Jump on the Tube and exit at Notting Hill Gate, follow the crowds and you will arrive at one of London’s most visited attractions. It’s a street. Portobello Road. Anyone not heard of it? Anyone else visited there? Seen bumbling Hugh Grant’s movie Notting Hill? Here’s our short review: if you are looking to buy antiques or vintage or collectibles for resale, go elsewhere.
We arrived early to beat the crowds on a Saturday, which we had heard were tremendous. That is an understatement. At 8 a.m., we had the south antique section of the street to ourselves and we started off by wandering in and out of the private small over-priced stores that line both sides of the road. We casually browsed tables set up on the sidewalks and tented booths that set up in the street.
Then we ventured into the antiquated antique stalls built into rooms of tiny buildings. Close your eyes and imagine…..You’ve entered into a retail building, but instead of open shelving and displays, there are small glass closets and each of these closets are crammed with grandma’s finest crap, from floor to ceiling. Next to the first closet is another closet and another and so on. Besides the stuff, there is a person sitting on a tiny chair reading the daily newspaper. No eye contact, although they may decide to break their silence and talk with the person on the chair opposite them. There is room for one person to carefully walk down the hall between the closets. This is not a comfortable way to shop if you are claustrophobic or carrying a child. Follow the hall as it turns the corner and exits back onto the street. There are many of these buildings and we went into each of them.
By 11 a.m., Portobello Road is full of people, wall to wall people. Casually strolling is now off-limits. The throng of tourists pushes you down the road. Think about if Madison Square Gardens had only one exit and everyone was using it to go in and out at the same time. Chaos!
The road itself has developed specific sections. The south part is the antiques section, followed by food and groceries. We thought there would be flower stalls, but there weren’t many, maybe due to it being October. The food stalls were the most interesting. All types of international open air cooking were offered. The Spanish paella smelled out of the world, but we were unwilling to eat and try to walk at the same time. Then there are house ware vendors and rows and rows of vintage or simply old clothing. At the most northern end, regular people put out secondhand garage sale items. At the end, you turn around and let the mob push you back to south of the road which empties out at Notting Hill Gate.
By now, everyone is looking for a place to eat and all the eateries are full of stressed out foreign people. Luckily, we found a sushi restaurant, where we could unwind and recuperate. We did buy a few items and got to visit with a fellow Transferware Collectors Club member who sells from a double-wide glass closet. He has amazing transferware.
So, we’ve been there and done that. We’ve checked it off our bucket list. No treats on Portobello Road, but the real treat is that we are living our dream and shopping for antiques in England and the rest of Europe to bring some great pieces back to our friends in Springfield Missouri.