A Side Trip to Camden Market

 

Camden Market is huge. No, I take that back. It’s GINORMOUS. Take the Tube to Camden Town station on any given weekend and you’ll see what I mean.

Once you fight your way through the crowds on Camden High Street (below), you’ll find that the popular shopping district is actually a messy amalgamation of a handful of markets, each one featuring a more dizzying array of stalls than the next. Camden Lock Market, Camden Lock Village, Camden Stables Market, and Camden Market are the most notable, and where one market ends and another begins is anyone’s guess. I’ve been here about a dozen times myself and still get lost!

Camden High Street

Busy much?

Sure, Camden High Street is photo worthy and decidedly funky, but I could take it or leave it. The alternative clothing outlets, bargain basement souvenir emporiums and fish-out-of-water brand name shops don’t appeal to me much now that I’ve reached my mid-to-late-20s. If I were 16 or 17, however, this high street would be heaven.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I can’t turn the clock back 10 years. That’s alright though. There’s a little something in Camden for everyone. These days, on the odd weekend when I find myself in this northwesterly section of London, I find myself drawn to the Stables Market.

Camden Stables Market

Camden Stables Market

Taking its name from its former stint a horse stable (no surprise there), this part of the market descends deep into the ground. It’s dark. It’s just a touch edgy. And it’s got some really cool vintage stuff. If you like old books, bottles, wooden boxes and the like, then I highly encourage you to do some subterranean rummaging at Stables Market. Prices are (mostly) reasonable, though you’ll be hard pressed to find anything steeply undervalued.

Back topside there are dozens upon dozens of different food stalls to sample from as well as a few decent vintage furniture and home ware stores. If you’re visiting London and only have time to visit one market, go to Borough Market if you love food and to Camden Market if you love shopping for clothes, accessories, vintage stuff, and other knick knacks.

Amy Winehouse statue Camden

A recent addition to the market – A statue of the late Amy Winehouse

Camden Stables Market

Camden Stables Market

Camden Market

Camden Market

Camden Market

Camden Market

What’s a girl to do after sifting her way through Camden’s Markets? My advice would be to take a break from the crowds and breathe in some fresh air at Regent’s Park. Hike up to Primrose Hill and enjoy the view :)

Regent’s Park/Primrose Hill

Spring is in the Air at Columbia Road Flower Market

 
Columbia Road

Columbia Road

Waking up to sunshine is a pretty rare occurrence in London. Waking up to sunshine on a weekend morning in London is even rarer. So last Sunday when my alarmed managed to worm its way into my dreams at 8am, I was pleasantly surprised to see rays of bright yellow light flooding into the bedroom.

Within the hour I was out the door, excited to explore a bit of London I had never been to before. Columbia Road Flower Market has been on my to-visit list for quite a while, but the timing and the weather just never seemed to work out right.

Shops on Columbia Road

Shops on Columbia Road

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

The market only runs for half a day on Sunday in an interesting corner of East London. I made the short journey from my flat in Limehouse to Shadwell, then took the Overground a few stops from Hoxton. From there it was another 10 or 15 minutes until I caught my first glimpse of the market and heard the faint chatter of the flower vendors.

Upon arrival, it didn’t take long to figure out that Columbia Road is pretty special. The road was absolutely packed with people. Flower and plant vendors neatly lined each side of the road and behind them were dozens of independent shops specialising in antiques, home goods, and other little bits and bobs.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

The first thing that really struck me aside from the crowds were the flower vendors themselves. These guys (and gals) were a chatty and loud bunch, each shouting his or her best deals to would-be customers.

Then, there were, of course, the flowers. White, red, yellow, purple, orange – pretty much every colour of the rainbow was represented here. Amongst the familiar roses and tulips, I ran into all kinds of exotic and colourful plant life. Though Columbia Road Flower Market is probably best known for its cut flowers, you can also buy potted plants, flowers, bulbs, fruit trees, ornamental trees, succulents, and cacti here.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

After enduring another wet and chilly winter, the bright pops of colour at Columbia Road were just what the doctored ordered. In fact, I couldn’t help but indulge myself in a little flower shopping after my first pass through the market. The good news is that the flowers and plants here are much cheaper than what you would find at any florist in Central London. I’ve seen a dozen roses on sale for more than £40 over in Canary Wharf. At Columbia Road, you can get an assortment of 30 small roses for £5 or 20 large roses for £10.

I went with the latter of the two options and went home after brunch to put my flower arrangement skills to the test. The results are below…what do you think? 😉

Roses from the market

Bouquet of roses

Columbia Road Flower Market is open every Sunday, rain or shine, from 8am to about 3pm. 

In Photos: Borough Market (Again!)

 

Out of all of London’s major attractions, Borough Market is the one place I find myself going back to again and again. It was one of the first places I visited on my first trip to London in June 2010, and I’ve probably been back at least 10 times since then. My latest trip was just this past weekend, on Valentine’s Day to be exact!

