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JORDAN LIFE

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OLD SPITALFIELDS MARKET COLUMBIA ROAD MARKET

Going

market

Story by Ava Chisling

SHOPPING

good place to buy a souvenir on your way out of town. Some markets attract millions of people from the world over; others attract friendly locals from the immediate neighbourhood. Each market has its own history and its own character, and there are hundreds of them scattered throughout London. Lisa Plumridge is the editorial director of The Content Works, a Londonbased company that writes travel reviews for companies such as Time Out, Insight Guides and Dorling Kindersley. It is a part of her job to follow the trends

of influential cities such as London and she knows the markets very well. ‘Years ago, every village and borough had a local market selling fresh produce but when the giant supermarkets opened, many of them couldn’t compete,’ says Plumridge. ‘Today, there is a real movement in the UK to eat locally grown produce – to get food from field to plate in as short a time as possible. As a result, markets are a growing phenomenon, springing up in small neighbourhoods once again.’ Of the many lesser-known markets in London, a few have emerged as true meeting places for locals and tourists, providing unique goods, bargains and most of all, great fun for the visitor. Vegetables have been sold on or near the site of Borough Market at London Bridge since 46CE – that’s a lot of potatoes sold over the years! The local market used to be situated right on London Bridge, but was so popular it caused traffic jams even way back in 1276. These days, the market area is typically London: under a bridge, leading out onto a courtyard when weather permits, of course. Says Plumridge, ‘A few of the stall traders here are ex-high-flyers who turned their backs on the stress of the city to run smallholdings and farms in the surrounding countryside. Others are classic London market traders with niche interests.’ 

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ander around London’s markets and you’re immediately engulfed by all that makes us human. Hold the goods in your hand, taste them, smell them, feel them and take them home for keeps. On the streets of Europe’s largest capital there is colour and a vibrant atmosphere of life and love. Now, that is shopping – and it’s time to become reacquainted with the art. Even though many of London’s street markets sell similar goods, they have completely different personalities. The famous weekend market in Camden Town, for example, feels young, brash and hip while Portobello Road seems older, more relaxed. Covent Garden is frantic and more tourist oriented – a

W

up

Real shopping requires more than a keyboard and broadband access, it needs to involve all of you – so regain your senses and enjoyment at some of London’s lesser-known markets


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OLD SPITALFIELDS MARKET

Columbia Road Flower Market off Hackney Road can be best described as a place of passion. ‘It’s the most romantic of London’s markets’ Borough Market celebrated its 250th anniversary last year by opening a new food school and beginning weekly special events. People travel across the city to get to Borough so it has the feeling of a Saturday morning destination rather than simply a local market. It is known for its Victorian architecture, a fact not missed by Hollywood-style filmmakers who flock to Borough to shoot, day and night. The famous Harry Potter pub, the Leaky Cauldron, is really in Stoney Street on the edge of Borough Market. And Bridget Jones’s flat was located above the Globe Tavern in the market. Richard III and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels were also shot here, along with a long list of others. But most importantly, Borough Market is about quality food. ‘There’s been a food revolution in London over the past 10 to 15 years,’ says Plumridge. ‘Markets like Borough have gained in popularity as people have become more interested in the quality of food they eat. A market like this would not be unusual in France and Londoners are demanding the same.’ Simone Crofton, the market’s Chief Executive, goes on, ‘Our market is unique in that producers sell their own products so a buyer has the opportunity to talk to them and get advice on how to choose and cook the food. All traders on the market have been selected through a food-selection process, which ensures all food on the market is of the highest quality.' Borough is an increasingly trendy market, with foie gras and fancy wines, rare oils and fine foods from Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany, India and Greece, with a leaning towards organic products overall. And in the middle of this upmarket atmosphere, you also find a sense of community with neighbourhood parties, a unique team of security officials called Beadles and colourful locals like barber, Mike Hobbs. Hobbs once pulled a full barrow from Brighton to Borough Market (53 miles) to honour the porters who made long journeys like this one in the 1960s. It

