Last weekend, I caught up with two girlfriends I met whilst living in Germany. We had previously settled on having two nights in London, staying in the Notting Hill area. Having researched properties to rent for a couple of nights through AirBnB.com and Homeaway.co.uk, we had found a place that was unintentionally opposite the Blue Door in the film Notting Hill for a very good price. Based on Westbourne Park Road, it was a great location. Not only because it was easy for all of us from our various starting points, but it was literally just off Portobello Road with all its buzz.
We could walk everywhere we wanted to for such a short stay and put this in to practice almost straight away. We dumped our bags just moments after we arrived (with enough time for a glass of bubbles) and headed out on a wing and a prayer to find a restaurant that would service our foodie needs. After a short walk down Kensington Park Road, we happened upon an Italian restaurant that served inexpensive yummy food with unobtrusive yet attentive wait staff that allowed three girls as much time as they needed to catch up. Called Essenza, it was the sister restaurant of two other Italian establishments one block along, and whilst the food did not turn the world on its axis for me, it also filled my empty stomach with yumminess and I didn't have to remortgage my house either (a worry at any London based restaurant.)
The next day, we brunched at home whilst listening to the stalls setting up and the buskers arriving for Portobello Road market. When we headed out to the street itself, it was heaving - in fact it was much busier than I remembered it, but I had not actually been to the market for years. It was still a lot of fun and full of such a diverse mix of stalls - from food (name a national dish and it's here) to antique door knobs, with a load of vintage clothing in between. You can literally buy anything here, which can be overwhelming if you are like me and want to see everything, but the huge throng of people means that you are often slowly moved on from stall to stall.
After a couple of food stops, that included some delicious churros, the girls took kind pity on my pregnant weight, and frogmarched me back to our flat so I could nap and they could put the world to right over some cheese and bubbles. A moment that will stay with me forever will be dozing off to the sound of a saxophonist outside on Portobello Road busking his heart out with his evident talent. I also had some pretty odd soundtracks to my dreams! When I eventually woke up from my slumber, I joined in with the girls' chatter before we headed to UKAI, a yummy Japanese restaurant for supper. There was a live band playing and we enjoyed working our way through the menu though sadly our choices had to remain sushi free for me. The service was perhaps a little bit 'new' but well meaning. As a result, the small delays let us graze over our supper, enjoying each other's company and the ambience of the eatery. Again, I wouldn't rush to go back, but if I found myself in the area again, I would happily eat there.
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The next morning, we sadly lost one of our threesome to catch a flight back to Germany, but the remaining two headed out for a walking tour of all the colourful houses of the area now that the streets were mainly tourist free. I had simply googled a good walking route, which I thought would keep us busy until we had to drive back home. I would definitely recommend getting lost in the streets behind Portobello Road, which have a very (affluent) village feel. The houses, with or without pastel colour fronts, are beautiful and there are many more local businesses here than the main drag of the area initially relays. I can't say for certain, however, how long the route in total takes as we were distracted by the offers of pastries and coffee at the Daylesford Organic shop on Westbourne Grove. A fab lifestyle and food store, we whiled away our time with yet more talking over yummy flat whites and Americanos before heading back to our apartment to pick up our bags to leave.
Coincidentally, however, I can remember telling my Irish friend how diverse the cultures were in this outwardly quintessentially English part of London. Whilst walking down Portobello Road, with or without the market, there are countless numbers of cuisines on offer, and whilst sitting down at Daylesford Organic, there were numerous languages being spoken by the international families that had chosen to settle in this city. It is this precise mixing of cultures that makes me proud to be a Londoner and one of the reasons I was so saddened by this week's happenings on Westminster bridge. I love London, I love its welcoming nature to all that choose to set foot there, I love its diversity.
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