Prompted by a feature in last week’s Sunday Times Magazine, which mentioned Lutyens & Rubinstein on Kensington Park Road, I thought I’d have an amble round Portobello Road and the surrounding area today to try and convey what it’s like from a regular visitor.

As mentioned, Lutyens & Rubenstein (12 Kensington Park Road) is one of a number of very fine specialist bookshops in Notting Hill, with others including The Travel Bookshop (13-15 Blenheim Crescent) and Books For Cooks (4 Blenheim Crescent). Whilst there, I had to stop off at a wonderful newsagent at 12 Blenheim Crescent called Rococo, which sells an absolutely amazing number of foreign titles. Even today’s edition of The New York Times was there!
Portobello Road Market was as busy as always with the usual array of items that it sells, plus some bits and pieces that you can pick up for Christmas – including door wreaths for £5, which I thought was pretty good value.
Walking up further north on Portobello Road, at its intersection with Golborne Road, I encountered a number of food stalls selling rather amazing-looking Moroccan food – one of my favourite cuisines! There was one stall selling all manner of grilled fish dishes, including sea bass, for £6.50. I was very tempted to indulge, but the long queues at each stall (which obviously shows the quality of the food) meant I decided to carry on with my walk.
Then I stumbled across an ideal store for me – Portobello Pet Shop (308 Portobello Road). As a cat owner (and feeder of the bird visitors to my garden) it’s the kind of place where I can stock up on plenty of things I need! However, I jokingly enquired instore about whether they had anything for “fussy cats”. “Yes, of course” was the reply – and handed a bag of cat biscuits that is actually labelled “for very fussy eaters”. Who would have thought! I was very happy to also find a packet of seeds for robins, which will also no doubt please the most frequent visitor to my garden – a very pretty brown pigeon that we’ve named Jessica. Far more confident that she used to be in battling the other birds for food, I’m sure she’ll enjoy it!

Anyone that’s a big fan of the film Notting Hill – as well as the area, of course – may well be interested in a weekly movie walk that features various locations around the neighbourhood. The Notting Hill Movie Tour takes in a number of places that were shown in the classic Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts film, as well as other movies that were partially shot in the area, including Love Actually, A Hard Day’s Night, Sliding Doors and The Italian Job, amongst others. You’ll also be able to hear other trivia and historical information about the area, and see location stills from the films featured on the walk.

There are two walks every Saturday, at 1.30pm and 4pm, and they operate from March to November. Tickets cost £12 for the 2 hour tour (you can book tickets online), or £50 for a group of 5 people – that’s a saving of £10! The tour meets outside Crussh juice bar which is at 59 Notting Hill Gate, W11, right by the southern exit of Notting Hill Gate tube station.
For further info, see the official Notting Hill Movie Tour website.

Yesterday’s Guardian had a great double-page spread on Leighton House (12 Holland Park Road, W14) and its ongoing restoration. Originally built in the 19th century to designs by architect George Aitchison as a home for Lord Leighton, a painter and sculptor, it was extended considerably over the next few decades. The article talks about of house as well as discussing the gossip over Lord Leighton and his private relationships (or lack there of).

Leighton House is now a museum which houses many paintings (and other artwork) by Lord Leighton himself, as well as pieces by other artists. As mentioned, it is currently undergoing a £1.6 million restoration and is due to re-open on 3rd April 2010. It’s well worth a visit – not only for the art it houses, but also for the House itself, particularly its stunningly unique Arab Hall.

Leighton House is also the official home of the Kensington & Chelsea Music Society, who are holding this season concert’s elsewhere in the Royal Borough whilst the refurbishment takes place – and are due to the return to Leighton House for the 2010/11 season.

If you happen to still have a copy of the paper, do take a look – the photo online doesn’t do the beautiful hall justice.

Article: Backstairs keep their secrets as home of a giant of Victorian art reopens (22nd December 2009, The Guardian)

The old Blue Door – back when it was blue and
digital cameras hadn’t been invented yet (June 1999)
(See more photos from that time at Notting Hill – Photos)

Over the weekend, the New York Times had a report on a phenomenon that’s often found in the U.S. but has yet to make it over here – until now. Whilst this rather vague description may cover a whole manner of things, I’m actually talking about celebrity tours. Usually run as bus tours of celebrity houses in America (specifically, Hollywood), the London versions are ever-so-slightly more healthy and eco-friendly, conducted as they are on foot.

The New York Times article mentions in particular a walk of Notting Hill, run by a company called Celebrity Planet. The walk takes in a number of sights in the area – from celebrities’ house, to locations in the film Notting Hill, to the rather cool (where Pink Floyd first played), to the rather not-so-cool (a charity shop Victoria Beckham once visited?!).

In all seriousness, it’s a great way of seeing this part of London. The whole city is great for ambling around (with something interesting almost around every corner) so if a celebrity tour is your kind of thing, take a look!

Of course, you could take a look at our very own Notting Hill website for a number of interesting tidbits and photos of famous scenes from the area – all from the comfort of your own home, or for preparation for a walk of your own. (And all the information has been up on our website for 10 years now!)

Article: Star Tours…of London? (26th October 2009, The New York Times)