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! )

Day tripping – Cambridge

Many visitors to the UK are interested in going to Oxford or Cambridge to see the famous Universities and their surrounding towns. Either one is easily accessible by the National Rail train line and is perfect for a day trip from London. Since many of my family members live in or near Oxford and have attended Oxford University (including my British grandfather who I absolutely treasured), I can’t make an unbiased call on which to do if you only have time for one… The long standing rivalry between Oxford & Cambridge means that I’d have to advocate for Oxford on principal alone.

That being said, there are many merits to visiting Cambridge, especially if its a quick day trip – one being that the river Cam flows through the city center. That is the highlight of the itinerary I’ve described below.

ITINERARY: ONE DAY IN CAMBRIDGE 

Getting there: The train from London’s King’s Cross station is 45 minutes and shouldn’t cost more than £23 return. Once in Cambridge, consider renting a bike from Station Cycles next to the station. Cambridge has a small college town feel that’s easy to navigate your way around. It is a straight shot from the station toward the center, about a mile long walk/bike ride.

In Cambridge: the quaint college town is worth spending some time exploring. The Grand Arcade Shopping Center is a good landmark, you’ll know you’re in the center if you see it. Check out the smaller boutiques and try some food from one of the food trucks lining the area. Many of the streets are closed to pedestrians.

The main attraction: get on the river! Take a punting tour – a 45 minute boat ride that is a great way to see Cambridge University since the colleges are positioned along the river. You can take out your own punting boat (and you’ll see many students who do), but I recommend a guided tour. The boat operators will tell you stories about the colleges and a bit about Cambridge’s history. We went with Scudamores punting, but you’ll see operators lined up and could go with whoever offers the best price (and has a tour leaving when you’re ready). Stop by Cambridge Wine Merchants on 32 Bridge Street to stock up before you go – cigars, wine, beer or whatever you fancy to enhance the experience.

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{ punting boat by Cambridge }

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{ on the river cam }

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{ cambridge architecture }

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{ weeping willows }

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{ boats and blankets }

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{ through the tunnels }

Tip: Don’t go on a rainy day. But, you don’t necessarily need to save this for warm weather. We went on a cool, sunny day in February and wrapped up in the wool blankets that they provided.