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COLUMBIA ROAD MARKET BOROUGH MARKET

took him more than 12 hours to complete and he was stopped by the police for ‘pulling too fast’. Now that’s market character! If Borough Market’s personality can be defined as one of good taste, Columbia Road Flower Market off Hackney Road can be best described as a place of passion. ‘It’s the most romantic of London’s markets. This is where I come when I need cheering up,’ says Plumridge. Columbia is a real local market with gardening enthusiasts from all over gathering early on a Sunday morning to inspect the goods and share their green-growing secrets. You’ll find fewer tourists here than other markets as its main attraction – flowers – don’t travel too well. ‘Our market is different. It is exotic, with a collective array of bargains no garden centre or other market offers. All our produce is basically fresh overnight,’ says George Gladwell, chairman of the market. ‘The flowers are fresher and cheaper here than elsewhere,’ says Plumridge. ‘And it’s aurally and visually very stimulating: plants and flowers of all descriptions line the entire street, along with garden

LUKE HAYES, TRACEY EATON

Borough Market celebrated its 250th anniversary last year by opening a new food school and beginning weekly special events. People travel across the city to get to Borough so it has the feeling of a Saturday morning destination rather than simply a local market

paraphernalia and other boutique-style shops.’ Gladwell agrees, ‘To us, every Sunday morning is an event in itself. Ours is a happy market, it is an experience for the uninitiated, and even the regulars find it difficult to ignore. It changes every week. It is full of fun, chatter and happy punters. I know that councils throughout the country have tried to copy our success but they have failed. I know why we’re successful, but I’m not telling!’ Stallholders at Columbia are your typical ‘cockney’ market traders, which gives the place a very East End feel. There are some great places to eat and drink in the area and parking is easy if you don’t mind walking for five minutes. ‘I tend to come here seasonally,’ says Plumridge. ‘In the spring I buy narcissi, budding branches for Easter, herbs for my window boxes for the summer; holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and door wreaths over Christmas. The best items I ever bought here were my wire window boxes as they make me think of a 1920’s winter garden.’ And while you’re in the neighbourhood, Old Spitalfields Market is nearby. ‘Spitalfields is where I always bring visitors,’ says Plumridge. ‘It is the

COLUMBIA ROAD MARKET OLD SPITALFIELDS MARKET

SHOPPING

most characteristic of London – lots of modern fashions but with more than a nod to the past. It is my favourite, along with Portobello, as many of the stallholders set up on Fridays and Saturdays in Portobello, and then

come here on Sundays. Designer collections are often bought up by the big stores – Selfridges in particular – and sold for double the price.’ The market hall itself is beautiful, even though some of it has been knocked down. There are plenty of places to eat within the market hall, from food stalls – Austrian and Hungarian stands alongside your usual Thai noodles, Chinese stir-fries and curries – to notable places like The Spitz, a bistro serving gastro-pub-type grub, and the tapas bar Meson los Barilles.

There are also lots of other foodie stalls where you can grab breads, olives and snacks or a slice of cake, too. The perimeter of the market is lined with shops selling a range of eclectic goods, from Indian and Asian textiles and furniture to unusual shoes, clothes and antique quilts. And there are great pubs and restaurants in nearby Brick Lane – the curry centre of London. Markets in London reflect the people who frequent them. So choose the one that best suits how you feel and head out for a day of fresh food, a fistful of flowers and perhaps a few memories well made. ■

Note that many of London’s markets do not take credit cards and in some cases even cash is hard to find. The few cashpoints in the market areas usually have long queues and quickly run out of cash so it’s best to arrive with money. It’s also a good idea to check the websites listed below for information on opening hours: Borough Market 8 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TL, telephone: +44-20-7402 1002; www.boroughmarket.org.uk. Open 12.00 to 18.00 on Friday, 09.00 to 16.00 on Saturday Columbia Road Flower Market Columbia Road, London E1, telephone: +44-20-7377 8963; www.columbia-flowermarket.freewebspace.com. Open 08.00 to 14.00 on Sunday Old Spitalfields Market Commercial Street, London E1; www.visitspitalfields.com. Open 11.00 to 15.30 from Monday to Friday, 10.00 to 15.00 on Sunday

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Chisling - Editorial - Adventure travel