Last month, I went to London. On my own. No husband, no kid, no friend, no relative, and no schedule. I had only one mission: to avoid the typical tourist traps and experience London as I know it and remember it, in all its gritty, pulsating, multi-cultural glory. And, to follow my curiosity wherever that led me.
Where better to do that than in London’s iconic markets? Where tacky and trendy meet antique and boutique, where people-watching is an unavoidable pleasure, and each neighborhood offers-up its own quintessential experience.
I walked 50 miles in 4 days, carried blister plasters in my bag, and realized (painfully) just how little I walk in the U.S.
DAY ONE: Camden High Street and Camden Lock Market
Camden is an assault on all the senses. It’s a street that moves to the beat of the dance music blaring from the gaudily-adorned shop facades that reminded me of a slightly-twisted, Through the Looking Glass version of Main Street, Disneyland.
And then, just as quickly, it’s a serene canal framed by weeping willows, crossed by quaint bridges, and with views of transitioning barges, then a skyline of cranes and office buildings when you turn another.
It’s a street-food trip around the world with Korean, Brazillian, Columbian, German, Italian, French, Middle-Eastern, American (“Southern Fried Mother Clucker”), Indian, and a whole host of creative mixtures (think Korean Burritos) jostling for your stomach’s attention, beside the British staples of Fish & Chips and Pie and Mash.
It’s an indoor-outdoor market that never seems to end, winding in and out of buildings and alleyways and under brick eves that create a network of connected, mini neighborhoods each with their own personality; offerings alternating between vintage clothes, Union-Jack magnets, and modern art. There’s Alice Cooper blaring from a vintage record stall and, two-stalls down, Bob Marley jammin’ in a store merchandised from wall-to-wall with the reds, greens, yellows, and blacks of his home country.
In short: it’s not for people who don’t like lots of people or constant stimulation. In case you were wondering, I am not one of those people. I was buzzing with energy by the time I walked back to the tube station.
INFO FOR PHOTOGRAPHY BUFFS | Shot on a FujiFilm XT-1 with a 23mm 1.4 lens