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London's Best Vintage Shopping

When William Faulkner remarked that the past is not dead, that, in fact, it’s not even past, he didn’t go far enough. I am walking down Portobello Road and the evidence of the past is glowing, vibrating, bouncing all around me: frames and fountain pens, toys and tortoiseshell, watches and walking sticks, pewter and perfume bottles—something for every collector’s taste including my own, which runs to, among other things, Victorian jewelry, girly tabletop bibelots, and, I am ashamed to admit, 100-year-old working-class dolls that, in most cases, have seen better days. I’ve been coming to Portobello since I was a teenager searching for Victorian velvet dresses that cost $1.50, and as my tastes have grown more refined I have only found more and more to enchant me. The sheer range of collectibles in this small corner of London is astonishing enough, and then there are the vendors—from thrillingly erudite to downright nutty—who expand your knowledge even as they shrink your budget.

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