One of my absolute most favourite things to do in London is go to the Sunday morning flower market on Columbia Road in the heart of the East End. I usually walk from Bethnal Green Tube station, and know I’m getting close as more and more people pass by with armfuls and bagfuls of flowers.
The market is great at any time of year. I remember Springs when I’d struggle home on the Tube with great awkward bundles of cherry blossom branches. This time I bought shopping bags full of potted cyclamens in pinks and reds for my sister-in-law.
The prices are always extremely competitive, and descend sharply as the morning progresses. As you move among the crowds, the Cockney stall holders entice you in with shouts of “any free [three] for a tenner!”, or “potted colour, any six for a fiver!”
Columbia Road isn’t just about the flowers though. On either side of the street, the little shops offer a delightful mix of local, handcrafted designs; quirky artworks; retro and vintage finds; upcycled coolness; collections of Mexican, Vietnamese or Indian treasures; and crafting supplies.
…And of course there are also plenty of delicious food options – think bagels with yummy fillings; or exquisite, miniature decorated cupcakes; crispy battered prawns and vegetarian spring rolls served in paper cups with sweet chilli sauce; traditional English sweets; or indulgent pastries and coffee. There’s so much to love about Columbia Road!
This isn’t a great photo, but these cupcakes are the best! No visit to Columbia Road is complete without one of Treacle’s mini cupcakes. Mmmmmmmm!
One of the shops I was most excited about visiting was Rob Ryan’s shop Ryantown. I absolute love Rob’s whimsical papercuts, prints and illustrations. His shop didn’t exist when I lived in London three-and-a-half years ago, so I was extra excited to visit it.
The day I went to Columbia Road was the last full day of my trip and I was running short of everything: time, money (and frames on my camera’s memory card, dammit!). I was determined to get something from Ryantown though…
So I bought this periwinkle blue, screen printed card of a couple standing on a hill looking out to sea together. It says: “Can we? Shall we? One day, very soon, let us go away together just you and me, call in sick and go to the sea and hold hands all day, eat our sandwiches on the train, get drunk on fresh air and come home tired and never tell anyone…ever.” I love it.
Ahem, I also asked if I could have a carrier bag as well as a brown paper bag (for the one £3 card I was buying!). Both bags now live on my notice board and make me smile every time I look at them.
My other purchase was from Nom (another of my long time favourite Columbia Road shops). Nom sources beautiful ceramics and lacquer-ware directly from the crafts people of Vietnam and Cambodia and sells them at very reasonable prices. I’ve bought many a crackle-glaze bowl from them over the years. This time I bought a box made out of natural cinnamon wood as a present for my man. The box smells divine and will flavour anything you keep in it (sugar, coffee, chocolate…). My man’s the pancake-making king and I thought this would be the perfect sugar box for those lemon and sugar pancakes… You can buy your own cinnamon box from Nom’s online store.
I’ll leave you with these images of bright window displays and doorways along Columbia Road. Everytime I visit there I come away inspired, relaxed and happy. If you’re in London, go there! You’ll love it. You can tell I do!