In a hurry to get my blog up and running, I missed a crucial entry that I wrote in October 2014, which could really be considered my first blog post. So, here it is, screwing up the chronological order I’ve managed to maintain so far.
Partaking in “Sober for October” means that Saturdays and Sundays are no longer spent hungover. Sleep is still required until a fairly decent hour, but the rest of the day is spent relatively productively, with no dehydration, headache or need to maintain a fetal position while listening to Bon Iver with your head half way out the window.
This particular Saturday was following a night of Korean food in the outskirts of Soho, combined with an exploration of Soho’s nightlife. The evening drew my attention to the fact that there was so much I hadn’t done in London. Okay, I’d only been here for maybe three months, perhaps I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. But there were some things that needed to get crossed off the list, and with my housemate dedicating time to his new healthy food blog, I decided to go on my first random exploration of London on my own.
Now I knew I wanted to end up in Portobello Market, but that was my only rule. The markets of London are an enormous talking point for locals: Borough for its food, Brixton for its reputation of being able to buy anything and Brick Lane for its arty, hipster outlets. But I had no idea about Portobello Road, except for the fact that once a year it’s home to the UK’s largest carnival.
Living in Brixton at the time, I decided to jump on the Victoria Line to Green Park, jump on a Borris bike to the opposite end of Hyde Park and jump on a bus. Following the signs to the market, starting at the very top of Portobello Road, you’re instantly greeted by a row of colourful houses in a similar style to Cliftonwood in Bristol. It’s such a picturesque area.
Once you pass the Chepstow Villas, the markets begin to flood. Stalls and staff of antiques, Aladdin genie lamps, furniture, jewellery. As you twist around the downhill roads you feel as if you’re winding through a seaside village in Yorkshire, making your way to the sea of falafel and antiquities that lies at the end.
A fascinating artwork shop caught my eye half way down – Gallery 117. Canvas upon canvas and prints of anything associated with Notting Hill. A particular picture of a stack of Penguin Classics, worn and ripped, caught my eye as a possible future present for my good friends, Alice and Fred (it’s not hung nicely in their living room).
I carried on, in seek of some food amongst what seemed to be a never ending road of gold and silverware. There was a queue of people lining up outside the Hummingbird Bakery. I overheard someone in the queue saying to his friend “why is it so busy?”…”Because it’s THAT good” he replied. Now I’m not much of a sweet tooth but this was hard to resist. Sober for October had made me replace the indulgence of alcohol with milkshakes and chocolate. The ten minute queue was worth it just for a look at the impressive rainbow cake, as well as the chocolate biscuit slice I’d save for later!
On the outskirts of the antiques stall, just before Westbourne Park Road which seemed to be the barrier into the food section of the market, three things caught my eye:
- A small entrance to “The Ginstitute”. After further research, this place looks amazing. A specialist gin bar (and home to the Portobello Road Gin) which also gives lessons in gin making.
- A transgender playing guitar in the middle of the road – why the hell not.
- A stall selling metal hanging signs. A few were fantastic. “Live well, love much, laugh often”. Three things I hadn’t been doing much of lately. Then I saw the classic “Be nice or leave” sign. Floods of memories came back from university when this sign took prime position in our living room.
My journey continued into what seemed to be more of a food section. The vibe was amazing. It was reaching the end of the day and the workers running the stalls were just sharing food between themselves. I opted for a falafel wrap with halloumi. Potentially the best falafel I have ever had.
The road continued into arts and crafts until an area named Portobello Green marked what seemed like the end of the action. A burger joint called Boom Burger filled the area with reggae. I finished my falafel, embraced some Bob Marley, scoffed down the chocolate from Hummingbird and got the tube from Ladbroke Grove. Definitely a different side to the area than Notting Hill Carnival.