Notting Hill: a Dual personality tour!

Notting Hill is a picturesque neighborhood. Just north of Kensington and to the west of Hyde Park, It’s known for its famed Saturday market, the annual Notting Hill Carnival (the largest street fair in Europe), for casual cafes, antiques and vintage apparel shops, for chalk colored homes, and alleys with charming mews houses. It was made famous in 1999, by the movie of the same name, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. And it is just as fashionable today!

But I really wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to Notting Hill. My only previous experience was in the summer on a sunny Saturday, battling huge crowds at Portobello Market. Jeff, Hailey and I were trying to meet up with some friends, and we found it to be an almost impossible feat--- Portobello Road was a swarm of mass humanity.  (see below) 

the zoo that is Portobello Market on a Saturday midday!

So when my friend Amy offered to give me the “insider’s tour”, I was still a bit hesitant. She tells me that during the week, Notting Hill is delightful and peaceful.  And that If I join her, not only will she introduce me to the great Charity shops in Notting Hill (see my charity shop blog post), she would also introduce me to the two distinct personalities of Notting Hill: weekday Portobello Road, and Westbourne Grove.

We start at the Notting Hill Gate Tube Station, which is on Bayswater Road, and we turn onto Pembridge Road, with its green taxi hut.  This is one of just 13 "cabmen shelters" around the city. Originally there were over 60, but many were bombed in World War II. Although anyone can buy a cup of coffee outside at one of these stands, only licensed cab drivers who have passed The Knowledge Test (memorizing every street and landmark) are allowed inside for coffee and breakfast.

cabmen shelter in Notting Hill
After two blocks we take a left onto Portobello Road. We pass several shops and "Farm Girl”, a locally famous eatery with a secret garden, and continue to the corner of Portobello Road and Chepstow Villas. 

On the left  of this corner, you will see a charming mansion block with its painted pink and blue, and on the right is the home of Claudia Schiffer (If you look carefully at the brick wall, you will see her secret entrance)

Claudia Schiffer's London home
We pass several adorable Mews streets. Mews houses are an interesting phenomena here in London. Back in the day, these were the carriage houses (horse garages) for the large stately homes on the main street, and the mews streets would have been considered alleyways.  Even though they are often quite small, an updated mews house in Notting Hill will fetch at least £1 million, and often in the £3 million range ($1.3m to $4.0m). but soooo cute!

I'm in love with this mews street. sighhhh.

All along Portobello road, there are a myriad of shops. I love this corner, with Alice’s Antiques holding court. It’s so fun to browse old and new items, like the teapot that Hailey is holding below. We wander past print shops, antique stores, clothing boutiques and restaurants.

Here are some other cute shops along Portobello Road. 

Amy, my lovely friend and tour guide!

The Salvation Army was founded here in London's East End in 1865. This branch opened in 1924--so adorable. 

If you are looking for a good place to have a burger, we can recommend Honest Burgers (a chain)--this one serves them up pretty good! 

enjoying our Lemonade at Honest Burgers!

The street gets a bit more urban feeling as you continue, with various markets and a wonderful cinema, the Electric Cinema, which serves food and has couch seating.

On the weekends, there are 3 large markets on Portobello Road---the main Portobello Road market, the food market at the far end located in a parking lot near the train overpass, and midway down, on the right, is a funky market/drinking area. I didn't include photos of the last two, as they looked pretty deserted today.

For a snack, try some ice cream at Gelateria or a crazy donut flavor at Happy Donut!

Now for another personality of Notting Hill!!!
Part 2:  Westbourne Grove

Whereas Portobello Road is a mecca for antiques, second-hand finds, quaint shops and tiny cafes, Westbourne Grove is affectionately known as “Little L.A.”  The street is lined with fashionable boutiques and eateries—lucky me—two of my favorite restaurants, Ottolenghi and The Dalesford are both on this street! 

As a Californian, I must agree! Westbourne Grove feels like L.A's Melrose Street to me, and this will certainly be a place to come to when I need my California "fix"!

The architecture takes on an elegant tone. I love this mono-chromatic threesome!

There are so many places to eat or have a coffee.... I'll just mention a few....Ottolenghi, one of my favorite Restaurants, has a very tiny branch here...

...and the Daylesford, which I've mentioned before, with its combination restaurant, organic grocery, food shop and gifts--amazing!


We also stumble upon Goop, which is Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle shop.

Here is a church that has found a way to pay for itself--- I found it fascinating that this old church rents out its lower level to hip retail boutiques! Church service on the right, shopping on the Left! this might catch on!!!

And below, maybe we truly are in "little L.A"--- I found the sign hilarious because it was situated right in the center of the main sidewalk (called pavement here). …. If you step into the area (what area? All of Westbourne Grove?), you give your consent to being filmed!

Well, that wraps up our tour today of Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove! look for me in some future Notting Hill Film!

Bottom line: If you like the hustle bustle of crowds, go on a Saturday to Portobello Market. If you like finding charity shopping or finding a deal, or roaming through mix and matched china, shop Portobello Road on a weekday. If you like trendy boutiques and restaurants and an L.A. vibe, Westbourne Grove is your street! 

Hope you enjoyed your walking tour of Notting Hill!


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