Wednesday, 7 May 2014

London, day 3: Columbia Road flower market and a few first-in-ten-years moments

columbia road ghost cat b First things first – we didn't go to the Portobello Road market on the Sunday, it was Saturday! Amazing how quickly you can fall in to the (quite heavenly) sensation of not knowing, or caring, what day of the week it is when you're on holiday. Loved it!

So, that was Saturday, and on the Sunday we went to the Columbia Road flower market – another Very Good London Thing To Do I'd heard of but had never actually done before. John and I lived in Whitechapel before we moved to Melbourne, so we were close enough to go, but it always eluded us (something to do with Sunday morning sleep-ins, probably!) and we were extra keen to visit this time.

We got the red line from Holborn (which I am pur-ritty sure I now say incorrectly; I want to say Hol-born, but it's HOL-bun, isn't it? Anyway, to hide this I exaggerate and say Hol-BORRRNN because then I'm obviously just joking, right? Erm. At least when Paul's car's GPS pronounced it "Tay-vee-staarrk" for Tavistock I knew why that was funny) to Liverpool St, either the pink or yellow line (doesn't matter which one) to Whitechapel (more on Whitechapel later!) and then what used to be the orange line and is now an overground line to Hoxton, although now I'm double checking all that on maps online, there's all different advice about which tube stop is closest. We'd found we could get some free wifi if we stood outside the Barclays round the corner, and could get decent takeaway coffee too, and when we looked with cold gloveless fingers that morning for how to get there, Hoxton Station came up. And I'm glad it did; for one thing, it finally clicked for me that the East London Line, the old orange one, had totally changed since I left. I thought it looked a bit strange on the map... and why was it a different colour... the changes you don't expect take the longest to sink in, I suppose. The wait for the last tube/train (they're new and fancy) was the longest for our entire London visit – we were timing them with joyous disbelief – at 10 minutes. 10 whole minutes! Are the ever any actual waits on the tube?! Because it was a miracle service for us! (A 10 minute wait for a train/tram in Melbourne means you are doing incredibly well, especially if it's not so packed you can actually squeeze onto it.)

I really should have just taken photos of the amazing tube, shouldn't I? Oh, actually, I've just remembered I did, but only on the following days... you're spared for now, ha!

On the way out of Hoxton Station we saw the Geffrye Museum, which I'd seen online but never in the flesh. It looked absolutely amazing, and if we weren't on such a mission – and so early, it wasn't open yet – we would have loved to have popped in. But we had flower markets to find! columbia road ghost cat a So, what are these picture of a cat all about? After walk down a few streets to one end of the market – there are signs pointing you in the right direction, and anyway there were plenty of people carrying arm loads of flowers and they were a good clue for where to go! – we wiggled through the jam of all the cafes on the tight, cobbled streets and emerged here, at one end of Columbia Road itself. And I saw this cat on a car roof. Doesn't it look so much like Babycat? I hadn't heard from our house sitter yet, and I was getting maudlin about it all. What if Babycat was dead and this was a ghost cat to tell me??? No I'm only (half) joking, I was quite sure that everything was fine and it was just a cute cat. Sure-ish. (Also, note the excellent tall hair on the far right.) blossoms columbia road a This is looking away from the market, with amazing old buildings and trees all a-bloom. columbia road curved street columbia road flower market a columbia road flower market b And this is walking in to the market. It was impossible to walk next to John, and almost impossible to have my camera out, but plenty of other people did too, and I think we found comfort in each of us knowing we weren't the only person slowing things down further by taking photos. About halfway through we realised why it might be extra busy (unless it's always like that?): it was Mother's Day. (Don't worry, fellow Aussies, Australia's is later, it's coming up this weekend.) columbia road flower market c columbia road flower market d columbia road flower market e One thing I really wish I could have captured somehow was the smell. It was amazing. I thought the floral smells would be overwhelmed by the usual city smells of people and traffic and general dusty nothing-ness but the floral smells won! columbia road flower market f columbia road flower market shiny me columbia road flower market i columbia road flower market j Oh I almost forgot to ask: tiny house detail thingy What are these things? They look like little mouse fireplaces. What are they actually for? They was one next to each front door. So much beautiful detail. bouncy sausage dog We decided to keep going in the same direction as we could then find Shoreditch High Street station and head back into the city centre. columbia road flower market h columbia road flower market g houses-shoreditch And we were just walking along when we saw this, on the left. houses-shoreditch c Just an amazing block of apartments, you know, just sitting there being amazing. I can only guess they are outrageously expensive but they look very, very nice! houses-shoreditch b houses-shoreditch d walk-to-shoreditch And then it was a bit of guess work, and some turning left for a bit of a walk to Shoreditch High Street station – it's a bit hidden, but we got to look at more amazing buildings, and take in the last ten years of the gentrification that was already well underway when we left. The scale of the old buildings was amazing (that word again, BECAUSE IT'S APT) and I love that they are still there, some preserved or polished up for fashionable offices and flats, some still crumbly and no less beautiful for it – in fact I'm a fan of fading Victorian glory. And... that was our day out! Writing this now, I wish wish WISH we'd gone to the Geffrye Museum, although I have a hunch it wasn't going to open on that day? Surely there was some sensible reason for us not going. ARGH well I'm only 9789786456146478946121 million miles away now. The rest of the day might be a bit shameful to some but not to me. We LOVED it – we stocked up on snacks, went back to the hotel and watched excellent British TV in bed. My snacks were much craved-for English-only ones: a pot noodle and prawn cocktail crisps, neither of which are available in Aus. (And no, prawn crackers are not the same thing!) It was BLISS! We were, by this point, feeling a bit worn out from all the walking we'd been doing. John is practically an athlete (of the cycling kind) and I was running 5km four times a week until February, so we weren't complete couch potatoes (or TV-in-bed-all-afternoon-and-evening-watchers!) but we weren't used to walking for 5 or 6 hours a day, and were a bit tired and sore. My Dunlops were the best 10 bucks I spent for the entire trip, but they were hurting the top of my feet, and I had muscles from the hip down I'd never known about before that were now getting my attention. It was an absolutely delicious rest and a perfect end to a cold Sunday. Plus, I got to watch Eastenders!!! stark london trees

