I’m sitting here doing one of my favourite things (watching cheesy teenage movies on Netflix) and thinking about one of my other favourite things to do, spending a morning or an afternoon wandering around a London neighbourhood. Nothing Hill is a favourite of mine because I lived around the corner from it for my first year in London. There is something about the first place that you live in a new city. A feeling of comfort and ‘home’ that I don’t think get’s replicated if you keep moving around. I may be the exception rather than the majority in this opinion, i’m not sure. For me though, getting to know a new neighbourhood at the same time as getting to know an entirely new (and enormous city) means that the little patch of it where you run errands, buy grocercies, pop out for impromtue dinners with flatmates, and drag yourself out of bed in search of coffee and pastry/eggs to recover from hangovers before hotfooting it back to your couch to continue your recovery horizontally, becomes a safe place. The place that you can retreat to when the larger city and your experiences in it become perhaps a little too overwhelming or emotional. That is what Notting Hill and Westbourne Grove are to me. Even though I’ve now spent time living in other parts of London, I’m yet to replicate the way that I feel about this part of the city.
I’ve heard it said that London is a city of villages. Spend some time here and you’ll see how true that is. I only really grasped this concept when I moved here because I wasn’t rushing around trying to see as much as possible every day. Now that I have whole weekends to explore my adopted home I love meeting up with a friend for a wander around coffee in hand, or even just heading out the door with my camera and wandering around by myself.
Does anyone else find that they look at the world differently when they have a camera in their hands? I’m not talking a phone by the way, I mean a proper made for use camera. For some reason I feel like when I have my camera in my hand I’m attuned to the detail around me, and I start to think about the different ways that I can frame whatever little scenes are playing out in front of me (peering through a viewfinder is an essential element by the way, none of this looking at the screen on the back of the camera). It’s one of my favourite parts of solo travel.
If you find yourself with a spare few hours in Notting Hill pick any little side street that you like the look of and walk. You’ll most likely find rows of sweet Georgian terraces painted a myriad of pastel hues, or exposed brick with brightly painted front doors. I won’t name any streets because honestly it’s more fun to stumble across them yourself.
If you’re there on the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) you’ll have a chance to see the Portobello Green Market. This is different to the street market along the more southern part of Portobello Road by the way, that’s more of a general mix including food stalls. You need to walk all the way up to under The Westway. On Friday the Green Market is a vintage market, on Saturday it becomes a fashion market, and Sunday is a flea market. This time I was there on a Saturday and as you can see it was busy but the local feeling remained. It’s still the place local people head to buy their fruit or cheese, have a chat and barter for vintage, second hand or re-worked clothing from similarly local sellers and designers. I picked up the prettiest dusty rose silk slip dress for basically nothing, and you have no idea how tempted I was by the flamboyant patterned long jacket below on the left.
London fashion is like nothing else. You can wear whatever you want and pull it off like no where else. The amount of patterns and mixing and matching in a total clashing-chic manner that I’ve started wearing since moving here is unbelievable in the best way.
Oh and if you have the time you might also want to check out Westbourne Grove while you’re there. I hadn’t heard about this little neighbourhood adjacent to Notting Hill before I moved to London (and moved into that actual area) but it’s a gem. Kind of like what Notting Hill would be like if it wasn’t famous. The shopping, if you can afford it, or window shopping if not (like me) if really fun because the shops are all pretty eclectic and the designers epitomise London cool. Sézane has a shop there and their pieces are lush, all the colours, fabrics and textures. They call it their London Appartment and it does feel like stepping through a doorway into Paris for a moment. Head to Daylesford to drool over all the beautiful produce, fancy preserves and beautiful homewares before brunch or lunch, and then stroll up to Ottolenghi for a sweet snack and coffee to go before strolling back to Notting Hill.
What neighbourhood should I do next? Ideas welcome!