It is T minus 17 days to Camino.  

8500 steps, 6.1 km of window shopping.

Of course, I should be practising hiking, walking, etc, but I decided that it was time for me to do some R&R time with hubs and go branded clothes shopping in Bicester Village.  It’s been about 3 years since I last went to Bicester Village.  Basically, there’s about 500 m of shops (both sides) of branded goods ranging from Prada to Stella McCartney.  As we drove up, hubs said that it looked like a mall from America, which is to say, it is definitely not like the usual high street in English villages.  After parking the car and strolling up to the “entrance”, hubs asks if we need a map of the place.  “Nah”, I say.  “We can wing it.”

Bicester Village is like a theme park, but for fashionistas, or fashionista wannabes.  There’s a few cafes, outdoor takeaways, ice cream shop, creperie and a couple of restaurants.  Beyond that, it is shopping to your hearts galore.  We went on a weekend, thinking it would be a lot quieter and hence more enjoyable than on a weekend, which I presume can only be heaving with people.  Of course, it was then that we noticed tourist coach upon tourism coach parked outside.  Bicester Village, it seems, is the shopping destination for tourists.  And not just any tourist – the cashed up Chinese tourists flock into the Village, pulling empty suitcases on wheels, no doubt to fill it up with shopping goods.  These tourists from China (as opposed to Chinese tourist, of which I am one, I suppose) are cashed up and ready to shop.  They outnumber the tourists from the middle east as they spill and disappear into the various shops.  Hot on their list are Prada, Versace, Gucci, Mulberry, Burberry and every other “berry” big brand name.  And even though Bicester Village is a factory outlet for these brands, prices still aren’t cheap.  A saving of 50% off might still mean you fork out over £1000 per piece.  And these tourists from China are clearly worth big bucks for these brands.  In (just about) every shop that we went into, there is a Mandarin speaking sales assistant.  There is no doubt, these tourists from China, are worth big bucks and it’s a question of how quickly the shops can get them to part with as much cash as possible before they move onto the next shop.

We hear so much about tourists from Chinese with money but no manners.  These seemed a bit better behaved, though sometimes trying to avoid tripping up against their dragging suitcases is rather annoying. Personally, I prefer the experience of shopping with tons of shopping bags in arm (if I have been successful in parting with my credit card).  Others simply poked their head into my conversation with the sales assistant as I was buying jewellery.  Personal space, people!  (Yes, I was slightly irritated.)  Some of the tourists are super prepared resting on benches in the central passageway with picnic and a thermos of hot drink.  I am amazed, these tourists from China came with a mission to shop – or pick up samples for their factory ;-). 

  

Here’s a picture of Burberry. I was practising my photo taking skills of trying to get it into thirds when I was told off by the security guard for taking pictures. Seriously? I’m not taking pictures of the goods to create counterfeit stuff! Anyway, have to admit, I became irritated. You know what? I don’t like Burberry much anyway. It’s very fuddy duddy. And that men’s beige trench coat you’ve got? Looks like the old man’s coat that Michael Caine wore in Harry Brown. There!

Hubs and I loathe shopping in crowded stuffy shops tripping over suitcases. So we tended towards lesser known brands (though no less expensive). I really wanted to buy stuff, but having recently spent so much on buying gear for the camino, I felt like I couldn’t justify the expense. Besides, there’s no point with me buying Spring clothes when by the time I returned, it would be Summer. And, there’s every possibility I might lose weight and be a slim svelte person in need of another shopping expedition. 😉

I did however discover favourite brands.  Dior has beautiful clothes.  And it is a different experience when you come up close and personal to feel the fabric and the construction of the item.  It’s much cheaper at Bicester Village (assuming you can get the range and the size), about 50% off, which is still averaging around £1,500.  Still a little high for my wallet (about 100 times), but within striking distance if ever I feel a need to truly splurge out.  The other problem, where can I go with a couture outfit?  I’m afraid I’m just not that popular for those sorts of parties.

Most of the others were within upper reach – say £300 to £500 per piece.  It’s a stretch, but doable if you really wanted to treat yourself.  Of the shops I returned to the most was Alexander McQueen.  I liked his (their?) stuff.  It was “bad ass” with a bit of pink.  I’m referring to a biker style “bad ass” black leather jacket with silver hardware, with complete leather lining on the inside in pink.  Loved it!  I would have parted the £400 for it, but they didn’t have it in my size.  Alas, I’m really going to have to lose some weight on the camino and cross my fingers it’s still going to be around in June.

So, lovely day out, but no clothes. I bought a “bad ass” skull ring from Alexander McQueen, hubs a Prada wallet and for the house a pair of poultry scissors and a Chinese chopper (but, of course).  I’m sure there’s a lesson in this for me somewhere.  Maybe “why put off till tomorrow what you can buy today?”