After taking in our first West End show the night before my other and half and I made the walk from the Tower of London, across Tower Bridge to Borough Market. Despite the February chill Borough was brimming with people.

There’s been a market here for 1000 years, which only adds to Borough’s historic appeal. Like much of the rest of London, what you see before you today is the product of centuries of development. This sort of “living history” is a part of why I personally think the market, and London as a whole, is so special.

Borough Market

Fresh veg – if only I actually knew how to cook!

Borough Market

Market stalls

Borough Market

Main market area

Borough Market

pheasant, anyone?

Borough Market sells a mix of hot food, raw ingredients, spices, bottled drinks, pastries, and pretty much anything else you can think of that’s food-related. Most of it sits under a beautiful green iron roof which dates back to the Victorian period, though there are also a few outdoor bits.

The market’s layout is a bit hard to explain because the whole thing really is a mess. Between the worn brickwork, historic ironwork, and uneven floors, Borough is a menagerie of crooked lines, drippy ceilings, and unexpected puddles. So it’s old and it’s messy, but that’s part of its charm.

If you’re a foodie visiting London, then make sure the beautiful mess that is Borough Market is near the top of your must-see list. A haven for those with adventurous taste buds, it’s got everything from kangaroo burgers (I’ve tried one…they’re quite good) to a walk-up oyster bar and all kinds of crazy delicacies you wouldn’t normally see at your average farmers’ market.

Borough Market

peering through the archway

Borough Market is open for lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays. The full market runs from Wednesday to Saturday. It is closed on Sundays.

Sunday Brunchin’ … East London Style

 

Why hello there! It’s been a while!

I’ve just returned from a fantabulous Christmas break and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but all that will have to wait until I’m all caught up with work, life, and all that pesky stuff in between.

I got back on Friday night, which happened to be New Year’s Day, and this weekend has been a tornado of unpacking and preparing for my next adventure. After a whirlwind Saturday I woke up late today, as one does on a lazy Sunday, and popped out the door to visit the tried and true Sunday Upmarket on Brick Lane. For the uninitiated, the Upmarket is very stereotypical East London – hipster, artsy, and in the throws of gentrification. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that it’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat.

east_london

View opposite the Sunday Upmarket – there’s so much going on in this photo!

After two weeks of gorging on schnitzel, wurst, and all manner of potato dumplings and sauerkraut, the street stalls at the Sunday Upmarket were the perfect place for an ‘alternative’ sunday brunch. For our first course, I opted for a personal favourite of mine: Chinese-style pork buns. They’re 2 for £4.50 at the market and are perfect for snacking on as you browse the other stalls. Up next was the main event. Seeking something a little on the lighter side, I opted for Rollicious, a Vietnamese pop-up vendor that specialises in Vietnamese spring rolls.

vietnamese_food_2

So many rolls to choose from . . .

Rollicious offers five different rolls, including a lamb and pomegranate roll that I was curious about, but too scared to try. Instead I went with the prawn and pork rolls, both of which were delicious. My other half went in a heartier direction and ordered a roll alongside a whole plate of rice noodles, salad, and pork.

vietnamese_food

Brunch is served!

So it may not have been gourmet eating, but it was quick, tasty, cheap (£10.30 for both dishes), and pretty healthy. A trip to the Sunday Upmarket, followed by a quick browse of Old Spitalfields before venturing across the City of London to Bank Station was the perfect way to get back in a London state of mind after what amounts to 25 days away from the city in the past month.

As I get caught up with everything over the next few weeks, be on the lookout for LOTS of new blog posts to come about my recent adventures on the continent (of Europe, that is)!

Get into the Holiday Spirit! A Guide to Christmas Markets in London

 

Southbank-Christmas-Market-London-England

There’s no place better than London to count down the days until Christmas. If you’re looking for a festive holiday experience with great shopping, seasonal food and good cheer, then look no further than the Christmas Markets in London. They’re a fun spot to find unique gifts, handmade crafts and warm up with a mulled wine. From the biggest and boldest to the best views, check out my latest post for London Perfect for a roundup of the best Christmas markets in the city.

Sights to See in London this Christmas

 

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If you are in the capital this Christmas – whether in your student housing in London, visiting family or on holiday – there is plenty to see and do to give you a great festive experience. London comes alive with seasonal fun during December but you may also want to use the time to tick off some sights you are yet to check out which are fun any time of the year. As one of the world’s leading city break locations London has a huge variety of attractions for you to experience whatever the weather. Here is a list of some sights which you can tick off your list during the Christmas holidays.

Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament Tour

The epicentre of power in the nation’s capital is steeped in history and is a wonderful example of architecture which spans the centuries. If you want to develop your understanding of some of the processes that government go through you can even attend a debate or sit in on a committee meeting. Although this may not put you in the Christmas spirit!

Science Museum

London’s Science Museum is renown around the world for innovative exhibitions and inspirational collections. The venue in South Kensington has been around for over 100 years and houses fascinating resources to feed your brain in your holiday down time.