26 comments:

Emma Powick said...

Aww London looks lovely! It almost makes me nostalgic. I think those things by the doors are boot scrapers. Not sure though! Enjoy your trip! x

Enid Twiglet said...

the little "mouse fireplaces" are boot or shoe scrapers, used to scrape off dirt from the bottom of shoes before entering the house

Katherine Iddles said...

Lovely post! I think the mouse fireplaces might be things that you scrape mud from the soles of your boots on...

Anonymous said...

I believe the "little mouse fireplaces" are mud scrapers, used to scrape mud off your shoes before going inside.

Jessica said...

The mysterious contraptions beside the doors are boot scrapers to get the mud off before you go in. As another London expat I'm really enjoying your travel posts!

Teresa Bethena said...

pretty sure those are "boot scrappers" built into the walls next to doors. This link shows one in action.. http://www.slowtravels.com/2008/travel-journals/2008-england/cirencester-boot-scrapers/

Anonymous said...

those little iron things are for scraping the mud off your shoes. odd, but clever.

Helen Le Caplain said...

Hand on heart I thought you'd taken Babycat with you to London - ha!

Isn't it a beaut posing on top of that car :p

Not sure what all the 'mouse fireplaces' are though I'm sure a London expert will come by and reveal all. :D

Lovely pics by the way....

Helen Le Caplain said...

Hand on heart I thought you'd taken Babycat with you to London - ha!

Isn't it a beaut posing on top of that car :p

Not sure what all the 'mouse fireplaces' are though I'm sure a London expert will come by and reveal all. :D

Lovely pics by the way....

dreamingofavonlea said...

Your photos always look so beautiful and I love reading about your days out - hopefully it's like reliving the holiday again for you! I think the 'little mouse fireplaces' are boot scrapers so you can clean your boots and not track mud through the house. That might be wrong though!

Tora said...

The little "mouse fireplaces" are to help take your boots off before entering the house. I'm not 100% positive but, as a former Londoner myself, I'd say that's a pretty safe bet. Thanks for sharing your photos! I always enjoy your blog.

Joanna said...

There is a lot of debate even amongst Londoners about how to pronounce Holborn, but I think the preference amongst locals is "Hoe - bun" (long o, short u). The L and R are silent - pronouncing them is a sign of a tourist :)

Vickie said...

that flower market is amazing!

beate grigutsch said...

you make me want to visit london!!!!!

Daffny AVintageNerd said...

Ohhhh another lovely day in London you had. I love the markets! Swoon! xox

Miss Marie said...

I've never not known Columbia Road to not be heaving, whatever the season or the day... Though, that said, I can't imagine Mother's Day would have lightened the crowd! It's one of the few places in the world where I love a crowd, because it just feels so exciting and lively.

