It was with anticipation, great excitement and a tighter than usual budget that I set off for London last weekend with my friend and fellow super-shopper Lynn. We were intent on having three days of fun, fashion and food – not to mention endless analysis of our love lives. All that would be more than enough to keep us going for three days….
We hit the ground running with a trip round the greatly improved ‘duty free’ area in Dublin airport. There is an excellent range of goods on offer there and I was very proud of my will power when, despite the presence of a full Benefit Cosmetics counter amongst others, I restricted myself to a single purchase of Mac Tinted Lip Conditioner in the gorgeous, bright Fuchsia with the added bonus of SPF15 for just €14.80. That was the sum total of my shopping on Friday as we were delayed in Dublin and then caught in the air for almost two hours when we missed our landing slot at Heathrow. Relieved to finally land we rushed to the Tube station where our first mishap awaited. As we queued for Lynn’s ticket the man in front asked the station guard how much a ticket for his child would be – and the guard pointed to me and asked was I the child!! Now at 33 I am happy to look a little younger than my years but the age limit for kids tickets is 12 so I think that is taking it a bit far!!
On Saturday we hit Oxford and Regent Streets for a few hours. Uniqlo is a great Japanese chain which I believe has yet to reach the Irish shores. It sells excellent basics, particularly in jersey and denim. I got two jersey skirts – a red one for £14.99 and a purple one for £9.99 - along with a cosy purple hoodie for a tenner. As you will probably know by now, I am a big fan of colour and Uniqlo steals my heart on this one – most items come in a great range of vibrant colours so you have loads to choose from (my sister has already picked up a pink version on the hoodie for me since I love it so much!)
Next stop was the fashion mecca that is Topshop Oxford Circus. If you have not been there, then all I can say is - go! It is huge with an entire floor dedicated solely to accessories. I was very good and, despite my urge to have a supermarket sweep style clearout of the store, only bought some great Barry M make-up (a gorgeous silver dazzle dust for my eyes and neon pink nail polish to match the outfit I was wearing that evening!) and a lovely purple Fair Trade necklace for a fiver. I was trying so hard to be good and only buy things I really, really loved. With such limited funds I was determined not to waste a penny. The necklace seemed like such a bargain I couldn’t resist it but sadly the reason for its knock-down price became apparent the next day when it turned my neck and chest bright purple when the paint wore off it and on to me. Not a good look at all!
As we were meeting my old flatmates on Saturday afternoon we cut our shopping spree short and headed to the pub. It was such a lovely day – 13 years had gone by since we lived together but it felt like yesterday as we chatted about old crushes, drunken nights and dodgy fashions of the nineties. Lynn and I followed that by getting glammed up and going to “Dirty Dancing the Musical” in the Aldwych Theatre – a perfect girlie night out. Lynn, a virgin to musical theatre, saw a new side to me and I think she was stunned as I screamed and sang my way through the whole show, even leading a few rounds of applause along the way.
A late (and somewhat disastrous) dinner and drinks til 3am were never going to stop us shopping again on Sunday and we were in Covent Garden by midday. This was the day I really found my shopping groove and got some fabulous bargains which I was thrilled with. We started in the market where I picked up some lovely silver jewellery and nice little gifts. After that we moved onto the shops and in Oasis I discovered a lovely – and utterly me – candy pink handbag. I loved it on sight since it was large enough to carry the enormous amount of bits and pieces I carry everywhere but isn’t so huge it either looks ridiculous or drags on the ground (one of the perils of barely scraping five feet tall!!) At £35 (€49) it was more than I wanted pay but I was in luck – it was reduced to £25 with a further 20% off that day bringing it to just £20. Then I spotted neon pink bangles for just under a fiver as I left the shop so I got them too! I left Oasis feeling it was my lucky shopping day and was right. I walked straight into Marks and Spencer and the very first thing I saw as I came up the escalator to womenswear was a strawberry, halter neck jersey dress I have been eyeing up for ages in Dublin. At €59 and being something I would only wear to an occasion I couldn’t justify that much for it but being on sale that day for a mere £15 meant I didn’t need to justify it at all!! I grabbed it into my greedy little mitts and ran for the till with great glee quicker than Linford Christie could have at his peak. I was thrilled with my purchases and just couldn’t believe when my fabulous sister approached me with a super-shiny red-patent tote-bag in her hand. Actually, she had two in her hand, one for each of us. We had both been admiring them for weeks but again, they were over-budget. Once more my luck was in as they were also reduced to £15. Back up to the till I went before anyone could point out that I am not exactly short of red handbags (they just aren’t as lovely and shiny and gorgeous as this one though I would have explained if they had tried!)
My next port of call was Gap. I wanted a good pair of trousers which I could dress up or down and got the perfect pair. Slim cut, dark green chinos they are a perfect fit and incredibly flattering if I do say so myself! I find it hard to get trousers that flatter me since I am an odd shape (who isn’t? we ask ourselves!) so I was doubly delighted to get these and more than happy to pay £29.50 for them. That is expensive for me but they are worth every penny as you can really see they are cut well.
“Sale” has always been one of my favourite words and I really felt the benefit of it on this trip. Virtually every shop had major reductions across a wide range of stock (not just old tat like in some sales). That was a major bonus on top of London being one of my favourite cities. The melting pot of cultures, the freedom to be whoever and however you want to be, the fashion, the food, the family and friends. For me it is a pure recipe for fun, fun, fun! This visit, going with a fellow shopper, staying in a fabulous, central hotel (Charing Cross Hotel / http://www.laterooms.com/) and combining family, friends, fashion and culture made for a truly memorable weekend – one which I will treasure in my memory for years to come and think of often as I strut down the street, candy pink bag over my arm humming to myself “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life!”