Neighborhood Spotlight: Notting Hill in London

Is there anything more delicious than a vacation Monday?

Colorful buildings in Notting Hill

Sleeping in when the rest of the world is getting up. Savoring a leisurely breakfast with an extra cup of tea. This was the beginning to my Monday waking up in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London, where I spent a lazy day wandering through the Portobello Market. This stretch of Notting Hill is famed for its rows of colorful houses, along with a couple of special bookstores and of course all the fresh produce on offer at insanely low prices.

Fresh fruit in Portobello Market

For the toss of a pound coin or a two pound coin there were piles of cherries, baskets of ready-to-eat nectarines, and crisp apples. The colorful veggie displays made me wish I was cooking dinner that evening. Then there were the rustic breads, pops of color as bouquets of flowers were arranged on request, all flanked by bars and cafes offering everything from fresh oysters from the west of Ireland to fruit smoothies.

Veggies in Portobello Market

Portobello Road is also known for its antiques. The interior decorator that I didn’t know existed inside me was drawn to ancient leather chairs, compasses from the 19th century, and intricate, glowing globes. These antique stores are the ones you can never find when actually looking for furniture. Record players, antique golf clubs, hand-sewn boxing gloves — there were antiques for every personality type. Men actually seemed to be enjoying sifting through the over-stuffed shops.

The famous Portobello Market runs along Portobello Road in Notting Hill

Looking for something I could actually fit into my luggage, I ducked into the Travel Bookshop. This bookstore is active on twitter, so when I’m sitting at my desk in New York, I’m always reading about what they are up to. The store itself lived up to my expectations, with a great mix of travel guides, memoirs, and travel-themed literature. Everything was organized by destination, making it possible to pick up a variety of books on a single subject. Across the street is another shop called Books for Cooks. It was closed on Monday when I was passing through, but I could tell just from the cookbooks in the window that I would have loved the opportunity to peruse the shelves.

Books for Cooks bookshop

After all this time on my feet it was time to take a seat in a local pub. A friend had recommended the Ground Floor Bar, right on Portobello Road. It struck me that mismatched antique tables were precisely that – mismatched antique tables and chairs. In New York a bar might try and achieve this look, but it almost always feels curated. In London, it all made sense, from these tables to slouchy couches to vases full of wildflowers. I went with a straightforward pint of lager, but the bar also had a wide selection of interesting, summery-sounding cocktails.

More produce at the Portobello Market
More produce at the Portobello Market

This was the kind of wandering Monday where I was glad not to know the time. I ate when hungry, drank when thirsty, and spent time in the sunshine. Instead of trying to cross another London museum off my list, I just mingled through the market, got an idea for what was in season, and then kept an eye for dishes with those ingredients when I sat down for dinner.

Readers, what are your favorite European markets?

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