Fortunately, some good-hearted Samaritan long ago painted helpful signs into the pavement to advise Americans which way to look for oncoming traffic when crossing the street. I can’t tell you how handy those signs are, even after a few days in the U.K. Sincere thanks to the Unknown Sign Painter, whoever you may be!
Richard and I walked through St. James Park today and then looped back toward Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, the route took us past Buckingham Palace, and that area was a madhouse. There was no Changing of the Guards ceremony on the horizon — so what in the heck were all of the people doing clustered around, standing on every available inch of sidewalk and wall and fountain, jammed together so thickly you could walk for a mile or more by stepping on the heads of people in the crowd.
As Richard and I slowly wove our way through the mob, we heard someone say that one of the members of the royal family — Prince Harry? Prince William? — was supposed to be arriving at some point. Could all of the people have been waiting for hopes of catching a fleeting glimpse of one of these guys through a window as a limo sped by? It’s hard to believe, but maybe that’s the case.
We were glad to leave the royal riot behind.
On New Year’s Day, most of the London attractions are closed. Kish had done some research and thought it might be fun to head over to Camden Town, a London neighborhood that has become well known for its markets. Two of them — Stables Market and Camden Lock Market — were open on a rainy, blustery day.
We visited Stables Market first. It’s located in and around an enormous, sprawling brick building that formerly was a horse stable. The signs of its former stable status are everywhere — in the cobblestones and horse troughs, in the curved bays and stalls, and in the many horse-related bits of decoration found just about anywhere you look.
There are countless shops located in this elaborate brick maze. Ethnic food of every variety is available from stalls where the proprietors call out what they have to offer, and people ate standing up or sitting down, trying to grab whatever shelter they could from the downpour. Other shoppers dodged the raindrops going from stall to stall, some of which are pumping out music or drenching patrons in a heavy dose of incense.
The non-food shops offered lots and lots of clothing, most of which seemed to be black and made for people who wear size 0 or smaller. There also were handbags and hats, bongs and hookahs, t-shirts and umbrellas, carpets and wall coverings, buttons and make-up cases, and a chance to have your photo taken wearing Tudor garb — and that’s just scratching the surface. The shoppers tended to be young and looked like they were having fun.
After we left the Stables Market we visited the Camden Lock Market, which runs along a canal lock underneath a bridge. Its shops offered more of the same. We left without buying anything, but enjoying the dip into a different part of London and a better sense of what the young Brits are doing with their spare time.