Saturday July 1, 2017
Retail Therapy in Swinging London and Lunch with a Friend:
We saved our last complete day in the UK for a spot of retail therapy. In actual fact, our itinerary had indicated that we were to travel to Sussex to see the homes of the Stevens sisters who became Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell in Lewes. However, to have stuck to that plan of action would have meant no time at all to grab the few items on our shopping lists. Airline regulations now make it well-night impossible for us to do the kind of shopping we did in the years gone by. Both Shahnaz and I were concerned about being overweight and about being unable to haul our suitcases on our own. Hence, we stuck to basics.
It was my idea to shop on the King’s Road in Chelsea which is much less crowded and has a far more snazzy clientele than Oxford Street. But I was also trying to squeeze in a lunch appointment with a family friend named Bande Hasan and since he is more familiar with eateries on Oxford Street rather than in Chelsea, that was where we ended up heading. We made the appointment to meet for lunch at 1.00 pm at Zizzi and with that plan in mind, did much of our packing (to determine how much space and weight allowance we had for our goodies) and set out at about 11.00 am for a bout of retail therapy. We took the bus from Battersea to Oxford Circus and, as systematically as possible, began our shopping.
As most shoppers know, the month of July sees the entire commercial side of the UK get into Sale Mode. This does not happen in the US; but in the UK, this is a bi-annual affair (the other big sale occurs in the month of December). Every single store in the country had sections devoted to cut prices and it was at Clarks where we attempted to buy shoes, that we began. I found the shops I wanted in no time at all and after converting US sizes to British ones, I paid for a new pair of black patent leather work shoes and was off. I left Shahnaz still shopping for shoes and left.
This time I hurried off to Liberty of London to take a look at the fragrance counter where Byredo has a range with which I am not familiar. The helpful sales personnel there introduced me to their new lines and plied me with a ton of samples—an unexpected bonus. I left Liberty and rushed off to Boots where I bought my supply of nail polish and face creams for the next year. Then, without further ado, I crossed the street and went to Selfridges where I acquired some more perfume samples!
There was only time left to get to the main entrance to meet my friend and Llew’s former colleague, Mr. Hasan, with whom I then walked to the back of Selfridges to Zizzi, the Italian chain that offers really delectable food. I settled for their King Prawn Linguine (which my companion also ordered) studded with chilli flakes, chilli oil and zucchini. It was wonderful. For desert, I had the Chocolate and Pistachio Sundae which consisted of dark chocolate and pistachio gelato served in a conical coupe with shaved white chocolate and chocolate sauce. You had to have tasted it to know how really superb it was! Our lunch was a brilliant chance to chat about this and that, to catch up with family news on both sides and to talk about coming plans for the summer and the rest of the year. It is always a pleasure to see my friend and spend time with him and I do value our friendship.
After lunch, I walked with my friend to the Waitrose on Edgeware Road where I bought the vast selection of packeted soups that I usually carry with me back to the US. I got my free coffee (which is always a thrill), picked up my free issue of their July Food magazine and then laden with all my shopping, I tried to reach Shahnaz by phone. We met again at the Marks and Spencer flagship store where I spent a great deal of time trying on trousers to finally find a pair in black that I needed. Shahnaz, meanwhile, was across the street in Primark and it was there that I met her. We ended up picking up a few items of clothing to take back as gifts. I was really weighed down by this point and ready to get home, but Shahnaz was still shopping until almost 8.00 pm. Eventually, we took a bus from Marble Arch and got back to Battersea.
Dinner at Hare and Tortoise at Russel Square:
I never leave the UK, if I can help it, without having one meal at the Hare and Tortoise—and that one meal is always the very same thing: I have the Curry Laksa. This Singaporean-Malaysian Soup comes with chicken, shrimp and other goodies in a curried coconut milk soup swimming thickly with rice noodles. It is truly a meal in a gigantic bowl—in fact, two meals, as I have never managed to eat my entire portion and have always asked for a doggie bag. Shahnaz chose to have the Seafood Ramen which was full of fish and shell fish in a fish broth. While at the meal, we entered into a conversation with the lady at the next table who happened to be of Indian Punjabi origin and was thrilled to meet Indian women from India who could speak volubly about Indian affairs. We shared a bottle of Japanese beer and kept conversation flowing as this was our last night together. I would be leaving the next afternoon and we were sorry to reach the end of our travels together.
When we were done with dinner, we took the Tube from Russel Square to Victoria where we connected to a bus and reached home in time to get ready for bed. We were both very glad that we had devoted an entire day to shopping as it ended up taking much longer than we expected.
Until tomorrow, cheerio.