As I sit here in my little flat on Monday morning typing up thoughts on yesterday and enjoying my City view, it is properly raining outside. The kind of rain that inspired the rain shower head. It’s not a storm, just a constant flow of rain. I’m not really looking forward to going out today, but that’s the subject for another day’s blog. For now, back to yesterday.
Whenever I come to London I plan my trip so that I can spend my Sunday morning wandering the markets in and around the rapidly gentrifying Spitalfields neighborhood in East London. This was the neighborhood that Cathy and I lived in when we were flatmates back in 2000. Then it was a working class neighborhood with few pubs and the only eateries were truly authentic Indian restaurants, the kind that are far too spicy for me to eat more than a few bites of. Today, many of the old buildings have been torn down and replaced with newer ones or converted to luxury condos and chain stores. Cute, trendy pubs and restaurants abound. It’s really interesting to see how much it changes each time I come. And to see the holdouts like the 24 hour Beigel Bake (bagels, but spelled funny) that has been open on Brick Lane since 1976, back when the neighborhood was primarily Jewish. Today the neighborhood is full of millennials.
Despite the gentrification, or perhaps because of it, the area around Spitalfields has quite a bit of street art. I started my day by taking a back road over toward the markets on Brick Lane and stumbled across lots of street art near the old Shoreditch Underground station. Just behind the old station is a new enterprise called the Nomadic Community Garden. A group of citizens convinced the landowner to leave the land empty so they could use it to make a community gathering place. I was there pretty early in the morning, so only a few others were there, mostly also taking pictures. It serves many purposes: a safe place where street artist can practice their work without fear of arrest, a community garden, a hangout spot. It had a very hippie vibe to it, probably a lot of pot smoking happens there later in the day. People have taken bits of this and that to fashion benches and a few outdoor bar areas. It seemed the sort of thing that one would expect to find in Asheville, so I felt right at home. Here are some of my favorites from both inside the Nomadic Garden and the surrounding area:
After leaving the Nomadic Garden I walked the last few blocks to Brick Lane. My first order of business was to seek out halloumi fries. Last year when I was her I saw them at the market, wanted to get them, but had just eaten a big meal. I figured no problem, I would just get them the following week, since, on that trip, I was here for 2 Sundays. To my disappointment the halloumi fries booths (there were 2 the first week) were not there the second week. I’ve been talking about them ever since. My friend, Ginger, affectionately refers to them as hooligan fries. Well, to my happiness, the halloumi fries booth was about the 4th booth that I passed, so I stopped immediately to get some. They were pretty good, maybe not as amazing as I might have hoped after more than a year of looking forward to them, but good, none the less. For those of you unfamiliar with halloumi, it is a cheese that can be fried in a frying pan or fryer without melting. So for the fries, they just dump a bunch of fry shaped pieces of cheese into the fryer. I had a range of sauces that I could top them with, I went with a piri piri sauce (similar in color to paprika but spicier). Yum!
Once my fries were in my belly, I did a bit of shopping through the markets. Cathy met up with me a bit later. The shopping was pretty much as expected, but was made slightly more exciting when we encountered several photographers with big cameras with massive lenses. They seemed to be photographing random men on the street. Upon closer inspection, the men were not random. But models mixed in with the usual Sunday market shoppers. That’s when I remembered that this is Men’s Fashion Week in London. We just might have been part of a shoot for that. So, if you’e perusing photos of Men’s Fashion week, watch for me in the background, I’ll be wearing a bright red skirt with geese along the bottom, I will be hard to miss (which is why I probably wouldn’t make the final cut).
Cathy had plans at church for the afternoon, so we split up after lunch. I took a short nap back at the flat, then headed out to find Postman’s Park. I was watching a movie a while back (of course now I can’t remember which) with a scene in which the characters are walking along the river Thames and stop to read plaques of self-sacrifice. In real life, the plaques are not at the Thames, but at Postman’s Park bear the Museum of London. I wanted to go and see for myself a memorial dedicated to those who gave their lives to save others in everyday settings (as opposed to war heroes). The memorial was set up in 1900 on a lovely little green space in the heart of the City, surrounded today by modern skyscrapers and massive old stone buildings. The plaques on the wall are done in pale green tones on white tile background with flowery decoration framing the side of each one. I’ve included phots of some other the most interesting ones.