On a recent mid-week trip to London, we found ourselves with some free time to fill up before hopping on a coach back to Wales. London, of course, has a seemingly never ending supply of things to do. There are the usual tourist attractions like the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Hyde Park, Harrods and the multitude of famous museums to visit. But having lived in London, I’ve done all that before. It seemed a shame to do it all again when there is still so much else to explore and discover. Admittedly, when I lived there, I unfortunately didn’t get round to exploring the city and it’s secrets as much as I had hoped. Even though it was all on my doorstep, I took it for granted. One of the main things I missed out on during my time in London was all of the interesting markets dotted across the city that were still waiting to be investigated. So this was the perfect opportunity.
With so many markets to choose from – with antiques, flowers, vintage goods, crafts, food, clothes and more – it was hard to choose which ones to squeeze into our day before our coach departed for our return to South Wales. We settled on two of the well known markets, Camden and Spitalfields, with a trip to Brick Lane thrown in for good measure.
We started off with Camden. Being big foodies, this was an exciting and tempting place to be. Our senses were overwhelmed with colour, noise, fragrance and flavour. Despite it being mid-morning, I wanted to eat everything I saw. There was stall upon stall cooking up fresh delicacies, gourmet meals and street foods from across the world. No matter what you fancy eating, there is something to suit your tastes. Be it Ethiopian rice boxes, pulled pork baguettes, halloumi fries, fresh Neapolitan pizza, stir fried noodles, posh hot dogs, hand-made chocolate truffles or a vegetarian feast. You can even wash it all down with freshly squeezed fruit juices, home-made lemonades or exotic smoothies. So, of course, we stopped for a mid-morning refreshment and sat by the canal for a spot of people watching and to enjoy the view, where we watched passers-by being offered the chance to enjoy a boat trip along the river with their very own musician serenading them all the way to London Zoo. Everybody swerved this experience… I don’t know why… But maybe it was something to do with the overly-eager attempts to get people on board the unstable looking rowing boat. I wasn’t tempted to join him at all!
Instead, we took a stroll alongside the picturesque canal and then spent a considerable amount of time exploring the market stalls, curious tunnels and the labyrinth of interconnecting alleyways and streets that make up the famous Camden Market. It was reminiscent of the souks of Marrakech and I loved everything I saw on sale, from London artworks and photography to hand-made jewellery and accessories. And of course, no trip to Camden is complete without making a purchase. I ended up buying a beautiful little phone case. Anyone who knows me knows that I am prone to dropping my phone, despite how careful I am with it. So my new phone case now makes my phone bounce (which I have already discovered in practice!) but it is also pretty and colourful, with real flowers and glitter now adorning my trusty phone.
Camden was full of surprises, from old stables transformed into market shops, to a café selling every breakfast cereal you could dream of, the Cereal Killer Café! It’s an incredible place with a quirky character, and I for one could never get bored of sitting back and spectating the assortment of unique individuals who add buckets to Camden’s elaborate personality.
Now, despite all the tempting and delicious food on offer in Camden, I knew that Spitalfields market – our next pit-stop – had exciting cuisines on offer too. So as lunchtime was approaching, we departed Camden and made our way to Spitalfields on the sweltering underground Tube.
Spitalfields certainly has a different vibe to that of Camden. With the site based on the grounds of a historic meat market, the old character building merges smoothly into modern architecture formed out of glass and steel, much in contrast to the bohemian vibes of Camden with its old brick walls and stable tunnels. Spitalfields was teaming with activity, in the throws of a bustling antiques market. Stalls filled the crowded space, with all manner of antiques on display. But thinking of our stomachs, we headed straight to the food area, following our noses. Last time I visited Spitalfields, I enjoyed an exquisite Ethiopian lunch. Something I had never tried before but I was certainly keen to have it again, with rice and beans and turkey in a flavoursome concoction. But browsing the selection of food on offer, we were overwhelmed by the choices available and couldn’t make up our minds.
So on this note, we took a trip down Brick Lane, thinking of lunching at one of it’s famous curry houses instead, only to be side tracked by the most delicious smelling chocolate shop I have ever come across. How on earth were we meant to choose somewhere to eat with so many options in front of us and so many distractions in our paths! With all this foodie exploration, we were struggling to choose where to eat after all, so to settle matters, after a little brainstorming we decided to travel across to the West End and to China Town for an oriental lunch. And that’s another story all by itself! So we spent a whole day exploring London’s markets and all the different types of food on offer. It was almost like going on a food adventure around the world in one fun day and we really need to be more decisive about where we want to eat next time!!