Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's Beginning to Look Somewhat Like Christmas...

Monday afternoon, after parting ways with the AWC ladies I'd gone on a walking tour with, I took the Tube into central London to do some Christmas shopping and check out the holiday decorations.  Oxford Street did not disappoint.  Even though it was mid-afternoon, it was already starting to get dark (the sun sets around 4 pm these days!)
Lights on Oxford Street
I started at Marks & Spencer, since I had £50 worth of vouchers from signing up with Sky (our tv/phone/internet provider) that I keep forgetting to use.  My primary goal for the day: Christmas cards.  This is when I discovered that 90% of the greeting cards in the UK are square.  This is not a big deal if you are sending them within the UK, but square envelopes can not be processed by mail sorting machines in the US, so they require extra postage.  Not ideal.  The few rectangular cards they had were either too ugly or too expensive (my $80 worth of vouchers would have bought me about 20 cards), so I moved on.
Marks & Spencer
A couple blocks away was Selfridge's.  This London institution was founded by (gasp!) an American entrepreneur over 100 years ago and is considered one of the best department stores in the world.

Even the building itself is spectacular -- particularly all decked out for Christmas.
Exterior detail
Selfridge's main entrance
The window displays had a quirky all-white theme highlighted with neon lights
Women's accessories
Women's fashion
Christmas ornaments
My friend Bethie told me she fell in love with a pair of leather ballet flats at Selfridge's, but the relationship ended badly when the sales clerk told her they cost £350 (that's about $550!).  Keeping that in mind, I ventured inside to see what the fuss was all about.  I only saw a small part of the store, but WOW!  Like John Lewis, they sell just about everything, but it's a bit more high-end.  I could have easily spent the rest of the day browsing around the store, but it was mobbed, even on a Monday afternoon, and some of the customers who were trying out the karaoke machine definitely should not quit their day jobs, if they have one.  A whole section of the ground floor had been converted into a Christmas shop, with all sorts of decorations, gift wrap, ornaments, artificial trees, and even a life-size stuffed reindeer.  (Sorry, but it seemed weird to take photos inside the store.) Their non-square Christmas cards were lovely, but mostly way out of my budget.

I gave up on finding Christmas cards on this particular outing, and hopped on a bus to Knightsbridge to check out the window displays at Harrods, which is probably the world's most ostentatious department store.  It was lit up like a Christmas tree!
I did buy a few small gifts there, as well as a Harrods shopping bag for myself that matched this peacock tile mosaic from the food halls.
Two of my favorite things: art tile and peacocks (three if you include the patisserie!)
I thought it was a bit odd when the sales clerk asked if I needed directions to another part of the store, but when I was ready to leave (which didn't take long, since it was even more crowded than Selfridge's), I could not find my way back out!  I eventually did have to ask someone for directions.  Glad to be back out in the fresh air, I grabbed my camera and snapped some photos of their window displays.  Oddly enough, they had the same monochromatic white-on-white theme as Selfridge's, but the neon lights had been replaced by Swarovski crystals.  There was nothing inherently Christmas-y about them -- they looked more like scenes from fairy tales or romance novels.  (Some of these are just begging for a caption contest!)
Ooh, another peacock!
The windows were lovely, but surely there is SOME department store in the London area that has window displays with Santa and his elves making toys?  Or is that too much of a cliche?

1 comment:

  1. I got lost in Harrods a couple of years ago and had to ask directions to get out!


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