Tag: Liberty London

London Lights Up European Tour

Lately, I have run into a few Americans in European cities who have decided to give London a miss on their tour or I’ve heard my friends and acquaintances tell of their travels abroad sans London, too.

‘What is up with that?’ I have asked often. ‘London is a great city. You will never tire of it, promise!’

‘Not the problem,’ I have been told.

‘Then what is it?’

It’s expensive, really expensive. Fair enough, but you are not coming to live in the place for pete’s sake. You are coming to visit and when it comes to entertainment for free, London has much to choose from. From checking out its many cathedrals to its eclectic neighbourhoods, right in central London, the city promises to light up any European holiday.

Literally, this past weekend, London lit up in a special way. Though you will always find Leicester Square heaving, it was teeming that much more with Londoners and tourists alike this weekend, those keen to see what all the light of the Lumiere Festival was about. There, was the Garden of Light, first stop on Lumiere’s map.

Though a bit crowd shy, Paul and I wrapped up and joined in with the sightseeing on Saturday, the second night of the event, but chose to make Leicester Square, our last stop with a view that we would grab a bit to eat at one of our favourite spots in Covenant Garden. Not a chance. Never mind, we ended up in South Kensington, where we lived when I first arrived in London.

Posh neighbourhood indeed, but even there one can get a bite to eat without breaking the bank. Though we had planned on sitting down to one of the many neighbourhood restaurants, we ended up grabbing a take away from Rotisserie Jules. But I digress.

Back to Lumiere and where we started, (Mayfair), we got off to a slow start, when daunted by the crowds herding into Grosvenor Square to see the two, possibly three light displays—Brothers and Sisters, Spinning Night in Living Colour and the Light Bench. Not sure if we saw the latter or not. Never mind, we headed to Regent Street, where things literally lit up.

With the famous shopping street closed to cars, crowds adored the 1.8 London display on one end of the street, streaming like a ribbon in the wind,  and on the other end was Les Lumineoles, fluorescents of the fish species. Also on Regent’s street was Keyframes light show, beamed from Liberty’s Department store.

On from there we headed to Piccadilly, where perhaps our favourite was 195 Piccadilly, a display of picturesque faces on the building next to Maison Assouline. Eager to escape the crowds, however, we took side streets into St James and into what was perhaps the heart of the festival, Les Voyageurs, The Travellers, featuring amazing characters perched on buildings around the area or seemly flying through the night.

Having had our fill of crowds, ranging from young to old, we decided to give a miss to Westminster, Trafalgar Square, The Mall and King’s Cross. Okay, so we missed out on a big part of Lumiere but not because we were tired of it, or of London.

As Samuel Johnson wrote, ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’

And though Lumiere is over, such events as it have a way of lighting up an already happening city, an enlightening stop on any European tour.





Weekend in London for the BFF Books

On the heels of the acclaimed London Fashion Week, came the much awaited London Fashion Weekend (LFW), a style extravaganza for the fashion conscious members of the public. That’s me, and my BFF, of course, who flew over from New York for the weekend.

Paul got the tickets as a Christmas gift.

Anyhow, on Saturday, with our tickets in tow, we headed over to the brilliant Somerset House, where the venue’s winter skating rink had been replaced by an extraordinary marquee, which played host or rather hostess to the catwalk shows.

Crowds of stylish and a few ‘not so’ stylish young women, a few men, too queued to enter.  What was that about? Oh, the designer tote bag in exchange for the entry ticket. We’ll have one of those, we agreed, jumped the queue since we already had tickets, and collected the coveted bag. Hump, one look at it and we both wondered what the fuss was about, and after looking inside, we felt seriously let down—some Lavazza coffee, an energy bar, some lip balm. Enough said.

Still, we hoped for the best, remembering some years ago when the event was held at the Natural History Museum, a stone’s throw away from my (and Paul’s) flat at the time in South Kensington. There, we shopped until we dropped. Favourite buys included a sheepskin coat and a designer handbag for me. For her, a D&G leather skirt and a fabulous pony skin clutch bag.

With these cherished items in mind, we browsed from show room to show room, often being jostled by crowds, finally to conclude that either we had changed or the target market had changed and drastically. A bit of both I suppose but more the latter than the former. Though we were younger, at least 12 years, our good taste for fashion was well ensconced, even then.  Hence, we hoped that LFW had maintained its taste, too.

But sadly, the variety of designers had not only shrunk but also the ones participating held back the greatest and latest. For instance, I noted a Joseph dress from two years ago, marked down to a heart-breaking price. Heart-breaking because I bought it at full price at Harvey Nichols.  Never mind! The good news is that it’s still in style. Or is it?

Meanwhile, we caught a trend catwalk show, sponsored by the Outnet.com – very nice indeed! The young super models in training, we shall call them, seemed to enjoy strutting their stuff, all but one of them, who looked miserable. But at the risk of traumatizing her, I shall say no more.

Anyhow, though we had tickets for the Julian MacDonald show scheduled for later that evening, we decided to call it quits and head back to MatchesFashion.com on Marylebone High Street, where we had dropped by earlier.

This stock more than lived up to our expectations, featuring beautiful dresses, bags, shoes, etc., but we didn’t score there either. So off to Liberty we went, where we hit the jackpot – at least my BFF did.

I, on the other hand, was left thinking about a few items.

Later that night, we caught up with another friend at the popular Arts Club and dined and danced. And the night before had seen The Mistress Contract at the Royal Court with Paul and enjoyed dining at Chez Bruce, a Michelin star local.

In short, even if LFW didn’t meet our expectations, it turned out to be fashionable weekend in London after all – one that will surely go down in the BFF book of memories. In the meantime, I’m still thinking – all very nice thoughts, indeed!