The International Writers Magazine: UK Travel
About six miles east of Central London lies Greenwich market bordering the Thames. It’s a pleasant epiphany to the visitor especially since Greenwich is mainly known for its Royal Observatory where the world-renowned meridian line passes.
You can get there by train or boat from Waterloo East or Charing Cross stations or rab the boat down by the Embankment. The market therefore comes as a delightful surprise with the multicultural shopping stalls it offers from different nooks and crannies of the world, the numerous eateries with an international cuisine range and the lovely English cafes where one can just sit, unwind and watch the world pass by over a cup of delicious English tea.
There's something for everyone here. Whether it's the Palestinian ceramics that catch your eye with the intricate patterns in blue and white or the more vibrant of their Turkish counterparts that fascinate you with their hues of reds and whites. The friendly Turkish stall keeper will keep you engaged explaining all that goes into carving out the art masterpieces and the purpose they serve. You can take your pick from the large bowls which could very well adorn your dining table as a beautiful fruit bowl or the smaller of their counterparts, apt as a jewellery box or maybe just as a souvenir from Turkey for that someone special.
As one walks past the stalls, one can't help but notice Tao's wired art. A tiny man deeply immersed in mutating aluminium wires into different alphabetic shapes, uncanny of the anxious onlookers admiring his work. There’s plethora of designs that can be tailor made according to your desire, just pen down your name and he’ll work his magic upon the wires to spring them into that name. After that, its just you and your imagination for the design bit, he’ll make sure he fabricates it as is. The end product is simply gorgeous and makes for a very unique present.
| There 's plenty in store for all, but one that strikes almost every eye is the Murano Glass Jewellery stall. It offers amongst other things, lovely Murano glass rings at quite affordable prices. The flowery patterns underneath the glass give an illusion of real flowers rendering it a very elegant look. If your lucky, you might just be around during a discount day, so feel free to stock up on those wide ranging pieces that are sure to leave you spellbound with their grace and that Italian panache.
Talking about jewellery there's another interesting pick here- Flower jewellery. Pendants and bracelets with real dried flower petals embedded inside. The flowers apparently have been cultivated and set inside in such a way that they retain their lustre and freshness for years to come. People flock the stall, gazing at those lovely butterfly shaped bracelets complemented by light blue flower petals and their heart shaped counterparts with deep red rose petals rendering them an exquisite look. There’s an eco-friendly jewellery stall too where they sell jewellery made from palm tree seeds rather than elephant tusks.It's their way of preserving the forests and wildlife by adopting an alternative way of making jewellery from the tree seeds rather than the trees or animals themselves. So, take your pick, but bear in mind that the older the tree seed, the costlier it tends to get.
As you stroll by you would notice stalls selling homemade candles, traditional English antiques, Moroccan spa alluring you with the aroma of its organic soaps and oils and a juniper wood stall with jewellery boxes, candle stands and even forks and knives on offer, all made out of the mystical juniper wood. And if any of you fancies knowing what the future has in store, there's the ever-popular Tarot card reader's stall too. She does palm reading, tarot cards and numerology to unveil it all for you and it’s worth a mention that she remains busy with her clientele most of the time around.
There’s a plethora of things to see and do here. The relaxed vibe, multicultural stalls and the rustic look of the market place, one feels transported into some enchanted world of sorts that has a very medieval look to it but has on offer everything modern and exquisite. And with so much to look around, one is bound to get hungry. If we go check out the range of food available, one would be completely mesmerized. As tempting and interesting the food looks, the names of the stalls are no less intriguing. There’s Hula Paella Cafe serving soft drinks, beer and Italian white wine -Prosecco. Don't be surprised if you see people queuing up in the lunch hours to grab that much in demand yellow rice and chick peas mixture from this stall. Right next to it stands the 'Real Baking co.' on wheels! Not sure if its the old lady serving the delicacies here or just that familiar bakery aroma, one feels quite at home at this spot. There’s loads to choose from too - chocolate brownies, fresh handmade cakes, cookies, shortbreads and flapjacks. So if you just want to grab a bite on the go, you know where to head. The market caters for one and all.
||There’s even a Vegan bakery serving wheat free and sugar free cup cakes and brownies that look simply gorgeous and so very inviting. As one passes by this stall, a strong coffee aroma fills in and one doesn't have to make much effort in tracing where it’s emanating from. The very next stall in row serves delicious ground coffee in flavours like French cinnamon, butterscotch toffee, Irish whiskey and the likes. So, just grab that mouth-watering cup cake, a coffee and your good to explore the rest of the area.
For those of you having an elaborate lunch on mind, there’s plenty to choose from too. There’s a Japanese stall serving original homemade Sushi, an Ethiopian food stall with those vegetarian delicacies alluring you with their spicy aroma and Mamma Mia stall with its Italian cheese and salami. It sure seems to have stocked up on every variety of cheese known to mankind! Move a little ahead and you'll be transported to the Caribbean world offering smoky hot chicken curry, curried goat and beef amongst other non-vegetarian delicacies. And if you have healthy lunch on your mind, there’s a Mediterranean stall quite popular for its salad wraps and meze. Hungry or not, you can't resist grabbing a bite. When it comes to pampering your sweet tooth, be prepared to have all your teeth pampered.
Savour the fresh, homemade doughnuts with chocolate sauce filling from the Brazilian churros or the Ananaman stall where you can select a fruit of your choice that you'll be served in a hot Belgian chocolate dip. And then there's Mr. Humbug, a complete shop dedicated to jelly-bellies, toffees, candyfloss and variety of fudges to choose from. Never a dull moment in this shop.
Amidst all this merriment, you may suddenly be interrupted by a loud bash of music by an Irish group serenading you with their Irish folklore or a loner on guitar with his traditional English ballads or maybe just that familiar melancholic tune from the violin. Whatever the music, it just renders a complete upbeat mood to an already booming atmosphere.
Be it the shopping, the food or the music, you’ll experience it all here, in all its glory. And when its time to head back home, you would already be chalking out a date for the next trip back to this big feast of sorts. That’s the charm of the Greenwich Market.
© Neha Sharma May 2012
For fiction set in and around Greenwich Market read 'Mean Tide' by Sam North