I won't say that the Geffrye Museum is one of my favourite museums in London and you probably would have loved it. I promise I won't. Because sometimes when you're on holidays you do just have to miss a few things here and there, to have lazy afternoons in, in order to re-energise to fully enjoy the next day. You have to make hard decisions.

Miranda said...

Looks amazing! Markets like that looks so fun and fresh.

I would just melt over all the old buildings. I can't even imagine what architecture is like in Europe. American is only so many centuries...but Europe and Asia?

Ahhh...a feast for the eyes.

Rebecca said...

I didn't make it to the flower market but I DID make it to the Geffrye Museum, which is pretty sweet. Not quite as cool as the Wallace Collection, but definitely worth a visit! It helped me to identify what year rooms were decorated in any historic buildings we visited on the rest of our trip. :D

I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was completely and totally exhausted after a day in London (and I'm not a couch potato either!).

-Rebecca
mn2nz.wordpress.com

Hellcandy said...

As a Londoner I never get bored of those shoe scrapers...I frikking love findng different ones on my walks :) That ones a goodie but you also find some amazing ones outside churches!

Becky Bedbug said...

Holborn is pronounced hoe-burn.

I've never been to the flower market but I really must go sometime. Like you say, though, sleep always gets the better of me!

Vici said...

Lovely pictures! I am longing for a London trip right now! :-)

sweet harvest moon said...

flowers & cats = this cat lady's heaven!

Margarita Bloom said...

OMG, beautiful photos Marianne! I was sure that was Babycat!! lol... maybe she has a twin you don't know about. Adorable. Wow, London is just a beautiful place and I so hope to go there some day. The flowers looked incredible...esp. the pink and lavender roses!!

I'm curious to know what those little "mouse fireplaces" were too!

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Laura said...

ah, i love these posts:-) beautiful pictures and the flower market sounds amazing! xx

esme and the laneway said...

Emma Powick : this is the most popular answer and I’m going to take it as true! Thank you! Chuffed to know what these things actually are, and OH what a clever idea they are too.



 Enid Twiglet : this is so cool!



 Katherine Iddles : thanks!


 Anonymous thanks!


 Jessica :thanks! And I’m glad – they’re fun to write too :)



 Teresa Bethena : thanks so much – I am overjoyed that such an amazing invention exists! :D


 Anonymous : SO clever! I am blown away by this. Seriously. What an odd, but useful, thing to think f and then actually implement!



 Helen Le Caplain : haha they look so alike, don’t they! (I was maybe just one papoose away from bringing baby cat with me..!) Very beautiful haughty white kitty there.


 dreamingofavonlea : thank you! The posts are, it already feels like so long ago and like it happened to someone else :< but thanks re the boot scraper things!


 Tora : thanks! Yep, we have a winner for what they are, it’s so good!


 Joanna : that seems to be right according to my memory too! Thanks! :D



 Vickie : it’s so good, I want to go back and actually be able to buy some flowers :)



 beate grigutsch : it is my favourite city in the world so I say do it! :D



 Daffny AVintageNerd : aren’t they the best! Can’t believe it was my first time. Useless, really ;D



 Miss Marie : that’s what we thought too – and it was a friendly crowd, no pushing or shoving or unloveliness. 

Oh I KNEW IT haha :D Thank you though :) I guess I’ll just have to get back there v soon…


 Miranda : same! I actually have got used to the Australian way of thinking that a 100 year old building is “very very old”, which is of course hilarious for the UK etc :D I have always loved the buildings of London and it was just so good to see them in the flesh again.



 Rebecca : oh that reminds me of (yet!) another thing I missed in London! I really have to go back. I think a year would barely be enough for me to get things done!


 Hellcandy : oh cool! I can’t believe I’d never even noticed them before. I want to see more now!



 Becky Bedbug : lol yes, sleepy sundays are just too good a lot of the time! :D And thanks re. Holborn. It feels odd saying it like that (kind of like how saying quid now feels ridiculous, ha) but I know it’s the right way!


 Vici : ahhh it will be amazing, dooo it! :D



 sweet harvest moon : and me too, me too! Just add coffee and cake and I would quite possibly burst.


 Margarita Bloom : I have a hunch Babycat has a LOT of half brothers and sisters out there – her dad (at least, who we think is her dad) was a handsome, roaming Maine coon who would no doubt have charmed all the local lady cats…



 Laura Thank you! xxx

Kate-Em said...

You made me homesick for London again! I have never made it to the flower market or to the Geffrye museum and next time I get to visit London I am definitely going there. Beautiful photos.

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