I have been cultivating the art of living in a permanent state of gratitude. Today I am thankful for my senses; that even though we plan our days, no two days are the same. This gives us something to look forward to, especially if like me, you have a penchant for the eclectic. If uniformity and order bore you, If you can’t stand predictability but rather you savour and hold the moment right before you discover something new. This was today for me as I started out hoping for an eclectic day out in Notting Hill. One of the hallmarks of London is its diverse mix of ethnicities, and this shows up in the sounds, sights and scents on our streets.
In true London style, my journey consisted of a train ride and two underground changes. I got off at Westbourne Park and headed towards Notting hill.
There was a warm atmosphere of expectancy and a good mix of galleries, antique stores, restaurants and boutiques, but what ordered my steps was the music. I LOVE music and enjoy various genres from jazz through country music to soul and pop. I’ve been asked what my favourite genre is. There is no answer to that as my choice depends on the moment. My thoughts, mood, the weather, the reason. I am enthralled when I enter a store and the music pretty much tells you what is sold in there.
Verve Pet Boutique & Lounge
In this pet boutique, it was ‘Summertime‘ and the living did seem quite easy. This is an all season song that’s been covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Norah Jones and apparently over 30,000 others in between. The pet boutique reminded me of the movie Beverly Hills Chihuahua. I felt slightly disconcerted that I had to ask if the cakes on display were for dogs or humans, to which the trendy gentleman told me, ‘Human’. I spent a moment imagining the incredulity that would mould my mother’s face into an unrecognisable shape if she stood right there with me in a shop where you had to clarify if the food on display was for us or animals. If you’re a dog lover, please stop by, it’s a pretty neat shop. They offer grooming services and since you’d be meeting other dog owners some matchmaking can be arranged. That’s matchmaking for the dogs, not humans. Or perhaps both.
Moving on I stopped briefly at Planet Organic where you are invited to ‘Eat well, live better’. This year has enjoyed a total overhaul to my family meals so I’m all for wholefoods and organics. They had brown rice milk. That’s new to me. You can also pick up packets of raw chocolate, which means you don’t have to feel guilty about your confectionery pleasures. There was a definitive healthy atmosphere to the store, and if you’re a healthy eating guru, it would feel like members of your tribe had just convened for a quick meeting at Planet Organic. A well-stocked store that’s worth a revisit.
I was about to cross the road when I heard Aretha Franklin’s voice. Now I can spend the rest of this post dissecting her songs, from A rose is still a rose to her cover of Adele’s Rolling In the Deep which she fused with Diana Ross’s Ain’t no mountain high enough. I have a playlist on Spotify called ‘wake up’; for those mornings that the coffee takes its time in waking me up. Both tunes are on that list along with Beyonce’s Love on Top and Whitney’s Million Dollar Bill.
The store from which the song emanated happened to be an African art gallery owned by Bryan Reeves, a man who is fiercely passionate about African art. The store is aptly named Tribal Gathering. It is fascinating to watch people in their zone. The way he carried each calabash and set it down gently. The way he walked a respectable distance from the fertility masks so as not to knock them down- or perhaps it’s what you do when you walk past a fertility mask. The prevalence of weathered, unrefined wood in various hues give you the feeling of being hugged by nature. A dark, yet welcoming store that’s worth a visit us you’re in the neighborhood.
Artisan du Chocolat
Chocolate has a distinct smell. But you wouldn’t know it if you only favour the mass-produced variety with no more than 25% cocoa. The processing robs it of most of its earthy goodness and the natural smell has been replaced by synthesised flavours. That is not this shop. This shop smells of real chocolate. It is divine. The decor is also awe-inspiring. The ‘rainforest dome’ will transport you to a world present only in your imagination as you savour the sight, smell and taste of this treasure on Westbourne Grove. I don’t know why the brand consultants chose orange for the decor, it is a colour that doesn’t seem to have much to do with the treats they sell. Yet they nailed it on every single level. All I can say is visit. The chocs are to die for especially the Macadamia nuts & Coconuts pictured below.
I stopped at a furniture store and the music of choice was Caravan of Love. Now this transported me back to my childhood. I haven’t heard this laid back, slow version before and have no idea who the artist is but it reminded me to take life slowly. Not to rush and miss out on the goodness that can often be overlooked in everyday life. Somehow it told my heart that it wasn’t about the destination but about the journey. These words were not in the lyrics but were in the music.
My trip ended at Patisserie Valerie with a double chocolate gateaux slice and a delightful mug of creamy mocha. I think that summed up my day- a delicious mix of rich sounds, sweet smells and colourful sights. I don’t normally drink coffee in the evenings, but I was going out to dinner with my friends. And yes, my social life seems to be coming alive as I sent a text to Suzy, what time are we meeting at the restaurant?
Do you have a favourite street in your city? I’d love to hear all about it! Share in the comments box below.
I have also created a ‘Sounds of Notting Hill’ Playlist on Spotify, listen and follow here.