Sunday, July 20, 2014

Eastern Time: London Markets (Part 3)

I’m back in London so I thought I would resume my articles exploring the London that isn’t in guidebooks. Something about New York City makes it impossible to have extra-curricular activities. It’s like you’re on a ship that is full of holes and you’re constantly in need of running down to the hold to bail out buckets of water.

I saved the best for last back in January: the markets in East London. For my first few weeks, I was in the Marylebone area (very posh, like Madison Avenue if it were a couple hundred years older) but then I ended up way way way east in Homerton, which was a little depressing (think carpeted pubs, fish and chips shacks, and the Paki equivalent of bodegas).  As an antidote, I took several trips to Brick Lane, which was my haunt back in 2005 when I was weekending in London from Oxford. It seems to have gentrified some, but it still has a gritty edge, unlike the way Williamsburg or the East Village has morphed into Miami with rats.

Typical day in Brick Lane. Cheap good food! Vintage clothing! Two of my favorite things. 

Bagel shop had a line around the block. Apparently, it's spelled "beigel" here.
Street art everywhere.
Mysterious lady and her weird cat.

Angry South Asian lady yelling at the uniform Brit buildings.
Guy completing Geiger-esque street art.
Elephantopus, enormous stork and random mattresses.
The vintage shopping was amazing in Brick Lane. I was penniless so I window shopped and wistfully rifled through some wardrobe racks. Seems like there was quite a lot that could be bought for about £20.
This shop was mostly '60s and '80s, really inexpensive but not quite me.
Totally wanted that coat on the mannequin. It was £40, quite reasonable.

Self-portrait on line at the coffeeshop that I used to go to back in 2005. Seems like it's more of a bar and music club now. Gone are the free computers and copious handmade flyers for roommates and events in the back room that made it the community hub that I liked.

I also heard about Broadway Market as an example of a market that went way downhill but then recently resuscitated with local produce and specialty food. This was actually only about a 20 minute walk from where I was and there was a canal that someone said was an interesting walk. So on one of my last Sundays, I decided to take a visit and I discovered an amazing corner of London.

Turkish olive guy.

Pies, anyone?

Still have no idea what a scotch egg is. I was hungry but this didn't look that substantial and I only had about £6 to spend.

The mushroom risotto was only £5 and delicious.

Guys scraping cheese into my risotto. Mmmm, cannot wait.
Another cheap choice for eats at the Broadway Market with nice area of beach chairs.

Self-portait at Broadway Market.
Any place with second-hand books must be the place. There actually were TWO second-hand bookshops on this wee little drag.

At the end of Broadway Market, a little sign pointed to Regent's Canal down a set of stairs. Like Alice creeping down the rabbit hole, I found a whole other London, one that immediately felt like somewhere I wanted to live. It's beautiful and serene but it still has a working-class reality. The people living on the houseboats aren't wealthy yachters. They're fringe dwellers trading rusty, leaking, cramped quarters for the freedom of an affordable home and the sweetness of being right on the water. There are high-rise condos along the canal, but there are also bleak housing projects (what they call "estates" here) and houses that look like they date back at least a hundred years. You can find joggers and dog-walkers, as well as picnic parties and lonely men having a beer by themselves.

The Regent's Canal, so lovely but so very real.

Cat on a houseboat contemplating life.

Remnants of gas tanks and the industrial area this must have been.

Gas tanks and graffiti. I think about here was when I started to sing Dirty Old Town by the Clash in my mind. Freaking song was stuck in my head for days after this walk.

Under an overpass on the canal.

The canal at sunset.

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