Today I went out to do some Christmas shopping. I needed only a few things and decided to go to one of my favorite little malls, which houses only a few specialty stores. I can easily meander through these shops for a long time, choosing what I believe to be the perfect gift for one of the few people in my life for whom I actually shop. It doesn't have to be expensive, in fact it never is, but I try to make it a well thought-out trinket.
One store is filled with beautiful vintage pieces, reasonably priced and displayed with such panache I feel I could live there. Next to it is a store called Tabula Rasa, which translates to a blank slate. They carry the most exquisite papers and pens of every kind. There are unusual books, lovely note cards, lotions and soaps, candles and beautiful little whatnots. These are wonderful browsing stores where more often than not, you will find that perfect item you’ve been searching for.
Across the street is the London Market, which features most of the things I still miss from Canada. When you enter the store, there is a picture of the Queen Mum and one of Prince William and his Kate, congratulating them on their marriage. You can buy English candy, like Smarties and Coffee Crisp chocolate bars, figgy pudding and fruitcake. I chose a couple of chocolate bars and some Bisto, which helps to make some of the best gravy you’ll ever have.
Next door to the London Market is Elizabeth's Bakery and Tea Shop. As it was nearing 2:00 pm. and hunger had set in, I decided I would go in, buy a cookie and take it with me. I don't usually take the time to sit when I go out, especially by myself, but as soon as I walked in the front door I was transformed to another time and place. It was so inviting that I found myself saying, “Yes I'll sit here with a cup of tea, a bowl of tomato-basil soup and a custard tart, instead of eating on the run.”
The menu on the wall featured English fare such as Welsh Rarebit, beans on toast, meat pies and cucumber sandwiches. There were jam and custard tarts as well as scones and cookies.
Both the market and tea room were transformed, turn-of-the-century homes. Crown molding graced the original windows, which were adorned with lace curtains. Some windows were stained glass with a flowery design of spring flowers. Three of the walls were constructed from used brick, the other was papered in blue and white toile. A lovely fireplace with an oak mantle covered in evergreen boughs and candles hung from the center of one wall. I chose a seat by one of the windows and waited for my order. Snow fell softly on the street, where people scurried by with their treasures, but I felt as though I was in a serene cocoon.
As I sat, my eyes surveyed the rest of the décor, which not only contributed to the ambiance, but seemed to wrap its arms around me. I faced a wall that featured a full length bench, decked out with what seemed like a hundred pillows, covered in everything from chintz and lace to stripes. The tables were small cafe style with white wicker chairs. They stood upon beautiful gleaming wood floors, the color of mahogany. The shelves on the wall featured antique teapots and clay pots of red geraniums. Hooks under the shelves held bunches of dried flowers and herbs.
While I enjoyed this hiatus from the rest of the world, I wondered why I don't allow myself more such quiet, reflective time. Having undisturbed time at home is far different from finding it in a tea room. There are no demands, no interruptions. There is only a cup of tea to be savored, in a flowered china teacup, the visual beauty surrounding you and taking you back in time, with The Nutcracker Suite playing softly in the background. A much needed break from reality, one I highly recommend.