Last Saturday, I spent my day in bustling, blustery Notting Hill. When I lived in London I used to mooch around the market on a regular basis but lately, the speed of life has just taken over and I hadn’t been around for quite a while. I needed to be there that particular day for a fun bloggers Hulafit class, but more to come on that in my next post! Prior to the class,there was plenty of time for a saunter around this historical tourist attraction and it was nice to have the opportunity to walk down memory lane.
Sadly, the market is now a shadow of its former self, and I was dismayed to see the disappearance of old favourites in the vintage clothing section and of the fledgling designers who had previously scrambled for a gap in the market, who were now nowhere to be seen. The Ladbroke Grove side which used to be a Mecca for makers and shakers is now home to multi-buy knock-offs and multi-cultural food stalls. Now I love a yummy pit stop as much as the next girl, and love to sample the delights of the world of cuisine, but it’s at saturation point, and for me, it just doesn’t work. I managed to find a colourful selection of jewellery, scarf and chintzy bric-a-brac stalls, but they were few and far between.
One highlight is the Acklam Village Bar which at 11am on a freezing Saturday morning, warms the cockles of the shoppers with an indoor eating and drinking area and features a live band, whose tunes sounded comforting to the ears and warming to the heart at this hour.
The 281 arcade was another welcome, if not deserted respite from the chill wind, and I was delighted to find Karen Arcay Vintage – a sequin stuffed glory hole of all days gone by, it felt like walking into a film set costume department.
After a quick chat with the proprietor, I understood why she had switched the geography of her once famous stall, into the warm and welcoming arms of the great indoors. Luckily she treats the shop as both a labour of love and a hobby, since the trade no longer passes through like the gravy train it used to be, while the days are quieter than ever as the outside market rapidly dwindles in it’s Victorian values. Luckily for Karen, she is visited often by stylists for film and theatre who often clothe entire productions from her expansive archives, so she remains happily upbeat.
Continuing along the Portobello road itself, I was heartened to see at least some stalwarts, skewed between the tacky souvenir stalls and the plentiful, mouth-watering food vendors.
The fresh bake stall I’ve enjoyed for numerous years was still drawing a huge crowd, all the freezing but nonetheless jovial workers managing the calls for orders like old hands. I found the irony in the fresh veg stall juxtaposed against the backdrop of a Tesco Express – definitely an indication of the sell-out of this west London favourite.
Further up, nearer to the Notting Hill Gate end, where tourists fight their way past Italian matriarchs cajoling their offspring into oversized fur-hooded puffas, only to come to a halt behind the eager crowds queuing for the Hummingbird Bakery, I found Sara Tiara.
What an ab-fab sight to behold she is, wearing a creation from her eponymous collection and her uber cool son playing out his Saturday here in the market, by her side as she peddles her wares. My heart lifts when I find creatives like Sara, as it gladdens my heart to see there are still some artisans plying their trade to be had here.
Cue more silver sellers, (genuine) fur stalls multiplied by antiques galore, and I’d had my fill of market life for the day. I headed away past the jostling hordes to my hula fit class via the pastel coloured back streets which are far more attractive and decided I’d leave it longer next time before I rush back to visit this old friend.