Friday, October 6, 2017

KARA ABROAD: Not Everything Is Bigger in America

We really sort of do pride ourselves on having the "biggest" and "best" of things in the US. And in many cases that's true. But as pleased as we are about that, there are quite a few things in London that reduce our American branches to "oh, hon" proportions.

Which... there's nothing wrong with that. If anything, it's definitely a pride point. Having an American walk into a London shop and gape at what's on hand is kind of A+. At least that's the impression I got from the clerks when I gaped at their various shops.

If you're in London and a fan of various chains... or various things... you might want to check these out:

Lush Oxford Street

This is the bath and beauty company's mothership, and it is insane. Most Lush shops in America rest comfortably in the corner of a mall, but this shop takes up three floors. Walking in and seeing the staircase leading up and down (and there's an elevator at the back, too) is mind-boggling.

The top floor is primarily cosmetics on one side, with bath goodies on the other. This includes "naked" shower gels, or solid gels in the shape of a bottle. Great if you want to buy something to take home and your baggage is solely carry-on!

On the lowest level is the spa, where they both sell their spa goodies and offer high-end massages. The descriptions of the packages offered are pretty purple -- one or two of them make it sound a bit like they must give you high-grade hallucinogens first -- but if you've got the extra cash, they sound awesome.

Also, everyone who works there loves the product, and will happily help you find whatever you're looking for. Even my "Do you have anything with bergamot?" flail was met with quick answers.

Warning: you'll spend money. So come in prepared to.

Forbidden Planet

There are a few of these, but the main London one in particular is massive. It's what your hometown comic book shop dreams of being while it drinks its milk. And if there's a thing you like, you will almost certainly find it.

The main floor is various merch -- toys, models, apparel, and a hecking lot of merch you might not be able to classify elsewise. Go downstairs, and it's a great big geek bookstore. There's a manga section, a separate OEL graphic novel section (with on-trend stuff put toward the front -- like actual on-trend stuff), and plenty of Marvel and DC. There's not a Doctor Who section, thought -- there's more like three, and it invades other sections as well. But the main one is situated next to some DVDs and Big Finish CDs.

If you come in looking for a thing, it is highly unlikely you won't find The Thing before you leave. If you come in to browse, you'll still find The Thing before you leave.

The Tea House, Covent Garden

If you like tea, you're basically doomed the minute you walk in.

The Tea House is two floors of... well. Tea and tea accessories. The latter are primarily upstairs, though there are some adorable (and breakable looking) tea sets downstairs. If I didn't have to fly back eventually and didn't fear for the safety of anything I bought, I would've walked away with some nice tea sets. Like at least three.

I did, however, walk away with six bags of tea -- some of it Far Too Good For Ordinary People.

The thing to note about "bigger" in England is that a lot of things -- houses, shops, buildings in general -- are a lot more vertical than in the US. In fact, one of the first things I observed when I first came over ten years ago was that the stairs were much steeper. So if you come in and things don't feel spacious at first, look up (or down): they're making amazing use of the space they have.
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