Posts Tagged ‘brick lane’

Sundays in the East End

As someone who grew up in quite rural areas, when I applied to universities, they had to be in London. Spending half my life in Cornwall and half my life on the Isle of Wight, I really wanted to move to a big city.

I’m not going to lie, it was a big change. There are so many more people, it’s easy to get lost and not everyone I meet smiles, says hello and asks me how school is going. Shops are open after 5pm (this is still a fact that I sometimes have to be reminded of) and there is always something to do, even on a Sunday. Plus, being in the East End, there are a lot more quirky things to occupy your time with. One of my favourites is something me and my house mates like to refer to as “Brick Lane Sundays” where we go to the Sunday market to browse and get food, sometimes venturing as far as the flower market at Colombia Road.

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled. (courtesy of google maps)

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled.
(courtesy of google maps)

As you can see from the map above, Brick Lane and Colombia Road are both fairly close to the university. It’s about a 30/40 minute walk, which is also quite enjoyable if you want to look at all the shops along Whitechapel Road (the main road running between the uni and Brick Lane), or you could take the bus or the tube to get there even quicker.

Colombia Road is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a small, narrow street (top left of the map) where every Sunday, flower sellers fill both sides of the road and thousands of people turn up. The crowds are insane, and it gets so packed that you have to shuffle along the road, like you’re at a festival. There are also loads of unusual little shops selling cute bits and bobs for home decoration, garden ware, art, antiques and food and drink. Even if you’re not a fan of flowers, it’s worth seeing all the people, enjoying some of the music from the buskers and looking at all the shops and flowers. Also during the lead-up to Christmas, the shops open late on Wednesdays and they have carol singers and Christmas trees out, which is great for picking up any unique Christmas gifts.

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

Brick Lane is also another great place to visit on a Sunday (bottom left on the map). Every Sunday, the road and a number of halls on the road fills with stall sellers, selling everything from festival sunglasses with interchangeable lenses to an adult-sized peperami costume (no, seriously). They’ve also got, you know, normal stuff too, like books, vintage clothes, antiques and jewellery. They also have an incredible food market, selling food from all over the world for really reasonable prices. Brick Lane is also famous for its beigels, sort of like bagels, but they’re incredibly cheap and really delicious. There are also all sorts of different musicians that perform every week, from full live bands to a guy who beatboxes with a harmonica, and for those into art, there is a load of street art all along the road that photographers come to capture every day of the week. Again, just like with Colombia Road, the spectacle is worth seeing, even if you’re not a big fan of the sort of stuff they sell. Plus, outside the Sunday Market, Brick Lane is around every day. There are a huge number of shops including the Cereal Killer Cafe, a cafe that (you’ve guessed it) only sells cereal. There’s also an incredible chocolate shop called Dark Sugars that often hands out free samples (yum), loads of cafes, a bowling alley, a record shop and so, so much more.

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

Some more Brick Lane street art

Some more Brick Lane street art

Going from never really having anything to do, to having so much to do and see it’s almost overwhelming is a big change. Despite this, it’s sometimes easy to forget that I am living and studying in one of the biggest and most impressive cities in the world. In between studying I like to try and explore as much as I can and try and see something new. London caters for everything – last weekend I went to a cat cafe! And the crazy part is that that wasn’t even the first cat cafe I’ve ever been to, but TWO are also within walking distance from the uni. You think of it, London probably has it, and whilst I’m here I’m going to enjoy and do as much as I can, and potentially stay forever!

