When I got to know I would be visiting London for an office trip, I was super super excited. Though I had a jam-packed office trip and a full-day itinerary at work, I ensured I set aside a weekend to explore London. Notting Hill in particular. I am a die-hard fan of the Notting Hill Movie. It is more of a comfort movie and even now I put that on Netflix and watch Julia Robert glee at the end of the movie with happiness. The kind of fairy tale I dream of. So much that once I actually went to a guy and said, "I'm just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her." Ya, a twentieth-century woman proposing to a guy.
Anyways, I am not Julia Roberts and he was not Hugh Grant to chase me, the story ended with the rejection part itself. But I just loved that tiny blue door house, the little travel book shop they meet that I so wanted to live through the movie. The buzzing market that Hugh Grant walks through singing "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone", I just wanted to do that. And so when I got my tickets confirmed to London, the first thing I did was to look up "Notting Hill Market". And a bunch of articles on Portobello Road and Portobello Market popped up.
By the time I figured out how to reach Portobello Market, I was lost going up and down the London tube. The First, I reached London on a Sunday and realized that the Portobello street market is closed on Sundays. So between office and office parties, I had to wait for the next Saturday to arrive. By then I knew how to navigate through the London. The Bus was easier way to commute to every other street. Just download the CityMapper App and it gives you to the dot of bus location and how long it takes for it to arrive. Totally loved it. It gives you similar information for London Tube.
The tube is faster way to reach places and very comfortable too. And the tube goes through all the major attractions in London. And the tube stops at Notting Hill Gate station. But if you want to get closer to the street market there are these district line, circle line which takes you to Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Park. With that from the Central Line (the bigger train), I hopped into the smaller ones (it's a low lying train) and I got lost. So somehow I managed to catch the tube again and came back to Notting Hill Gate. From there it is a 2km walk to the Portobello Street Market.
I suggest you walk to the street market. Cos all along the way, you have shops and small restaurants. There is a very small stretch of no shops but pretty houses and cars parked. Otherwise it is mostly entertaining to stop by the shops. First to bump in was the antique market. I peeped in to see our Saraswati, Ganesh, Natarajar, an array of small brass God idols, pooja items and even Thanjavur Thalaiyatti Bommai. I mean, we had two in our house and I managed to break them both cos it is made of clay. And to think that someone brought this so carefully packed all the way from India and now that it has endured through years and landed up at an antique market was mind blowing. Otherwise, rest of the shop looked like our stalls in front of temples selling assortment of brass and copper items :P
Walking further down came across lots and lots of souvenir shops, winter wear and restaurants. Fish and chips with beer is a famous dish out here and most of the pop outs serve just that. Like our Kathi parantha egg rolls, people have fried fish in a paper bag with some mushy peas and walk around. With that I stopped around for some pictures.
Just a few more blocks later pops up the Portobello Street Market. The road is blocked for buses and barricades are put up, the markets can be seen on both sides of the street. It actually feels like a residential area with colored house buildings all around. And then all of your senses are hit with so many shops. It is a market, so a lot of people have put up carts with home made goodies and hand made crafts and stuff. The vegetable vendors display such fresh veggies, buckets and buckets of pickles, fresh meat shops. The meat shop blew my mind. That is when I realized how much of meat is being consumed. So much variety to chose from and all parts of the pork / beef was found there. London is also fighting a vegan vs meat lover balance, for there were many placards in front of meat shops as "why eating meat saves the planet!"
Just like that when I was walking by, popped up "The Notting Hill BookShop". The travel bookshop where Julia Roberts meets Hugh Grant. Or should I say Anna Scott meets William Thacker ;) In the movie it was called as "The Travel Book Co.". Almost every girl, woman, lady was as excited as I was, to be there. And many were taking pictures that someone can actually make a business out of offering to take pictures. You know how in front of Indian monuments they do!! Similarly :P So many couples took romantic lovable adorable photos too. Such was the crowd. But here comes the twist, the bookshop is no longer a bookshop. I actually thought of buying a travel book from here. But now The Travel Bookshop has been converted into a souvenir shop. And on the counter were what!! Indians / Pakistanis/ Bangladeshis whatever. Mehhhhhhhh.. I screamed inside looking at my kin folks sitting in the shop. If not Hugh Grant at least give me some English dude, God!! With that thought I picked up a bunch of magnets and key chains and random stuff before leaving The Notting Hill BookShop.
That is actually pretty much you want to see from the movie. The blue door is super tiny and you blink and miss. It is around the corner. And mostly swarmed by instagramers. If not for them, I would not have noticed it. The coffee shop is gone. The garden where they sneak in at night is a private garden, no entry allowed. The Electric Cinema is still there, where he watches movie with her. Other than that you can walk up and down the market waiting for your sunshine :) That is it.
The Portobello market is also where you should stop for food. The street market was filled with food from around the world. Like Kebab corner and Turkish delights and Cheese plates. But the English cafes and bars that you walk in to have food was yummilicious. I stuffed myself with beef pastry, cupcakes, canoli. The coffee at Fabrique was exceptional and so was their cinnamon buns! The whole bakery was filled with stuff difficult to chose from. And I was happy to have made the right choice of entering into this cute little place.
After walking up and down the street a couple of times, not missing the opportunity to taste pickles and cheese, I decided to move towards my search of museums. This time hunting for bus stop. I turned into a road that my maps pointed to. I have to say these are prettiest houses I have seen. At least from the outside. These were rows of houses with blue doors and white walls and pink magnolias blooming around. Quiet a neighborhood just next to the totally crowded market. It was totally different. If you are looking for instagram worthy places around Notting Hill, I would say this is the street. Enter into any of the Elgin Crea, Ladbrok gardens, Ladbroke cres kind of parallel streets running next to the market street and it is prettiness overload. I later read that some of it are facade with empty spaces behind. To maintain the beauty and uniformity, they came up with this idea.
I walked around these streets too just like that aimlessly. And then hopped on a bus to go check out the plethora of museums that London has.
Though the opening time of Portobello market reads open up to 7pm in many sites, at least all the street vendors start to close by 4pm. All Sundays are closed. But remember that only the street market is closed, rest of the shops, cafes and other stuff around will be open. So you can still savour the place.
What to buy at Portobello market? Too many to say. Fruits, vegetables, souvenir, winter wear, scarves, cakes, pastries, beer, coffee beans, cheese, meat, fridge magnets, plants, bouquets, flowers, so many to point to.
I would say keep aside half a day or roughly three hours for the Notting hill tour. That includes walking from the Notting hill gate station to the Portobello street market and checking out the place. I saw lot of walking tours arranged in AirBnB for Notting hill. You can opt for that too.
Where is Portobello Road?
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