One thing that London does well is markets. Almost every Borough has a street market worth a visit and they all offer something a little different. And one thing I can say about Londoners is that although they complain a lot about the weather when it’s wet or cold, when the sun comes out, boy do they appreciate it. Even if the sun is behind the clouds, if it’s dry or it looks like there might be even a small chance that it will improve, people go out to the many parks, street markets and pubs to make the most of it.
Just a short cycle (max. 15mins) along the canal from our place, is the Columbia Road Flower Market in London’s East End. No prizes for guessing what the flower market is famous for!! Basically, Columbia Rd is transformed into a massive garden centre and you can get almost any kind of flower you can imagine – including some Australian natives like Bottlebrush and Wattle! It certainly is a feast for your eyes, and for your nose!! The smell of all those flowers in one spot is amazing!!!
And who can write a post about the market without mentioning the wonderful flower sellers competing for customers? It is also a feast for the ears and if there’s ever a time to listen to the various English accents to learn them all, a street market is the place because the accents are usually pretty exaggerated and they all yell at the top of their lungs. My favourite yesterday was the guy who said something along the lines of: “FIVER, FIVER, ANY BUNCH FOR A FIVER. WE NEED THE MONEY, TAKING THE MOTHER IN LAW OUT FOR DINNER… TAKING HER TO MCDONALDS… TREATING HER… GOTTA BE ABLE TO AFFORD THE EXTRA CHICKEN NUGGETS SHE’LL WANT” in his loudest ‘sellers’ voice, getting all of the crowd laughing!
What I love about the street markets is that there is such a sense of community – with people filling the streets by the thousands and enjoying the atmosphere. Even the stallholders, while they compete for business, they are all such great mates who help each other out. But, one thing I will say is, if you’re not one for crowds, than markets are probably not the ideal place for you to visit – especially on their busiest days!
The flowers might be the main attraction but the market is also famous for its many vintage shops, art galleries, cafes, bars and pubs. And the people watching – oh the people watching!! Aside from the fact that this particular market is a bit of a hipster overload, it’s places like this you see, and often meet, some of the more colourful characters. We had a few interesting conversations with some East London locals who had many a crazy story!
This particular visit coincided with a catch up with an old friend from my Newcastle days (in Australia) who has recently moved here so we strolled through the market, had a coffee and then settled down in the sun (when it came out) with a bottle of bubbles, a complimentary plate of fresh strawberries and soaked up the rays and the culture!! I even got a little bit sunburned!!