Peddling petals: Columbia Road Flower Market

Hey, blog world. I don’t think I told you of my plans for this, but I’m in London, U.K. right now.
20130505-151928.jpgI have an entire month off work, and I decided to take advantage of the time and pay a visit to some of my best friends who are currently residing “across the pond.” Namely: Ariel and Natalie. I just arrived this morning, and, after making myself well acquainted with the London tube, found myself on the first adventure of my trip.
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I only found out about the Columbia Road Flower Market about a week ago when Momentum Mag posted this video on their Facebook page, depicting a cute English hipster biking in the neighbourhood. I immediately marked it down on my list of places to visit, and, just as I was about to text Ariel about this newfound destination, she sent me a text proposing we pay the market a visit on my first day in town (the flower market is only open on Sundays). How’s that for a coincidence?

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The flower market is about a 10 minute walk from where Ariel, Natalie and Conor live. As you draw near, there are some sure fired signs you’re heading in the right direction. All things floral begin to appear; being carried in bicycle baskets, strollers, and canvas grocery carts. My favourite was a gentleman who was walking with a tall house plant. Its top was blowing in the wind and would occasionally brush the trees above the sidewalk.

The market itself was quite something to take in. Columbia Road is already narrow, a length of street lined with artsy-looking storefronts and food places. Compound that narrowness with bunches of roses, tulips, hydrangeas, herbs and general greenery on each side of the road and you’ve got a bottleneck maze that reminded me of Ottawa on Canada Day. There was live music every block, from an accordionist playing the main theme of “Amelie” to a guitarist strumming and singing the “Jungle Book” song to a gathering of young families.

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While the flowers were predictably gorgeous, one of my favourite parts was something Ariel warned me of ahead of time: the flower sellers with thick Cockney accents peddling their wares onto the hordes of people. It was like Adele had been multiplied into an army of florists, their voices ringing in tandem across the crowd. Though I’m trying not to journalism-out this trip (it is my vacation, after all), I just know I’m going to return next Sunday, microphone in hand. You have to hear it to believe it.

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The Cockney florists put their booming voices to use when a mother and father lost track of their 10-year-old daughter, Alice. The concerned parents were yelling out her name, at which time the flower vendors took up their cause. “Oy! Everyone stop for a moment! We’re looking for a little girl, Alice. She’s wearing a cream jumper and red leggings!” This amplified across the market, the vendors passing down the message in an intricate game of “Telephone.” Ariel, Nat and I didn’t stick around for long enough to see a resolution to the search, but I hope with all my heart Alice was found.

While ducking out to avoid the crowd, Nat and I also discovered a sewing shop that sold an assortment of all things Hilary: pastel-coloured buttons, assorted packs of ribbons, fat quarters, other fabric… We bought two packs of ribbon for 10 quid, and have already re-fashioned some of them into DIY watch bands (coincidentally my $10 vintage watch broke in two places just this morning). As Nat put it, “you’ve only been here for a day and we’ve already made a craft.”

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Much more to explore…but tonight, we’re relaxing at the first of what promises to be a marathon of pub visits. Cheers!

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8 thoughts on “Peddling petals: Columbia Road Flower Market

  1. I wish I could visit this flower market some time in the future too. Too bad Asia is over 15 hours away from London.

  2. I’ve never heard of Columbia Rd Flower Market but I’m assuming it’s in the East End. It looks great and if you want to hear more of that accent you should try watching Eastenders! Beautiful pictures and love the watch straps.

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