A Londoner’s view of local attractions travelling with a French girl

categories: europe travel
Regents Canal - London

Regents Canal – London

I consider myself a Londoner by now. Well, it is not an absolute term being a book-marker and absolutely loving a lot of things about London has turned me into the very popular stereotype – ‘Londoner’. Last week, I met with a French girl who came to London 2 years ago and we set out to see London from her perspective.
One of the first things I noticed is that her language and accent had not been London-ised yet but according to her, it is a good thing – she was not afraid to be ‘French’ in  everything she talked about – after all, it is her identity and like a lot of people, she is extremely proud of it. This is an account of all the things she told me that I managed to note down. I might have missed a few in the evening after we got to the pub because I wrote down a few things on the napkin and of course used the same napkin to wipe my hands later. Oh and I have not cared to correct her language – it gives it an authentic French touch.

Anyway, here’s what survived:

Claire: The London that I saw during the last two years is awesomely better than what I had dreamed of when I was living in France. One of the reasons for it are those wonderful places that are hidden in the alleys of London. Plus, I can re-live the feeling of shopping for things that I LOVE.

Ravi: So, let us go on a journey this weekend and find out how to make the best of the local markets in a weekend.

Day 1 – Part 1: Enjoy a Saturday morning in Camden Market.
Opening times: Daily 9am-6pm – Individual market opening times vary – Saturday is the most vibrant day
Closest Tube station: Camden Town, Chalk Farm (Northern line)

“It would not come to you as a surprise if I said to you that markets in Camden is one of a kind in London (I am tempted to say – in the world, but we’ll come to that later), this amazing place is vibrant, memorable and full of character. Unfortunately it is also one of the most crowded places that you can find in London after Oxford Circus maybe. For someone like me who likes to relax leisurely in nice places, it is a real pain and it can totally spoil my mood. So, if you are like me, you will really enjoy Camden on a weekend in the morning.”

(Ravi: She did come back to it later – unfortunately, I lost what she said in the napkin. Oh the travesty!)

Claire: “It is common misconception that Camden Market is one big, happy market. After making a bet with an English friend and loosing £10 later, I understood that Camden markets has not only one market but five markets ^%£&*^%*&£&^&*^%$%^*%^^&^%^&”.

Ravi: I think it is not appropriate to translate what she said in French (she was very upset about losing £10).
Anyway, these are the five markets in Camden Town.

1) Camden Lock Market
2) Camden Stables Market
3) Camden Lock Village
4) Buck Street Market and the
5) Inverness Street

Claire: “To begin your day, there is nothing better than beginning your walk with a hot and delicious cappuccino from the heart of Camden Lock Village” (She added pointing to literally, the middle of the Lock village) “You will find in the middle of the place a coffee stall which makes yummy hot beverages. My advice: Enjoy drinking it along Canal Market! Depending on what you want to do next, you can then go to do some casual shopping, to chill or to bargain-hunt in the different markets; here you will find for sure stalls selling everything even things you did not think you’ll see or like”.

“These include retro styled clothing, London souvenirs, books, vintage clothes, bric-a-brac, cut flowers, underground music CDs and jewellery. Food stalls are a dominant presence in Camden but please be careful and take care; don’t trust all of them –> some of the food on display is only fresh in the morning – they become rather unappealing by the evening –  anyway that’s a little risk to take 🙂 If you are a tourist, you may want to buy and carry everything you like but you’re most likely to be laden with bags full of new purchases. So take note of all the products you liked and get them off myMzone later!” (Her wink suggested that she was buttering me up a little. Yes, I did buy her a cup of hot chocolate from the village.)

One of the stores that had a memorable billboard

Day 1 – Part 2: Portobello on a sunny Saturday afternoon
Opening times: Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Saturday 8am-6.30pm, Thursday 8am-1pm
Closest Tube station: Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle or District), Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith & City)

Ravi: We (collectively) decided to continue the weekend with a “Portobello afternoon” (If you have seen Hugh Grant+Julia Robert’s ‘Notting Hill’ – you are probably already familiar with Portobello Road). This beautiful West-Central London market used to be a farm and has then been turned into a vintage clothing marketplace during mid 60’s, where you could found second hand clothes and military uniforms. It is now considered to be one of the largest antiques market in the world and at the risk of not sounding ‘tooo macho‘, I must admit, it is indeed very beautiful.

