Monica Bielanko
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One Hour in Harrods

We push through the gold etched glass doors, leaving the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge behind, innocent to the beauteous bounty that lays ahead. Like entering a portal into another dimension. From clammy, nearly gray colored air tinged with chill, to vivid colors with posh perfumes rushing forward to welcome us to Harrods.

That the owner of Harrods is Egyptian is reflected in the architecture of this London gem of a department store. Ornate carvings rear to life from solid, gargantuan marble walls. We are in the Egyptian Hall, and for all I know about Egypt, this tomb could very well resemble the interior of a pyramid itself with its' gold trim and massive arches. Humungous hutches crouch against walls, filled with dazzling displays of Lladro, an homage to the ancient tradition of porcelain. These finely handcrafted porcelain figurines from Spain occupy shelves, all individually lit, demanding undivided attention like the spotlit star of a Broadway play mid-monologue. The Surge and I follow our noses from The Egyptian Hall to the food sections.

Such an array of magnificient decadence I've not yet seen in my nearly three decades on earth. Meat, Fruits & Vegetables, and Desserts each occupy their own grand room. Stuffed to overflowing with all manner of ravishing food item accoutrements. I am hypnotized by the most beautiful confection creations I've ever beheld. Sparkling display cases containing miniature masterpieces. Tiny desserts resplendent with glossy fruits, drizzled chocolate accents. Each elegant sculpture, tantalizing in the soft light.

I can nearly taste the sweet sumptuousness of the Red Raspberry Chocolate Tart on my tongue. I linger near the case, then like a kid in a candy store, this adult in a dessert shop crouches next to the banquet of baking and presses her face against the glass. Silently, I whisper the names of each delicate dessert, one more succulent sounding than the next. Cafe Religieuse; a light choux pastry filled with coffee flavored creme patisserie and finished with coffee fondant. I peer at the diminutive dessert for ages, admiring every carefully crafted swoop and swirl of rich, dark chocolate before sliding my eyes to its' neighbor, Ms. Strawberry Choux Bun.. a light and flakey pastry filled with fresh strawberries and a liberal sprinkling of golden toasted almonds to finish. I exchange wide-eyed, eyebrow raising grins with a six year old ogling the same row of pastries and move on to the next work of art. Lavendar Valencia; this dessert with a femme fatale of a name. For that's what she is.. a chocolate enchantress. She uses her milk chocolate caramel mousse to lure you in. Once she's got you in her sticky clutches she gives her heart to you. A lavendar brulee center on a Dacquoise sponge base that has you begging for more when she's gone. And the icing on this petite cake? A praline glaze that will have you licking your lips in bittersweet chocolate agony over the memory of the sweet seductress that is no more.

I make my getaway, toward the eclair counter, and pause to count the many kinds available. Pistachio, Green Tea, Tonka Bean, Ilychee and of course, all the usual suspects like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and the like. That's when the smell of rich, chocolate envelopes me like a pair of cozy flannel pajamas. I see The Surge then, beckoning me to the source of the aroma. It's a chocolate fantasy of decadent indulgence.

Willy Wonka has nothing on Harrods chocolate counters. Chocolate squares in all shapes and sizes.. Combinations of nougat, caramel and nuts oozing soft, luscious centers with flavors such as mint, smooth vanilla, and rich coffee then bathed in milk, dark or white chocolate. The delectable delights include Chocolate Rum Truffles, Passion Armande, Sucree Salee, Truffe Paillette Cafe, Fabiola..

Having overdosed on visions of milk chocolate baths by candlelight, The Surge tugs me toward his favorite; the meat displays. On our way we pass a full sushi bar where dozens of Brits are whiling away the rainy lunch hour. The delicate din of silverware clattering against posh plates laden with fresh fish accompanies us until we turn the corner.

Todays Market; Dutch Veal, Scotch Beef and English Pork Mince. Butchers in full regalia labor beneath meat hooks laden with heavy shanks of animal flesh. Generally not one for the raw meat, I decide the whole affair is elegantly barbaric and leave The Surge to observe what he calls 'The coolest job in the world'. Entranced by the cleaving, chopping and carving, he barely notices me moving on.

The Vegetable and Fruit Section is a rainbow of colors. Each fresh piece polished to high sheen then tucked into burlap filled baskets that are nestled into mounds of clean, sweet smelling hay. I am eying exotic and extravagent sounding concoctions (tins of caviar - 2,000 English pounds! Streamlined, clear, glass bottles of cordial, ginger beer) when I nearly topple a carefully stacked pyramid display of fresh Welsh Mountain Honey. The fragrance of baking bread wafts into my nose and proves to be my breaking point. I extricate The Surge from his visions of owning a butcher shop and we work our way upstairs.

Past luxurious fabrics, and sharp suited saleswomen, dodging posh perfume sprayers, Nicole Farhi, DKNY, Roberto Cavalli, Dior, Armani.. we make our way to our ultimate destination, The Harrods Christmas room.

From the contemporary starkness of high end designers to a festive frenzy.. Multi colored lights, twinkle every which way, splashing color onto ornaments on display, refracting, and sending rainbows all around. The lights have been wound around the room, Chevy-Chase-in-A-National-Lampoon's- Christmas-Vacation-style.. Even Santa himself would scratch his snow white head in wonderment of it all. High on perfume, The Surge and I clutch each other in delirious dizziness.. Everywhere you look, spangles and sparkles catch your eye and beckon you come closer. Christmas music dances throughout the room, partnering with the lights to the beat of The Little Drummer Boy or the happy chimes of those familiar Jingle Bells.

We've decided to buy one Christmas ornament for our tree.. Oh, the deliberations! The drama! Which one will it be? There are balls of silver and gold, purple, pink, red, green, yellow and every hue in between. Matte, glossy, orbs with designs etched in, those with a sprinkling of snow, a powdery sugar finish that looks so tempting you almost venture a lick.. Finally! We settle on red and silver and exhaustedly make our way outside..

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    All charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others

Reader Comments (4)

CHOOOOOOOOOCOLATE. I want some and I'm jealous of this european-anniversary-meeting cool people-shopping at Harrods-vacation thing that you've got going on.
Glad that you're having fun though!
October 7, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
I've recently changed my religion to Godivaism. After confession they give you truffle.
October 7, 2005 | Registered Commentertallchickbarbara
Thank you for dropping a line in my humble blog. Your writing style is beautiful, lush. Amazing.

Congratulations on the year of love...
October 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHelena

So here I am now in October 2005 and this is the one blog that reckons the writer that you are Monica. I am very serious that I could almost just almost taste the fucking Lavender Valencia pastry, and I really think I may have smelt the chocolate here.....A great writer you The Girl Who....Im so intrigued now........

July 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMississippi Belle

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