Friday, July 11, 2008
"The Traditional Shops & Restaurants of London"
At an antique store in Pine Mountain last weekend, I came across one of the most charming little guidebooks I've seen in a while, "The Traditional Shops & Restaurants of London: A Guide to the Century-Old Establishments and New Classics" by Eugenia Bell. The publisher is channeling the spirit of Twining with this tea-tin looking cover, don't you think?
I'm waiting for the exchange rate to improve before I book a trip to London, but meanwhile I'll be reading and planning. Read almost any travel book about London and you are bound to stumble across something about tea. The book opens with a nice tea graphic, and I also found a few tidbits about two London department stores well-known for their teas, Fortnum and Mason and Harrods. Because I am currently well into reading a wonderful old biography of Queen Victoria, I was intrigued to read this about Harrods: "Charles Henry Harrod had a wholesale food and tea business in Stepney, East London, when he moved into a small shop in Knightsbridge in order to take advantage of the Great Exhibition crowds spilling into nearby Hyde Park in 1851." In the Vicky book, I have just finished reading about the splendid success of the Great Exhibition, the brainchild of Prince Albert. I would not have related this to the founding of Harrods if I hadn't been reading the old biography and the new shopping book at the same time.
And here's a final fun bit from the "Shops and Restaurants" book. I'll bet I'm not the only Anglophile who has wondered about that so-very-British word "bespoke." Well, in the section on the famous Savile Row district, known as London's "golden mile of tailoring," the author explains the term. "Bespoke dates to the seventeenth century, when tailors kept whole lengths of a particular cloth on their premises; when a customer chose a particular cloth, the entire bolt was said to have 'been spoken for.' Bespoke differs from 'made-to-measure' ... Bespoke, by contrast, requires more than twenty individual measurements and other shaping details to be taken before a suit is tailored." Won't that be fun to know the next time you're in London and see a gentleman in a "bespoke" suit sipping his Earl Grey?