Stanfords, London: N is for No Neeed to go anywhere else
VT Heaven - every travel book under the sun
Stanfords, whose motto is"Explore Discover Inspire" is by far the best travel bookshop I have ever been in.
The three floors are packed with travel guides, maps and literature on every country on earth. They also do specialist maps, climbing maps and books, kid's stuff and globes.
The ground floor also has a very large world map embedded on floor - so you can "walk around the world".
Staff are also excellent, and on their website you can find a kind of 'mini-VT' where Stanfords staff write about countries they have visited and which particular maps and guides they used.
What to buy: As Del-boy would say : "The world's your lobster"Add to your Trip Planner
Benjamin Pollocks Toy Shop, London: J is Jack in the box....
A interesting shop in Covent Garden...
Covent garden has been pretty much taken over by the faceless chains like the Body shop and Monsoon these days, but a few interesting places remain.
This shop is an offshoot of the main Toy Museum and shop (near the British Museum) and is quite cramped, having only a couple of upstairs rooms to display its' wares.
The company is most famous for producing toy cardboard theatres, with full plays, scenery and cardboard actors to stage your own productions.They are beautiful pieces, but I suspect most are just put on show in customers houses rather than actually being used these days. Playstations and DVD's just seem to win out these days !
There is also a good selection of books, Cards, Punch & Judy and Commedia dell'arte, Optical Toys and Visual Illusions, Dolls and Paper Dolls, Nativity Scenes & Miniatures and Tin Flats, Paper Gifts and other unusual Toys.
Adults will love the memories the place will engender, and kids will just love it anyway, even if there are no Ninja Turtles, or Lara Croft branded products to be found.
What to buy: A good souvenir is to get one of the theatres based on an historic London performing Venue.
What to pay: From a few quid up. A basic Theatre will be about 12 pounds.Related to:
- Family Travel
Penhaligons, London: O is for Odourising
Smell as nice as Prince Charles' armpits...
Penhalligans is probably the most respected perfumiers in the world. You can find branches and concessions in such places as Rodeo drive in Beverly hill and in most of the Saks stores in the US.
There are several London Branches, mainly as concessions in the big department store, but also as stand-alone shops in the Burlington Arcade and in Wellington Street, just off Covent Garden to name a couple.
I actually quite like the relaxed atmosphere in the Covent Garden branch, and was also interested to see that they put the framed Royal warrant from the Prince of Wales on the inside wall of the shop.
Nice place, but I'll think I'll stick to to a good scrub behind the ears with carbolic soap twice a week to keep me shipshape, call be old fashioned, but I can't be doing with all this poncy male grooming - it can make you fancy women called 'Camilla'.
What to buy: It's all branded with 'Penhaligon's' on it,Add to your Trip Planner
Hamley's, London.: W is for World's most famous toystore
The world's most famous toy shop
Once upon a time there was a Cornishman who left his native county, went to London and....opened a toy shop...obviously.
In time it became the biggest toy shop in the world. I know that many tourists would actually see Hamley's as a "Must see acitivity".
I think it is a great shame that the really good model railway that used to run around the shop (certainly as I remember it as a kid) is a mere siding of its former self.
Still the place is packed with all the latest things to keep your delightful / dreadful / delierious / demented offspring quiet for a while.
What to buy: They do their own range of toys as well - including this cuddly thing.Related to:
- Family Travel
Cyberdog, Camden, London: P is for Party animals mecca
Only for the die-hard clubbers
Sourbugger is a man of a certain age, and therefore feels no compunction to dress up in a day-glo PVC suit witha flashing number on it advertising his IQ.
On the other hand he is quite content to wander around the Cyberdog shop to see what the 'pretty young things' of London see as cutting edge in Clubwear.
This shop, buried in the heart of Camden Market sells all manner of 'party gear' and I don't mean Jelly and Ice-cream.
The shop itself retains much of the original Victorian Brickwork arches, into which as been aded various space-station mock ups, robots, a coffee bar, some very stange electronic installation and shop assistants who go by the description of "Nice people, Wrong Planet".
Still, if your after the ultimate "Bling-Bling" clothes to set your local dancefloor alight, then this is the place.
What to buy: The stock changes all the time : but if it's in It's here.
