I can always count on Heidi to show me something new in London that I wouldn’t have read about in a guide book. She lived there for 15 years, maintains her claim on her rented room, and will return to work there—that’s the plan—after her sojourn in Australia.
From Parliament Hill, she led me on to Fortnum and Mason, in Picadilly. I look at a map now and wonder, did we pass Banqueting House? What is Banqueting House? Did we pass Scotland Yard? Surely I would remember walking through Trafalgar Square and along Pall Mall. I love that name because my grandparents smoked Pall Mall cigarettes. So sophisticated. And then they died of cancer, emphysema, and strokes.
Maybe we cut through Horse Guards and walked up Waterloo?
Regardless, F&M is one of those fancy schmancy brands with a royal warrant:
F&M is a department store founded 300 years ago and in the same stratosphere as Harrods’s or Liberty. I rarely step foot in places that have $$$$ next to their listing in a guide, but on a rainy day it’s fun have a look and take pictures, especially with a friend to whom I can exclaim, “Oooh, look at this!” to which she replies, “Aaahhh…so beautiful! How much?” and when I flip over the price tag we both suck in our breath in a combination of pleasure and pain.
The last time I was in London, Heidi and I spent a whole day doing this in Harrods and Liberty. I prefer Liberty to Harrods because the building itself is so beautiful; it’s reminiscent of something out of a Harry Potter movie.
They say you will know you have found your passion when you discover the thing that makes you lose all track of time and your surroundings. I just spent 20 minutes looking at photos I took at Liberty. I forgot it was -10F outside. I wasn’t worried that my laptop battery was about to die, or that friends were coming over and I needed to tidy up my place.
This happens frequently when I blog. Not just about going to posh places like Liberty, but during the process of coming up with words like posh … lush … luxuriant … sumptuous. Focusing on stringing the right words together and complementing them with just the right photos—it transports me to another world.
And we all want to go to another world once in a while, don’t we?
As I said, I had visited Harrods and Liberty a few years ago with Heidi, and I returned to Liberty right before I left London for Scotland this summer. I’ll give you a quick bad-photo tour of Liberty, then return to Fortnum and Mason.
The exterior. Note the golden ship on top, undoubtedly an originally-proud way of proclaiming, “Come and see all the beautiful things we have plundered from around the empire!”
The atriums, from bottom to top.
Carved wild things on the railings.
It’s just fabulous. If you are not fabulously rich, there are some signs that you don’t belong there. First, rooms with precious few items. This is not Walmart. It’s about price, not volume here.
There are sales, but.
Five hundred pounds is $678. But it’s all so beautiful. The William Morris fabrics and wallpaper. Persian carpets. I pretend I’m in a museum.
A green-velvet love seat! My inner gay man was ecstatic.
Some of it went too far. These faux mounted heads were £695 ($943). If you want a hand-crafted fake deer head, buy one on Etsy for one tenth the price.
Some smaller items were affordable but not easily portable, like the wrapping paper.
Buttons. This woman appeared to be in a trance.
The conservatory. You could probably buy these plants at Tesco for £14.99.
I had had enough of being dazzled and felt almost nauseous from all the colors, textures, and other stimulation. I made my way down, down, down one of the wooden staircases and encountered this on the ground floor.
As always in Britain, you can count on being reminded of all the men who gave their lives so we can buy green velvet love seats.