London is magical at the moment.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the yawning Edwardian gap beween the superdupermegarich and the rest of us, which has opened up in my home town in just the last ten years, but the upside of it is that it has never been more glamorous.
Today was a special day in my calendar, when I go up to meet my best friend V. to buy our Christmas chocolates. It’s just an excuse to see each other, really, but we’ve made it into a gorgeous annual ritual.
We meet at Fortnum & Mason, where she buys her chocs and I just like to be. Just breathing in there is heaven. Everywhere your eye falls there’s a new gorgeousness.
Then we head along Piccadilly and up New Bond Street, so I can buy my chocs in Charbonnel & Walker. I am loyal to this classic brand for several reasons.
- I have made an intensive personal global study of rose and violet creams and Charbonnel & Walker make the best ones. The silver medal (and it’s very close) goes to Haigh’s of Adelaide.
- Rose and violet creams are a religion in my family. We have to have them every Christmas. One year I ordered online from Charbonnel & Walker on the last day for Christmas delivery. The parcel arrived with a note saying they had sold out of the box I’d ordered – so they had sent me a bigger one. That is the kind of service which engenders loyalty until death.
- The experience of going into that little jewel box shop and choosing each chocolate (I always get a mixed selection box, heavy on the fondants) which is then tied up with ribbon, is an utter joy.
This year they have this new style of box with crystal jewels on it. Is there anything more glamorous than a round box of chocolates?
Our chocolates bought – a large tick off the Christmas to do list – we headed along Bond Street, because we could, and I stopped off at Smythson to buy my Premier diary. I’ve had the same one now for, gosh, nearly thirty years. Eek!
I did feel a bit cross when the lovely old shop got branded and fashionised and became a ‘thing’ because my diary has doubled in price, but I’ve tried buying cheaper ones only to find myself trotting back to Bond Street in February to get the one I really wanted. A page to a day, just the right size for your handbag, it’s like a diary and a notebook in one.
Sometimes I buy navy, occasionally pigskin, but I decided 2015 is a red year.
The day continued like a voyage around the brands I feel define me. With Fortnums, Charbonnel &Walker and Smythson ticked off, it was into Fenwick for a quick browse. And of course a visit to their ‘Ladies Powder Room’; the nicest loo in London.
These amazing candles are by Cire Trudon. I love Napoleon in the middle.
I fell in love with these outragelously shiny and high muels by Guiseppe Zanotti. There’s an almost hidden layer of cork, underneath the foot which would make them bearable to walk in. For about five minutes.
After that, I said goodbye to V. and headed off to see my lovely friend Giles Robertson for a rug fix. John Frieda is another portal that occupies a very special place in my heart. I just feel right when I’m in there.
And I always feel even better when I come out, because Giles always works such magic on my head.
Walking back to the station felt like a stroll through fairyland with the decorations at Scott’s, a polar bear and cub in front of William & Son and multi-coloured crystal baubles in the tree outside the Connaught (at the top).
London, mon amour.