Tips for Bargain Shopping in London

Bargain shopping in the Cosmopolitan city of London? You bet – and it can be a fun “treasure hunting” adventure! Shopping is a “must do” for most travelers whether its gifts, the cell phone charger left at home, or that unique item you can only buy where you are. It is an activity that is guaranteed to be on every traveler’s agenda. Here are a few tips to shop like a local and stretch your budget.

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  • First things first – make a list. Figure out what you want to get and whom you want to buy for before you go to avoid impulse shopping. Staying focused on the list will help you leave the country with what you need and money in your pocket. Give yourself a budget for impulse shopping, outside the list, for the duration of the trip and keep track.
  • Browse clearance racks in department stores. You will find the top designer brands, good inventory to choose from, at discounted or clearance prices. Most have end of season sales in Jan/Feb and in summer. At Selfridges your shopping trip can include buying a pair of Miss Selfridges skinny jeans, designer handbag, scarf, gourmet foods, and even indulging in a glass of champagne.

Selfridges & Co. Official Address: 400 Oxford Street If using a map or GPS use this address: 40 Duke Street Tel: 0800 123 400

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Harvey Nichols 67 Brompton Rd Tel: 0845 604 1888Image

  • Markets. They are an overwhelming amount of quaint markets to choose from. Choosing one or two that fit your interests and your shopping list will help you reach your goal. One of a kind, antique, and uniquely local items can be found at the various markets.

Portabello Road Market Open Saturday’s with more than 2000 stalls, trendy, popular with celebrities, full of antiques, second-hand clothing, fresh vegetables. Portabello Road Tube: Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle) Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith & City) Bus: Notting Hill

  • Second hand designer shops. If vintage is your thing then vintage you will find in London. Along the famous High Street and Marylebone areas are boutiques prime for treasure hunting adventures. Image
  • Pharmacies and Grocery Stores. Boots pharmacy is on just about every corner and even in Heathrow airport. Tesco, Sainsbury. or Mark & Spencer are good for grocery store gift finds like candies, cookies, and sauces. They have all the usual brands and some uniquely European products. Surprise your friends when you bring gifts of English pudding, tea, scone mix, or Cadbury chocolates. Find London gifts sections for cards, pencils, key chains, or even tissues with the English Flag.
  • Primark. Featuring “affordable fashion”. Its location on Oxford Street puts this retailer at the heart of “fashion street” with prices within reach for any local or tourist. Find well-organized racks of handbags, wallets, scarfs, business attire, shoes, blouses, shorts, tee-shirts, sunglasses, with prices starting at just one pound. In fact, walking down Oxford Street you won’t need the advice to go check out Primark, apparently the latest shopping trend in this economy, as you’ll see Primark brown shopping bags in the hands of the majority of shoppers and wonder what it is all about. Image
  • Discount designer-look stores. H&M, Zara, Next, and Top Shop, are all in the high-end shopping areas and have affordable fashionable clothes and accessories. Find a trench coat at H&M for fifty pounds, and find near the same trench coat at H&M in USA for about the same price, but much more fun to say you bought it in London.
  • Bookstores. Large chains or smaller regional and used bookstores will all have local finds from the best selection of magazines and books covering The Royal Family, regional cookbooks, regional magazines and local travel guides. You might be lucky enough to happen upon a local author book-signing event.
  • Duty Free Shops. At the airport or on the plane duty-free shops offer good deals on the most popular gift items. Burberry Body perfume at Selfridges, Boots and Burberry stores throughout London cost 55 pounds for 60m size but for just 56 pounds at the Duty Free Shop get you an 85m size (priced October 2011)
  • Ask the Locals. When dining at the local pubs go ahead and strike up a conversation with the bartender or waiter, or even locals sitting next to you, where they go to shop for the best deals for things on your list. Go ahead and buy a tee-shirt from that local British pub, supporting the local pub, and leave with a unique souvenir specific to your experience.Image

A few other tips for gathering souvenirs of your trip on a budget: Pick up matchbooks from restaurants and pubs if they have them. They are free. You don’t need to smoke to ask for matchbooks. The same goes for paper napkins or coasters with the pub’s or local beer name on it. To round out your photographs, pick up a few postcards of your favorite places to keep for yourself and your scrapbook. Save train tickets, receipts, take away menus, and tour brochures. Happy Shopping!


New Belgium Brewery – Learn to Romance your Beer

With wine tasting costing $10 to $20, craft beer tasting is looking like a much better deal at a cost of FREE! Although my home turf of San Diego is full of craft breweries, with new ones opening each year, it took a visit to Ft. Collins to finally partake in my first beer tasting. Sitting at home with nothing to do as my son was in class, I went online to search for Top 10 Things to do in Ft. Collins and discovered that New Belgium Brewery was only 3 miles away.  I secured my spot in a tour starting in 30 minutes and off I went without a second thought. New Belgium Brewery is home of my favorite beer after all – Fat Tire.

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Fast Fact: 712,000 barrels of craft beer were produced by New Belgium in 2011, with more than half being their world famous Fat Tire beer.

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Stainless steel and oak barrels line the brewery’s halls, while musty hoppy smells fill ones nose with the first step into the brewery. Packed with interesting history and facts, the tour’s BEST feature is the tastings: which happens before, all though out, and after – Fat Tire of course, along with Le Folie Sour Brown Ale, Shift, and seasonal concoctions to slide over your taste buds. Each inventive beer is there waiting on a bar tray, ready to guzzle down at each stop along the way — and at one point, tour goers get to try their hand at being the bartender.   With the very first beer, the tour guide begins by offering insight on how to “romance” and “make love” to the beers – secrets I won’t reveal, as this would take away the anticipation you’ll have for visiting the brewery.

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With so many popular beers and a cult following, constant expansion for this third largest brewery in the nation is evident.  Yet the news buzz within these walls is all about the opening of a second brewery in Asheville, North Carolina scheduled for opening in 2015. You may ask, why North Carolina?  They apparently have good water and a culture similar to Fort Collins. Lucky for North Carolina as the brewery should boost tourism and create jobs.

A benefit of working at New Belgium, other than participating in profit sharing, and getting to drink beer on the job, is the gift of a cruiser bike upon your one year anniversary – which is also when ownership kicks in. With over 300 employees at this Fort Collins location, that’s a lot of bikes in the rack.

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The smiling, fresh off the bike, tour guide and part owner, leads a group of about 20 beer lovers through a thirst quenching 90 minutes walking tour full of eclectic art and funny stories.  The brewery is open Tuesday through Saturday 10-6 with a tour starting nearly every half hour. Reservations are available online in advance at www.thenewbelgium.com. Book in advance as they fill up quickly since TripAdvisor named this brewery tour #1 in the nation and top attraction in Fort Collins, CO.

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