Saturday, May 7, 2011

Travel Bite: Portobello Road, London

I went to Portobello Road, and all I got was this lousy blog post.
Sure, the Queen Anne chairs were quaint and the Victorian jewels were majestic, but I had bigger things on my mind than antiques. Like, where were the Portobello mushrooms?

Located in the Notting Hill district in west London, this narrow, two-mile road is a world-renowned antique mecca. Saturday’s Portobello Road Market is the big day when the hordes are out en masse, but the shops, galleries, cafes and produce market are open all week.

This popular road used to be a winding country path known as Green's Lane until 1740 when Portobello Farm was built in the area. Wouldn't you think a farm named Portobello would be fungi-friendly? Nope. It was actually named for the 1739 British victory in the battle of Porto Bello in Panama.

The market began selling food in the 19th century, and today the north end of the road has stalls selling fresh produce throughout the week. Here was my chance to conquer some Portobellos. But as a Panamanian might say, I got nada.

From the Duke of Wellington to the Edwardian butcher, this seemed like the real London. The main dance number from the 1971 Disney movie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks starring Angela Lansbury even took place here (filmed at a Burbank studio, of course). If that's not authentic, what is?

Yes, Notting Hill was filmed on this street, but don’t ask the locals about Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Do people visit your 'hood and grill you about Aunt Bea and Opie? I wouldn't have minded some grilled Portobellos though.

Nice 'hood ornaments. How do you say chotchke in cockney?

Victorian terrace houses and independent shops reign, and the Friends of Portobello campaign is trying to preserve the street's history as the big chain stores threaten to move in.

Too late. This chain store called Poundland is like our 99¢ Only Store and where I suggested the Queen buy her canapé ingredients in My Frugal Royal Wedding Canapés.

The ultimate to-go window, this storefront had a unique pizza display. Were those 'shrooms Portobellos, or was that wishful thinking?

Conclusion: It's a great place to forage for anything but mushrooms.

Portobello road, Portobello road

Street where the riches of ages are stowed
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road
You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road (except Portobellos)


  1. Reading this is like taking a virtual vacation! I have never been to London and it is my dream destination. (My mom says I shouldn't go because she knows I would probably never come back!)

  2. Kristina, don't listen to your mom (even though it's Mother's Day)!

  3. Love Portobello Road and I haven't been in what feels like ages...thanks for sharing your pictures and experience with us. I'm longing for London now. :)

  4. Love the place, your quirky insights, and history/trivia tidbits, all served up with your trademark wit. Makes me want to go back and pick up a pot or two.

  5. Oft have read passages in English novels like "...she put on a peasant skirt she'd picked up in Portobello Road." Had no clue 'til reading your post! I resonate with your insistence that there should be mushrooms there. And with your admonition to Kristina. GO!!!!! A longing for England should always, always be fulfilled.

  6. What a fun and playful post! I would have thought funghi would have been prominent too. My husband and I went to London many moons ago, and I'm pretty sure we didn't hit Portobello Rd. It'll have to be on my radar next time we go. Well, as long as the pizza place is still there. :)

  7. Thanks for the tour and the poem. I'll have to check out the road on my next visit to London. Cheers!

  8. Sarah: Thanks. I highly recommend going!

    Becky: Would like to know where the peasant skirt passage came from. : )

    Susan: I didn't get there on a Saturday, so I need to go back too!

    Andrea: Check out the video link from the movie. It's a great song and dance number!

  9. Very misleading...a rename is definitely in order. I love the pizza shop window display -- there must be a portobello in there somewhere!

  10. I just love the pizza shop window!

    Thanks for the little trip this afternoon...

  11. Rosamunde Pilcher? Marcia Willett? Robin Pilcher? Jane Green? Richard Peck in "London Holiday?" Can't remember. There have been so many. Oops, guess I just revealed my penchant for all books English ...

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