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! 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.) This is looking away from the market, with amazing old buildings and trees all a-bloom. 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.) 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! Oh I almost forgot to ask: 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. 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. And we were just walking along when we saw this, on the left. 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! 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!!!