Thursday, 9 September 2010

The streets full of treats...

We hopped in the Shopsmobile this week, and headed up Leicesters London Road to Stoneygate. Our intention was to catch up with the exclusive shopping destination of Francis Street and Allandale Road – known collectively as Stoneygate Shops – and to hopefully remind ourselves what a mood-enhancing pleasure it can be to stroll along leafy streets browsing boutiques selling lovely things, even in – or perhaps that should be "especially in" – these days of belt-tightening and bargain bins.
Like every other shopping location we've been to in the past 12 months or so, the two streets have a sprinkling of vacant units. We'd have been astonished if that wasn't the case.
But there's still a wealth of interesting finds there for discerning shoppers.
Too many for us to squash both streets in this small space, in fact, so today we have edited highlights of Francis Street, which – let's not beat about the bush here – has some of the nicest shops in Leicester.

Small but perfectly formed Linden Aromatics, for example, is a must-visit for anyone who takes fragrances and skincare seriously.
Its brands include Dr Hauschka, Face Boutique, Creed, Carthusia, REN, L'Occitane and Burt's Bees, among others. It also stocks home fragrances.
Near-neighbour Tabu is a great find, because although it sells bags, footwear and jewellery by recognisable names such as Fiorelli, it also sells glamorous shoes starting at just five pounds. Bargain! Friendly staff, too.
Next door, the entrance to garden design company Outer Eden's showroom is gloriously green and lush. Find inspiration for a your dream outdoor space here.
There's something about cute, contemporary, cheerful-looking Nest that makes us want to cuddle it, or cuddle somebody, every time we see it.
If you can't find the perfect pressie here among its ever-changing collections of stylish, innovative British jewellery, ceramics, toys and more then we're monkeys' uncles.
Two names you'll recognise from the city centre are Tinfish, which sells an almost criminally wonderful range of idiosyncratic footwear and bags, and designerwear shop Jellyrolls, which we usually associate with children, but which at this branch focuses on women.
More friendly staff can be found at Bijoux, which sells the sort of chic clutches you'd expect to see in the mitts of a Hollywood starlet as she sashays along the red carpets, plus day bags, pretty scarves, foxy shoes and jewellery. And we're not even at the top of the street yet. We'll be back. But we can confirm that yes, tree-lined streets and lovely things do lift the spirits.

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