The Tube ride to Lester Square
Click to play Prince’s Kiss while reading for full effect
Full of excitement with the legal drinking age, and finally getting over our jet lag, a few of us decided that we would venture into the London nightlife on our first Friday Night on the continent. It was 11pm when Anthony, Patsy, Jeyla and I headed to the tube. Although all the pubs seem to close at 12am, we knew that the tube runs till 1 or 2am, and the clubs close at 2am. With this in mind, we hopped on the Northern Black line and headed for Lester Square.
When we got off the train we were hit with lights and bars and people ALL OVER the streets. This is when I began to feel the culture shock. Not only were the streets busy, which I am used to from living in New York City, but the people walking were falling over. They were what the Brits would call “smashed.” And it wasn’t just a select few, it was EVERYONE. They were stumbling and falling all over the sidewalks and streets. Some were even carrying open bottles of beer! To me this was the most shocking since in the USA we have open container laws.
We found what seemed like our best option for a dance club, showed our ID, and paid 5 pounds to get in. But if I thought that the intoxicated people on the streets gave me culture shock, the club sent me into cardiac arrest! Comfortably busy and filled, the club had even more intoxicated adults. There were no young people our age. And most of the adults were couples or single men.
Patsy and Jeyla dancing
But by far, the most shocking differences between our American ways and the English ways were not even our drinking habits or behavior, but our tastes in music and dancing styles. As the four of us entered the dance floor, music we did not recognize blasted from the DJ table while English people sang the words and swayed against the beat on the dance floor. And when songs we recognized came on, the English cleared the floor and waited till a song they liked came on. And when I say songs we know came on, I’m not talking about Beyonce’s new album or the Black Eyed Peas. The “good songs” we heard consisted of a techno remix of Usher’s Yeah, Christina Aguilera’s Dirty, Britney Spears’ Gimme More, and we can’t forget the best one, Prince’s Kiss. Rocking out to Prince in a club at 1:30 am, my friends, is culture shock.
Until next time,
Our day began at nine when we left the Arran House and took the tube down to Borough Market. Arriving there early is key because it became quite crowded in the ensuing hours. The market itself is a diverse collection of vendors selling every kind of food imaginable. Ever had a prawn sandwich? How about some rose flavored Turkish delight? Anthony wasn’t so keen on the former, but you get the idea.
Although the market included common grocery items such as fruit, vegetables, and bread, we also saw more unique items on display such as venison, ostrich meat, lassi, and a hanging puffer fish. All suburban Americans have had full meals comprised of free samples. After today, Costco will never be the same. We tasted a wide array of ethnic candies, chutneys, spreads, and much more. Our senses were tickled by the delicious smell of fresh curry, strange meat being butchered, and gorgeous, albeit expensive flowers on display.
After having our fill of distinctly non-American food, we proceeded to the adjacent Southwark Cathedral, the oldest gothic church in London. We all agreed that it is the most beautiful building we have ever set foot in. A place of worship for 1400 years (that’s right, this place is over a millennium old), it was filled with intricate stained glass windows, ornate carvings, and imposing statues. Most interestingly, the tombs of many of the church’s benefactors are located both beneath the floor and on display inside the cathedral itself. Perhaps the most haunting of these was the frighteningly realistic “emaciated corpse” carved from stone in the 14th Century. Some of the church’s most famous frequenters included Dickens, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, who is immortalized in statue.
Next, we stumbled upon a life-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon, the Golden Hinde, one of the first of its kind to circumvent the globe. Having travelled over 140,000 miles, we were blown away by its sheer size and intricacy. Also, what the hell was a ship doing in the middle of the street? Whatever.
The highlight of our day was the Menier art gallery. Managed by an old British couple, the building was unassuming and tucked away, separated from the hustle and bustle of the marketplace. The gallery housed a small but diverse mix of works spanning a myriad of artistic schools and styles. We enjoyed chatting with the charming proprietors, who graciously told us about their upbringings in northern England. This was masterfully illustrated by paintings by one of the owners. One was of a line of houses overlooking a serene beach and rocky white cliffs. Incredibly, this same placid beach was heavily fortified with barbed wire during WWII to prevent a German invasion. Hitler decided to try to pull a Napoleon and attempt to conquer Russia instead. We all know how that turned out. The couple still visits their childhood town today.
Overall, our time in the Borough was an exceedingly positive experience. If you are looking for widely mixed collection of cultures selling their foods and wares, this is the place for you. We fancy returning in the future. However, a word of advice: try to avoid Bank tube station any time after 10 AM. The extreme congestion made our journey home more difficult, as the wonderful aroma of body odour (note the spelling) invaded our nostrils.
Tags: Amy · Andrew B · Anthony
August 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment
We left the Arran House hotel at 8:30 AM to catch the Northern line on Goodge Street up towards the Central line. We eventually arrived at Shepherd’s Bush Station, and walked a few blocks to the market. Even though the market was technically open, many of the
stalls were closed and the walking path was deserted.
Hiding our frustrations we chose to explore the surrounding community. As we walked further on the main road, we observed the privately owned shops (most of which were closed), as well as the local pedestrians on the move. Despite the “not so upper class feel” of the main street, the residential side streets appeared cozy and well cared for. We were unable to conclude how the neighborhood would fit in the British class system.
Circling back to the market, we decided to take our first walk through, despite its emptiness. The market appeared to cater to those who needed essential items including produce, meat, clothing: Middle Eastern apparel and accessories, and household items. Half way through we met a nice policeman who inquired about our visit to the market. He told us the market would get busy around eleven after the local shopping mall opened.
We explored the parallel main street which was also lined with shops. As we walked by we realized the majority of stores catered to the Middle Eastern Community. There were many different textile stores (with Arabic store signs) in addition to a news stand full of Arabic newspapers.
After killing time in a local park (and patsy sitting on bird poop) we returned to the market at eleven to find it still. Regardless of its permanent state of death we decided to weave through the isles again. This time we noticed more established shops behind the vendors, including BEDAZZLED sneakers!
After numerous passes through, we agreed that the market would not pick up and so we left. Although this market did not live up to our expectations, each of us became more interested in exploring the other markets of London.
Tags: Chelsea · Flow · Markets · Patsy · Uncategorized
Students weren’t the only ones going to markets today. Lest I seem a heartless taskmaster, I set off on my own excursion. With the Victoria line closed today for engineering works (repairs) I took a circuitous route to Brixton. The first thing that struck me was the massive flight of Aussies and Brits from the Oval Tube station for the second day of the 6th test of the Ashes series. My idea of a great day is not sitting in the sun watching “athletes” in sweaters swing a small boat oar at a croquet ball. OK, I just don’t get cricket, but I’m trying. I continued down from the tube by bus to Brixton Market. What a wonder of beautiful color (both skin and fabrics). Brixton is traditionally known as an Afro-Carribean neighborhood, but I think most people would be surprised by the number of Halal butchers and green grocers from the Middle East. The calls of, “Yes, plaintains” with an Arabic accent accompanied the rhythm of reggae beats flowing from the music stalls. After wandering around a bit and running into some of my students next to Windrush Park I found a wonderful organic baker and purchased 1/4 loaves of mango bread and apple/plum/oat bread. After drooling over all the wonderful food I decided to take the first bus I saw and follow it anywhere it went. I ended up at Elephant and Castle (already known as “poop stop” to our group…see the earlier post). I walked from poop stop to Borough Market. What a juxtaposition (and you know I love my juxtapositions) to Brixton. Brixton as a handful of ethno-tourists, but otherwise it is all locals. Borough was nearly all white, seemingly wealthy, and numerous out-of-towners. Whereas Brixton had makeshift kiosks in the middle of lanes and small streets selling DVDs, CDs, cheap clothing and food, Borough Market has posh permanent stalls with overpriced produce, lattes, and gourmet items. Don’t get me wrong, the kangaroo burger I had for lunch was nice, but I should have gone with the jerk chicken. I continued onto to the Thames Walk through Clink, past the even more touristy Globe to Tate Modern (clean bathrooms!) and on to the National Theatre. Here I came full circle. Reggae Magic put on a great free concert as part of the NT’s “Watch tThis Space” series. Except now instead of the beautiful black skin, dreadlocks, and ubiquitous Jamaica shirts (remember, Usain Bolt just won two gold medals and set two world records) at the NT we had a nearly all white crowd that included two pitiful Elvis impersonators (one missing most of his teeth); a half dozen guys in green afro wigs, orange face paint, and white jump suits; and tourists, tourists, and more tourists. The music was fantastic and I found myself smiling for an hour straight. A walk over Hungerford Bridge to Embankment led me back to the hotel.
Such is the beauty of London. A lot of different peoples and places, and there is always something new to try. Music and food just happen to be my obsessions.
Tags: Markets · Professor Qualls
We departed the Arran Hotel at 8:20 and walked to Goodge Street Station. We took Northern Line to Leicester Square and arrived there at about 8:30 and then transfered to Piccadilly Line. After traveling through tunnels and above ground we arrived at Acton Town at 9:02. After studying the map we realized that we needed directions from a local. The first candidate that we spotted appeared normal but unfortunately she shunned us with a 10 Commandment display that hanged around her neck and simply said “No!” The next person we asked was a man who looked like he belonged in a “Just for Men” commercial due to the reddish tinge of his mustache which did not have any resemblance to his natural hair color. Despite his appearance he ended up being very helpful and gave us the proper directions.
After passing through what looked like a residential area we arrived at the market ten minutes later. We were a bit surprised by the lack of action taking place in the central market area. We walked up and down the market area observing each stand. We then had the pleasure of meeting Vanessa who was the market supervisor. Since we had our notebooks and cameras out she inquired as to whether we were reporters writing an article. We explained to her that we were college students exploring London markets and she notified us that many local residents are on a holiday and that it would be a quiet day at the market. Under the temptation of the delicious food scents wafting through the air we contemplated eating an early 10 AM lunch. While we were pondering, a curious old bloke with beer dripping down his chin told Henry that he was lucky to have two girls with him. After Henry nodded his head in agreement the man proceeded to ask us if we were from “down undah.” Sharing our heads profusely we articulated that we were in fact Americans. Immediately upon hearing this he rallied off a series of questions mentioning our change in government. After responding to his inquiries we got out of the market swiftly and decided to explore the surrounding area.
As we wandered up and down the nearby streets we noticed a growing Muslim population as evidenced by the new Mosque, the Library for Iranian Studies and multitude of restaurants that served Halal options. Part of the reason why the market place was empty was due to today being the first day of Ramadan. Acton struck us as a tight knit community that was not used to having people come and actively spend time within its town limits. That being said most everyone was friendly and greeted us with a smile. After scanning all the stands which included West Indian, free range sausages, fruit and vegetable stands, spit-roast BBQ, tapas, cheese and bread, and Afro-Caribbean cuisine we decided on South Asian. We indulged in chicken dishes, Aloo Katchori and black tea with milk. While we were eating we enjoyed Bob Marley tunes playing in the background.
Upon leaving Acton Market we decided it would be a good idea to make our way towards Gunnersbury Park to observe and absorb the sights and sounds of the day. As we ventured through the crumbling brick outer courtyard we came upon a large, white building that simply said “Museum.” We entered and began to explore the inside of the mansion that once belonged to a family in the Victorian Era. After exploring the extensive gardens we discovered Princess Amelia’s bathhouse, a greenhouse, and the remains of a turret. After wondering what life would be like as Princess Amelia we headed back to the Acton Town station and made our way back to the hotel. We arrived at the hotel at 13:15. We probably won’t make our way back to Acton Town. This was not because we disliked it but because it is not a type of place people would actively seek out.
Tags: Grace · Henry · Jeyla · Markets
As soon as you step off the bus at Brixton, the Caribbean and African influences in the community jump out at you. Signs for jerk chicken, racks of exotic spices, fresh melons and peppers, halal butchers, and the smell of fresh fish overtake your senses. The market extends for about two to three blocks and is full of colorful clothing, food, electronics, and toiletries. It was a bit intense of an experience to see fish so fresh they might still be wriggling, chickens hanging upside down with their heads still in tact, and butchers chopping animals up in the back of a market stand. That being said, many stands boasted products that could be purchased in any local or chain vendor. When asked where the jewelry she was selling was made, a vendor replied, “The factory”. In a similar vein, a different vendor was quite angry when we took a photograph of the DVDs he was selling- proof that they weren’t necessarily the most legal of all goods? Maybe. Still, as you strolled through the market, reggae music that was from other musicians than Bob Marley met your ears to show you that the market was more than just an outdoor equivalent to any old supermarket.
The racial aspect of Brixton was quite striking. The market vendors seemed to hail mostly from Jamaica, Ghana, and Nigeria. People from many different backgrounds crowded both the main street and the market. As soon as you step off the main road, however, you find yourself in a quiet, remote residential community mostly inhabited by white people. So as you journeyed through Brixton, the community seemed quite segregated. The majority of the residential area was white while the majority of those at the market were black. The street that connected these two areas was full of people of all races but the segregation was certainly noticeable. One circumstance made this segregation quite tangible to the three us today. One white man sat in the back of a quite crowded bus next to younger black men. For reasons unbeknownst to us, the black men started yelling and cursing at the white man. When he tried to leave the men, they grabbed his paper and increased the amount of profanity they threw his way. The bus then stopped and the three of us exited quickly to the market. The incident was not violent nor was it necessarily completely race related but it seemed to be if not characteristic than at least not out of place in terms of the tensions in the area.
On the edge of the market, a small plaque sat on the wall of a building. It commemorated those who were killed in a 1999 bombing of Brixton. As we had never before known of Brixton, hearing of a bombing took us by surprise. After researching the occurrence when we got back, we were able to make more sense of it. At the edge of Electric Avenue, a nail bomb was planted by David Copeland, a member of the British neo-Nazi Socialist Movement, in the early evening of April 17th. The group is a far right anti-immigration party. When the bomb exploded, it spit out glass and nails in a 20-foot radius and injured 50 people. He was planning on attacking other cities including Brick Lane and Old Compton Street (other racially and sexually diverse communities). Police accepted his testimony that he worked alone and he was sentenced to six life sentences in prison. This bombing is not an isolated incident in Brixton’s history. It is one example of racial tension that have persisted in the area for years. During the 1980s, the tensions erupted in multiple riots. These riots were usually sparked by the community’s distrust of authority and resulted in increased community damage and heightened tensions between the police and public. This tension continues today as we witnessed in the market. A vendor poked fun at a policeman passing by asking him, “Why aren’t you smiling? You never smile! You smile when you write a ticket though.” While the policeman continued walking by unfazed, the tension between community member and authority was still evident.
As you walk away from the market up a hill, you see a construction site for a proposed community center. Windrush Station will have representations from local community groups including the Black Cultural Archives and the Brixton Society. The name “Windrush Station” comes from the British ship Empire Windrush that brought the first generation of African Caribbean settlers to Britain to Brixton. The community hopes to hold events such as Brixton Splash that celebrate community pride of Brixton. Still, the website that advertises these events has pictures of only young white people who weren’t very prominent at the market that we saw today. So, while the community center promises to increase connectivity and inclusion in Brixton, it is not without the undertones of segregation.
*sidenote* We thought there might be a connection between Eddie Grant\’s \”Electric Avenue\” and Brixton’s Electric Avenue. Comments?
Tags: Audrey · Azul · Brandon · Markets
August 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment
Recently I travelled with my class to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian and other famous sites in the town. Instead of taking the tube, we travelled in style, hopping on a boat that took us down the Thames. As we motored down the river, I was beset on all sides with proof that London is truly a town of ever-changing ideas and time periods. Tall and majestic 17th century churches rode right up against uniform concrete estates. In what once was a warehouse district stoop a massive ziggurat-like structure all consisting of flats with views of the Thames. And in walking distance of Greenwich was the monstrously expensive and ugly birthday cake of the Millennium dome. What was once supposed to be a way to promote development in the surrounding area, the Dome stands surrounded by forlorn construction sites.
Once in Greenwich, the scenery took a turn for the better. Beautiful old houses lined the streets and the incredible sites such as the Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, and the Astronomy Museum were all in shouting distance of each other. After a short hike up a tall hill in the beautiful Greenwich Park, we stopped at the royal observatory and the Prime Meridian. After the obligatory group photo, we were left to our own devices to explore the nearby museums. It was in the Royal Observatory that I learned a bit of the history of the invention of longitude. Perfected by a British clockmaker, longitude allowed mariners to master sea travel and cartography. It should come as no surprise then that the origin point of longitude, the Prime Meridian, should be at any other place than England. Because the English were the first to discover it, England was able to place itself, more specifically its capital, at the origin of everything. It is simply startling to think that things we take to be true without bias, such as the orientation of maps, can be so heavily influenced by nations attempting to gain influence.
We arrived at the Camden Town markets around 9:30, after learning that the markets open around 10. In a matter of a half hour, we had found at least 4 different kinds of markets. The first one we explored was the Camden Market, a simple and small market with many snarky T-shirts and punk-rock items. All of us had expected this market to be like the markets you read about in books. Instead of the farmer’s market image with the stands of fresh fruits and vegetables, we were surprised to see many basic retail and punk-rock items. Only a few minutes there were needed. Across the street, was the Inverness Street Market which was smaller and consisted of the produce and tourist stands. However a quick turn put us at the base of the beautiful Camden Lock.
An enchanting bridge provided a pathway into the next part of the Camden market scene. These next three markets: Camden Lock, Interchange and Stable were connected with some indoor, some outdoor, and some both. Camden Lock and Interchange were outdoors and consisted of mostly food stands. Stable, our favorite, was a gigantic, mostly indoor market focusing on vintage clothing and antiques but with different vibes and from different cultures. We were surprised to observe that in the markets there was very little diversity amongst the shoppers. There were mostly white, British, young and middle-age shoppers, hardly any families or other ethnicities. The shops themselves though, were diverse in tastes and products from a Middle Eastern furniture store with beautiful chess sets to Cyberdog, a futuristic-themed clothing and accessory store. At one point there were also 6 restaurants in a row, ranging from Japanese, Indonesian, Mexican, BBQ, Indian, and Italian.
Since the tube stop was packed with people coming off, a quick turn onto a side street revealed a quieter neighborhood with few people about. This could mean that the patrons of these markets are not from Camden town and perhaps that many Londoners are drawn to it as a mecca of the trendy, funky, and diverse.
Having heard so much about Camden Town we were looking forward to spending the day browsing the markets. However, we found that 3 hours was sufficient to get the feel of the area and its visitors.