Home of John Keats

An important address which is missed by many a visitor to the capital, Wentworth Place now hosts a museum devoted to the Romantic poet. The Hampstead property hosts regular events and it is possible to book group tours on days when the museum is closed to the public.

Wiltons Music Hall

Another hidden gem in the city, Wilton’s Music Hall is a place of lots of historical importance with the impressive status of the world’s oldest surviving Grand Music Hall. Its rugged charm has gained it many loyal regulars but Christmas is the perfect time for the uninitiated to pay homage. Mrs Hudson’s Christmas Corker is set in another great London address (Sherlock Holmes’ 221B Baker Street) and runs until New Years Eve.

Winter Wonderland

During December, Hyde Park is transformed into a festive fun zone for all the family with an ice rink, giant wheel and circus. If you do find yourself in London during the Christmas period, this place truly is a must-see.

Winterville

If you are living in East London and aren’t willing to venture to Hyde Park then you can still experience a Christmas treat for all the senses with horse-drawn carriages, a fairground and Christmas market at Winterville. Head over to Victoria Park from 2nd December for the full experience.

The London Eye

shutterstock_942188 See London in all its glory from one of its newest icons. The Eye is the perfect place to get a wonderful view of all the capital’s famous landmarks. Catch a snowy festive day for an unparalleled visual spectacular.

 

Sunday at Southbank: Pigging out at the Real Food Market

 

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First off, I want to apologise for the lack of updates lately. The last few weeks have been crazy . . . not only has my freelance work been picking up, but I also got myself a proper job. I’m now working part time at Yelp London, a big fancy website where you can find reviews of local restaurants, businesses, and retail stores. I’ll be handling their Instagram account, and will also be helping out with Twitter, Facebook, and a few other marketing activities. I’m really excited about the new gig, as it will let me explore more of London. At the same time, they’re also OK with me gallivanting around the world at my leisure (it’s a remote position), which I’m really happy about. Anyway, enough about my work life, let’s get to the point of this post.

Shall we?

Today was one of those I-need-to-pinch-myself-to-make-sure-this-is-real-life days.  I got a late start which didn’t matter much since nothing opens until noon on Sunday. My mission du jour was a visit to the Real Food Market at Southbank. It’s a regular market that I frequent at least a few times a year. In order to avoid the crowds at Bank Station (thanks to the poppy installation at the Tower of London), I opted for the Thames Clipper instead.

london

OMG. I live here?

It takes about half an hour to zip down the river, under Tower Bridge, to the London Eye. From here, South Bank is a short walk alway. Because I live in East London these days, I don’t make it out much to this part of town anymore. Luckily, I picked a good day to visit. The sun was shining, the weather was nice and crisp, and London’s landmarks were looking especially fabulous. As I got off the boat I took a moment to look around and spotted the sun falling back behind Big Ben. Next month will be my four-year anniversary in London and sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I live here. 

After tearing myself away from the river views, I made my way to the Real Food Market. In case you didn’t know, this market is held weekly behind Royal Festival Hall. It consists of 40 or so stalls selling hot meals, coffee, cocktails, and a few grocery items. You can kind of think of it as a smaller, less crowded, less posh Borough Market.

beer

Beer from Meantime Brewery in Greenwich

Duck Confit Burger from The FRENCHIE

Duck Confit Burger from The FRENCHIE

bruschetta

Bruschetta

My favourite food stall has to be the one specialising in Korean burritos, but in an effort to expand my horizons, this time around I went with smoked Norwegian salmon on sourdough and cream cheese. It was delicious and paired nicely with a bloody mary I picked up at another stall. My other half went for a duck confit burger from The FRENCHIE, which came on a brioche bun and was cooked to perfection with a lovely slice of white cheddar. I’m not a huge duck person, but this thing was good — highly recommended.

For round two of pigging out we both opted for bruschetta. I had mine topped with a random Italian cheese I can’t pronounce, while my boyfriend stuck with the traditional version. With our bellies full of duck, salmon, bread, and tomatoes, our next stop for my beloved mulled wine. The lovely red wine concoction might just me my favourite part of the festive season.

mulledwine

Because everyone needs a little brandy on a Sunday afternoon

mulledwine2

Keepin’ it classy with my styrofoam cup ;)

champagne

Champagne? Don’t mind if I do . . .

If hot red wine with spices and brandy isn’t your thing, then why not go for some champagne? I love how ridiculous and extravagant London is sometimes. This city loves its champagne and oysters, and makes no apologies for it.

With our stomachs now overflowing with good eats, my other half and I waddled back to Waterloo Station. Less than 20 minutes later, we were home. This far into my life in London I still have those days where I can’t quite believe where I live.

The notion of taking a boat and eating a duck burger in the shadow of the London Eye and within eyeshot of Big Ben just blows my mind, and the fact that it’s all 20 minutes from where I live takes it over the top. For all its flaws and frustrations, London is still an undoubtedly amazing place to rest your head at night.