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Crossing 'the pond' to shop in London, England?
Check out London, Ontario, first!

© By Ann Wallace

     

Spring had not yet sprung, but on this particular Saturday it was sunny and warm and many of the good folk of London, Ontario - residents and visitors alike - were out for a promenade along Richmond Street. I was in the visitor category and was in the mood for some shopping if I could find some appealing stores. I'd asked around and been told that shopping in this fine city falls into two distinct categories: if you are in need of an ironing board or a kettle or a plastic bucket you head downtown; but if you yearn for exotic flowers, a pretty frock, a stunning pair of stiletto shoes, a cool suit, a new piece of art or a unique gift for a loved one, you head slightly up-town on Richmond Street. And, as I was to discover, you may decide to linger longer than planned, for this boutique section of Richmond is also home to a variety of excellent restaurants.
     It was, in fact, immense containers of flowers, out on the sidewalk, that first caught my attention. What a glorious sight when Southern Ontario was still wrapped in the monochrome colours of late winter! I immediately made a left turn and parked my car in a municipal car park behind the florist called Daisies (located at 549 Richmond, with all the other establishments mentioned below located within the few blocks north) and went to appreciate them. Owner Dominic emerged from his store to help me, but I had to tell him that I was "just looking" as I was a visitor, staying in a hotel room and due to leave London on the morrow. "Well, please stay and enjoy them," he urged.
     The sunshine and the surrounding shops encouraged me to explore further. In fact, in the very next store, signed Double Down and Heel Boy, a party seemed to be underway. I entered the Double Down entrance, where racks of trendy apparel were on display, and enquired what was going on. "We've long wanted to incorporate a shoe store into our space to complement our clothing lines," explained owner Kim Cassidy, "and today's opening day! Heel Boy has been established in Kingston, Toronto and Waterloo for many years, but it wasn't until we read that they had been voted the best shoe store in Toronto by Now Magazine that we decided we would invite them to be our partners. Have a glass of wine, help yourself to cheese, stay a while." Remembering my car nearby I regretfully declined the wine, but nibbled on some excellent cheese as I viewed the clothes and pretty summer sandals that were as uplifting as the flowers next door.
     Soon, carrying a bag containing a fashionable new skirt with sandals to match, I set out to discover more on Richmond Street. What a fabulous selection of stores there are here: Saffron Road had a stunning window of women's clothes and inside a selection of good-quality items in up-to-the-minute styles that were nonetheless suitable for all ages. Other good clothing stores nearby include David Findlay, offering high-quality women's classics, funky Lolita and many more.
     Between these tempting clothing stores were several shops offering unique home décor items - Quantum is one of these - and several specialty art and craft stores offering unique items, many of them crafted by local artists: paintings, ceramics, hand-blown glass, quilts and much more. What a pleasure it is to buy gifts from such an unusual selection at one's leisure. There's certainly no lack of lovely things on London's Richmond Street.

   

     By now I had began to realize that this region of London is not only a fine shopping area, but home to many restaurants. Blue Ginger was my choice for an early dinner: cool décor and an innovative menu. My meal turned out to be so delicious that I wasn't surprised to learn that the establishment has been awarded the prestigious Four Diamonds accolade from CAA. I chatted with the young servers here, all of whom were delighted to share with me the fact that Richmond Street, or 'The Row' as I learned it is called here, is home to many other good restaurants. They mentioned The Tasting Room, Garlics, Jambalaya and Barakat which, together, offer a culinary tour around many regions of the world. And then, of course, as befits a city that is home to a renowned university, there's a wide selection of bars and pubs from which to choose.
     Discovering just some of what London has to offer was a wonderful surprise and I look forward to paying a return visit, when I'll be sure to head up to "Richmond Row" for some great shopping and food.

When you go ...
Plan your shopping/restaurant day in this trendy part of London by visiting www.richmondrowlondon.com where most of the area's merchants are listed (and some even offer money-saving coupons). Bon 'shopping' and bon appétit!

Ann Wallace is editor of The Travel Society Magazine (www.thetravelsociety.com).

Photo credits
London Tourism: Flowers. Dining

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