Rachel Gordon went window
shopping in London’s West End for
a preview of the Christmas rush.
The Kingsway Hall Hotel is next door
to Grand Lodge and has special
terms for MQ readers who must
quote reference “ID 558” when
booking. The offer (normal prices
including VAT in brackets) are:
Standard Room: £160 (£240)
Executive Room: £200 (£280)
Prices are per room, and include
a full English breakfast and a
complimentary bottle of champagne.
Tel. 020 7309 0909
Fax: 020 7309 9696
| || ||
Christmas is coming but not everyone is
looking forward to the holiday season. If
you’re someone who hates shopping, then
you’ll not be experiencing much cheer as
the days leading up to the 25th pass by.
There are always gift tokens of course.
Or, if you’re web-savvy, you may be able
to find something online. But, if you want
to spoil friends and family this year – and
perhaps break the habit of a lifetime – why
not grasp the nettle and brave London’s
No matter how much people complain
about the crowds, cost and transport, the
capital is world class when it comes to shops.
For the cream of the capital’s department
stores, take a bus or tube to Marble Arch
and you’ll be at the top of Oxford Street.
The most famous shops include
Debenhams, D H Evans, John Lewis,
Selfridges, and flagship branches of BHS
and Marks & Spencer.
For music fans, the massive HMV record
and multimedia store at 363 Oxford Street
is the oldest record shop in the world.
But, at the Marble Arch end, one of the
first big stores you’ll come across is that old
favourite, Marks & Spencer. According to
spokeswoman Victoria Sims, gift buyers
will be heading for the cashmere department
– this branch has the largest selection of all
its stores in the UK.
Next door to M&S is Selfridges.
Spokeswoman Kerry Savage says 2004
promises to be a spectacular Christmas for
shoppers. Much of the lower ground floor
will be turned over to a decorations hall,
filled with baubles, tinsel and crackers.
Her particular recommendations include
a set of Crème de la Mer skincare products,
which apparently is favoured by Hollywood
celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Sharon Stone.
The set comes in a designer leather bag from
American accessories company Lambertson
Truex and costs an alarming £435.
A more affordable alternative, she
suggests, is a bottle of Möet & Chandon Rosé
Champagne, which comes in a bottle studded
with Svarowski crystals – a mere £39.99.
One special gift only available from
Selfridges has been produced by the Teenage
Cancer Trust. Various supporters, including
Sarah Fergusson, have written short stories
for a unique book, and the work will sell for
£9.95 – all proceeds will go to the charity.
Regent Street is less hectic than Oxford
Street and is home to some quality stores.
Not least is toy Mecca Hamleys, which has
seven floors of temptations.
It is also worth making a trip to
department store Liberty in Regent Street.
It can be tricky to find your way round,
since it is in two buildings, but has plenty
of presents to suit everyone.
Spokeswoman Hazel Cross says
perennial favourites include silk scarves
for ladies and ties for men, many of which
are in the famous Liberty prints.
“We’ve a Christmas shop filled with
decorations and we’ve also extended our
bath shop, which has top of the range
toiletries,” she adds.
Covent Garden is also well worth a visit.
There are no big department stores here,
but plenty of smaller and interesting shops
to whet your appetite.
Allison Cattermoule, a spokeswoman
for the Covent Garden Community
Association, says: “Neal’s Yard Dairy in
Shorts Gardens is fantastic for cheeses, and
for unusual teas and china, try Neal Street
East. You can also find a superb selection
of maps and travel books at Stanfords in
In Covent Garden you can also visit
Grand Lodge, which has hourly tours,
free of charge and the Library & Museum.
And, you will also be well placed to buy
regalia or other items with a Masonic flavour
at Letchworth’s shop on the ground floor.
Finally, if you’re bitten by the shopping
bug and want to find out more about what is
available in London, check the Time Out
Shopping Guide, which costs £8.99.