Sunday, January 17, 2016

Portobello Market

DEBORAH CROMBIE: We've had a very wordy week here on JRW, so I thought it was time for a change. 

As many of you probably know, when I'm in London, I love to spend Saturdays at Portobello Market in Notting Hill. In my books, this is Gemma and Duncan's home patch, so I need to keep up to date!

Yesterday was a gorgeous day--clear, crisp, and very cold. The market was buzzing.  Here's a little visual tour, starting from the Notting Hill Gate end of the road and walking down.  This is the famous sign where Portobello Road meets Chepstow Villas.

Here's one of my favorite colorful houses at the top end of the road.

Here's the much photographed Alice's Antiques.

Looking down the hill.

Mr. Christian's deli, where I like to get an energy boost with a coffee and a croisant.


Some of the multitude of market stalls.

And food, of course.

The Notting Hill Bookshop, made famous in the movie Notting Hill (although it's actually around the corner from where it's shown in the film.)

My friend Steve Ullathorne's photo stall, always my ultimate Saturday destination, just under the Westway towards the north end of the road.

My (very late) lunch, from one of the new food stalls beyond the Westway.

And last, walking back up, the landmark Electric Cinema at dusk (sunset is just after four o'clock.)

By this time I'd been walking about five hours and was absolutely frozen. I had to go in the pub partway back up the road and warm up before walking to the top and taking the bus back to my hotel. 

Photos don't begin to convey the hustle and bustle and color and energy of the market. I've left out so much! Stalls with books and hats and jewelry and furs and cameras, the arcades, flower stalls and fruit and veg stalls, cafes and pubs and buskers and every kind of food you can imagine. 

But I hope you enjoyed the snippets, and will be tempted to visit yourselves. What would tempt you?

(And yes, I did buy a few things, but will only admit to tea...)


  1. This market looks absolutely amazing! Thanks for the tour.
    What would tempt me? The bookshop, of course, some tea, and flowers . . . .

  2. Oh Debs, this is gorgeous! I am dying to sort through the stalls with the silver things and all that lovely china. This is like a flea market, so things are older?

    thanks for showing us around! hope you're getting some great ideas for the next book...

  3. Wow! I've never been there…this looks amazing! It must be overwhelming the first time--do you feel like an old hand now?

  4. I'm afraid I would be tempted by all of it!!! :-) Maybe someday.

  5. Lucy, many of the stall holder/dealers have been there for years. There are also antiques dealers and artists's shops in the the several arcades. I don't usually go in the arcades on a Saturday because they're so crowded that I get a little claustrophobic. But there are also lots of stalls with new stuff, some of it lovely, like my friend Steve's photos, and some absolute junk.

    I asked one of the silver dealers yesterday how she kept the silver looking so beautiful. She said, "It's a lot of work. And every time someone touches it, it has to be polished again.

    I'll post some more pics on Facebook today! Plus I made a couple of videos, if I can figure out how to process them.

  6. Every time I have to click the box by I am not a robert, I want to say "but I play one on TV"

  7. I have been to Portobello market - and I bought a dinner plate there for $5 that now goes on eBay for $75. YES! I also walked my tootsies off. I've been to London about five times and this lovely post has convinced me that it's time to go back. I think I'll wait until the daffodils are up, though.

  8. Hallie, I don't blame you. I was so cold yesterday, but it doesn't seem to deter the crowds.

    It also makes it hard to enjoy the street food. But I had to try the duck confit sandwich yesterday!

    Hank, the first few times I went to Portobello I was completely overwhelmed. Those were the days when I started EARLY in the morning, like a serious antique hunter, and hit all the arcades. These days I just mosey, and mostly look and take pictures, but I do make the occasional find.

    One of my favorites is the vintage children's book stall. I am so tempted, but then I'd have to get the books in my suitcase...

    I've posted some more photos on Facebook including the cheese shop for you, Lucy.

    More during the day!

  9. Debs, how wonderful -- thank you for sharing! By the way, your mention of duck confit made me think of your duck paté -- have you been back to the area around King's Cross for that?

    Also -- Gram, how funny! Now I'm going to think that about the "I'm not a Robot..."

  10. I visited back in 1997 and loved it. Bought a beautiful red velvet jacket in a small store among the stalls. Would love to go back. Thanks for the memory!