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch's London Cat Village

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch’s London Cat Village

That’s why I’m so grateful for the opportunity university has given me – to go and live somewhere new. If you’re not ready for that yet, you can always stay at home too (as long as you’ve got a university fairly nearby), but it’s nice having that freedom of choice. You can even choose to study abroad for something even more different! In fact, Queen Mary offers study abroad programmes and the Erasmus Programmes also offer this study abroad option. You can choose to move as little or as far away as you like, and I loved having that choice. Although it’s hard being away from home, London is a big transport hub, so it’s not too tricky to get home, even though I do have to get a boat! For now I’ll just go on exploring London in whatever free time I get – in fact I heard there’s a jungle themed cat cafe opening in West Hampstead…

London Markets

There’s a reason we all love the weekend. It’s time for sleeping in, reading that book you bought ages ago, or (for the more lively, younger crowd) going out dancing. For many study abroad students (or “associate students” as they are known here), it’s even a time to travel outside of the country. As for me? The weekend means markets.

Perhaps I have an old soul or the energy level of a grandma, but for me the markets are the place to be on the weekend. There are so many sights, tastes, noises, and smells (pleasant ones I assure you) to experience when going to a market and you can go to a different one each weekend. I’ve gone to plenty of markets since being here, but there are still so many to explore. Here is the lowdown on the ones I’ve been to so far:

 

White Chapel Market

One of the closest markets near campus (I’d say a 25 minute walk) that has really cheap produce, blankets, clothes, and oddities. I can’t say I’m a fan. I passed through during my first week being in London and found it a bit chaotic. However, if you want something cheap, you’ll definitely find it here. The quality of clothes and shoes aren’t the best, hence the low prices. One of my flat mates buys veggies here and splits them with a friend (because vendors sell a lot of produce in bulk) to save money.

Portobello Market

If you want spend hours at a market, Portobello is the place to go! It is a famous market (a big thanks to Notting Hill) so there are a lot of people. The street of stalls is so wonderfully long. The market is divided into sections: antiques, food, and clothes. I recommend first walking the entire length of the market to see what’s out there before making a purchase (so you get the best deal). Now, this market isn’t cheap but it’s reasonably priced and there are many things you can find here that you can’t find anywhere else (like awesome vintage cameras). Take your time to peruse. Also, the buildings nearby are colorful and quaint and there are also nice, permanent cafes and shops in the area.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Do you like flowers? ‘Cause I do! The Columbia Flower Market is a really small market for people who like plants. There are so many different kinds of flowers and it’s really fun hearing vendors shouting about discounts. The selection of flowers is probably better in the spring. This market opens and closes early (8 am – 3 pm) on Sundays, so you have to wake up early (or at least earlier than you would expect on a Sunday).

Borough Market

I have to admit, this is my favorite market so far. Why? Because of all the FOOD. Just across the street from Tower Bridge’s tube stop, this little gem is packed with yummy stalls. There are all types of different food you can sample (yay free stuff!) and buy. I went on a food crawl (in case you didn’t know, it’s basically eating and enjoying as much as you can in an area) with a friend and ended up having a beef empanada, sirloin steak sandwich, raclette, pear-apple-elderflower cider and goat’s milk rum raisin ice cream. I was satisfied to say the least (and I only spent about £15 which is a deal for all the food I ate). The prices are pretty decent. Depending on how popular a stall is (long queues) will most likely determine the price it charges. I plan to go back multiple times in the future.

Broadway Market

Another close market to Mile End (in case you were worried that everything is located in central London)! This is a small market with lots of character. Sadly, I went near closing time (the market is only open on Saturdays from 9 am – 5 pm), but it seems promising and I plan to return. Also there are adorable cafes and bookshops nearby.

Brick Lane Market

Enclosed in a building, this is a fun market full of food and vintage clothes. Unlike Borough Market, Brick Lane has a lot more different ethnic foods. I had Ethiopian, Chinese, Thai and Mexican food during one visit. Brick Lane is also semi-close to campus (it’s about a 30 minute stroll, a bit past White Chapel Market). Although there are a lot of fun funky clothes here, it isn’t cheap.

Well, that’s enough of me for now. One last thing: if you’re going to any market, make sure to check when it is open. Some are only open or closed on specific days. For instance, Borough Market is closed on Sunday, but open the rest of the week. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about going somewhere to only find out that that place is not open (I know it all too well).

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