Broadway Market and Regents Canal

It was another sunny Saturday last weekend, so Jorge and I ventured East for the second time in two days. Last Friday night we went to the pop up night market in Haggerston called Street Feast, which I didn’t take any photos of, but it was fun until it got too chilly in the late night air. We had New York style hot dogs (which weren’t really…) and I enjoyed a “mahoosive mojito” (which had mahoosive price of £10 and was a normal sized drink).

I haven’t been to Broadway Market in ages, so since we had a long and sunny Saturday stretched ahead of us, we decided to explore the natural habitat of London’s urban hipster. It’s prime street art territory around there as well, so without even looking for it, I ended up taking a few photos on the way.

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P1000250Photo: Mr Penfold & Sweet Toof

Also along the way, across from rows of condensed housing is the creepy looking God Worshipers Ministry. The Love Renewal Centre.

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And then the two giant bird pieces, a collaboration between by Irony and Boe, one right outside the market and one on the edge. They also recently created this amazing fox on Waldegrave Road in Turnpike Lane not long ago.

P1000253Photo: Irony & Boe

P1000260Photo: Irony & Boe

The market was pretty crowded but nowhere near as packed as Portobello or Brick Lane. It’s much smaller anyway. Plus, for the moment anyway, it tends to draw Londoners rather than tourists.

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There was a bit of live music.

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And more on the other end.

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We walked by the shop that is something of an institution, F. Cooke which has been selling traditional pies, mash and jellied eels for well over 100 years.

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I love it when shops use their signs for quotes and poetry or a bit of humour rather than advertising or boring menus.

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We spent some time in one of the best art and design bookshops in the area – Artwords (which made my list of favourite independent shops in London a while ago). We left with two new piece of inspiration for our bookshelf. The first was Creative Space: The Urban Homes of Artists and Creatives which shares images and interviews with people in Barcelona, Berlin, London, New York, Paris and Toyko. The other one is a London Design Guide which I haven’t looked through yet but seems to have a lot of good suggestions in it for food, shopping, etc. split by some popular areas of the city.

Outside again, the sun was beaming down and people were making the most of it, coats off, sunglasses on, lounging around.

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There are bikes everywhere around here.

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Wandering through the market, the food looked and smelled pretty delicious. There seemed to be quite a few free samples passed out as well.

There was roasted hog.

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Fresh Salmon folded onto slices of home baked bread.

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Buckets full of olives.

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Fresh bread.

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Stacks of cheese.

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Veggies.

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Dried meat.

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Takeaway lunch.

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Or find a table nearby.

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Wash it down with some juice, or there are plenty of pubs in the area. Take your pick from the Cat and Mutton, the Dove Freehouse & Kitchen or Broadway Market.

P1000278Photo: Entrance to The Cat & Mutton pub

Lots of coffee shops too. Climpson & Sons is rumoured to be one of the best but it was packed so we didn’t go in. Also Wilton’s on Wilton’s Way nearby has a good reputation, uses beans roasted at Climpson & Sons and has fewer crowds.

There’s racks of £5 vintage dresses, and lining the street behind the market are other trendy clothing shops, second hand shops and vintage shops. Hipster fashion galore and plenty of sartorial inspiration in the streets as well. People watching is brilliant around here.

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And of course there’s flower stalls.

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Jewellery.

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We had lunch in the Turkish Solche Grill and Meze Bar on the corner near the canal.

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Food was good, prices were cheap and we sat under a giant skylight where we could feel the sun, but the service was slow and scattered and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for that reason. The had some fun drippy candles though.

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Interestingly, while trying to remember the name of the place I read this article about shots being into the restaurant in August last year. A little reminder that despite the relatively recent gentrification of this area, it still has another side to it!

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After lunch, the sun beckoned and we took a two-mile walk down Regents Canal to Islington.

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There were flowers in bloom and people sat along the water watching the canal boats pass, many of them on phones, of course…

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We followed one boat floating along at walking pace for quite a while.

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The architecture along the trail is a strange mix of modern and crumbling, council flats, cottages and office blocks as well as some newly developed buildings with retail space.

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There was a stretch with some beautiful prunus trees in blossom.

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Bikes everywhere, people running, dogs on walks and babies in prams, there was plenty of traffic on the narrow stretch of pavement between the wall and canal. And it was quite windy, as you can see from my lion mane hair!

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Houseboat life might be interesting for a while, simple, pared down to the basics.

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Boots for planters and such.

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And with a pretty view!

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All in all, a beautiful place to spend one of the first days of real Spring in London!

Pictures from Portobello

Find yourself edging toward the bottom of Portobello Road on a Saturday morning and there will inevitably be a sea of people moving slowly through the streets in the same direction. I did just that a few weeks ago and thought I’d share a few of my photos.

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If you’ve stepped off the tube in Notting Hill, you’ll walk past a handful of shops selling second hand designer clothes, cheap and cheerful summer dresses and quirky toys.

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There’s even a new branch of Bubbleology on Pembridge Road selling some classic bubble tea. I remember what a novelty that was when I first tried it sometime around the age of 13. Well, it is quite pretty anyway.

