Today is our our eighth day in London; we visited both Brixton and Borough Markets along with St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Our first stop of the day was Brixton market. We took the tube across the river into Brixton and entered a whole different part of London. It is a very ethnic area with a lot of Caribbean influences that has been reborn into a nouveau food Mecca. As we entered the first section of the Brixton markets, it looks much like some flea markets you would see in the states, selling cloths and different items. As we ventured further in, we started to see all the various wonderful foods. It almost seemed reminiscent of the old world, with fish mongers laying out all their fresh catches and butchers with their displays stacked high with different cuts of meat.
I thought the history the tour guide gave us about the market and the surrounding area was very intersting. Brixton has much Caribbean influence because after the war, many people from islands Great Britain had conquered came to the motherland with promise of a new life and work. Many settled in the Brixton area and the market flourished with a fresh new Caribbean twist. Nowadays, we also see a lot of new and fashionable eateries all over the market area, giving it a sort of re-birth.
I think this is very similar to what is going on in the Wynwood/Midtown area of Miami — new food and fresh ideas are bringing in a young new generation, which brings wealth to the area. I think these new restaurants show how hospitality can be a source of revival for an area. Although many locals still use the market on a daily basis, the area really comes to life at night when all the new eateries open and people from all over descend upon Brixton to share in the food and culture.
Our next stop for the day was Borough market. A market has stood in that area for over a thousand years, which I found fascinating. This market, in stark contrast to the one at Brixton, was bustling and full of life. There were not really any sit down eateries, just stall after stall of different foods and ingredients and sauces all homemade, freshly grown, and even freshly killed. It was vibrant with people doing Christmas shopping, and all the vendors were excited for us to try their product as well as tell us about it. I purchased a very uniquely flavored loaf of bread from an artisan bread stall. It was garlic and chili flavored; it had a subtle kick which was delicious. I also purchased a jar of fresh honey from a honey vendor. We tried all different flavors which had different hints of fruits and flowers.
We had a nice walking tour around the market grounds, and we saw one of the oldest prisons in London, along with a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship. Later on in the day, we walked across the Millennium Bridge, which is a pedestrian-only bridge that spans the Thames River. It had beautiful views of the city and it was a pleasant walk.
We made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is the east church of London. As we learned on the tour, there has been a church there since the 600’s, but what we call St. Paul’s today was built after the fire of 1666. It was designed in the fashion of an old Anglican Church and it still holds services daily. The cathedral barely endured any damage during the bombings of the Second World War, except for the main altar was destroyed. I think it is a beautiful thing that they rebuilt that area of the church as a chapel honoring all those US forces that died serving here in the UK during the war.
A group of us decided to take a trek up the stairs into the dome, and we got a beautiful view of the nave from the inner dome. We continued upward and made it up to the outer dome and got a beautiful 360 view of London at sunset.
I think my favorite part of the day was visiting Brixton and Borough markets. I think it’s so great that so many people come together in such an old fashioned way to exchange goods. I think food is at the center of a lot of great things and this market is definitely one of them. It has been being people together for over 1,000 years, which is amazing and will continue to for years to come. The Brixton market was fascinating though, because it does have so much history behind it.. I think it’s great that it is in an area that was built up by immigrants, it has had a lot of tough times, but they have held tough and prospered throughout. I think I also find it fascinating because, being from Miami and being Cuban, I can see how the Cubans came into Miami and kind of created their own areas and prospered, assimilating into their new environment while allowing their culture to prosper.
Today really showed us how hospitality can bring communities together and can help areas prosper. These markets have been centers of commerce for years and have allowed business to grow. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Brixton market and the surrounding area in coming years due to the ‘urban renewal’ that is occurring with all the trendy eateries.