(published May 10 in the Rapid City Journal)
Being seasoned travelers, the first thing we do in London (after the obligatory hotel check-in, money exchange, and adoration of the English accent) is head to the shops. If you want a report on Big Ben, Parliament, The Queen or Gordon Blair, you’ll have to come to England and write one yourself; our highlights are the trio of Oxford, Jermyn and Bond Streets – the holy trinity of London shopping.
We head first to Geo. F. Trumper & Sons, spouse’s favorite men’s grooming emporium. The shop is the size of an American closet, yet there are 6 sales clerks ready to attend to the gentleman’s every stray hair or colorful odor. The English upper class can be readily found here, identifiable by their hounds, their carefully tousled “just back from the hunt” hair and their attitude of “please do get out of my way, unimportant person”. It’s very crowded.
Next, we trot over to Fortnum & Mason, which is to food and unnecessary personal accessories what WalMart is to discounts. It’s like going to your favorite grocery store and finding that they’ve opened a Saks Fifth Avenue in aisle 7. The store, unchanged since the days of Alexander the Great, has suddenly decided to remodel (although ‘sudden’ in England implies a decade of passing time). The results are roomier and much less jumbled, but there is no longer the ever present mass of humanity feverishly snatching up jars of Rose Petal Jam, forcing you to think they’ll run out before you get yours (even though you’ve never eaten it before and find it a very strange idea)
And then there’s Harrod’s. The Temple of Wretched Excess. If you don’t need it and can’t afford it, you’ll find it at Harrod’s. We visit the hallowed memorial to Princess Di and Dodi Fayed. We titter outside the ‘luxury restrooms’, where for a mere $2.00 you can use the loo (don’t forget to tip the attendant) and we stand slack-jawed in front of displays of fresh fruit where bananas are $14.00 per pound and an apple can be had for $5.00. Fruit salad or a bank bailout, anyone?