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And just as colourful, there’s these amusing tights on mannequin legs hanging in the window of a shop nearby:

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Swing around the curve and meander along the road to where Portobello Road begins. Number 22, a light blue house with a red door was home to George Orwell for about 47 years. The neighbouring homes are painted in a range of colours until you reach the end of that section where the real market madness begins.

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The first stop for most people coming from this direction is probably the shop selling tin pub signs and the musicians performing on the corner.

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My favourite part about visiting Portobello (and likely the only reason I would ever go there on a Saturday) is for the people watching.

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It is, I promise you, an endlessly fascinating activity.

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It’s nice to separate yourself from the crowd so you don’t get swept up in the flow, step out onto the pavement in a spot with a good view and soak in the surroundings, the colourful houses, the antiques, the fashion.

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This girl has a pretty good view.

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And I loved the look on this woman’s face as she watched one of the street musicians play.

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This man was all about the patterns.

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And this one seemed to have stepped out of a different era. Or Shoreditch.

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I just love the colours.

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Not to mention the fashion.

People Watching

The stallholders themselves are often most interesting. Many of them have been part of this market for as long as they can remember and they have plenty of stories to share if you find a moment to strike up a conversation.

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The beauty is in the small details that are easy to rush past. I enjoy a slow stroll to take it all in.

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I was chuffed to see a Niagara Falls sign next to some Chelsea Flower Show pots (I was born 10 minutes away away from Niagara Falls, New York and now live in Chelsea here in London).

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Paddington Bear was hanging out there as well, another slice of childhood, looking quite fabulous against that bright blue wall.

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This wooden basket made me feel like a weekend in the countryside.

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It’s sensory overload, that’s for sure. A lot of it is aimed directly at tourists – shopping bags with Union Jacks or that say “I Love London”.

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There’s plenty of antiques on this end and random things like horns…

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Tables filled with bits and bobs.

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And magnifying glasses…

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My dad always says be sure to look up in this city. With all the shops to distract us, sometimes we miss out on the details.

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And look down as well. I love to spot interesting combinations of texture and colour, like this yellow bike against the black wall of Ben Sherman.

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Walking on, the antiques change to jewellery.

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Of all sorts.

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A few oddities.

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A few more oddities.

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Cheese, honey and jam.

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There’s also paella.

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Hot soup.

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Or if you woke up this morning itching for a viagara prawn wrap, well now you know where to go.

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On the complete opposite spectrum, there are toys.

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More lunch.

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And behind the stalls are rows of other permanent shops. Pharmacies, clothing stores, butchers.

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There are flower sellers.

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Music.

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Hat sellers with scary mannequin head displays.

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Anyone need a dreamcatcher?

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And just around the corner, there’s even a spot of street art strewn across the wall near a section of food stalls. This is Stik. He looks good in orange.

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And nearby is some pretty terrible fashion…

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All the way at the end of the market as you turn toward Ladbroke Grove, there is this pretty angry looking tiger standing watch.

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At the end?

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Some very good and very very nice food, of course.

The Best of London’s Markets

In a city’s markets, stories are both created and told. They are places where community and loneliness collide amongst the hustle and bustle, where layers of history are stacked up and sometimes destroyed, where vibrant characters go to pass their days. This post is an unedited version of one I wrote originally for Town Fish on some of London’s most vivid pockets of life. Photos are all mine.

Portobello MarketPhoto: Portobello Market

Early Saturday morning, under a light London drizzle, a vendor tosses a handful of crumpled newspapers into a pile of rubbish along the edge of Portobello Road. Around him, others are putting the finishing touches on their fruit and vegetable tables and a few stray shoppers have begun to wander through the streets, coffees in hand.

Portobello MarketPhoto: Portobello Market

Another man wheels a stack of cardboard boxes bursting with tomatoes and carrots, red and orange, an unlit cigarette dangling from one corner of his lips. He parks his boxes and fishes for a lighter in his shirt pocket. Seconds later, one flies through the air and he says, “Cheers mate” and cups one hand around his light to block out the wind.

Vendor and Jewellery
Photo: Portobello Market

Further down toward Ladbroke Grove, earrings are being arranged on tables, vintage dresses hung on rails, mirrors positioned, boots lined up for sale. A bird lands on a street lamp and cocks its head. At the opposite end of one of London’s most famous markets, antique sellers are setting up their treasures from a time long gone. Old film cameras are stacked on wooden tables, teapots and silver spoons laid out, white buckets for “Norfolk Lavender” and “Chilled Wine” hanging in the doorway of Alice’s.

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Photo: Portobello Market

Like many of these antiques, plenty of London’s market stalls are passed down through generations, an important slice of family history.

Buying Fruit
Photo: Portobello Market

In the book/blog, both entitled Spitalfields Life, the anonymous “Gentle Author” interviewed a market vendor called Molly the Swagman. Over breakfast at Dino’s Café on East London’s Commercial Street, she said, “My first market was down the lane. I was about three, toddling around on my first day in Petticoat Lane, where we lived. My great-grandfather had the pitch and it went down through the family. That’s how it was in those days. I used to take the money. It’s where I learned to add up.”