What to pay: Quite pricey in comparison to more mainstream placesAdd to your Trip Planner
Shervington's: E is for Ernest Hemmingway recommends...
Share one with Fidel and Ernest
Shervington's on High Holborn , London is one of the finest tobacco shops in the world.
They have vast ranges of cigars for sale, including every concievable brand from Cuba. They can be bought individually or boxed. They also stock all the vast paraphanalia that goes along with cigar and pipe smoking.
I'm not a smoker myself, but it was nonetheless very interesting to browse around and purchase presents for friends who do indulge in such disgusting habits.
Quite interestingly, nobody (staff or customers) in the shop appeared to be smoking themselves !
What to buy: If you are American, then I believe you may facesome kind of penalty if you take Cuban cigars back to the states. If you take the wrapping off, then I can't see how they could trace it.
You have been warned !
What to pay: From a few quid for individual cigars - up to thousands for rarer boxed sets.Add to your Trip Planner
Various - poundworld, poundshop etc.: Q is for everything for a Quid in Skeggie
it won't cost you much - a quid
Skegness must have the world's highest concentration of pound shops :
i.e "Don't ask the price - everything's a pond, Duck".
It makes you ponder where they source this stuff from. Who I wonder in some mad fit of over enthusiam decided to triple an order for pink bogbrushes in the shape of cat, and then found that they didn't sell too well.
At least all this means you can build up your collection of truly awful Kitsch gifts. E-mail with your worst - I would be interested to know.
Please note that anything vaguely useful will be made out of a special material only used in poundshops and will self destruct exactly three minutes after you start using it for the first time at home.
What to buy: A train ticket to leave
A Hat to hide your identity
Creams for those worrying infections
(see tip on Skegness nightclubs)
What to pay: £1 obviouslyRelated to:
- Budget Travel
various: K is for Knock's tackky products
Tackiest things to buy in Ireland
Whilst I'm not Knocking Knock (try saying that quickly), outside the shrine area are some stalls that really do need a close inspection. I have witnessed some of the most gaudiest and downright tacky things for sale here.
A Virgin Mary that lights up in a variety of colours and plays a hymn is probably one of the more sensible items. I must admit I quite like the reflective card things that switch from one image or religious iconography to another
I do love Ireland, but you do have to question the sense of asethetics of the people who buy this stuff.
You will find half a dozen gift shops on the main road and a collection of 'market type' stalls set back from the main road opp. the shrine site.Related to:
- Religious Travel
Munper (leather) / Orqidea (pearls): F is for Factory shops in Majorca
Factory shops galore - some pearls of wisdom
Factory shops have become one of the main moneyspinners for the Majorcan economy, which is a bit odd as I would have thought there was not a big market for people who want to buy factories.
Seriously though, my resident shopping expert (wife) claimed that the pearls were excellent value at Orquidea, but the next door leather outlet - Munper offered an excellent range but few bargains.
You will find these 'factory outlet' shops all over the Island, and although they mainly cater for the captive coach market, they represent a reasonable way to shop for gifts if you can avoid the coachloads of sheep buying up whatever they get their grubby little mits on.
What to buy: Peral Earing and chains start from just a few EuroAdd to your Trip Planner
Hauptbahnhof: T is for Train Station in Leipzig
A Cathedral to the Great God Mammon
Rather like airports, which seem to often be large shopping centres with a few piers added for planes, the Central station feels like large shopping centre (140+ stores) with a few platforms added.
It is of course the other way round : This massive space had a makeover a few years back and a ultra-modern shopping centre was squeezed into the insides of this early 20th Century monster.
You can still get something of the granduer of the place by looking up at the massive barrell-type roof or wandering out onto one of the platforms.
I would also recommend visiting the "Mango" Store in the middle of the centre which retains some orginal features such as staircases and magnificent ceilings.
Platform 24 also has some old rolling stock which is worth a look. As far as I could work out, these are a permanent exhibition.Add to your Trip Planner
IKEA - Land of Viking prepacks: I is for IKEA in Oslo
Free bus to hell........(for some)
IKEA's are the same the world over. The same flat-packed 'Billy' bookcases hold up millions of books all over the world, and scatter milllions of books when they collapse precisely one month after the guarantee runs out.
On a lighter note, did you know that it is estimated that 10% of all Europeans are conceived in an IKEA bed ?
