Market Sunday

August 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm 2 comments

On my second Sunday in London, I had a pretty serious to-do list. I’d left Saturday night fun early so I could get up with the sun on Sunday and head out for a day at the markets.

I was determined to head out early, because my first stop just had to be the Columbia Road Flower Market. My research indicated that the market is on a narrow street that gets awfully crowded on nice days, so I left the hotel shortly after 8, and after a brief walking tour of Shoreditch, I arrived at the market a little after 9. It wasn’t too crowded yet, but some folks (probably regulars) were already leaving with big burlap bags stuffed full of gorgeous flowers.

The market was fragrant and I’m a little sensitive to strong floral scents, but it was such a beautiful day, and the air smelled more fresh than stiflingly floral, so I had no complaints! The market sellers had a wide variety of colourful blooms, and I really enjoyed poking through all of the open-air stalls.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road is an awesome part of London, because it’s against the rules (law? code?) to open a chain establishment on the road. All indie shops and restaurants! Quite a few antique shops, some crafty places, some clothing, some art, and all awesome. Visiting the shops was just as much a part of the experience as seeing the flowers!

I’d read that Columbia Road is a great place to have Sunday brunch, so I skipped breakfast at our B&B and headed out. If there’s one thing I love, it’s eating out for brunch! And also figure skating. But I digress. Back to brunch! I was craving pancakes, and I know that the Brits aren’t as crazy about pancakes as Americans are, but I was hoping I could find crepes, maybe. Which are even better than pancakes, when done right! Or at the very least, eggs.

Here’s the thing. I guess when the Brits talk about brunch, they just use it as a word for a big weekend lunch, not in necessarily eating breakfast foods for lunch. Many of the restaurants on Columbia Road weren’t open yet when I was trolling for food at 10am, and they seemed to feature roast beef in a big way. I don’t really eat beef, so I was a little disheartened. And then I met Lilli.

Next to brunch, one of my favourite weekend treats is a delicious bakery cupcake. I’d been a little disappointed by English-style cupcakes, but I wasn’t ready to give up on them, especially not when I spied Lilli Vanilli, tucked into the back of a courtyard off of Columbia Road. The cupcake was fantastic, and so was the coffee, but even better was smiley Lilli, serving cupcakes behind the counter with her staff. Cupcakes are awfully crumbly to eat on the go, so I grabbed a seat on a bench inside the bakery and enjoyed my cupcake & coffee, and she offered me a fresh sample of her new lemon pistachio dough. Definitely a memorable experience, and I’m so glad I found the shop.

Columbia Road

After a bit more shopping, I was already starting to fade, and I still had a few more stops to make. On my way off of Columbia Road, I spied a shop called Cake Hole advertising the legendary Monmouth Coffee. Exactly what I needed to revitalize my tired legs! Monmouth Coffee is pretty incredible, but I’ll foreshadow a bit and say that I have more to write about Monmouth on another day.

My class had read Brick Lane by Monica Ali, so one of our assignments was to walk down Brick Lane and see what it is like for ourselves. I charted a course to the Spitalfields Market that took me right down Brick Lane, and I was a bit surprised, because it has “gentrified” quite a bit in the decade since Ali wrote her novel. It’s still quite ethnic and there are some signs in Bangladeshi, but it has also become a trendy spot for up-and-coming designers to showcase their wares. On Sundays, though, it has a bit of additional flavour, because people line the street with some of the most random things for a sale in a makeshift market. My favourite was a guy who had a blanket spread out that was just littered with cameras and lenses, from old school Hipstamatics, Holgas, and Lomos to new Canon L-lenses for EOS cameras.

My favourite part of Brick Lane, though, had to be the Sunday Upmarket, which is in a warehouse on Brick Lane. It’s edgy and fun, with a diverse crop of designers selling new fashions every Sunday. I liked the relaxed feel of the market and I even liked a lot of the clothes. I wished that I’d had extra money to spend and room to bring clothes back home! They were the most reasonably-priced clothes I saw in London, too.

Just a few blocks away is the Spitalfields Market, an old covered market that has been redone recently.

Spitalfields

It’s pretty awesome! Definitely more commercialized than the Sunday Upmarket, but some similar clothing for sale. Some more crafty and typical market-y things, too. Lots of shops and restaurants around the perimeter of the area with the stalls, many of which were a bit pricey. I smelled some handmade soaps, tried a sample of chili chocolate, and wished that Jules and Christina were traveling with me when I walked past a mimosa bar.

After a leisurely trip around the market, though, I was absolutely beat. I had lots of work to do for class, so I considered the day well-spent, bought a coconut ice cream cone for the walk to the train station, and bid farewell to the markets.

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Entry filed under: England, Europe, London, Photos, United Kingdom.

An Afternoon in the Parks At Home in London

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dustin  |  August 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I thought your favorite part of Brick Lane was when they went ice skating at the end?

    Reply
    • 2. Mel  |  August 13, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Okay, Mr. Spoiler Alert. (But obviously yes.)

      Reply

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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.

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