Who needs a Valentine when you have London’s (and arguably, the world’s) most amazing market? On Friday, I had the greatest food market experience of my life: Borough Market. As we approached, VP Ned Clark told our group on the SBA London Shakespeare trip that it was “foodie heaven” and he was right. After establishing a meeting time, we headed out to explore this magical place. First stop- Scotch Eggs. My coworker Keith spotted this slice of heaven, which consists of a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried. After that blissful experience, Ned headed off to people watch and take some candid photos while those of us who were there for the first time dove head first into the heap of never ending stalls filled with fresh fruit, hot eats, cured meats, sensational cheese, seasonal vegetables and artisanal chocolate; the sweet aroma of the Borough Market filled our noses and our lives were changed forever.
So I may have been overcome with the amount of free cheese samples and that Wild Boar Sausage sandwich to find any other way to describe this experience besides heavenly, but this weekend I truly made a note to myself to return to London one day if not only to visit the Borough Market again so I could enjoy it for more than an hour. If you weren’t already aware based on the number of mentions in my previous blogs, I have a certain love – and maybe even an obsession – for markets. The abundance of them in Europe is amazing, and I have visited at least one in some 7 different cities since I have been here. The Borough Market was a clear winner, but they each have their own special charm about them. All of the markets I have visited have stood out to me for various reasons: the fresh produce daily at my neighborhood San Cosimato market in Rome, the spices and jewelry and elaborate scarves at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the fresh fish from the packed with locals La Pescheria di Rialto in Venice, the softest leather in the whole world at the San Lorenzo Market in Florence, the endless flowers at the Cours Saleya in Nice, Nieuwmarkt’s massive organic farmer’s market steps from our hostel in Amsterdam, and, of course, both the Camden and Borough Markets in London.
Many times when visiting a new place, the tendency is to hit all the big landmarks or monuments. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that markets are one of the greatest way to really experience a culture, showing where the locals tend to buy their produce or stop for lunch. And above all, markets are the absolute best place to people watch. You could spend hours observing the people and just wandering through the market checking out the different people who work at the stalls. We encountered some pretty awesome people on our search for the perfect cheese; they were so knowledgable about their products and willing to let us taste every single one until we found one we liked. We nodded along as they told us the names and special characteristics, as well as the impossible-to-pronounce regions they were from all over the world.
TFT BREAKS DOWN HOW TO MAXIMIZE ANY MARKET EXPERIENCE
- Get in line. Chances are if everyone else is, it’s worth the wait.
- Walk around and get a lay of the land before jumping in. Make a note to come back to the places that catch your eye.
- Talk with people – locals if you can, and especially those working the stand. They are full of information.
- SAMPLES. Try them all. Even the ones you aren’t sure about it. What tastes better than free food?
- Go in a group. The best way to simplify an overwhelming lunch experience is to try everything. It can be cheap and you will get a well-rounded taste of all there is to offer.
Ironically enough, shortly after our divine market experience in London, CNN.com posted this fantastic article about photographing food markets which partly inspired this post. This is a must-read for any aspiring photographers or simply anyone who plans to visit a market in the near future. Below are some more highlights from our Borough Market experience this past weekend.
Photo cred to TFT Vice President and Trip Director, Ned Clark