Tags: Aidan · Alli · Amanda · Markets
We took the Central Line from Goodge Station and switched onto the Waterloo line to Elephant and Castle at Charing Cross. As we moved farther down the line, we noticed that the number of business suits diminished and were replaced by more eccentric garb and hairstyles. After getting off at Elephant and Castle, we started to head in the right direction (towards Walworth Street) only to be re-routed (due to a “fatal accident” involving a bus) down a rather sketchy alleyway, only to make one giant loop and end up where we started. We wandered around, getting even more lost, and after consulting A-Zed, we finally got our bearings and headed down Walworth Street towards the East Street Market. Once there, we were bombarded with a rush of people, wares, sounds and smells. Reggaeton blasted from a CD and cassette tape booth, women in burkas sat under a tent draped with pashmina scarves and the aroma of bangers and burgers hung heavily in the air over the scene. Middle-Eastern and African vendors sold seafood and exotic fruits and vegetables arranged in wooden crates, and women loaded the produce into their bags, bartering with the vendors. There were booths selling watches, clothing (suits, dress shirts, slacks and lingerie), shoes, belts, toys, Christian books and movies, hats, sunglasses, jewelry, bags, scarves, cell phone accessories, linens and toiletry and cleaning products. But more interesting than the wares being sold was observing the interactions between those selling and buying. Vendors, for the most part, kept to themselves and did not call out to passersby. Some left their booths completely vacant and vulnerable to theft. One vendor in particular caught our attention. One of the few white British fruit vendors angrily accosted a potential buyer. As we were passing, we heard the vendor say to the man, “Speaking bloody f***ing English, you f***ing Bangladeshi.” The man walked away from the booth, and responded in very clear English, “English c**t.” We were shocked by witnessing obvious racial tension for the first time. It has become such a common scene in London to see people of all ethnicities sharing common spaces and interacting amicably with one another, and the altercation took us by surprise. Finally, we took the 176 to Tottenham Court Road and headed back home. While tensions do obviously exist in England, places such as East Street Market represent, for the most part, the harmony and co-existence between cultures which necessarily occurs every day in London.
Tags: Andrew F · Andrew R · Anya · Markets
This morning Megan, Mara, and Campbell set off for the Walthamstow Market in the center of Walthamstow Central. Walthamstow Market is the longest consecutive market in the city while by no means the largest. After exiting the train, we were immediately confronted by a large open grass field and a jumbo sized television screen in the center of the square. While this would mostly likely reflect a wealthy upscale neighborhood, the market itself targeted a more middle class to lower class clientele. The majority of people within the market were locals who knew to carry cloth bags or small carts to carry their purchases. This particular market did not cater to tourists, and many of customers were also regulars at produce stalls and small markets. Most items were priced no higher than 8 pounds. The merchants ranged from Cockney to Afro-Caribbean to Middle Eastern. The customers were mainly older women accompanied by young children or older husbands. The market itself is one wide street with stores along both sides and then a center aisle lined with stalls.
The stalls housed “fruit and veg” stands, leather goods, key cutters, clothing, toys, house wares, and fabric. Several of the stalls carried the exact same goods. There was a noticeable difference between the beginning of the street and the end of the market. Towards the front, closest to the bus and train stations, the quality of produce was better and the people running the stalls were mostly white British and then as we walked to the end of the market it became more ethnic. As we progressed, we began to notice the store fronts lining the market were not very well maintained. In the market itself there were a few cafes and food stands, including a rotisserie chicken stand, but the real food was found at the International Food Festival held at the forefront of the market.
Megan rides the kiddie rocket
The food ranged from Asian to German to Latin American, and after sampling goods from several stalls, we found that all the food offered there was exceptional. There were homemade breads and nice cheeses, as well as authentic sausage and even paella. The festival also had several children’s rides, including carousels, rocket ships, and a moon bounce. Megan found the rocket ships to be particularly exciting. The food festival attracted a number of families and couples, and for the first time since arriving in Walthamstow we discovered tourists among the locals.
If you would like to view more photos of the Walthamstow Market or the International Food Festival, please view our slide show: http://s644.photobucket.com/albums/uu163/mliberty2011/Walthamstow%20Market%20Place/?albumview=slideshow
Tags: Campbell · Mara · Markets · Megan