From the oeuvre of charming Hugh Grant romcoms, "Notting Hill" may be one of the most successful to date. When the film debuted in America, it topped box-office records and became one of the highest grossing films of 1999.
There are plenty of reasons why the movie enraptured audiences: it was a whole new kind of Cinderella story. Here, a beautiful and very famous actress, Anna (Julia Roberts), wanders into an unassuming travel bookshop in London's Notting Hill, where she meets the adorably tongue-tied William (Grant) and -- after a few mini-heartbreaks -- falls in love.
While iconic lines and speeches are in no short supply -- after all, "Notting Hill" was written and directed by romcom auteurs, Richard Curtis and Roger Michell -- there is none more famous than Roberts' teary proclamation: "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her." (Sniff.)
Though we may never be lucky enough to have a gorgeous and wealthy actor walk into our travel bookstore -- and give us an original Chagall -- it is possible for you to visit William's shop in London's Notting Hill neighborhood.
Location as Character: Not surprisingly, setting plays a big role in the film, with William's bookshop, The Travel Book Company, as one of the main locations. Although its where our pair first meets -- Anna stops in for a book, there's a charming shoplifter-busting moment -- these star-crossed lovers have more than a few run-ins at the shop. After Anna runs off several times, leaving William brokenhearted, she returns to his store with Chagall's "La Mariée" and asks him to be with her forever. Eventually, these two crazy kids (SPOILER!) work it out.
Historical Significance: Notting Hill's Portobello Road has a lengthy history, which dates back to the 1700s. Originally named Green's Lane, the street took on the name Portobello after the victory over the Spanish-ruled town, Puerto Bello. The street began to take its commerce-heavy shape during the late 19th century; shops and markets flourished amid the neighboring affluent residences. Now, the street is home to a Saturday market, which sells vintage clothing and antiques.
Fun Fact: Director Richard Curtis's production company was located on Portobello Road. At the time, the Travel Book Company was an antique shop, followed by a furniture store. Now the setting is a shoe shop named Notting Hill. The real Travel Bookshop, which was the basis for William’s store, is around the corner: The Travel Bookshop, 13-15 Blenheim Crescent, just off Portobello.
Directions: By car from London Heathrow Airport (approximately 15.7 miles): Head west on Control Tower Rd toward Inner Ring W; turn right onto Inner Ring W.; take the 3rd exit onto the M4 ramp to Central London/Hammersmith; merge onto M4; continue onto Great West Rd/A4; turn left onto Warwick Rd/A3220; at the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Holland Park Ave/A402; turn left onto Ladbroke Grove/B450; turn right onto Ladbroke Gardens; continue onto Westbourne Grove; turn left onto Portobello Rd. The store will be on the right.
Visitor Info: Notting Hill does not have a website, but a list of the area's shops can be found here.
This is part of the newly relaunched series, On the Scene, where we take a look at famous movie locations around the world.