on April 23, 2011
Harrods is an institution. There are 300 departments and 20 restaurants spread over 1 million square feet - it is huge. The UK's second largest shop - Selfridges on Oxford Street has a little over half the size of Harrods selling space. More than 5,000 staff from 50 countries work in Harrods. It is not as cutting edge as it used to be, but despite this, it is still an elaborate emporium and is a real emblem of England.Mohammed Al Fayed used to own the shop, but he sold it in May 2010.The range, quality and variety of goods for sale in the shop is dazzling. The 5th floor is sports and leisure. We had to make a beeline for the 4th floor and Toy Kingdom. Here they have a wonderful selection of toys and lots of demonstration areas. Our son was particularly taken by a magician demonstrating tricks, and needless to say, we came away with a box of magic tricks.Harrods began as a grocery shop in 1849 and food and drink is still the heart of the business. Their motto is "If you can eat or drink it, you will find it at Harrods."Approach the shop as a tourist attraction rather than a fashion shop. The Food Halls are spectacular - focus on them particularly. There is every type of food under the sun and the displays are wonderful. We saw a Princess birthday cake for a little girl - a snip at just under £2,000!The ground floor perfumery and the theme park like Egyptian room are also very impressive. The Egyptial hall sells crystals from Lalique and Baccarat as well as porcelain. At the bottom of the escalator to this area is a shrine to Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana. It was unveiled in April 1995 and has 2 photographs behind a pyramid shaped display that holds a wine glass, smudged with lipstick from Diana's last dinner. There is also what is described as "an engagement ring", Dodi apparently purchased it the day before they died. At door 3 there is also a bronze statue of them called "Innocent Victims." They are dancing on a beach beneath the wings of an albatross.The gift shop on the second floor is worth a quick look. It is very touristy, but they have affordable souvenirs from the shop.There is a fairly strict dress code to get into the shop. Do not turn up looking like a backpacker and expect to get in. Also be prepared to brave the crowds - it is always busy here. Up to 300,000 customers visit on peak days, try and avoid coming on a Saturday. Be aware too that you may have to pay to use the bathroom on some floors.
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