I Turned the Corner and Entered a World of Which I Am Not a Part

We were strolling around Piccadilly today, the only item on our agenda to stop in at Crosstown Doughnuts where they have some of the best doughnuts I have ever tasted, including vegan ones.

Anyway, it was a bit of a rainy day so we took our time finishing our tea and doughnuts, and then headed across the street to Waterstones, the largest bookstore in all of Europe. I got lucky; I found a copy of a Harlan Coben novel I had not read, and a nice comfy chair, and settled back to do some reading. After a bit, it seemed like it had stopped raining, so we ventured back outside.

Mary decided to browse around Fortnum and Mason, an amazing hamper and tea store (and so much more), but Pat and I decided to keep exploring the neighborhood.

We took a turn down a little alleyway that was lined with high-end men’s shops, and then we reached Jermyn Street, which I had never heard of, but it looked interesting, so we took a right turn, and it took less than a minute for me to realize that this was a world I was not a part of.

Here’s what the Jermyn Street web site had to say about itself:

Jermyn Street dates back to 1664 when Charles II authorised Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St Albans, to develop an area close to St James’s Palace. It has flourished ever since and holds a worldwide reputation for high quality British artistry and craftsmanship. The street is home to London’s finest men’s tailors, shirt makers, suppliers of leather goods, food and wine merchants, restaurants, hotels and art galleries.

We passed one men’s clothing store after another, each one trying to outdo its neighbors. I figured there was no point going in these stores for a few reasons:

  • I had no interest in buying any of the clothes I saw
  • the prices were OUTRAGEOUS (that’s right, I knew that, even without stepping foot in the door)
  • we would have stuck out like a sore thumb

However, when we reached the end of the block we saw a cigar store, Davidoff London. We don’t smoke cigars, but we thought it would be fun to go in and check it out.

Talk about another world.

We saw a cigar box for over $4,000. We saw a bottle of Japanese liqueur for nearly $6,000, and a cigarette (well, I guess they call it a cigar) lighter for over $1,500. I didn’t dare ask to take a look at the special room where they kept the cigars. As I walked around the store I wondered what kind of people buy this stuff?

When we were finished at Davidoff’s, we crossed the street and saw what appeared to be another men’s shop, so we thought we have to stop in at least one.

Well as it turned out this was the Beretta Gallery – Beretta as in the gun company. The ground floor had men’s clothing, that is why I assumed it was just another outrageously priced men’s clothing store, but it was so much more.

The next floor up had a huge collection of knives; I think the most expensive one we saw was close to $6,000. Once again I was left thinking who buys this stuff.

We then made our way up to the top floor, where the door was locked but we got buzzed in. This is where they kept their rifles. We saw several rifles in the $2,000-$3,000 range, and then we saw a $72,000 rifle. I had to ask the salesperson what the difference was, and he talked about the materials and the craftmanship, and that it would take more than two years to receive the $72,000 rifle if I were to order it today. I thanked him and said that would not be necessary. We then checked out a few more rifles and saw one for $172,000!

Crazy!

We then headed back to find my wife; she had found another bookshop, Hatchards. I think this is the nicest bookstore I have ever been in, and I look forward to visiting again. It’s been nice to see that bookstores are alive and well in London (at least the chain stores).

We then ended up back at Fortnum and Mason, where we discovered that the top floor was a men’s clothing and accessory floor, along with a bar, for tea and beers. As I took a brief look around the lounge, I realized that the people sitting there with their whiskey and scones came here to probably get away from people like me dressed in Villanova hoodies. We also checked out where they have their afternoon tea (which we hope to partake of during our visit – they have vegan options!), and there was an ice cream parlor on the ground floor.

Anyway, we took in a few more shops (one of them was Lillywhites, one of the most amazing sports apparel stores I have ever seen), caught some of the Lumiere Festival taking place in Piccadilly, and then headed to Kings Cross for dinner and to check out their Lumiere lights.

We finally headed home via the tube, which was packed because of the Lumiere festival. As we were heading home, I remarked that even if I won the lottery, I would have no interest in going back to any of the men’s clothing stores I had just seen and buying anything they had for sale. It’s not me, and I have no plans to change.

I’ll admit that the clothes look great, but I’m happier, and much more comfortable in my hoodie and blue jeans.

Neil Diamond would understand.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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