Strolling Through Colorful Street Markets

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One of my favorite things to do when I travel is visit local open-air markets.  Whether I’m looking for a little trinket gift to give someone back home or a juicy piece of fruit for lunch, I’ll always dash towards a table display on the street rather than a shop.

On reason to love markets is that they are usually filled with incredibly unique items.  Sure, there are the mass market souvenirs, but there are also handcrafted one-of-a-kind items that really capture the personality of a place.  I always look for local artists or photographers as they can offer a wholly original perspective on the region.  I’ll usually buy something small and then ask for them to tell me about the inspiration for the image.  Even a small photograph becomes infinitely more valuable when there’s a story attached!

After more than a decade of traveling, I’ve learned to aim my camera at the markets I visit as they are bustling with vibrant color and glowing moments of humanity.   From busy flea markets to fruit stands in small neighborhoods, markets are filled with family, friends, and strangers all coming together in one place.  Different ethnicities, languages, and cultures all converge, making markets a lovely reminder that we are more the same than different.

In London, markets sell everything from books from antiques.  Several street markets set up shop at Covent Garden including one of my favorite, The Jubilee Market.  To get there, ride a train on the Piccadilly Line to the Covent Garden station.  When standing in front of the main pavilion, (you’ll see The Apple Market), head to the right and keep going.  A bright blue sign and a reference to Henrietta Street will help pinpoint the correct spot.

Souvenirs, crafts, and delicious snacks fill The Jubilee Market in London. Photo by: c.b.w.

Of course, London’s most famous stretch of marketplace fare runs down Portobello Road.  While the antique stalls are fun, I love the food kiosks above anything else.  Fruit, crepes, and pastries make for a delicious stroll!  To get there, the best way is to hop on the Tube and take a train to Notting Hill Gate, (Central, Circle, or District Lines).  This stop is my favorite because there are big signs that point towards Portobello Road, which makes it super easy to find. Follow your nose for the food!

Porotbello Road, London. Photo by: c.b.w.

In Ireland, Dublin’s cobblestone streets wouldn’t be complete without flower markets peddling everything from daisies to roses.  Amid the the gray clouds and brown brick, blooming bright colors sure liven up the place!  Some of the more colorful kiosks can be found on Grafton Street in the heart of Dublin.

Dublin, Ireland. Photo by: c.b.w.

Prague, however, takes the prize for having some of the most lively markets I’ve ever seen!  Tables are filled with colorful fruit, amazing handcrafted items, and spectacular artwork. A small market with a big personality is but a quick walk from the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square.  Head down a street called Zelezna and hang a right on Havelská.

Handcrafted wooden toys on display in a Prague marketplace. Photo by: c.b.w.

Wooden critters line market shelves in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by: c.b.w.

It almost looks too good to eat! Fruit Market in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by: c.b.w.

On a day when museums are closed or the weather is too good to stay inside, a few dollars and a leisurely stroll are all you need for a beautiful memory.

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c.b. 2012

Wandering in London, Part 3

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I’ve been busy  . . .

June 15, 2011

Today I was feeling all historical again, so I went to Fleet Street where the history of London peeks from every corner.  Fleet Street was once London’s center for journalism, banking, and a number of pubs, but today its a busy street filled with lawyers, bankers, and tourists.  The highlights for me were the memorial of Temple Bar, Number 1 Fleet Street (Dickens used this bank as the model for Tellsons’s in A Tale of Two Cities), Prince Henry’s room (from the 17th century and its still there!), Hoare’s Bank, and Mitre Tavern.  In addition, it was really interesting to see how Londoners hold onto the past even thought the present keeps pushing towards the future.  Old signs and storefronts remain in place even when something new takes over.  For example, there might be a deli or a salon inhabiting a building but the sign for a newspaper from bygone days remains firmly in place.

Off the main road there was just as much to explore.  On one of those sidetreets, Fetter Lane, I got one of my favorite pictures so far:

During my first trip to London, the tour guide (back when I went with tours instead of on my own) took the group to a church that still bore the damage from the German blitz during WWII. My pictures from that trip did not turn out well and I’ve always wanted another chance.  During my next two trips I searched for this church, but never found it.  This time, however, a little bit of wandering and an extra dose of luck brought me back to St. Clement Danes.  Not only do I have some great pictures to add to my lessons on WWII for my students, but I gained even more respect for a city that wears its wounds with pride and reverence.

Before I left for London I read a blog that outlined the five best places to write in London and she had mentioned the Royal Festival Hall.  I was close enough to that very spot, so I headed towards The Strand and then crossed the Thames at Waterloo Bridge. According to the blog, the fourth floor was a good spot and she was right!  Large windows offered a great view of the river and despite the number of people occupying the other tables it was remarkably quiet.  I started a new short story and simply enjoyed the ambience of creativity.  Just to shake things up I went exploring and found another great spot on the 5th floor, the Balcony Terrace.  Not only do you get a great view of London, but you can also hear the goings on down on the embankment.  More detailed posts on the South Bank are forthcoming.  There are a number of reasons why I keep walking along that side of the river, so stay tuned!

June 16, 2011

With rain threatening and me on my last pair of dry shoes, I opted to stay indoors and do another museum day.  The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square seemed like the perfect way to spend the day . . . and it was!  I visited just about every exhibition hall, but I naturally hovered over my favorite artists.  I sat and admired Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin on the Rocks and then learned all about Britain’s most famous painters including J.M.W. Turner.  From there I bumped into Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Peter Paul Rubens.  My heart, however, belongs to the Impressionists, so the bulk of the day was given to Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, and Pissarro.  Each of their works inspired a number of ideas for characters I hope will populate a story or two in the future.  In particular, Pissarro spoke the loudest with his painting The Boulevard Montmarte at Night.

After the museum, I wandered through the side streets around Trafalgar and eventually ended up at huge bookstore, Waterstones.  I don’t know why, but I always manage to find a bookstore wherever I go.  And no matter how much I try to resist, I always have to go inside!  This is probably the third or fourth Waterstones I’ve been through already, but in this particular store I noticed their catch phrase.  As a burgeoning writer, I found it to be a fantastic source of inspiration . . .  “Feel Every Word.”

Click for much more . . .

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