Friday, April 29, 2011

{Good Grapes Destination} London!

Hello good grapes!  As I mentioned in the previous post, our friend, Christina, is giving us the scoop on dishing and shopping, should you ever find yourself in London.  So happy to have her share her travel diary with us!  And insanely jealous she got to visit our dear Fio, how we miss her!  Thanks, C!

Admittedly, I did nothing to prepare for my recent trip to London.  The way I saw it, why prepare?  I was visiting a friend that lived in the city.  She has great taste, so I knew I’d be well taken care of, even if the only planning on my part was deciding which flats to pack.  I glanced through one tourist book and saw the usual suggestions…tea at the Ritz, a visit to Piccadilly Circus, etc.  But for my trip, I surrendered myself to the whims of my friend who currently lives there, and trusted in her judgment.  Luckily, she did not let me down.

Where we ate:
·         Thomas Cubbitt:  Tucked away in residential Belgravia (one of the wealthiest districts in the world) on Elizabeth Street, is Thomas Cubbitt.  A small restaurant, popular among locals (or so it appeared), it was a terrific place to get the English staple of fish and chips (which apparently is something mainly eaten by tourists).  Happy to be a tourist, I indulged in their healthy version on a particularly sunny day, with all the windows of the restaurant wide open.
·         The Providores:  As if Marylebone High Street weren’t enjoyable enough, stopping here for wine and small plates was an excellent diversion to a day of…well, ok, I was a tourist, I didn’t need to be diverted from anything because my day was already pretty great.  But if I were, let’s say, trying to beat the crowds sure to be present during the weekend of the Royal Wedding, I would surely stop in here for a bite. 
·         Gordon’s Wine Bar:  If you love wine, and you crave an intimate, interesting environment (aka, a cave), this place is a must see.  Make the trip to Embankment and get a bottle of wine, a plate of cheese and cozy up with your friends for happy hour.  You won’t be sorry you stopped to check it out.
Just like we would do on a gorgeous day, C opts for a cool rose wine instead of tea!

Where to shop:
·         Harrods:  Is this a tourist destination?  Yes.  Is this a place where locals would go to find that perfect outfit for their wedding viewing party? No.  Did I care?  No.  It is shopping heaven.  A full city block of sheer shopping splendor.  Located in Knightsbridge, it’s Vegas meets Disneyland meets 5th Avenue.  If you like shopping, go here.  Be a tourist, stop at their chocolate shop (did I mention Disneyland?  Because Walt Disney has nothing on Harrods chocolate shop) and get a truffle or two, and just enjoy the grandeur of it all.
·         Selfridges:  Is this a tourist destination? Not really.  Is THIS the place for Londoners to get that perfect hat for the wedding?  Yes.  This Oxford Street department store isn’t much different from a NYC Bloomingdales…but you’re in London, so it seems amazing.
·         Primark:  When both the woman sitting next to my on flight to London AND my friend suggested Primark as thee place to go for significantly discounted items, I had to check it out.  There are several throughout the city to be found, and all offer amazing deals.  You may need to weed through some less desirable items, but the buys I found made it well worth the searching.

As a US tourist, ask for the tax exempt paperwork on all of your big ticket items.  Those Jimmy Choos you purchase in London have a sales tax built into the cost, but as a non-resident you can avoid that charge by taking the receipt and paperwork to the customs officials at the airport.  I won’t bore you with the math, but you save a lot of money.
C at the London Eye with Fi.  Can't I be photoshopped in? ~A

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