Vibrant colours of Portobello Road Market

Claire: “The special and typical atmosphere you can find here makes of Portobello Road such an appreciable place that you will never forget it! With more than 800 antiques dealers showing up here on Saturday, Portobello is home to several communities who bring diversity and a piece of their own flavour to the mix of the worldly famous Portobello road! Depending on where you are on the market you will find different kind of stalls and atmosphere, the southern end of the market features genuine antique products whereas more you get into the north end more the products become modern and a bit less classy. They have awesome gaiters (Ladies, snatch them up – they are mostly handmade and feels awesome on your feet) and handmade bags – that will amaze you.  In fact there are so many new designers every week so every time I am there, I feel like I am in a new place. So, I think you got the point… Portobello is definitely one of London’s most interesting market.”

Ravi: After spending a few hours in Portobello, we fell prey to thirst and entered a local bar. Admittedly, it is here that I lost the rest of my notes. So, regretably, I have to begin from Sunday morning.

Day 2: East London on Sunday – Brick Lane / Spitalfields / Sunday Up
Opening times: Brick Lane – Open : Saturday 10am-5pm (The Backyard Market), Sunday 6am-1am (Street Market), Sunday 10am-5pm (The Backyard Market and Upmarket)
Closest Tube : Liverpool Street (Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan), Aldgate East (District, Hammersmith & City), Old Street (Northern)

“Without any doubt East London is obviously THE place to be on Sunday! The first place I would advise you to go to is definitively Brick Lane – this area is one of the most amazing places you can find yourself in London; don’t pay attention to the apparent mess and foot traffic; embrace it! Indeed, Brick Lane is one of the last bastion of disorder and lawlessness and that is why I LOVE it.”

Olympics themed Hipster triangle graffiti that popped up in Brick lane recently

Ravi: Indubitably, Brick lane market and surrounding areas have the most graffiti displays in London – see image above. The place is now mainly composed of a few markets located in large industrial and parking areas: Backyard Market, Sunday Upmarket, Pop-Up Vintage market and not too far away is the legendary Spitalfields market.

Claire: “If you take Brick Lane street toward Shoreditch you will find another charming “street market” in Cheshire Street market. I would be strongly tempted to affirm that Brick Lane is my favourite market in London because of its authenticity and its soul, one of the only places in london where you can find such unusual junk shops.”

Ravi: Girls, yeah – she said Camden was the best but now after enjoying a couple of hours in Brick Lane, she changed her mind and I went along with it. The indoor Sunday Upmarket is the heart of Brick Lane, with young designers and craftspeople showcasing their homemade or handmade wares – it simple is a temple for vintage and retro lovers! With more than 150 stalls you can find lots of things including handmade toys, retro clothing, jewellery, accessories and even alterntive homeware.

Claire: “Backyard Markets is a place you can’t miss, with several food stalls and a funky, arty and fashionable atmosphere, the 80 stores set up there provide independent designers clothes and gifts that you won’t find anywhere else. The last place you need to visit before leaving East London area is Spitalfields Market. Located a few minutes by foot from Brick Lane, Spitalfields covered market has been renovated but still has kept its industrial atmosphere with an astonishing stone effect flooring or huge industrial-sized lamps.

Industrial looking Spitalfields covered market

After an amazing day in East London, we left with our tummy full with food from Thailand, Indonesia and Japan without having to spend a lot of pounds. It was a refreshing weekend for me and one I would not have been able to enjoy without seeing it through a French perspective. I am going to make it a point to re-visit other parts of London with friends with other parts of the world to get an understanding of how they perceive London because after all, it is a city for everyone.

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by Ravi Jay

Ravi Jay is the co-founder of myMzone. Ravi has acquired Master degrees in Artificial Intelligence and MBA and is an passionate bookmarker. After completing MBA, Ravi started myMzone, a curated online marketplace that features unique and authentic wares from designers and crafts people based in local markets of London.

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