Last week I was in London with work for Marketing Week Live, staying near Earls Court Road. It was pretty hectic for the first day and a half, but on the last day I woke up early and had a couple of hours to kill before the first session at the marketing event. It was a bright sunny morning, and Notting Hill Gate was only two stops away on the tube. It’s one of my favourite areas to roam around, both for the grand white mansions, and the tiny coloured ones down some of the mews and side streets. As I’d done this before, I really wanted to go find Portobello Road.
One of the most famous roads and street markets, attracting millions of people every year Portobello Road is huge, running the whole way through Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. What a bloody mouthful! Do people that live there have to put that down every time they write their address?!
Anyway, on my wanderings around Notting Hill on another early morning last year, I didn’t quite make Portobello Road, but it was my only aim for last week. I really wanted to see it. I knew I wouldn’t have time for the market, which starts at 9am, but I could at least take a walk along with a starbucks in hand and Ed Sheerans new album blasting out on Spotify.
It’s actually not the easiest to find when you get off at Notting Hill Gate, I think it’s easier from Ladbroke Grove tube station, but that is the complete other end and the least time spent on the tube the better. If interested, you can find out why here. So I got off at Notting Hill Gate, and did my best to ignore all the other cute little streets around there, and ploughed on to find Portobello Road.
I think I was expecting to emerge onto this big road when I found it, but I actually nearly missed it. If it wasn’t for a huge gaggle of American tourists pointing and taking photos of the street sign I probably would have walked past it.
So I started to walk along. Apple maps was telling me it would take 20 minutes to walk the full length of it to the far end where the market is held, but I just didn’t have time and it was too early to catch the market anyway. Instead I just had a stroll along the bottom end.
I can see why so many people flock to see it, it’s so pretty. Each building despite being joined it so different to the last. Each one is a completely different colour for a start, and they’re all home to vintage and antique shops, with their own quirky names and characters.
As it was so early, there were only a few people about, completely different scenes to what you hear about, especially when the market is running. The only people about were the odd delivery men, and locals making their way to work, talking ten miles an hour on the phone (people in this area hold their phones to their mouths but have it on speakerphone – I have no idea why people do that?!), and pretty oblivious to how cute this street is. I wish that was my walk to work every day!
As I walked further down the street I came across Alice’s antiques on the corner. Alice, I’m assuming was starting to set up, pulling racks of old vintage clothing and boots out onto the street, and sweeping up the area with an actual broom.
I also came across the old Electric Theatre. This old theatre still has sofas and little lamps, and traditional boards outside with the latest films showing. It also has a bar and lounge area, and I can definitely imagine a visit being like a throwback to the days of old school Hollywood. In fact, I preferred it to the old theatres I saw on Hollywood Blvd in LA.
After the theatre I came across more little antique shops, and this little cafe owner setting up his rose gold tea set on the pavement outside. It was the only place actually open at this time, but I didn’t go in I just didn’t have time. A few other shop owners were starting to emerge and open up, preparing for what I’m assuming was a busy day ahead – every day.
Although I didn’t get to see the market, or have a rummage around some of the vintage shops, or sample some of the famous food I’ve heard about when the market gets into full swing and you can’t move for the crowds, I actually really enjoyed my experience of Portobello Road when it was pretty much empty.
Instead of being a tourist spot, and I did see the odd shop that hinted towards this – laden with Union Jack memorabilia, it was just another quiet street waking up in London. Shopkeepers, cafe owners and delivery men nipping in and out.
As I’ve yet to experience Portobello Road in all it’s glory, in full market day swing crammed full of tourists and market goers, I can’t explain what that side of the street is like. Judging by some of the rails and displays that were outside of Alice’s on my way back I’m guessing it gets very interesting! I will 100% be going back another time for market day, maybe a Saturday when it’s at it’s best!
But if you want to experience this famous road, and admire the very cute, colourful buildings, and avoid the throngs of people then 7am on a weekday morning is the time to do it!
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