Royal Exchange review
I've been meaning to go inside the Royal Exchange for yonks, but never got around to it. It's another one of those intimidating buildings that looks like it's out of bounds to the likes of you and me. What is it? It looks like you need a reason to go inside... Maybe it's a big bank, or a court house, or a city business filled with big wigs smoking fat cigars. You would never guess what it really is from the outside. Do you know what it actually is? It's a shopping centre! I kid you not. It's the poshest shopping centre in London.
You won't find Tescos or Poundland in here, though. Back in the old days (400 years ago) the shops around the edge were selling simple foodstuffs like fruit and veg and coffee. But now it's a bit more upmarket -- it's all diamond rings and handbags. You don't want to come in here to do your Sunday shop, that is for sure. Not unless you want to eat truffles and white wine all week. It's full of high-end shops like Tiffany's, Gucci and Paul Smith. They've got leather goods, jewellers, watch makers, smokes and pipes, fine art dealers and beauty treatments. But the only people who use beauty shops like these are the ones who are already beautiful. The people who buy a watch in here have probably got their own staff to wind them up. I had a nose through the windows but of course they didn't have any price tags on. You know how the old saying goes -- if you need to ask the price then you probably can't afford it. That is pretty much the rule in here.
Here is a list of some of the things they sell:
I thought I'd try a coffee instead because they've got a big cafe on the ground floor, taking up the central space. But it's not really like Costas or Starbucks. It's more like a bar with pretty waitresses in pencil-skirts and ponytails. The waiters are all waltzing around with silver trays balanced on upturned hands, dropping off cappuccinos and cup-cakes to the suited and booted patrons. Practically everyone I can see is smartly dressed in black suits and power outfits, hob-nobbing and networking with their business buddies, showing off their latest electronic gizmos. This must be where the City businessmen come for dinner, or canapes, or whatever it is you are supposed to eat in a Savile Row suit. One of them is twirling his car-keys around his fingers, like Clint Eastwood twirls his gun, showing off his key fob to anyone who wants to look (just me).
I can see them looking over and thinking "who is that scruffy oik taking photos of us", and sure enough a nice lady comes over and forbids me from taking any more photos.
So is it worth 30 minutes of your time? Er... I don't think so, no. You should definitely have a look around the outside because that is fantastic, but unless you're wearing a suit and you've got a gold credit card in your wallet, give it a miss and go to Starbucks instead. Much more welcoming!
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