There are a few neighbourhoods in London that hold a very special place in my heart and each come with their own set of memories. For me, St James's is perhaps one of the most special. It is an area of London, just south of Piccadilly, that is the most historic, the most prestigious and the most refined - and that's not just because it's where the Royals seem to do most of their shopping. St James's is quite honestly a feast for all the senses. I've lived in London for 14 years now and each time I return, I discover a new sense heightened by the experience. So, I thought it high time to share a proper exploration of the area. With the help of the St James's London, I put together a mini tour of the area. I played a full fledged tourist for the day in the hopes of encouraging more to do the same. One could spend a whole week just in this area and not see it all, but here are a few of the highlights for a 24 hour adventure. Be sure to pop on over to the St James London website to check out the video for more info on all the places listed below:
1. Check out the Cherry Blossoms right now!
It's that time of year and all the trees are in bloom in St James's. Start your tour with a drop by the St James's church and market (picture above) to take in the sites and shop the local fare. If you're a true tourist in London you'll find loads here to take home as small gifts for family and loved ones. If you're still in need of more of a Cherry Blossom moment, head over to Sake No Hana, one of my favourite sushi restaurants in London, not just the area. They have the most stunning Cherry Blossom display and menu to compliment the season (I wrote about this a few years ago - check out the pictures).
2. Ice Cream at Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason is truly a Royal experience in St James's that engages all the senses. This is a place where tourists and locals alike gravitate towards for any number of reasons. While I'd like to say I'm usually in residence to pick up a beautiful item for the home, or a bundle of beautiful tea bags, I'm actually almost always to be found in the The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason's. This is a local favorite, to the great detriment of my waistline. Whether just popping through for an ice cream sundae, or the Knickerbocker Glory (invented at Fortnum's in 1955), this is an experience in pastels and sugar highs.
3. The scent of Royals with Floris
Floris, the royal perfumers, date their start back to 1730, where the original store (pictured above) still stands on Jermyn Street. It doesn't get much more historical when it comes to brands. They've been scenting the Royal Family since the beginning, and have two Royal Warrants today (which means they still provide services to the Royal Family). While the shop itself is the most incredible experience and truly feels like a step back in time, it's the sensual experience with their fragrances that will transport you to another place. In the video you'll see we take a step back with the company and look at their ledgers, which showcase fragrance orders for every King, Queen, Princess and so forth and so on... I couldn't believe the treasure trove of information they were sharing!
4. Christy's Hats
Well, Christy's hats is a little newer than Floris. But we're only talking less than 50 years here, folks. The esteemed creator of society's most celebrated hats was founded in 1773. In the 1850s, Prince Albert began wearing Christy's top hats, and since that day, the Royals have continued to use Christy's as a master creator of hats. You may have also seen The Godfather wearing the now famous Christy's Homburg Hat. And, the friendly Metropolitan Police also sport a Christy's hat as they make their way around London on a daily basis. Things you learn, eh? And yes, the lead picture above is me having a go at a classic Christy's piece. Think I need to go back and get my hands on one or two for my wardrobe. An absolute classic!
5. The luxury library (complete with cocktails) at Assouline
Here's my top secret St James's hangout: Assouline. This is truly a hidden treasure and unless you know to look for it, you could walk right past it - which would be a crying shame! Assouline is of course the famed book publisher responsible for some of the world's most beautiful creations. To get lost in this beauty would be a truly terrific thing. Whether popping in for coffee with friends or cocktails at the bar, I would advise you to enjoy a bit of a break from shopping and then select a beautiful book from the library and settle in for a rummage and a purchase - as I've never been able to leave a book behind once cracked here in the soft leather chairs at Assouline.
6. Cheese, cheese and more cheese at Paxton & Whitfield
If you don't like cheese... wait, you don't like cheese? You are reading the wrong blog. Leave NOW! Ok, kidding, kidding, I know cheese isn't everyone's thing, but I have a serious passion for it. Call me crazy but I'll take a room full of stinky cheese any day. Enter Paxton & Whitfield - the stinkiest cheese shop I've ever encountered in my life and the next best thing to heaven. This is another shop steeped in history (see a trend forming here?) and again, another shop that is frequented by the Royal Family. In fact, Paxton & Whitfield have been Britain's leading cheesemongers for over 200 years and have two Royal Warrants today for continued services to the Royal Family. With over 150 varieties of cheese in store, this is a sensory experience not to be missed. There's even a cheese wedding cake. Need I say more?
This may be my first feature on St James's on FFG, but it is most certainly not the last. I have been inspired and I feel there is much more to uncover in this area of the world. Of course, we're only scratching the surface here. There's much more to discover over with the video we created! Take a look!