Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Bloomsbury Group in Gordon Square

We biked to the Bloomsbury Farmers' Market today, and after a little breakfast and a cup of coffee, took a walk around nearby Gordon Square, that hub of early-twentieth-century intellectualism known as the Bloomsbury Group.

Gordon Square Gardens, directly across from the row of houses also on the eponymous street, is a lovely little park, with a pretty little café (if we hadn't just had coffee, we would have taken some there),  some gorgeous roses in the lush but not overly tidy gardens and a monument to Indian poet Tagore.

The sign at the entrance to the park offers a nice little overview of the Bloomsbury group, identifying which house numbers were theirs. Interestingly, I did not see a plaque on No. 46, which the sign identifies as most strongly associated with the group. (You should be able to read the signs below if you click to enlarge.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

English Strawberries and the Islington Farmers' Market

Local strawberries from the Islington Farmers' Market
"Strawberries do not travel well," says the English gardening website Garden Action, after claiming that most strawberries found in stores in the UK, "have been grown abroad and transported all the way from the Canary Islands to England."

Ah, but England has farmers' markets, and a good many of them right in London, and on our first full day here, we walked to the Islington Farmers' Market and bought, among other things, some good English strawberries from Eden Farms, an organic grower located on the Lincolnshire Fens. These will pair well with creamy organic yogurt from The People's Supermarket for our breakfast in the morning. With both a food co-op and farmers' market so handy, we are well-provisioned to greet the day with happily fortified tummies.

Since we rented a flat for our 10-day stay here, we planned to prepare many of our own meals not only to save money, but because we have found, when traveling, that eating out begins to lose its appeal when you have no other options.

But after we arrived at the market having passed several attractive pubs and cafés along the way, and sat down at an outdoor coffee shop to savor a latte while watching the passing scene and discuss our meal plans, I surmised that we really weren't going to want to spend much time cooking and washing up when there is so much to savor in this magnificent city. So I suggested that we only plan to eat breakfast and an evening snack at the flat, and was pleased that my husband needed no arm-twisting to agree.

The Islington market sprawls across the length of Chapel Market, a street that we would say is about two blocks long (even though I know the word "block" isn't used in the same way here). At the first part, near Penton Street, are the local and organic growers, then as you walk along a ways, it gets more wide-ranging until it turns into a general flea market, with vendors selling shoes, pictures, and assorted items. We walked through about 3/4 of the market and then turned back, confident that what we wanted would be found at the Penton Street end.

So we bought a round loaf of crusty bread, cheese, smoked salmon, apples and a cucumber—as well as those very delicious local strawberries.