Antiquing in Stow-on-the-Wold

STOW-ON-THE-WOLD, ENGLAND – The Cotswolds are a range of striking hills considered to be an Area of Outstanding Beauty. They are found in southwestern and west-central England, an area 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (145 km) long. The area is popular for its postcard perfect villages which have homes and buildings built using the local limestone. I recently visited Stow-on-the-Wold and to my surprise found that it has many well stocked antique shops to explore.

Stow2 Stow Collage3 Stow7 Stow Collage2But if you don’t want to search for antiques, it’s also just fun for a walk

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And a yummy pub lunch.

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Can you think of any other village in the Cotswolds that’s worth a visit?

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Columbia Road flower market: Part 1

LONDON – It’s hard to put into words how annoyed I was with myself this morning when I arrived at Columbia Road flower market , a trip I had been planning for some time, and realised I had forgotten my camera! I’m still reeling from the moment. It took me two buses to get there and once I realised I hadn’t brought my camera, I toyed with the idea of turning back. But then I’d come so far and decided to press on. Sigh!

To sum up, Columbia Road is really, really cool and well worth a visit. I’m going to return and take some snaps and probably shop some more and then I’ll write up about it in Part 2. But right now, here is my Part 1, with limited visuals.

If I have any advice for you, go early. I arrived at about 11 am and was confronted with big crowds that you have to navigate your way through in order to experience the market. Columbia Road is narrow and flower vendors line both sides of the street making the pedestrian area even more narrow. As a result, when it gets busy, it slows down and you have to be patient because you really are moving at a snail’s pace.

The crowds are colourful. It’s touristy so you’ll see a lot of foreigners – with cameras! It’s also in the East End. It’s also sells lots of garden plants so you’ll rub shoulders literally with pensioners too. It’s a mix. So go because you’ll fit in too.

As you slowly make your way down the street, the vendors will shout out their prices ‘three for a tenah (£10)’ or ‘roses, roses, come and get your roses. Twenty for £8.’ You get what I mean. It’s repetitive but it gives you an idea of what the deals are. Basically, they all sell at the same rate. And once the day wears on, the price drops because they need to sell their goods before 3 pm when they close up or before they’ve lost their voice – which was happening. It might be a good idea to stick around till the end because you could negotiate a good deal. One thing I did like about the vendors is that they were locals. No foreigners here. So it makes you feel like you’re experiencing the local culture.

There is a large variety of flowers. Expect: tulips, gladioli, roses galore, Chinese lanterns, sunflowers and what was particularly popular were the agapanthas. I really wanted to buy them. They were five stems for £10, but held back until I bought some cabbages. I’ve seen these for years and have always wanted to buy them. I paid £5 for five stems.

I’m assuming the flowers are seasonal. I didn’t ask. But they were in good condition and it felt fun to walk away with my flowers wrapped up in brown paper just like everyone else. What wasn’t fun was being wacked in the face by people with tall plants thrown over their shoulder. So be aware of that.

Once you’re done with the flower market. Take a deep breath. You’ve made it through part 1 of the visit. But don’t leave. Because behind the flower vendors are the shops and I have to say, there was a great assortment to browse through. I ended up buying a second hand book ‘How green was my valley’ by Richard Llewellyn (I’ve read it before and it’s very good) for £5. I also popped into Beyond Fabric and for £1 purchased a small square of fabric. I’ve decided to make my own bunting later this year for Christmas decoration.

There is also a small side street that you can pass through and you will find a cafe called Lily Vanilli. Apparently it’s got a celebrity following. I had no idea. But as I walked in my eyes fell on to this thick slice of bread, covered in vegetables and melting cheese. It looked soooo good. After what seemed like a long painful wait in the queue (their service is a bit wet behind the ears), I finally ordered the cheesy bread and I tell you, it was well worth the wait. It was so delicious. Sometimes meals with the simplest ingredients are the best. All they did was put some red onions and cooked baby marrows on a slice of thick brown bread covered in a sharp cheese and melt it  in the oven. It was a winner!

Talking of celebrities, I did bump into a b-list celebrity! Remember the actress from ‘It’s Comlicated’? No, I did not bump into Meryl Streep. The other woman in the movie. This one.

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Her name is Lake Bell. I sort of got a shock when I saw her. I knew I had seen her before but wasn’t sure where from. We made eye contact and she looked confused because of the way I reacted to seeing her. Not all star struck, but just when you see someone and you think you need to say hi because you know them from somewhere. Anyway, we didn’t stop for a natter.

And finally, here are my cabbages in the vase I bought from the Chelsea antique market in New York.

What flowers would you buy?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Portobello Road: crowded, touristy, but worth a once over

LONDON – When I first came to London two years ago, once of the first things I did was take a look at Portobello Road. On the day that I went, the market was closing for the day as I had arrived late. I only briefly saw a few stalls and shops. I actually hadn’t planned to return. The reason being I suppose, I didn’t feel like such a tourist any more and more of a local. This market is really aimed at tourists and boy do they come in the thousands.

But last weekend, I headed to Golborne Road in Notting Hill and when that proved disappointing, I walked from the one end of Portobello Road all the way up to the other end. It’s a couple of blocks but nothing you can’t handle. The crowds were enormous on the day I went. It was Saturday and sunny. But to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a lot of interesting things and what also surprised me was the variety of food that made you want to forget about your waisteline. Apart from the outside stalls, there were also some interesting trinket shops as well as some well-priced antique shops. I saw a few items that, had I a car, I think I would have bought on the spot.

 I actually didn’t buy anything when I went, but I think if you did go, be aware that it’s a bit out of the way, there are crowds but there is plenty to keep you interested. Have you been to this market? Can you recommend any others in London?

It’s not just the little piggy who goes to the market

LONDON – Last Christmas I spent a few weeks in New York and of all the purchases that I made, it was a random glass jug from Hell’s Kitchen flea market that has become the one thing I cherish the most from my experience abroad. Since then, I’ve become quite keen to explore antique markets locally to see what’s available.

With this in mind, my friend Heather invited me to join her at Spitalfields market in London. On the last Saturday of the month, it’s all about antiques. Take a look at what I found.

I thought this table would be perfect for some outdoor picnics in the back garden.

These chairs really appealed to me. They’re low and have a lot of character. It’s always nice to see that polka dots never go out of fashion.

There was plenty of bric-a-brac for antique lovers.

I’m constantly drawn to mustard yellow, although I still don’t own anything in this colour.

In my flat back home, I have a stack of suitcases too. I thought the bottom one was beautiful. It was going for £60.

See anything that you like here?

Plenty of vintage clothes to go around too.

What would you use these crates for?

You should probably know that the folks at this market are a bit fussy about people taking photographs of their goods. You actually have to ask before you snap away. One man promptly told Heather off. “Don’t just assume you can take photos,” he said sharply…

Did you see anything that you like? Do you want to go to the Spitalfields market too?