One of the things we want to try and do more of in 2016 is getting out and about, creating memories and exploring our home city. It’s all too easy to get to a weekend and spend the whole time doing housework and running errands before the working week starts again (yes, I ‘fess up – I’m so envious of people who can get the mundane stuff done during the week and don’t have to use precious weekends for pushing a trolley round the supermarket and 50 loads of washing) and not taking advantage of everything London has to offer.
With that in mind, late on Saturday night we decided to head out early on Sunday morning and drive into East London for a visit to Columbia Road Flower Market to pick up some spring blooms for the house and have breakfast at Spitalfields. Columbia Road is one of my favourite parts of London but it wasn’t until we moved south-east back in 2010 that we started visiting and oh, is it a feast for the senses.
The best day to go is Sunday when the weekly flower market sets up early on the street, making it awash with beautiful colours and heady scents as well as people if you don’t get in early enough. Opening at 8am, we’ve learned that you really need to be out of there by 9 unless you want to be bombarded with tourists and keen flower connoisseurs. No matter what the weather, the stalls will always be there with incredible seasonal collections of flowers, plants, herbs – you name it, they’ll have it. We often go the weekend before Christmas to pick up lots of festive florals but on Sunday unsurprisingly there were bulbs galore and tulips in every colour under the sun. The prices are unbelievable, this is a traditional market so you can the best quality blooms for an absolute steal, I picked up amongst other things a tray with about 12 giant pansies in which will last all summer for a fiver!
There are also some beautiful boutique shops selling everything from homewares to art and slightly tucked away when the market takes over but they’re perfect for a unique gift and if you’re after food then so long as you like traditional bagels you won’t go short. I MISS bagels so much since going gluten-free and the smoked salmon and cream cheese ones at Columbia Road were always my favourite.
We chose the bits we wanted and carried our purchases back to the car, armed with tulips and freesias as well as an orchid and the pansies tray. A word of warning, it’s not the easiest place to find parking as most of it is permit only or restricted on Sundays because of the market but you should generally be able to find something no more than 10 minutes away. Hopping in the car we then drove over to Spitalfields, which is a little bit lazy because we could have walked but it was early and cold and we were in need of breakfast.
Leon is a chain of “fast-food” restaurants done the healthy way – fresh ingredients, tasty food and mostly gluten-free which is great if you just want to grab something on the go. You can also eat in at some of the larger ones and I opted for a saucy bean pot which has a poached egg in the bottom and a mug of the darkest hot chocolate, so yummy.
Finally, a little mooch around Spitalfields market which was still setting up as we meandered through the aisles of stalls. I love exploring all the items on offer and saw a beautiful llama wool cape but couldn’t justify it at the moment as lovely as it was. We did come across The Last Stop For The Curious with the most immaculately dressed stall-holder and selling amazing hats as well as Ruby’s of London who sold amongst other things a sumptuous collection of gluten-free cupcakes. Perfect for afternoon tea!
We headed back and were home just after 11am with the rest of the day still ahead of us. Thankfully we’re both naturally early risers and as anyone who has a gun dog will know, they don’t sleep in anyway whether you like it or not. So we’re hoping to use our body clocks to good effect now that it’s starting to get warmer and see as much of beautiful, inspirational London and its surroundings as we can.
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