East London: Reliving Sunday Markets – by Ariana, Boston College
When I boarded the plane to Boston at Heathrow last December, I noticed students in other college merchandise also returning from a semester abroad.
I overheard conversations about what they would miss the most, and I could not agree more with their consensus: European markets. East London, however, had a particularly unforgettable array of markets. On Sundays, my flatmates and I reserved time for excursions from Columbia Road to Brick Lane to Old Spitalfields. The market plan was as follows: starting at the Grove Road bus stop, we boarded the D6 past Bethnal Green, got off around Cambridge Heath, and then walked until we arrived at Hackney Road. Once we hit Hackney Road, we turned left onto Columbia Road. From here, we would become enveloped in the crowd of people walking up and down flower vendors. I loved hearing the vendors yell prices “This one’s a fiver!” I loved stopping to smell the roses along my path. I loved seeing people carrying plants and sunflowers and bouquets all along the road. Once, I bought myself a dozen white roses for £3 — a price that is both unattainable and unmatchable anywhere in Boston. That bouquet rested in a mug on my desk for a week, brightening my single in Maynard House.
From Columbia Road we followed the crowds until we hit the Sunday market on Brick Lane. We were always distracted by the produce stand at the end and reminded each other to double back for our groceries. Then we would walk around the food stalls. This lead to many indecisive conversations where we tried to decide which vendor to choose for lunch and whether or not eating two meals was feasible. Overall, I loved the novelty of the street. The Indian spices wafted high among the bustle of the crowd and called us into the marketplace. A favorite stop of mine was The Black Cab Coffee Co. which was a barista serving coffee from a sunroof of a black cab. That was what I expected, though. Brick Lane always offered something interesting at every nook: book stores, clothing shops, cereal cafes. There was never a want for something other than more time to explore everything. With hungry eyes, we would pause outside Kahaila Cafe’s window display of cake. I was partial to the red velvet and vowed I would return to try it soon. (Aside: I did end up trying it and highly suggest everyone try it).
When we made it far enough to reach Fournier Street we would take a right towards Christ Church and Old Spitalfields Market. We spent many hours pouring through Christmas jumpers (aka: sweaters), jewelry, and scarves. Two lovely purchases I made at Spitalfields were a Frozen-themed jumper and a richly-hued wool scarf. At this point, our arms would be full of produce and flowers. We would cross out of the marketplace towards Bishopsgate and return home to Mile End from Liverpool Station. Sitting on the tube, we cradled these purchases in our elbows. We would pour over our finds and recount the meals we had eaten only a few hours prior. This time was spent making lists of things to remember about our market stops and food vendors we had yet to try. It was not a bad way to spend Sunday: with stomachs full and noses full of floral scents.
Read more of Ariana’s blog posts.
Ariana is from Boston College and has recently graduated. She returned to London and to QMUL in the Fall 2015.