Skates in SpitalfieldsPhoto: Spitalfields Market

Sir Alan Sugar started his business career in a stall in Petticoat Lane Market, boiling and selling beetroot for a bit of extra cash. Now, the market is mainly a collection of secondhand or inexpensive clothing and fabrics.

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Photo: Sunday UpMarket, Spitalfields

If you’re out and about in that corner of East London, don’t forget to swing by the covered Old Spitalfields Market, followed by the Sunday UpMarket for a vibrant collection of clothing from young designers. The mingling scents of food from around the world will lure you in if the fashion doesn’t. This is your chance to try Tibetan momos, Japanese okonomiyaki or Turkish Gözleme, not to mention Sri Lankan curry, sushi, Venezuelan arepas and beautiful Ethiopian veggies. You get the point.

Japanese Food!
Photo: Sunday UpMarket

From there, head down Brick Lane where blankets are spread with knickknacks and make your way toward Columbia Road Flower Market. Brace yourself for crowds, but dive in and listen to the Cockney vendors shout excitedly about their roses and tulips. It’s a great place to pick up some cheap but beautiful flowers to liven up the flat on a Sunday afternoon.

Flower Vendor
Photo: Colombia Road Flower Market

The area in and around these markets has become home to a mix of Bangladeshi families and 20-something hipsters, curry houses, bagel shops, street art tours and indie music nights.

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Photo: Near Brick Lane

There are more than 100 street markets that spark to life in every corner of the city, impossible to mention all of them in one blog post but here are a few more.

Brixton Vendor
Photo: Brixton Market

In Brixton Market, reggae beats pump through the stalls and you’ll find delicious Caribbean and Guyana street food – goat curry, beans and rice, cassava and ginger beer. Every Saturday sees a themed market take over Brixton Station Road.

Record Exchange
Photo: Brixton Market

Leather Lane Market is another that goes back some 400 years. You won’t find leather there (it was actually named after a local merchant called Le Vrunelane, which was twisted over the years to become what it is today). However, there are a few raving reviews for the food, in particular a certain Turkish lamb sandwich tent which is only open a few hours in the afternoon. Top it with feta. Avoid the cell phone accessories, pillows and bootleg DVDs.

Deptford Market Scene
Photo: Deptford Market

In fact many of the markets thriving in London today are a mumble jumble of treasures and trash. In Deptford Market, one of South London’s busiest, bargains can be found if hunted down among a dizzying mix of electronics, fresh fish, second-hand clothing, fruits and veggies and children’s toys. There are gigantic live snails, sinister dolls and discounted nail polish.

Ribbons Galore
Photo: Deptford Market

Another much-loved market in the south is Greenwich Market, more of an organised environment with artists and some 150 craft stalls making it a fantastic place to look for unique gifts. Ceramic ware from Jerusalem, green rhubarb tea, an antique chair from the 1870s? Find it here.

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Photo: Borough Market

If it’s food you’re after, head to London’s oldest food market (and one of the biggest) – Borough Market. Fresh cheese, fresh fish, fresh tomatoes and strawberries, freshly baked brownies. Imagine the smell, stomach rumbling. But go on an empty stomach. You will soon fill it.

Posh Banger BoyPhoto: Borough Market

If you want to talk about smelly markets, how about Billingsgate Fish Market – London’s oldest wholesale market? Bring home the catch of the day, but remember they mainly sell in bulk. It’s worth catching BBC Two’s recent documentary on Billingsgate. It is a sure example of the pressures put on market vendors today from their competitors – Tesco, Sainsburys and the like.

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Photo: Camden Market

Up north, although Camden Market is a popular tourist destination, it remains a favourite among locals as well. Walk along the canal, sip some freshly squeezed Orange Juice, browse the photography in Proud Galleries and count the mohawks, tattoos and Doc Martins. Though some high street shops have moved into the area, it maintains an eclectic vibe with its funky colourful shop fronts and a brilliant music scene. Check out up and coming bands at The Dublin Castle and the late night saxophonists at Marathon. Pop into Cyberdog for a futuristic fashion fix and smoke a shisha pipe outside at one of the lounge cafes. Camden is a place like no other in London.

Cosplay in Camden
Photo: Camden Market

There’s plenty of history to be discovered in Hackney’s Broadway Market. For example, Fred Cooke started selling jellied eels there in 1900 and the shop F. Cooke still stands today. Stop in for some traditional East London pie and mash before browsing the vintage dresses, smoked salmon and oysters and lingerie.

Portobello MarketPhoto: Portobello Market

Still stuck for choice? Try Marylebone Farmers Market for cabbages and frocks, East Street Market in Elephant and Castle to taste some Ghanaian fufu or Whitecross Street Market in Moorgate which always brings back raving revi

Woman and Sewing MachinePhoto: Camden Market

The markets of London are certainly changing and sadly dwindling, but they remain a very important piece of history and still today a very important piece of London culture. They are a whirlwind of bodies, smells, sights and sounds and a kaleidoscope of cultures where stories are circulated, where the characters of a neighbourhood come together and where the vibe they generate reflects the different areas of London they call home.