It’s the quintessential London film – the story of a bookshop owner, William Thacker (played by Hugh Grant), whose life takes a romantic turn when a famous American actress Anna Scott (played by Julia Roberts) comes into his shop. And, as the name suggests, it’s set in the west London district known as Notting Hill. 

Notting-Hill-posterThe centrepiece of the 1999 film, which was directed by Richard Curtis, is the Portobello Road Market (pictured above, see more on the history of the market here) but the film also depicts other aspects of the area.

These include the Coronet Cinema, and, of course, the now famous blue door in Westbourne Park Road which represents the entry to Thacker’s flat (it was apparently actually Curtis’ home).

There’s plenty of other London sites in Notting Hill as well – The Ritz hotel in Piccadilly where Anna Scott stays, the Savoy Hotel where a press conference is held and the historic Hampstead Heath home featured (or rather not) in last week’s film Belle, Kenwood House – this time as a film set in a movie Anna is making.

Notting Hill, meanwhile, has long been a popular site for films – everything from The Italian Job (the Michael Caine version) through to another recent Richard Curtis film About Time (2013) has been filmed here.

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The address might not immediately ring a bell but it will when we tell you this was the home of London’s most famous bear, Paddington.

Paddington-BearFirst appearing in A Bear Called Paddington published on 13th October, 1958, Paddington Bear was the brainchild of Michael Bond, who was apparently inspired a couple of years earlier when he spotted a lonely teddy bear sitting on a shop shelf in a store near Paddington Station (a bear which he subsequently bought and gave to his wife as a Christmas present).

In the books, Paddington – who is typically depicted wearing a blue duffel coat, old hat and Wellington boots – was found at Paddington Railway Station by the Brown family with a note asking that he be looked after (he had been a stowaway on board a ship from Peru, put their by his Aunt Lucy who had gone to a retirement home in Lima).

Naming him Paddington after being unable to say his Peruvian name (it turns out later to be Pastuso), the family take the bear back to their large semi-detacted home at 32 Windsor Gardens, just around the corner from the station (his room ends up being located at the top of the house).

A Windsor Gardens does actually exist but it apparently has no connection with the Browns’ address which is said to have been wholly imaginary. The real Windsor Gardens is a tiny and rather unappealing cul-de-sac off Harrow Road, between Notting Hill and Maida Vale, and doesn’t even have a number 32.

Paddington, known for his love of marmalade, went on to appear in 13 books by Bond – selling more than 30 million copies around the world – and has been the subject of numerous other versions and spin-offs and even a couple of TV series. There’s also a movie in the works with a projected release date of Christmas 2014 and he’s also depicted in a statue by Marcus Cornish at Paddington Station.

For more on Paddington, see www.paddingtonbear.com.

PICTURE:  Lonpicman/Wikimedia Commons

Established far more recently than many of the other markets we’ve looked at, the origins of a market in Portobello Road in London’s inner west only go back to the mid-to-late 19th century.

The oddly named road (it takes its name from the Battle of Porto Bello in the wonderfully named ‘War of Jenkins’ Ear’ between Britain and Spain in the mid 18th century – more on that in an upcoming What’s in a Name? post), was transformed from a mere laneway, known as Greens Lane, to a larger thoroughfare in the mid 180os as the area developed and the market started to take shape in the 1880s.

These days the street market can stretch for a mile along Portobello Road from Golborne Road in the north to Chepstow Villas in the south.

It offers everything from fruit and vegetables and various foodstuffs (sold particularly at the northern end and along Golborne Road itself, known as Golborne Market as well around Elgin Crescent) through to vintage and alternative clothing, music and other bric-a-brac (a section in the middle, around the Westway flyover, specialises in this – this area includes the Acklam Village Market and the Portobello Green Fashion Market) and the world famous antiques market (down at the south end, closer to Notting Hill Gate Tube station – Saturday is the key day here).

Different sections of the market open on different days – there’s a great map showing what opens when on the Portobello and Golborne Markets website here) – but Saturdays and Sundays are sure to find the area packed with people. The street is also lined with independently owned shops (including the colourful buildings above) and arcades and, as well as street food stalls, there’s plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants where you can get a bite to eat.

There is currently a campaign to have Portobello Road declared Britain’s first “business conservation area” with the aim of preserving the character of the market. Head here for more details.

WHERE: Portobello Road, Notting Hill (nearest Tube stations are Notting Hill Gate or Ladbroke Grove); WHEN: Trading hours vary, see websites for details; COST: Free; WEBSITE(S): www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/visitkensingtonandchelsea/shopping/portobello/ourmarkets/portobelloroadmarket.aspxhttp://shopportobello.co.uk/.

The oldest purpose built and continuously operated cinema in London is believed to be the Phoenix in East Finchley, north London. Built in 1910, it opened in 1912 and has known several incarnations including as the East Finchley Picturedrome, the Coliseum, the Rex and the Phoenix. It was one of the first theatres in the UK to introduce pictures with sound (it did so in 1929). The theatre, which has appeared in several movies including The End Of The Affair, recently reopened following a £1.1 million restoration. There’s a touring exhibition of the cinema’s history (follow this link to find out where you can see it). Other contenders for the oldest cinema in London include the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, Notting Hill, which opened in 1911.