Monday, October 1, 2007

Columbia Road

London is home to countless weekend markets. Some of these are posh (and trendy), filled with gourmet foods and alpaca sweaters; others are grungy (and trendy), filled with knock-off clothing, old furniture, used romance novels, and the occasional used board game. Most tourist guide books will list some of the major ones, but you will often stumble across three other ones on the way to find the one in the book. The Sunday Columbia Road flower market is generally in the guide books because it makes for nice photographs, but I doubt many tourists make it there anymore - there is nothing remotely touristy nearby, the nearest tube stop has closed, and it now requires a long walk or bus ride to get there. It is definitely worth the effort, although I don't think this will be a weekly ritual for us.

Imagine a farmers market devoted entirely to flowers and house plants, and imagine it stretches for about 5 long blocks and is swarming with people. It amazes me that a market like this can exist at all, but it seems to thrive. The competition here is fierce, and the vendors aggressively go after their next sale. I think we heard the word "fiver" here more times than I had previously in my whole life. Everything will cost you "only a fiver, just for you sir!" The best part is that these hawkers are usually kind of burly guys with gruff accents, and they can be frequently heard shouting very non-burly-man things like "lovely hydrangeas, only a fiver!" or "fragrant lavender, a flat for only a fiver!" or "You won't see a delicate Phalaenopsis like this anywhere else, going fast! Only a fiver!" Quite a scene. It is hard to imagine a crowded chaotic flower market with frenzied buyers vying to be the next to buy a Euphorbia, or someone pushing in front of you grab the nicest flat of pink heather, until you come here.

I think I spy a tree fern -->


R.W. Apple Wannabe said...

Have you checked out the greenhouses at Kew Gardens? The ferns play a particularly prominent role in the Evolution House, and there's a cool Henry Moore sculpture exhibit going on now. I think you'd enjoy it given your enthusiasm for the Flower Market and your professional background. : )

BitterMom said...

You can barely buy 2 onions for a fiver in the US. You need to trade your Bugaboo, first born child, and preschool admission ticket out here for a freaking cup of Blue Bottle. Ah, the simple farmers market days, before they were bastardized by well-to-doers with their fancy prams.