“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” — Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts, in the film Notting Hill.
I’ve always been a sucker for the sweet rom-com Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant as the travel bookshop owner Will Thacker who falls in love with the actress Anna Stone, played by Julia Roberts. One of my favorite scenes shows the despondent Will winding his way through the Portobello Market while the seasons change around him, Bill Withers singing “Ain’t No Sunshine” to add pathos.
The Portobello Market in Notting Hill is probably London’s best street market. It stretches for at least a mile and I was excited to see it all, even though the Travel Bookshop is nowhere to be found. Mike followed along, occasionally pointing out the market’s 150 year anniversary banners hanging at one- block intervals overhead. “That looks like the end,” he said a time or two. But it wasn’t. The market kept going, block after block.
What’s to buy there? Well, a lot of junk, but a lot of cool stuff, too. Even though I wasn’t in the market for most of it, I loved the hodge-podge: vintage mink stoles, old silver tea sets, leather goods, scarves of all colors, felt hats, jewelry, Scottish wool, trendy little dresses (new), English porcelain, used books, maps, London tee-shirts. Behind the booths set up in the street are antique shops and quirky boutiques in buildings awash in pastels.
There’s plenty to eat, too. Venders sell fresh produce to take home and there’s an array of ethnic foods for on-the-street dining — paella, German sausage, falafel, spring rolls, churros. We started the morning with jam-filled donuts and had a late-morning snack of street fries, doused with spicy, cheddary sauce. (Yeah, I know, terrible food choices, but both worth every heart-stopping bite.)
The street was jammed with visitors doing more gawking than buying, it seemed. We mostly gawked, as well, but I did find one thing I decided I needed: a bright green leather purse that will always remind me of our visit to Notting Hill.