Oslo has two of these furniture / furnishings behemoths on opposite sides of the city.
Usefully they operate free buses (with plenty of storage room if you choose to buy half-a-dozen Billy's in one go) from the centre of town.
They leave every half-hour to one store or the other (as if it made a difference) from a stop just along from the central rail station (the last one facing the Hotel Opera)
What to buy: Give Billy a home
What to pay: Cheap as chipsAdd to your Trip Planner
various: G is for Gluhwein in Leipzig's Christmas market
Glug you Gluhwein and get a souvenir !
The Christmas market has been covered in the "must see" section, but it also deserves a mention here.
At the various Gluhwein stalls, you can purchase this very warming brew of mulled wine. They charge about 3 Euros on average, but 1.50 Euro is returned when you take the mug back.
As it makes quite a nice souvenir, many people just hang onto theirs.
If you want to remind yourself of the experience make up your own brew
(see this website for the recipe : http://www.recipesource.com/side-dishes/beverages/gluhwein1.html), light a couple of candles,put on a few Bratwurst and leave the door of your fridge/freezer open. Enjoy.
What to buy: As with all markets, some things such as food products, and winter clothes seemed to be good value, whilst other things such a wooden toys and games seemed relatively expensive.Add to your Trip Planner
The Shop: S is for Sourbugger's favourite shop trip
The Betty Ford clinic for shopaholics
Tory island, off Ireland's NW coast is served by just one shop. You can tell this because the brochure for the island just lists it as "The Shop".
It's friendly enough - although it only sells life's essentials.
The feeling that it is "A local shop for local people" still comes through loud and clear - Royston Vasey eat your heart out !
What to pay: A bit more than normal - it's got to come in by boat afterall.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Liverpool FC souvenir shop: L is for Liverpool Football club Shop
Fit in with the locals....
Many visitors to the city are devoted followers of Liverpool FC (current company excepted) and so the desire to buy replica kits and the like is no doubt attractive.
The main store is at the stadium, underneath the 'Kop' although there is also another large store near Clayton Square in the city centre(just ask a local)
What to buy: Announcing Sourbugger's end of season Liverpool FC sale - whilst stocks last :
Gerard Houllier's big book of management success.
The Michael Owen guide to speaking simple Spanish.
'How to score goals' by Emile Heskey
What to pay: All very overpriced (including the above)Add to your Trip Planner
upmarket shops in the West Midlands...: M is for the 'Mailbox' in Birmingham
I'm in the south.... honest.....
In its' quest to become a modern, trendy city, Birmingham UK, the mailbox is an attempt to create an upmarket shopping area. It claims that the the shopping centre / hotel / restaurant / parking / chewing gum holder development is the, and I quote, 'biggest mixed use development in the U.K'.
That is as maybe, but it also means that in the quest to 'cutting edge' the place suffers from the worst examples of 'developer speak'.
I'll try and translate a little for you :
1) This unique development offers a truly integrated lifestyle choice for the first time in the city's history. It brings together designer fashion and lifestyle shops, luxury apartments, two hotels, secure 24 hour parking and an array of restaurants and café bars. All in an exclusive waterside setting only two or three minutes walk from New Street station.
Means : We got anybody we could to be tennant, but we drew the line at Poundworld or Woolworths. A quick exit is available by train to London
2) Birmingham's answer to Bond Street, Wharfside Street is a 200 metre open-air pedestrian route carved dramatically through the full length of The Mailbox.
Means : Its bloody freezing when the wind whips through.
3) It features the largest collection of stand alone designer stores outside London including international brands such as Emporio Armani, Harvey Nichols, DKNY, Polo Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss.
Means : Brummies have only just started buying the designer crap the rest of us have bought for years.
NB : DKNY actually stands for Don't Know Nothing Youth.
3) There is the wide variety of stylish restaurants and café bars on offer from Indian cuisine (Café Lazeez) and Japanese (Shogun Noodle Bar) to Italian (Zizzi) and modern new Mexican (Santa fe). Catering for all tastes and budgets, a visit to the many waterside restaurants and café bars makes a perfect post-shopping retreat.
Means : Yet more overpriced, tiny-proportioned, pretend food places to waste your money in once you have been fleeced elsewhere.Add to your Trip Planner
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