I’ve been a resident of Bethnal Green for just over a year now. Although if you ask my boyfriend it’s been more like 3 and a half years (I basically started staying at his almost every day just 6 months after we met before eventually never going home at all and thus; we now live together – talk about clingy!!).
this one these three and a half years I have become a regular visitor to the beauty that is Columbia Flower Market. I’m sure you’ve heard me mention it more than a few times on this blog. I literally love the place. It’s quirky and cute and filled with flowers which I can’t get enough of,not least because my first real job was at a florist!
I worked as a Saturday girl and during school holidays, for four whole years (I even did Madonna’s flowers a few times *brushes shoulders*) so really, flowers are my thing.
As such my friend, with whom I worked with over those formative years, has promised me when she’s finished running England (she’s some super brainy government person) we’ll eventually open up our own bloomy little shop, except in our shop we won’t pass out on a weekly basis from inhaling too much helium from the birthday balloon cannister, like we used to aged 15 (kids eh!). Until that time I’ll have to settle for Colombia Flower Market
Anyway, my sister, Sam – who I lived with before I ‘never came home’ – had NEVER been to Columbia Flower Market despite living 30mins up the road and in London for almost 7 years! I’d tried to rectify this almost every week for, well, ever and finally managed to get her to East London early enough to make a visit a couple of Sundays ago.
Up bright and early we took the short walk from mine up Hackney road to Columbia Flower Market. I was swooning about the thought of peonies being in season when my sister stopped me in my tracks outside Hackney City Farm.
“Whaaaaaat, is that the farm? I wannnaaa gooooo!”
As a child Sam dreamed of being a zoo keeper or vet she
loved LOVES animals so much, she even made her own TV show called Pet World when she was 10 years old. She filmed it with her best friends (who also happened to be identical twin sisters) and they educated their imaginary viewers on how to care for a variety of pets. I even made a cameo appearance on the show when I adopted a hamster called Spice (she was actually already our Hamster, this was just a story for the ‘show’ – talk about constructed scenes! Take that MIC!) There was even a theme tune which we can both still sing all the words to now. Coolest sisters ever.
Sorry less anecdotes more actual story…
So we made a small detour into the farm for Sam to walk with the animals, talk with the animals, grunt and squeek etc. etc.
We saw some crazy looking chickens and some very cute ones too. This guy was our favourite.
Then we popped in to see the guinea pigs and rabbits but someone couldn’t cope with the, uhhh, pungent smell from the animals so we immediately had to vacate and didn’t get any pictures. (Hmmm, not as ‘Miss Doolittle’ as she’d like to think.)
Next we went to see the pigs and learned some super fun facts about them – a mature pig has 44 teeth, don’t you know!
Finally – chilling in the field next to the pigs were a couple of donkeys and a lovely looking goat as well as some sheep. It was all very exciting.
After the animals we washed our hands and popped into the cafe to get a coffee but sadly the queue was longer than we were willing to wait, so we admired the menu, noted that they had a pottery room too (where you can drop in and make a pot if you fancy) before making our way back outside for a quick look around the Hackney City Garden.
The Garden was an oasis of calm as well as being overgrown and very leafy. Sam willingly posed beside this very pretty plant…
Whilst I did my best ‘what made the red-man red, when did he first say HOW’ pose in the teepee.
Finally we made a pitstop at the ‘Bug Hotel’ and then continued our walk to the flower market.
As predicted the market was heeeeeaving -as it always is on any relatively nice Sunday morning. We conceded that in order to tackle the sardine-esque squeeze past the flower stalls, we would first need breakfast. So we hooked a right past this colourful looking busker…
…and made our way into the yard at that back of the market where I always go for either a bacon+egg or sausage+egg bap. Or on days I’m being really wild, a sausage+egg+bacon bap. Today though it was two rounds of sausage+egg with big dollops of ketchup which we wolfed down whilst chilling on a kerb in the sunshine.
Breakfast conquered we now felt almost ready to head into the hustle and bustle of the flower market – all we needed now, with the sun blazing on our backs, was a nice iced coffee. After all, what is breakfast without a good cup of coffee!
Coffee’s in hand it was time to take on the tourists and head into the middle of the market.
It was still heaving and the walk is really more of a shuffle along the street. Patience certainly is a virtue here. So relaaaax and realise you’re going to have to take your time. And, to be honest, why wouldn’t you want to. There are so many beautiful flowers to admire!
You also get to take in the East End Geezers that man the stalls and make their market cries: “two furr-a paaaand”, “laverly sunflowers ere ladies, a fiver a bunch” and our personal favourite ” Awight giwl, I’ve got the biggest and best Peonies on the market, come and see my huge peonies!!”. haha!
I love that they’re the most classic version of big, burly east end men selling some of the most delicate and beautiful flowers. I find it such a a wonderful juxtaposition. The market traders have some serious cockney charm and the gift of the gab but, man, do they also know their stocks from their sweat peas, antirrhinum from the anthurium’s and lisianthus from the lillies!
We were eventually lured to the man with the HUGE peonies and I ended up with a maroon and light pink bunch for a tenner.
As we made it to the end of the flower market we decided to take a sharp u-turn and this time moseyed back up along the pavement so we could pop into the plethora of quaint and quirky shops. Whereupon I found another black cab surprise for my guy, in the form of a pencil! Haha!
Ever since he started studying and eventually passed the knowledge to be a black can driver, I’ve taken to buying any little taxi gift I can find – so far he’s had a build your own taxi, a grow your own taxi, a taxi sharpener (and now pencil!!!), a balloon in the shape of a taxi (that still hasn’t deflated 2 years on) – socks with taxis on them, a taxi rubber duck, a Christmas taxi decoration and most recently cupcake taxis to celebrate his first year as a taxi driver. I know, I’m the best girlfriend ever.
Meanwhile back on Columbia Road…
We popped into Suck and Chew which feels like a proper old fashioned sweet shop that you can buy any sweet you can think of! I always get me a 100grams of strawberry bon-bons which I then eat while blogging.
We also spied some unicorn bacon!
Now hyped up on sugar we made a few more detours into the remaining shops.
There are so many gorgeous little things you can pick up at Columbia Road, from Rob Ryan prints to oversized green buddahs and every quirky kitchen gadget and gardening tool you could imagine.
There’s also a delicious bagel shop, one incredible pub (The Royal Oak) and an amazing cafe (The Stingray Globe Cafe) that serve equally incredible and amazing food and on Sunday’s market day some of the residents simply open their front doors stick a table at the front and sell directly from their homes.
Finally we decided to call it a day and headed home with out treats. But only for a quick pit-stop before heading back out.
We lounged in London Fields sipping on G&Ts from the corner shop before eventually making our way round to London Field’s Brewery where my favourite day party everrrrrr was being held. You Are We is so much fun – if you’re into techno house music and you’ve never been to one of the parties before I highly recommend it, we downed pimms after pimms well into the night/early morning and danced our socks off in the intimate venue.
The Wilkats on the decks…
A reminder in the morning of the night before…
It was such a perfect Sunday! Flowers, food, farms and a lorra lorra fun. I’m sure many of you have had your own experiences of Columbia Road but for those of you that haven’t make a trip quick sharpish that guy and his huge peonies won’t be around forever!
Thanks for reading 🙂