors, and stopped off at as many places as I could.  Saw some wonderful driftwood tables and mirrors at Oka, reindeer ice-bucket at India Jane (it’ll work in the chalet),  crystal at William Yeoward, fabrics at Designers guild, oh the list goes on.  Spent waaaay too much time in Anthropology – will post that tomorrow – and had a good look around Ralph Lauren.

I love the marble topped table in Ralph Lauren

The linens were incredibly intricate, I’d love to dress a very feminine bedroom in these..

French connection has started a home-ware collection.  Very calm beach-side chic…

Very cool campaign-style chair

After a long day of shopping, back to the Berkeley, the Blue bar this time, for a well deserved glass of champagne!

After 5 days in London, I’m well and truly exhausted.  One of my best friends is a buyer for a big fashion chain – is that every girl’s dream job, or what? – and I truly don’t know how she does it.  I’m suffering from complete sensory overload, too much information to process, and a monster hangover from all the party-ing and dining.

Thanks to said hangover, I had to cancel our table at Heston Blumenthal’s London restaurant, Dinner, and I’m completely devastated!  I was SO looking forward to it, I’m obsessed with that man’s cooking, but I just can’t seem to drag myself out of bed on a rainy Sunday night in London.

Boohoo, so sad, I’ll just have to go back to London soon!

Ta-dah for now!