Monday, September 22, 2014

East Village to East London: Hoxton, Hackney and Bethnal Green (Part 3)

I spent the last few weeks of summer two blocks away from the canal in the Haggerson area. Or rather Hoxton, since I was just south of the canal. I love this corner of London. Like the far East Village (the area I refuse to call Alphabet City), it's a formerly industrial area and one of the most bucolic parts of the city.

This was the only one map I found that really shows the neighborhoods. But it doesn't show the canal. Limehouse (where the canal begins) is by Canary Wharf. See the the double decker bus? Imagine a blue line going up along the road above the bus and then making a left by Victoria Park and swerving under Broadway Market. Map by Running for Crayons

I was a five minute walk along the canal to Broadway Market, which I've written about previously. There's a fantastic Saturday market on this little strip right below London Fields, but even when it's not the weekend, it's amazing. Yes, there's a Costcutters, but beyond that, no other major chain stores. It's all mom and pops: a dozen great cafes and restaurants, a handful of Muslim groceries, a small pharmacy, a sewing store, a 300 year old pub and a nice assortment of other drinking establishments. Oh and THREE bookstores. Totally my kind of neighborhood.

View from Solche Cilician, a Turkish place at the bottom end of Broadway Market. I liked the breakfasts here and the view of the gasworks along the canal.  

I took this picture back in January when I first found Broadway Market. The strip is full of good buskers on a Saturday when the market is happening. This is in front of the Dove, a popular pub. Next door is Stories, another good place for drinks and up the road is The Cat & Mutton, which has been there since the 1700s. 

Broadway Market sells everything from food to vintage clothing. 

Never did try the pho here, but there always seemed to be a line. And the price is so right. 

I remember barbecued eel on a stick from my Taiwanese parents, but jellied eel? Sounds, um, interesting. At night, this place is a gin joint. Literally. That's all they have.  Check it out

One of my favorite cafes to hang is this gourmet grocery, La Bouche. Free wifi and a fantastic window to people watch. 

I always want to try everything in the shop. 
This is me editing at La Bouche. Notice the glazed eyes and air of resignation. 
I love the unspoken etiquette of the city. If someone is getting attention from a bunch of cops, city dwellers know to stand around and act as witnesses. This black lady was getting ticketed or something and there was not only that other black lady standing by on the corner but on that patch of lawn to the right, there were another three or four people. And I was watching from the window at La Bouche.  

Broadway Market is bounded by the Canal on one end and London Fields on the other. This place so reminded me of the Grassy Knoll in Tompkins Square. No dog run, but there's a heated swimming pool on the upper end of the park. Yes, I said it's HEATED. And there's a decent pub in the park too.

Cutting diagonally through London Fields, you'd find yourself on Mare Street where the Hackney Picturehouse is. There's a performance space here too that I haven't visited yet. But I did catch Lucy here on Monday, when tickets are only £6. More about that film one of these days... 

My favorite part of this area is the canal. I never did walk the whole way to Angel. I only got as far as  that small finger of water that juts from Regents Canal called Kingsland Basin, where there were a few cafes right along the canal.

Towpath Cafe. Amazing coffee and what a location. 

Spent a couple of afternoons drinking too much coffee at the Towpath. 
This odd looking barge has a screening room for films. 
Towpath Cafe from another angle. Next to Towpath is Proud Archivist, a restaurant/bar/cafe with a serious art gallery. And also a little arepa joint run by a Colombian family.  

Inside Arepa & Co. Got my little fix of sabroso latino here. One thing that London doesn't seem to have much of.  
Selfie reflection at Arepa & Co. 
Coot mum & chick on the canal. 

Yep, that's the life... (click for a pang of jealousy).

In the other direction from Angel, there's Victoria Park, which was opened in 1845 as a goodwill gesture to the poor people of the East End and became known as the People's Park. There was a soapbox in the park that was just as important as the one in Hyde Park and also a pagoda and a bathing pavilion, which closed in 1989. More about the history of the park here. The area outside of the park is still pretty working-class, but now there's Victoria Village, a little pocket of gentrified hipster chic at the edge of the park. 

Entrepreneurial boaters selling coffee, hot dogs and ice cream at one of the entrances to the park. 

Pigeons on some weird sculpture in the park. 

Hanging by the canal lock.

House envy. 

Chicken-sized pigeons. I was told they were from Turkey. 

This pear tree was growing along the park. Also saw blackberries and grapes. 
Roman Road market near Victoria Park is a largely Muslim with requisite fabric stalls, but also fruit and vegetables. 
Ladies on Roman Road. 

South of the canal, on the way to Shoreditch, there's Haggerston Park and Hackney City Farm. There were several city farms set up in London in the 1970s and 1980s. According to Wikipedia, they were inspired by the community garden movement in the Lower East Side. The city farms are volunteer run and there's usually a produce market on the weekends.

I was imagining the Hackney City Farm to be like the Children's Zoo in Central Park, but it was more like a couple of yards with a pig, two goats and a variety of chickens running loose. 
Giant porker at Hackney City Farm. 

