While Lauren was with me in Sydney she had dragged me, reluctantly at first, round a number of the varied markets the city had to offer. By doing that not only had she forced me to learn to enjoy wandering around the stalls but she had also introduced me to such locations as Surry Hills and Paddington, which otherwise I wouldn’t have seen.
Now back home we have decided to make an effort to see more of our own capital city and amongst the many other attractions it has to offer are it’s very own street markets.
London is only about 40 minutes drive or tube ride from home. No time at all and a whole new world to explore and discover.
I have always considered myself to be somebody who knows London having spent time here all my life, but trips like today’s just go to prove I know so little.
Today is about the East End; Columbia Road, Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Petticoat Lane; assuming we have the time.
This was our first stop of the day and by far the most enjoyable – not because there was anything wrong with the rest of the markets, but because in the summer sun Columbia Road is magnificent! We also spent so much time here there wasn’t really enough left to do the others justice.
The area of Columbia Road which hosts the market was lined down both sides of the street with stalls, each stall being completely full of cut-flowers and plants. Everything you need to make the perfect garden either outside or inside your house. Between the stalls was packed with people looking and buying. In addition to the market stalls is a whole range of shops from vintage clothing to cards, as well as cafes, pubs and other eating houses.
Although crazy busy the atmosphere was wonderful. Buskers were playing music and the staff holders were shouting out their traditional patter:
“Never mind Poundland, you’ll be in Wonderland with these prices!”
“Your neighbours already think you’re rich, they will be convinced when you plant these in your garden!”
This is what makes a London market for me; the patter coupled with the strong east end accent, perfect. I almost expected Del Boy Trotter to be selling out of his suitcase on one of the street corners.
Columbia Road Flower Market is open every Sunday between 08:00 and 15:00. Make the effort, it is well worth it!
From Columbia Road we headed to Brick Lane. On a Sunday the streets are full of all manner of goods from second hand bric-a-brac to new clothes, crafts and household goods. This is considered to be the last of the “unlicensed” markets in London so many of the stalls are no more than a selection of items which somebody just wants to get ride of. They turn up with their wares and simply lay claim to part of the pavement!
There is also the food; street food, stalls, restaurants, every type from every nation. Brick Lane deserves far more time that we had today, so we will be returning.
Next we went to Spitalfields. This couldn’t be more different from the previous two. This is the original covered market site with the traditional fruit and vegetable market having moved to Leyton, East London. The building has been fully renovated and forms the centre piece of the redevelopment of this part of the city.
Everything in this market is structured and formal. There are also a large selection of permanent shops and restaurants which makes the “market” feel more of a shopping centre. That said there are some real quality goods on sales.
Finally we took a quick walk through Petticoat Lane, and it was quick as it was getting late and we were very hot. This market is all about clothes and is back to the traditional format of stalls down the streets.
Well that was our first London Market expedition. There is said to be over 70 markets to visit so more trips are already being planned as well as a revisit to those seen today.
But before I close, I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there is much of London I haven’t seen before. Today I have seen streets and buildings, many dating from the 1860’s, that are of a design and period of history which I find most appealing. Another topic for future posts …..