Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Camden Market

It was serendipity that took me to Camden Market. I happened to be in north London, it was a perfect day, I was wearing comfortable shoes and I was on a roll writing about markets. Thus it was that I found myself on the Regent Canal towpath heading for Camden.

The path is a quiet, languid refuge in a hectic town. Sunk down below the level of the roads, long, thin boats putter past at slow speeds. The route meanders through the London Zoo, past warthogs and mountain goats and beneath the elegant Snowdon aviary. After the Zoo, you pass a floating Chinese restaurant, the Feng Shang, which is a fun although expensive place and then along the gardens of interesting looking North London houses.

After a 30 minute walk, I arrived, late morning on a weekday in Camden Market which is really a series of markets loosely clustered around Camden Lock and Camden High Street. Having just finished John Irving’s 800 page novel “Until I Find You”, which is largely set in tattoo parlours, I felt I was right back in the pages of that book. Everything you can possibly do to the human body is on display in Camden.

As for the markets, they are hugely popular with both tourists and youngish Londoners. It is here you will find “alternative” everything. Some of it is “alternative” rubbish for the tourists, but scattered around, if you look hard for it, is original clothing, furniture and objects that you won’t find with traditional retailers. If you are a Goth (as in ‘like a Vampire’), everything your black heart could desire is here. As well, it’s the place to go if you want to buy kinky or vintage or designer rip-off clothes. There were tons of irreverent T-Shirts and greeting cards as well as acres of used leather shoes and jackets. In short, it is the closest thing you’ll find in London to a souk filled with the good, the bad and the awful. I’m coming back with my daughter. She would love this stuff.

There’s plenty of food available, much of it ethnic. It looked pretty good but it was too early for me to eat. There are pubs located around the Lock that looked fun. Even though I was way past the demographic (average age 19) and looked like the very unhip mother of 4 that I am, I found the atmosphere relaxed and welcoming. I didn’t buy anything but I had a good time.

So where do I stand on Camden Market? I reckon if you are my age it’s a good place to go to see what young people are up to. If you are young, it’s a good place to go. If you’re a visitor to London, it’s interesting to check out the alternative scene, and if you arrive by foot along the Regents Canal, it is a lovely walk.

And finally, when I was studying in London oh so many years ago, I used to spend my free time parading up and down the Kings Road, happy in the knowledge that everything on that street would be objectionable to my parents. Now that the Kings Road is a middle class shopping slum, I’m happy to know that Camden and its markets still exists.

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