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March 24, 2002
However, I was not without other leads, so I set off for several other sporting goods shops nearby, working my way through the Schneider Riding Boot Co., Cording's, and Lillywhite's (where I found fingerless riding gloves - hurrah!) before finally running the whisk to ground in venerable Swaine Adeney. I say "venerable" judiciously; the firm received its first royal warrant to make carriage whips for George III. The price for the fly whisk left me momentarily speechless, but having finally found it and determined to have it, I set my jaw and produced my charge card with what I hope passed for royal sang froid.
My next search was for books. This was easy. London is bibliophile heaven, with numerous antiquarian bookstores in Charing Cross Road and near the British Museum. A friend had recommended Hatchard's, one of London's oldest bookshops, on Piccadilly Street. I found the books I had been seeking, and also got several recently reprinted Wodehouse novels.
The "Rescue Remedy" homeopathic ointment I was buying a friend proved to be the easiest thing to find, suprisingly. Walking down Wigmore Street, I noticed a small chemists with a notice in the window advertising homeopathic remedies. Bingo! The clerk didn’t seem the least bit curious as to why I was buying ten tubes of the stuff, but I offered up the information that I was buying for a friend’s horses, whereupon he simply nodded. Common equestrian remedy, apparently.
The only items I didn't find on my shopping list (well, I found them , but they were too expensive) were moleskin trousers for my husband. Harrod's had them, but they were three times what we'd paid for them some years back in Cambridge, and I simply couldn't believe prices had risen that much. I decided London was not the best place to shop for reasonably priced sporting goods (having absorbed the lesson of the fly whisk), so I decided to wait on the moleskin trousers until my next visit to the U.K.
All in all, I enjoyed my "scavenger hunt" approach to shopping in London, which surprised me as I'm not usually very fond of shopping for anything other than books. I came back with almost everything I'd been commissioned or planned to buy, and I had great fun finding them.
From journal Footloose Female Off the Beaten Path in London
My first foray was on Oxford Street, just down from my hotel. I've always enjoyed shopping in Marks and Spencer's, that bastion of the respectable middle class shopper. The first day out, I stopped in the food hall and bought snacks to eat on the run: yogurt, chocolate bars, juice, biscuits, and cox apples. I spent an inordinate amount of time ogling the prepackaged meals, regretting that I had no means of heating them. On a whim, I bought a large bouquet of spicy-smelling pale yellow carnations to brighten my hotel room, arranging them in one of my empty juice bottles.
The next stop was Boots the Chemists, where I was hoping to find a certain lemon scented facial astringent cleanser I used years ago when we lived in Cambridge. Boots no longer produces it, but I found several other kinds of scented witch hazel and citrus-y concoctions that were comparable. English bath and beauty products always have struck me as good value for the money, and on this trip I splurged on them, bringing back lotions, toilet water, scented soaps, room scents, and other items.
By far the headiest place to shop for these things is Harrod's of Knightsbridge. I wandered through its vast halls, spending at least an hour making my selections in the perfume and cosmetics hall, with two graceful salesladies in amused attendance. Harrod's is not to be missed, but, unless you've got plenty of money, it's not really a practical place to make major purchases. I bought tins of tea in the world-famous food halls, a set of juggling bean bags for my son in the Toy Kingdom, and (unsuccessfully) searched for fingerless riding gloves in the Sports department.
After a foray in Harrods, tea is highly recommended, and there is no shortage of places to have it in London. I met a friend for tea at Fortnum & Mason, and he promptly informed me that I should have waited to get my tins of tea there instead of Harrod's, as Fortnum & Mason is the premier tea seller in London. (I have to say, however, that I have been quite happy with my Harrod's teas.)
to be continued....