Friday, August 2, 2013

LDN: Marylebone

Familiarity breeds contempt. After four months of walking along Oxford Street, that place becomes a nightmare. I was in dire need of some place new so I looked to my trusty, not-your-average London guide book. It told me to go to Marylebone.

It's famous for the Baker Street Station, the world's first underground railway, and for Sherlock Holmes who was based in Baker Street. Amusingly, fan mail is still being sent to his fictional address. Madame Tussauds, London's wax museum, is also located here. So if you want a photo with Kate Middleton or Brad Pitt or Oprah Winfrey or whoever else you can think of, get in line.

The true gems though, the ones that truly speak of Marylebone's lifestyle and taste are to be found in the independent shops 'round the corner.

First up: Alfies Antique Market.

It's London's largest indoor market for antiques. I usually cringe my nose at the word "antiques" - images of dusty furniture and tacky chinaware come to mind - but this one changed my perception of it. It was a treasure trove of bits and bobs that can pepper your home with beautiful things. The four floors are filled with vendors for vintage furniture, fabric, jewellery, trinkets, clothes, posters, watches... you name it, they have it. They even have a gallery on the second floor, which features temporary exhibitions, and a restaurant on the fourth, where you can go to take a breather. Naturally, my eyes were drawn to the vintage fashion... I saw out-of-season Prada and Dolce and Gabbana pumps, 1950's wedding dresses, and wildly-embellished skirts. So much more character than the same old, same old high street shops nowadays...

I had my lunch at Food Filosophy (witty!), a Greek and Mediterranean restaurant that serves healthy (yay!) and affordable (double yay!) food. For seven quid, you can have a selection of fish or meat and three sides. I had salmon, Greek salad, tomato and parsley salad, and mashed chickpeas. It was a refreshing lunch but I think I went a bit overboard on the tomatoes. If you're not up for fish, there's always chicken and for sides, they have pastas and other salads as well. They also have a good selection of desserts, smoothies, coffee, and tea. 

The interiors are amiable as well... it's like having a courtyard within a restaurant. There's a huge picnic table across the serving area and shelves filled with Greek products. It's a bit of a walk from the main street of Marylebone but it's worth it if you want something different.

I spent most of my time in Daunt Books. I chanced upon this charming bookstore in Holland Park but I was on a tight schedule so I couldn't linger. When I heard that their branch in Marylebone was bigger, I told myself that I had to go. The wait was worth it. Its green and brown façade is so inviting but once you step in the store, that's where the magic begins. That distinct smell of book pages, of school libraries... Do you know that ? It fills you. It makes you want to stay. They should seriously capture that it in a bottle; I would take it with me everywhere. 

With its wooden decor and beautiful layout, Daunt Books looks more like a university library than a mainstream bookstore. There are even wooden chairs you can sit on. They have every genré imaginable but the spotlight belongs to the travel section - there's a two-floored room dedicated to it. It's one of the first stores that grouped the books by countries, giving you ultimate convenience. And it's not just travel guides about the country... any book from design to fiction to art referring to that country is there. It was so beautiful that I whiled away an hour in that place. 

Then I walked to VV Rouleaux, a ribbon wonderland. There were reels upon reels of ribbons in every color, texture, and pattern. It's the perfect place for craft makers as they supply you with exactly what you need and hold classes if you need a bit of help. They can teach you how to make a headdress and give you tips on how to use ribbons on your wedding day. Absolutely adorable.

And then finally to KJ's Laundry. If you're sick of seeing Primark, H&M, Zara, Topshop (okay, I'm talking about myself), this independent fashion boutique is perfect. Owned by Kate Allden and Jane Ellis, the selection of designers is tastefully curated. The choices of clothes are quirky, stylish, and individual that even though this shop is tucked in an alleyway, women in the know fill their wardrobe with pieces from this lovely shop. Such a good discovery. They have minimalist and structured pieces but also patterned and colorful ones. 

I saw all that in a day. Marylebone is perfect for an afternoon stroll where the roads aren't so wide, the crowds are nonexistent, and the shops go beyond the high street. Oh, may there be more power to independent boutiques!

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