Chelsea in Bloom
Chelsea in Bloom is an attempt to extend the famous Chelsea Flower show to the surrounding streets. Shops, restaurants and hotels compete for the most beautiful display and their installations are literally bombastic!
London's Chelsea district was once known as a bohemian quarter where many significant painters, poets and writers lived, but also the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and model Twiggy. Malcolm McLaren and punk queen Vivienne Westwood opened their first boutique, called Sex, on King's Road, selling eccentric T-shirts with anarchist inscriptions.
In the late 1970s, however, bohemians began moving to the boroughs of Notting Hill and Camden Town, and Chelsea slowly became home to investment bankers, celebrities, and exclusive brands.
In May, there is an RHS Chelsea Flower show and on my way there I noticed huge flower sculptures at Sloane Square. Later, I went to an information stand and learned that since 2009, in honor of the prestigious event; also a competition for the most beautiful window shop is held. The organizers wanted to extend the display to the surrounding streets, and succeeded. The number of participants increased from year to year; in 2019 it was more than 80 shops, restaurants and hotels. The award is given by an expert panel, but visitors can vote for People’s Champion on the Internet.
So if you failed to get tickets for the RHS exhibition, do not despair. Chelsea in Bloom is open to everyone, and entirely free.
Sloane Square was transformed into a coral reef surrounded by floating dolphins, octopus, jellyfish and turtle made from mixed foliage. It served as an information point where people could book a free rickshaw ride or walking tour of the area’s highlights; but in a small bar they offered also refreshing drinks - Ketel One Botanical vodka with fruit-herb flavors (I tried Grapefruit & Rose, yummy! J ). Then I took a map and wandered down the aisles.
This year's theme was Under the Sea to draw attention to threats to marine ecosystem and the need to protect and preserve it. By the way, all installations were created without the use of plastics and after dismantling donated to charity.
The displays were literally bombastic. Obviously, local boutiques do not need to be thrifty; they can hire top-level arrangers. Somewhere, the shop entrance was adorned with a wide belt of hydrangeas and roses, while elsewhere, stylized fish (along with shoes) swam behind the glass. The restaurant called Polpo (Octopus) was guarded, of course, by a violet-yellow cephalopod; not far away a big fish with sexy lips posed like a model. I saw seahorses, jellyfish, whales, dolphins, a yellow submarine; and a mermaid looking into the mirror decorated with seashells… In one restaurant, instead of classic flower vases they had round aquariums with fish on tables!
Chelsea is a very pleasant neighborhood, with many great places to explore - beautiful houses, the famous Saatchi Gallery, as well as cozy restaurants and cafes. It was a joy to stroll through and look for the breath-taking floral installations.
On Duke of York Square, a Saturday food market took place, where artisan producers and small family businesses sell their specialities. Cheese, cupcakes, cannelé (a pastry from Bordeaux), macarons, but also Mexican burrito, salads... The plaza is also home to an excellent food shop Partridges; now they offered Flower tea and Flower Gin to commemorate the famous display.
I wandered all the way to the boundaries of the neighborhood, until I arrived at adjacent Knightsbridge. I had lunch and coffee at two different establishments because I was intrigued by both of them. In the recent years, as if all the eating places were competing to find out what new delicacy they can invent and serve as originally as possible. Well, it works for me. :)
I had a salad in Maia Restaurant (they had cute teddy bears at lots of the tables); and Ruby latte in the pink Elan Cafe. It was just a sweet milk, but photogenic, wasn't it? :)
In the evening, I walked around another pleasant area, Covent Garden and was surprised to find that this district was also decorated with flowers. It´s a pity I didn´t have more time; maybe next year…
London is worth visiting at any time, but in May, when it is full of colors, it is probably the most beautiful....
See also: The RHS Chelsea Flower Show