Goat getting some sun. 

Chicken face. 

When you've had enough of gazing at the goat and chasing chickens at Hackney City Farms, you can pop by this amazing Italian joint Frizzante, which is right on the outer edge of the farm. 
Random beefeater costume in Bethnal Green. 

Is it a mark of NYC gentrification that there aren't any more shop signs like this? 
This is Lucy Sparrow, at the Corner Shop, her art installation in Bethnal Green. 
Everything in the shop was made of felt. 

Kingsland Road is where you can find the tube and also an incredible assortment of pubs. Oh and this mosque, which made me want to make an animation where it turns into a rocket and blasts off into space. 

This is by no means exhaustive of this area.

I didn't manage to take pictures of Columbia Road. (There is a great art gallery there called Nelly Duff and of course the amazing flower market on Sunday.)  

I didn't take pictures of all the pubs and nighttime fun on Kingsland Road in Dalston (ah, Passing Clouds on Wednesday night!) 

I was here for two weeks and it seemed that I really could live here if I didn't have to worry about pesky things like obtaining a working visa. Did I mention that my room was £100 per week? And it wasn't a hole in the wall with linoleum floors crawling with cockroaches either. No way is that possible in the East Village. Not even way back when. I'm already missing my walks along the canal and trying to figure out my way back for a longer spell...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

East Village to East London: Whitechapel & Shoreditch (Part 2)

When most people think of the Lower East Side, they usually think of Jewish immigrants on Essex Street hawking pickles, elbowing Italian pushcart peddlers, Irish bartenders and Chinese laundry workers in that crowded grimy area of Manhattan where the other half lives.

Similarly, the East End is often equated with the Whitechapel and Shoreditch area, where the immigrant hordes of London settled their tempest tossed selves. I'm skipping my way through the history, but if you're interested in learning about it in greater detail, there's more here and here.

The Jewish history of Whitechapel is still really evident. Not sure what this building was, but it clearly was something Jewish once. This shop is where the Jack the Ripper tour begins. 

Looks almost heraldic. 

There supposedly were over 150 synagogues in the area once. Now it's mostly Muslim. 

Like the Lower East Side (and everywhere that poor people are gathered en masse), there's a radical past in this area too. The Freedom Press was founded by Peter Kropotkin in Whitechapel. Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxembourg and Maxim Gorky are known to have attended meetings in this area. They also probably drank together here and pounded on tables while having heated discussions.

The area has gentrified greatly, particularly Shoreditch, which I'm sure is unrecognizable to people who've been there for twenty years. But its working-class roots are still really apparent, though Shoreditch can seem like the Meatpacking at night.

Alleyway to a few Bangladeshi shops.  
Love the hand-painted signs on some of the shops. "Serves you right." 

The alleyways in Whitechapel where Jack the Ripper skulked are still really evident. The sign says that one of the Jack the Ripper suspects worked at this pub.

Typical night in Shoreditch.
Typical night in Shoreditch for the other half. Well, at least they have each other. 
I didn't manage to get any pictures of the Shoreditch joints that I liked except this place. It's an art house cinema with a bar and you can bring your drinks and sink into an extremely comfy velvet armchair. Those lighted boxes? They have a deep well for you to put your drink so you don't knock it over in the dark. Genius. I also really liked The Book Club
And more than any other area in the East End, this is still clearly an immigrant neighborhood, though now the immigrants mostly hail from Bangladesh. I learned a little about the history of Bangladesh while there that makes me eager to learn more. Did you know, for example, that Bangladeshis fought to split from Pakistan so they could retain their language? Naturally, this deeply resonates with a girl who grew up speaking Taiwanese when it was considered a subversive language.

Entrance to Altab Ali Park on Whitechapel High Street. There was a church here since the 1300s and archeologists have even found remains dating from when the Romans were in London. The last church on this site was destroyed in the blitz. There's a memorial here for the martyrs of the Bengali Language Movement and the park is named after a Bangladeshi guy who was killed in a racially motivated incident. 

Scene on Brick Lane. 
Treats at Tayyab's, a famous Indian restaurant in Whitechapel. 

Former Bangladeshi shop in a Victorian building that survived the blitz. 

One of the several mosques on Whitechapel Street. 

Bricks on Brick Lane. 

This is also the area known for street art in London. You can see my pics from the Shoreditch Street Art tour here. The tour starts and ends at the two biggest street markets in this neighborhood: Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane. I've already written about the Brick Lane market. Here are some pictures from Spitalfields Market, which is much more upscale.

Entrance to Spitalfields Market. There's been a market on this site for over 350 years. 

Bald twin lady heads. Some nice antique finds here, but prices are steeper than Brick Lane. On the other hand, you can't find a whole bin of silk top hats in great condition in Brick Lane. 

The spire of Spitalfields Church and I Goat by  Kenny Hunter. It stands on packing crates and it's the winner of a 2011 open competition. 

Some kinda demonstration in front of I Goat

Yeah, I did a double take too.