Cashing in on Obama-mania
Thanksgiving in London

What credit crunch?

On Saturday the Two Crabs took a field trip to Shepherd's Bush neighborhood in west London to check out the new Westfield Shopping Center, the largest urban mall in Europe with more than 300 stores from 15 countries including Zara, Gap, Marks & Spencer, Topshop, Tiffany & Co., North Face, Timberland, House of Fraser, Armani, H&M & Next. The third level is still under construction and will soon include a posh movie theatre that serves food & drinks.

The best feature is the building's architecture: light, airy, wide corridors, numerous huge bathrooms. it looks more like an airport than a shopping mall. Unlike most European shopping centers that are outdoors or in a tiny rundown building, this is a proper American mall. The signs even point to "restrooms" -- not "toilets" or "WC," the standard phrase in Europe. The food court looks more like modern boutique restaurant, with stalls serving international cuisine including British meat pies, Indian, Italian, Greek & Sushi. Touch screen information kiosks help you find your way. Even more unusual in Europe: customer service. Helpful attendants are stationed at every entrance and information kiosk, handing out maps and ready with directions. Security is quite tight; several suited Secret Service-type guards with earphones and hand mics were posted outside stores and pacing the halls.

The mall is currently decked out in decorations for Christmas. The center courtyard of the mall is dominated by Santa's winter wonderland, though it looks more like Superman's arctic lair!

And perhaps most shocking of all: Westfield is open until 10pm on weekdays, and 11pm during Christmas season...most department stores in the UK are closed by 7pm! Finally, a proper American mall in London!