Aeons ago I lived in London. In the arc of my life thus far it was for a relatively short period – a mere seven years. I loved living there but paradoxically only truly appreciated all London has to offer after my return to Ireland when world-class major museums, great art collections, a slew of shops, and a plethora of theatres were no longer a short tube or bus ride away. Not of course that Dublin doesn’t have a humongous amount to offer but the relative sizes of the two cities (Greater London population nearly eight million: Greater Dublin population not yet two million) means that Dublin is never going to provide the same vast array of choices that London does.
However too much choice is often overwhelming. So when I go back to visit London and have some spare time to shop, rather than visiting a monolithic department stores or an über busy and homogenous retail area a prefered shopping destination is Marylebone High Street. Of course it was there back in day when I lived in the metropolis but it was then an uninviting place: it has been much smartened up since I left and is now filled with an electic mix of shops, cafés and restaurants.
Marylebone High Street, which is north of Oxford Street, is the retail oasis that it is today thanks to the Howard de Walden Estate who own manage and lease not just the High Street but also approximately ninety acres of the surrounding district. They say on their website that they used ‘ creative management techniques’ to bring about ‘the striking and imaginative regeneration’ of the area. On Marylebone High Street they achieved an interesting and approved mix of tenants by targeting independent retailers rather than the big chains.
Many of my favourite shops have a branch on Marylebone High Street: Agnès B (I wrote about Agnès B here); Skandium (a retail haven filled with the best of Scandanavian design); Divertimenti (a wonderful kitchenware/tableware shop); The Conran Shop; Daunt Books … I was in London briefly last week and had an hour to spare to ‘do’ Marylebone High St. The beauty of the place is that an hour is fine but I could also very happily spend a full day there. For the record I broke one of my self-imposed shopping rules about not purchasing anything on impulse and bought a blouse in Agnès B.