Tuesday, November 22, 2005

London III

I certainly have a lot to say about London, don't I? In Chapter The Third, I will cover markets and shopping.

Markets
There are too many to list so here are three suggestions.

Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road is the most famous one. Saturday is the main day. It's pretty crazy but it can be a treasure hunt. Portobello is the place for antique jewellery and housewares.

Camden Lock Market
Camden Town is the home of punk, did you know? The market has all kinds of interesting and unique clothing and accessories as well as lots of great food stalls. Also, there are 2 or 3 other similar markets in close proximity. Sunday is the best day to go, I think. I have had a lot of fun here!

Chapel Street Market
Okay, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about this market. It's just a normal work-a-day city market for normal London people. And that's why it may be interesting to you. This was my local market. It's by the Angel tube station. Angel Islington was where I spent much of my time. It was my "village", as they say. I recommend checking it out if you'd like to see a regular neighbourhood with zero tourist presence.

London Wander #2
Because Camden Lock Market is such an out-of-control scene on weekends, Camden Town tube station doesn't allow people to board trains there. It's pretty annoying. So, you either have to scrap your way onto a bus or you have to walk out of the area. You can see from this map that Camden Lock Market is indeed on a lock. For a little urban adventure, you can follow the canal west. It may look dodgy but it's perfectly navigable. I really like walking the canals because you see this totally forgotten side of London: the old industrial route through the city and the canal boat society. It's grubby but it's really interesting. You can follow the tow path of Regent's Canal from Camden Town as far as the zoo in Regent's Park. Can't remember how far that is, though...

Shopping!
Oxford Street (and cross streets) forms the main shopping area: every day it's as crowded as a shopping mall in December. The one store you, Antoaneta, MUST visit is Topshop. It's at the northeast corner of Oxford Circus. Topshop is, hands down, the best place for cool, affordable clothes in London. It's like a style supermarket. Pretty much every girl in Britain owns a pair of their distinctive jeans with the dense cross-hatched texture.

Covent Garden is another very big destination for shops. Although it's every bit as bustling as Oxford Street and many of the stores are the same, it's somehow less offensive. Perhaps it's the cobblestones, the pedestrian laneways or the old buildings (see pciture above)... I consider myself to have an excellent sense of direction and I rarely get lost, but in the Covent Garden/Soho area, I get totally turned around and confused (damn medieval non-grid street layout!). Everyone needs a map. By the way, if you're shopping for books, Charing Cross Road just to the west is the place. Foyle's is the star of the show.

Other shopping areas include Kensington High Street/Notting Hill Road, Regent Street, Knightsbridge, Sloane Square and so on, but I'm not very knowledgable about them.

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Well, I haven't yet mentioned places like Greenwich, or activities like the Thames walk. I haven't even told you about Roman London (a subject very dear to my heart). But the real joy in visiting London, and indeed in visiting anywhere, is the places you discover all on your own. So, have a lovely trip and be sure to step off the beaten path whenever you can!

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