If you are traveling to London, make it a point to visit Selfridges on Oxford Street. I love this iconic department store for many reasons: the elegant displays, the variety of brands and selections they carry, and the food hall, of course. I can spend an entire day here and never get tired of it.
We arrived just before lunch and did a tour of the ground floor taking in the different displays from the vast cosmetics area to luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. After browsing for a bit, we decided to head to the food hall for lunch. The food hall is a joy to visit. The beautifully wrapped gift items set up around the specialist counters of delicious foods such as cheese, fresh pasta, meats of all varieties, and charcuterie, to name just a few are a pleasure to view! There is also a champagne and oyster bar which always looks so enticing.
We knew exactly what we wanted when we saw the ramen bar. We headed straight for it and while there was a short queue, the time passed quickly before we were seated and excitedly looking at the choices on the menu. Ramen is a favorite of mine and this did not disappoint.
After lunch we headed back to do some shopping. While Selfridges does offer many luxury brands, you can also find more affordable lines like TopShop. We were there at the end of November so the Christmas Shop was set up with delightful decorations and is a great place to shop for gifts and souvenirs to take back home.
We finished our shopping and headed downstairs where there is a tea/coffee shop. Here you can have afternoon tea with delicious pastries or a cappuccino while you rest your feet. Mine were aching and an espresso was the perfect pick-me-up.
Other than the shopping, dining and beautiful displays that are a treat to behold, a real benefit of shopping at Selfridges is that you can combine all your shopping and claim the VAT back in one step. The VAT refunds office is on the fourth floor and it is very efficiently run. It is a vast office and when you walk in, there is a desk where you are greeted and given a number. When your number is shown on the screens in the waiting area, you proceed to that desk and take a seat. You present your receipts and passport or driving license to the agent and they will take it from there. When you walk out you have everything you need to claim your VAT refund at the airport when you are departing the UK.
So whether you buy clothes, cosmetics, shoes or household items, if your purchases qualify for a VAT refund, it is all processed at one time, which is a real convenience. Trust me, I have done it where I have multiple forms and envelopes from many different shops and all that paper is a nightmare to keep track of.
Selfridges is a one-of-a-kind department store and definitely worth a visit. You will surely enjoy browsing, shopping and eating while you are there.
I’m back from London but still have experiences to write about. One of those is dinner at Simpson’s in the Strand. This British institution is such an experience. The dining room is large and elegant with dark wood paneling on the walls. I love the carving trolleys and the delicious choices of roasts that are offered. The night we went there was roast rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings (a favorite in my family), and a choice of turkey or ham with bacon wrapped sausages and roast potatoes. Our family ordered all three and they were all delicious!
Also be sure to leave plenty of time prior to your reservation to have a drink in the upstairs bar. The comfy sofas and chairs offer a lovely place to relax and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.
There is a lot to do in London and one week is certainly not enough. Nevertheless, we try and fit as much as we can into our trips.
Borough Market is one of the activities we always find time for. For foodies, this is a must do! We take the tube to London Bridge and then look for the exit signs to Borough Market. It takes you right there.
The minute you arrive you will get caught up in the atmosphere of the market. There are traders of every type of food and drink imaginable, from charcuterie, cheeses, and fishmongers to tapas, paella, Turkish/Cypriot/Thai cuisines to name only a few. There are bakers of breads, sweet pastries and savory pies. Vegetarian and Vegan options are plentiful and mouth-watering.
I loved the fresh truffles where you could lift the lids off the jars containing the valuable fungi and the strong, unmistakable truffle scent was overwhelming, but in a good way! They even had rare white truffles. The samples of truffle pate were a yummy treat.
I never miss a chance to buy fresh oysters and they are a steal at 6 for £10.
There are wine and beer merchants and Columbian coffee traders as well as a coffee stand run by homeless workers. My daughter, who is studying in London this year, loves their almond milk latte.
A really fun place to stop by is the Tea 2 You shop. This vendor knows about tea, for real. He proudly displays pictures with Prince Harry and letters from the Royal Family complimenting his teas. He will share their favorites and tell you how to prepare each type of tea. Some are best with milk and honey, but you would never, ever add milk to Darjeeling. As the lady in the shop told us, “it would be a crime to do so.” Lol! Seriously, this is the place to shop if you love tea. They will advise you, help you choose from their large selection and prepare teas for you to sample.
So if you are in London and have a few hours to spare or better yet, half a day, stop by and experience this wonderful place.