Earlier in the week, I had to go to a client meeting in Kent so I took the high speed train from St Pancras. I was amazed that in under 10 minutes we were at Stratford International – which is home to a shopping destination that I had been meaning to check out since it opened. So on the return journey which reminded me a bit of the bullet train in Japan, I alighted at Stratford International. The station looked like either the construction workers had left early or that they had attempted some sort of minimalist rough finish art – the bare walls are high as if someone had just cut a chunk out of mountain for the train to pass through.
I walked to the steps and within a moment I was crossing a small road and entering shopping heaven – the smart wooden walls and the light stone floors making me instantly forget the rawness of the station. First to catch my eye was a batch of cash machines and a large Curry PC World. I spied a food court and was struck by the bright colours and sensational spice aromas from a permanent Caribbean food stall. On a Monday afternoon the place was surprisingly busy – but not uncomfortably so.
There was a store selling olive oil opposite a large Primark – so they’re catering for both ends of the market. There was a Boots the size of an aeroplane hangar and a Greggs. Was I in Stratford or Hounslow after a makeover? Amongst the various mid-market chains there was a healthy selection of independent shops – Unze caught my eye.
Tucked behind an elevator was a car park of bright red kiddy carts and a large Starbucks was doing a busy trade as was Marks & Spencer. Satisfied that it takes just five or six minutes to get from the train station to the tube station I returned my attention to exploring the shops.
I took a peek at a familiar Fat Face store and then some rainbow bright outfits in Forever 21 and an external area called “The Street” and noted the signs to a world food court and the Great Eastern Market. My nose alerted me to a nearby Lush while my eyes were drawn to an Italian make up store called Kiko. I passed H&M but paused at La Senza where I took advantage of a 5 pairs for £10 deal on delicates.
Then I was in an area with a large concentration of jewellery stores amongst the clothes and shoe shops – I could feel my charge card shaking. I admit that I took a little time browsing a silver concession in the middle of the walk way where I purchased a small bracelet.
Then I was drawn to the lights of a Kurt Geiger shoe shop like a moth to the flame. Here there was what looked like an upside Christmas tree adorned with brightly coloured shoe baubles – luckily the pair of nude courts that I admired were not available in my size although it took a major act of will to step away from the silver strappy high heeled sandals I’d seen earlier in a magazine.
In the fresh air outside I admired the glass and light sculptures of a bubbling stream – complete with its own sound track – but wouldn’t it have been easier to have real water? I guess the health and safety folk might have had an issue with that. Anyway, I peered into an enormous Arctic Bar which looked like it might be fun in the evenings and realised that I had strayed into the designer area.
I managed to walk past Boss but was unable to avoid entering Prada and here I coveted a stunning orange handbag (for the fashionistas – Saffiano in Papaya). I left the store to check out a pop up Speedo shop and Mulberry.
There’s a Holiday Inn here which doesn’t appear to be open yet and then an avenue of stores with a sports and outdoor (and bloke) theme. Timberland, Nike, North Face and another with a full size Mini fixed to the wall. There was even a rugby store. At this point I was getting tired and decided to continue my journey home.
Rather than taking the fast train back into St Pancras I was heading towards the tube with an idea that I’d take the Jubilee Line to Waterloo and the train from there. But then I decided to try out the Overground which went direct to Richmond. Whilst perfectly pleasant (and going through some parts of London I rarely visit) this journey took an hour.
So now I face a quandary. Next time I fancy a Westfield “hit” do I take two trains to Shepherd’s Bush or the one Overground to Stratford? It felt to me like Stratford was somewhat larger and more diverse and I liked that there were more open spaces with fresh air – and there is no doubt a lot more to be explored there, what with the Olympic Village there. Looks like Blue Water and Lakeside have some serious competition.