London Calling . . .SHOPPING, STAFF, THE UK — By Milli Thornton on February 27, 2013 at 22:06
Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Jo Abram.
Feature photo (right): Camden Lock Market
EVER SINCE ITS inception in the summer of 2009, Milliver’s Travels has been a place where myself, my staff and guest writers share stories and photos based on travels we’ve already taken. But now I’ve decided it would be fun to open it up a little more, with “bucket list” type stories about places we’re dreaming of visiting.
I’ll lead the way, with our first travel wish-list story.
I’ve always wanted to visit London. When I mentioned this to my friend Jo recently, her enthusiasm bubbled forth and she supplied me with many specific reasons to want to do so (beyond the somewhat stereotypical ones I already had in my head). Jo, a sound technician for London stage shows, sent me photos and anecdotes about some of her favorite shopping haunts in London.
Here’s some of it in Jo’s own words.
“Camden Town is an interesting place. It’s New Age, Gothic, punky, steampunk and techno all in a relatively small area of London. Many of the market stalls carry generic merchandise: touristy souvenirs, gimmicky T-shirts, the latest fashionable hats and earphones, that sort of thing. But find the right market and you’ll find treasure.
“Camden Lock is the place to go for handcrafted and original purchases: artwork and prints being sold by the artists and photographers that created them, bracelets made out of computer keys, candles in the shape of wine bottles, sheet candles, handcrafted leather-bound notebooks and bags, wooden motor toys . . . and that’s just for starters.”
“Camden Stables Market is a collector’s paradise. The old horse hospital has been converted, each stall holds its own stall now selling anything from 20-year-old McDonald’s toys to surplus/vintage army uniforms to antique furniture and crockery. It’s a rabbit warren of traders and food sellers, and just about any type of ethnic food you could want can be found there.
“True to name, there is indeed a lock. Regent Canal runs through the area, hence the old horse hospital to treat the poor tow horses. The lock does still work, and you can see the occasional canal barge going through.”
“Covent Garden is another place I go for a wander around. The market hall is where it all happens. Still plenty of touristy bumpf, but the stalls are what I go there for. Mondays are my favourite day: antiques day in the Apple Market and Jubilee Market halls.”
“There’s a guy who sells telephones from every era since they were invented, one selling letters and print blocks from old printing presses, another who sells Victorian and Edwardian kitchenware; several in the Jubilee Hall sell jewelry picked up at house clearances (a lot of it is old tat but you find the occasional treasure). The rest of the week it’s arts and crafts, a lot of homemade jewelry, clothing, bags and artwork; some really beautiful stuff. And the old-fashioned confectioners with jars of traditional sweets.”
“Street performers are a big part of Covent Garden. The brief walk from the tube station to the market has plenty of living statues, the back of the Apple Market usually has a street magician, and in the lower sections of the South Hall you’ll often find a string quartet or opera singer entertaining the cafe crowds.”
“The best performers are found in the Piazza, backed by the grand St Paul’s Church (also known as The Actors’ Church). If you go for a drink at the Punch & Judy Pub—one of a few in the country that still sell Courage Brewery beer—their balcony provides a perfect view of the antics. The pub does a really good pint of cask ale, proper beer, and a generally nice place to go for a drink, whether you’re in their cellar bar or on the balcony.”
“Leaving Covent Garden and heading towards Leicester Square you pass through one of my favourite streets: New Row. This street has two small art galleries, a homeopath, a gentleman’s hat store, a cupcake shop, the Drury Lane tea store, a traditional sweet shop, and several coffee shops, patisseries and restaurants. It’s not a very long street at all, there’s just a lot of coolness packed into a very small area.”
“The St Martin’s area of Leicester Square is a book lover’s paradise. There’s a lot of little avenues between buildings which hide some great books stores, as well as a couple of old-fashioned humidors and medal and coin collector shops. There’s also an occult-type magic shop down one of them.
“But my favourite is Charing Cross Road. There’s about four shops that are just book repositories; they carry new and second-hand books on every subject and in every genre, including some really, really old first editions.
“Of course, being there you’re within spitting distance of a handful of the big West End theatres if you wanted to catch a musical, or the Hippodrome Casino. This place isn’t just for gamblers; the bars do some great cocktails (my personal favourite is the Bramble) and the Heliot Restaurant does to-die-for food.”
“I also like this area because you can get a glimpse of Chinatown, which at the moment still has all its decorations up from Chinese New Year so it’s all very colourful.”
Thanks, Jo! You’ve well and truly whet my appetite for the streets and markets of London. I’ll make sure to snag you as my local guide as I shop and eat my way through the city. ~ Milli
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS STORY
Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course and Unleash Your Writing!, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse.