As promised yesterday, here’s the final part of my London staycation diary, and we’ve reached the West London district of Notting Hill.
I spent seven years of my life living near Notting Hill in the 1990s and I have to say, my experience was more carnival and the Coronet than it was independent bookshops and film stars, but that’s not to say they don’t exist. It’s the nature of London that one person’s experience of the city is very different from another’s.
Sofa Spud and I resist the urge to visit the many bookshops on our visit, but we do keep our eyes peeled for film stars. Woody Allen has not only been filming his latest project at Movie Talk’s Blue Fin Building HQ, but he’s also been directing Freida Pinto and Josh Brolin here in Notting Hill during our staycation week.
There’s no sign of him on our visit though. Typical. When I want to see him, he’s nowhere to be seen and when I want to catch my train on the way home from work, he holds me up with his filming and causes me to miss it. That happened a few years ago when he was filming scenes for Match Point on the South Bank.
So how likely is it that we’ll bump into a filmstar just like William (Hugh Grant) does when he accidentally spills orange juice over Anna (Julia Roberts) in Notting Hill?
Well, apparently my favourite country singer-songwriter (after Dolly of course) Taylor Swift (kind of a filmstar, since she appeared in Hannah Montana the Movie and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience) was here in the past few days too (seemingly buying up the contents of the Hummingbird Bakery). This American-style cupcake shop is situated on Portabello Road, which is of course the road where Hugh Grant’s bookshop is located in Notting Hill.
We buy a cake each for the sake of it, and then regret it because we don’t have a single sweet tooth between us and a scotch egg or a pork pie would have been much more welcome.
In the streets around Portabello, independent shops, restaurants and cafes stand attractively promoting their wares with a wealth of extremely artistic window displays. It’s while passing a row of such trendy retail establishments that I have a sneezing fit. I’m still sorting myself out when Sofa Spud whispers: “That was Brigitte Nielsen!”
I turn to see a very tall woman heading down the road with a small dog. I’ll never know if it was indeed Brigitte Nielsen, ex-wife of Silvester Stallone, star of Red Sonja, legendary Celeb Big Brother contestant (who can forget that ‘Jackie’ moment?). However, Sofa Spud assures me that it was certainly the spitting image.
So there we go. It looks like anyone can have a Hugh Grant orange juice spillage Notting Hill moment and mine involved sneezing over Brigitte Nielsen’s dog. Classy.
We decide to go hunting for the square of the Notting Hill oopsy daisy scene, but after plodding around the area eventually give up – it could be any of them. It’s over ten years now since they made that movie. Those private squares have surely all changed considerably since it was shot, and maybe the square in question wasn’t even in Notting Hill. Anyway, it’s probably just as well that we don’t find it since I’m sure we’d be tempted to try out that famous over the railings climb.
I wonder how many people do try that when nobody’s looking. Quite a few I imagine, especially on a dark night.
Which is a really poor link to the end of day activity Sofa Spud and I have planned – a bat walk in a South London wood.
We’re taken round by a bat expert and spot a few pipistrelles. As it goes completely dark, it gets a bit creepy. Plodding through the dark woods with five other people and three electronic bat detectors amplifying every forest sound, this is feeling increasingly more Blair Witch than Batman. After an hour, the ‘batman’ alerts us to “a larger beast in the trees above,” and we decide to take our leave. Our reason? We’re tired, not scared (honest).