London Sundays – the Columbia Road Flower Market

Like most attractions in London, the Columbia Road Flower Market is steeped in history. Two fun facts:

1. It was started in the 1800’s by Angela Burdett-Coutts, who was known as the richest heiress in England and who married her 29 year old secretary when she was 67. The original Demi Moore??

2. Originally this market operated on Saturdays, but it was moved to Sundays in the mid 1900’s to allow the Jewish traders who lived in this area to work. In order to do this an Act of Parliament was passed because Sunday trade was prohibited at the time.

Although Columbia Road has had different market trades operating throughout the years, it is now strictly a flower market. There is an amazingly varied selection –  the gorgeous blooms on display feel like a culmination of the year-long drizzle you find in England.

The market is fun to see, but the crowds around the flower stalls on Columbia Road are pretty intense. So pickup some peonies and then turn off onto one of the side streets. You’ll find narrow, cobble stoned streets lined with boutiques and small restaurants. There is often live music, and the overall vibe is much more conducive to spending a lazy Sunday. I tried Jones Dairy for freshly shucked oysters which were served outside, with Tabasco and lemon.

Vendor at Columbia Flower Market

{ vendors with cockney accents were yelling out discounts on flower prices – “three for a tenner!” }

Flowers at the Columbia Road Flower Market

{ cheap bundles of flowers lined up at columbia road flower market }

Columbia Road Flower Market London

{ stalls at the flower market }

Jones Dairy Cafe on Ezra Street

{ the promise of good food afterward = the easiest way to convince my fiance to trek over to columbia road }

Oyster Shucking at Jones Dairy Cafe

{ oyster shucking at jones dairy cafe }

3 bunches for a tenner

{ floral deals at columbia road }

Note: The market is open every single Sunday of the year, even Easter Sunday, unless Christmas falls on a Sunday. It runs from 8am to 2pm (but the Jones Dairy Cafe often runs out of their oysters by mid-day! )

Eclypse de Mar – a highlight in Bocas del Toro

I’m a hot or cold person. If I like something enough to include it in the blog, you can probably assume that I would say I loved it. (My big brother tells me I use too much hyperbole in my speech. I’m working on that. He’s an English major and usually knows best). But, when it comes to the hotel in this post, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I absolutely lurve this place.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fantasized about staying in an over the water bungalow hotel. Having your own individual hut that you could jump into the ocean from always seemed like the epitome of vacationing bliss. But the cost for most of these places is outside of the realm of possibility for my normal travel budget.  I resigned myself to the thought that it would only happen on a honeymoon trip or some other huge occasion in the distant future.

Enter Eclypse de Mar. This eco hotel in Bocas del Toro, Panama has 6 bungalows that start at only $180 a night for 2 people. If you want to get to one of the nearby towns (Island Bastimentos is the closest), you use a large white flag to flag down a water taxi; you can get a ride over for less than $5 a trip. But really, why would you need to leave?

On your private deck, there are lounge chairs for catching the sun in the daytime, or a hammock you can string up for an optimal evening reading nook. Breakfast is delivered outside your bungalow door. Glass bottomed kayaks and a paddle board are available for hotel guests, and there are coral reefs to snorkel in nearby. Just walk down your private plank to the restaurant for dinner — their cook makes the best food that I tasted on these islands. The staff is friendly and has thought of every detail, like ceiling fans that are built inside of the canopy beds to provide a breeze while protecting from insects. There are even small openings in the bungalow floor with blue lights you can turn on to attract fish and yes, they provide fish food you can sprinkle directly into the ocean to increase the swarm. This place is definitely eco — the electricity is only turned on in the evenings, and the water pressure is minimal. For me, this just added to the romantic charm… and made me idealize the cool, bohemian owner (Malena) even more.

{ personal bungalow }

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{ sunset from the deck }

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{ view from the bedroom }

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{ paddleboarding from the dock }

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{ catch a water taxi }

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{ Bastimentos – Bocas del Toro }

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{ sundown in Bocas }

Getting there: Fly into Panama City (United has direct flights from Chicago & New York, Delta has direct flights from Atlanta, and Spirit Airlines flies there from Miami – I’ve seen them for under $300 RT). From Panama, get a puddle jumper to Bocas del Toro airport and then a water taxi out to Bastimentos/Eclypse de Mar hotel. Alternatively, you can fly to San Jose, Costa Rica and take a combination of a speed boat & bus – this involves walking across the border with your suitcases… something that I did not enjoy in 90 degree weather one bit.  Unless you’re spending some time in Costa Rica, avoid that route!