Portobello


It felt like the first day of Spring on Saturday, so we crossed the other great London divide – from East to West – and visited an old, old favourite of ours – Portobello Market.

It’s a long journey that the Lovely Melanie and I used to make regularly – before we had children. But after all this time I wondered: was Portobello still the place to go…?

Camden Market was disappointing when we returned a few months ago: full of identi-kit stalls selling identi-kit phone cases, t-shirts and hats. But Portobello has always been a bit more diverse and intriguing – almost more “grown-up” – throwing antiques and interesting car-boot-sale tat into the mix of clothes, records and knick-knacks.

Amber had some birthday money to spend (not a lot, having blown half of it on Shopkins) but I thought both girls might enjoy the mix and the spectacle of a Saturday around West London. Plus, it’s always good for them to visit somewhere new, even at the risk of disappointment. Kids should be out there exploring and discovering whenever possible!

And, despite being horrendously crowded (it was the first warm and sunny day of 2015!), Portobello was an exciting treasure island for young eyes, minds and imaginations: antique jewellery, pre-decimal money, rocks and crystals, crockery and cutlery, dazzling silver…things, saris and old pre-war dresses – all mixed up with thousands of shoppers and tourists, speaking any number of different languages.

Amber's new bag
New bag try-outs

What’s not to like about all that when you’re seven and nine years old?! (OK, so Amber got a little freaked out by the crowds outside Notting Hill Gate tube. And later when she briefly lost sight of us at one point…)

They spent ages looking at the old jewellery and chatting with the stall-holders, who were unfailingly lovely, even though they knew the girls didn’t have the money to afford their stuff. Explaining the old cameo and back-painted brooches, where rhinestones got their name (from the River Rhine). Even one or two who looked a bit nervous about the girls touching their wares were polite and patient.

We wandered from Notting Hill Gate to Ladbroke Grove, taking about three hours to see everything, soaking up the sunshine and occasionally buying things. The eventual tally of paid-for swag was:

  • Some stunning polished crystals
  • A new school bag for Amber
  • A necklace for Amber
  • A large pink plastic diamond for Millie (given to her FREE by a generous stallholder!)
  • A jumping toy-thing
  • A PG Wodehouse book and sun-dried tomato ciabatta for me
  • A silver ring for the Lovely Melanie
  • Brightly-coloured skirts for both girls
  • Churros for Millie (Millie cannot resist churros)
  • A HUGE punnet of strawberries for everyone else.

I was hoping to buy some trousers or a nice shirt – in times gone by I’ve bought some amazing stuff from Portobello (and left even more amazing stuff sadly on the hangers…) but the clothing market looked a bit threadbare, which made me a little sad.

We finally headed for home about 4pm, because Millie had been invited to a sleepover that night, and because we were knackered.

That evening may have been the one and only time a sleepover for nine-year-olds actually involved sleep!

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