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  12. I love this. Thank you!

  13. yes, Portobello market, lunch, and then a stroll down Kensington Church Street past the posh antique shops. Monday I visit the Covent Garden Antiques Market, and then a quiet walk around St Paul's Covent Garden and during the Christmas season, a shop filled with 200+ boxed Christmas cards from every imaginable charitable organization.

  14. Fantastic tour! We had a big fancy trip to London planned two years ago, right before Thanksgiving, but I ended up in the hospital with double pneumonia. When the doctor said I had to get to the ER ASAP, I literally said to him, "But we have reservations!" I was so depressed I splurged at the hospital and treated myself to the wing for rich old ladies recovering from plastic surgery. Everyday they'd have high tea and I was so determined to make up for our lost trip that I would shuffle down the hall in my hospital gown, rear end flapping open, pulling my IV pole with me, for some scones! Haven't had a chance to reschedule the trip since. Long overdue - and your pix are making me envious!

    Debs - when you go on one of your yearly trips, do you have things mapped out that you need to research for your next book, or are you hunting around for inspiration and new things to include?? I think you should get a Duncan and Gemma bus tour going - like the Inspector Morse tour in Oxford. I will gladly move there full time and conduct it!!

  15. A stroll in the market is a must. What great stalls and shops. Thank you for taking us on a guided tour.

  16. I always have such fun there but I did notice last summer that they had become much more tourist oriented and commercial (and expensive). I love the vintage hats and last time I bought a 1929 bracelet for Lady Georgie.

  17. Thanks so much for a mini-tour of Portobello - fascinating. So many temptations to buy - maybe extra suitcase, just for those? Duck anything delicious.

  18. Kim, how awful. Glad you could salvage at least tea time on your trip.

    Debs, thanks for the tour! I so enjoy your sacrifice for the rest of us. LOL

  19. oh, Debs - this was fun!!!! Thanks for letting us tag along with you, sweetie. Now - get to work, we're waiting rather impatiently for that next book! ;-)

  20. When I was just ten, my Aunt Una travelled to London. I don't think I knew anybody who had ever been on an airplane much less travelled overseas. When she returned to the states, she brought me a present. It was a brown leather bookmark embossed with my name in gold. It is still hidden in one of my many books. It is the single ebeneezer stone from my childhood.

  21. Deb I love this and hope to catch all we missed here in the books coming.

  22. Debs, what a delightful trip with you down Portobello Road! I want you to plan my London trip when I take one, fingers crossed. Oh, and I would be so overwhelmed by the children's vintage bookshop and would want everything I would see. Thanks for sharing these great pictures, and now, I need to check out your FB pics.

  23. only admit to tea :) Debs wise choice - thank you for taking us along - Cara

  24. Oh. Pure envy. I would love to visit Portobello Road. Is the market only on Saturdays? I have to admit the crowds would put me off but surely they're smaller offseason. Someday. . .

  25. Debs, I would love to visit there. The open marketplace with the china would be great fun I think. A few years back I started a small collection of china tea cups and saucers as well as tea pots. Actually, my father started the collection with gifts of teapots to his mother and sisters. When I went back home to Boston for school, I visited my aunts. When they discovered my interest in china, they gave me the teapots my father had given them long before I was born. Some are very unusual, which wouldn't be a surprise if you knew my father. They weren't strange, rather they were unique, and I'm still very moved that my aunts had them after all these years and that they chose to give them to me.

    Coincidentally, I was studying the family history a couple of days ago, when I learned that one branch of my ancestors came from the area around Notting Hill. But I think that was back long before it would be recognizable today, although there might be interesting resources in the church records. Right now, however, it's the road market that would interest me most.

    Have a great time with your research, Debs. Love the photos!

  26. Reine, some of the traders are there on Friday. And the regular shops are open during the week, but Portobello Road is very different and quiet during the week. The winding road and colorful buildings look almost Mediterranean when the street is not full of people and market stalls.

    I'd love to know if you had ancestors who came from the Notting Hill area.

    And you'll have to post pics of your teapots for us!

  27. Kim, it's usually a combination of the two. I need to clone myself...

    You are going to have to plan another trip!!

  28. Can't believe I missed this yesterday. What a wonderful walking tour!