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Jesstours.com is a travel website that details my adventures from around the world. It’s a mixed bag of travel experiences, stories and insights. It’s also a blog that doesn’t take itself too seriously but will provide my family and friends with an outlet to keep track of my travels as well as hopefully serve as an interesting and entertaining read, with some helpful travel maps and tips for those who simply stumble across this page. Happy reading and happy travelling!

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Broadway Market – London

Nov 2013

Often referred to as Borough Market’s East End cousin, Broadway Market is a melting pot of tastes and cultures – stalls, shops, galleries, pubs, restaurants and cafés offering fresh, seasonal produce and a treasure trove of vintage bits and pieces.

Running south from London Fields to Regent’s Canal, the pedestrian filled thoroughfare has been serving the local community with fresh goods since the early 1900s and from then until now has hosted a weekly food market.

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After a period of decline in the 80s and 90s, where market activity was limited to only a handful of stalls, Broadway Market in recent years has experienced a tremendous revival and expansion. Today it stands as a thriving neighbourhood hot spot.

Presently, the market has over 100 stalls selling all sorts of fresh produce and gourmet goodies – organic meat, fruit, vege, seafood, dairy products, baked goods, artisanal delicacies, ethically sourced coffee and much, much more.

Whether you want to eat on the spot or take home and cook later, the stalls at Broadway Market are full of tasty ready to go and made to order snacks and meals, as well as seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.

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Every stall is unique and as tempting as the last. There are tasty pork buns (Yum Bun), cheese filled potato dumplings (The Polish Deli), authentic Caribbean stews (The Caribbean Chef), spicy vegetable curries (Gujarati Rasoi), berry cheesecake parcels and a whole lot more.

Thanks to the huge selection of food on offer at Broadway Market, when I lived in London it became a place that I was more than happy to revisit. I did however have one teeny tiny issue with the market, and that was there was always way too much good food to choose from. Indecisiveness has always been my downfall.

Just like the food, Broadway Market has a distinctive character and a particularly East London feel to it. It is lively and colourful, and often full of local banter and familiar faces. Indeed the market draws far more East End residents, who come to shop and mingle than it does tourists.

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So come market day you can expect to find well-dressed Hackney hipsters, East End locals, food lovers and bargain shoppers, bouncing from one stall to another as talented buskers entertain them as they pass by.

In addition to the food vendors, there are also a number of arts and crafts, and second hand clothing stalls where you can find vintage bargains along racks of pre-owned clothes, as well as handmade bags and jewellery.

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Once you have perused the market thoroughly, and feel confident that you have sampled enough things, I suggest taking your purchased items over to the sprawling lawns of London Fields. Then and there you can stretch out your legs and snack away on your market goodies.

If nothing at the stalls tickle your fancy (I’d be surprised if this is the case), the stretch of road that Broadway Market runs along also boasts an impressive collection of pubs, restaurants and cafés, where diners spill out onto the street.

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Also, make sure you leave time to check out the neighbouring School Yard Market (an extension of Broadway Market) and Netil Market. Both markets house a small collection of fantastic and independently run stalls.

Personally, I think a trip to Broadway Market is a delightful way to spend a bright, crisp Saturday morning in old London town.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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Portobello Road Market – London

Sep 2013

Whilst living in London a favourite weekend pastime of mine was walking down Portobello Road, come market day.

Albeit rather manic (tourists descend upon the iconic London street in their droves), Saturday is still the best day to visit. It is the main trading day after all. Some shops are open during the week but the street stalls are not. Therefore if you are visiting, Saturday is the day you should go!

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Portobello Road Market offers up a seemingly endless line of stalls selling a mix of antiques, cheap and cheerful knock offs, second hand clothes, flowers, fresh fruit and vege and so much more. Vendors sell anything and everything from vintage bags, trinkets, jewellery, fur coats, hand knitted blankets, to the more touristy London souvenirs like ‘I love London’ t-shirts.

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As the market is renowned for its antique and bric-a-brac stalls, expect to find stalls selling collectables from the obscure (antique model planes, dollhouse furniture, door knobs) to the downright strange (think animal headed walking sticks).

While people often come to Portobello Road looking for a great deal, you may be hard pressed to find a bargain. If you’re just looking, then the market is great fun! That’s not to say that antique hunters aren’t on the prowl, they most certainly are, scouting the stalls every weekend.

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The market stretches along Portobello Road for some 900 metres or so and has served the local community in North London since its beginnings in the 1880s. What began as a fresh-food market in the 19th century transformed itself into an antiques outlet when antique dealers arrived in the 1940s and 50s.

The road itself is long and narrow and lined with an abundance of independent shops, art galleries, arcades and cafés. So don’t forget to pop into a few and have a look. Also a stroll around the surrounding Notting Hill neighbourhood is a must! The tree-lined streets, which are filled with colourful terraces, are truly lovely.

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Being the ‘foodie’ that I am, it shall come as no surprise that my favourite section of the market is the line of food stalls, stretching from Elgin Crescent to Talbot Road. Not only do they overflow with delectable goodies but they are also full to the brim with English character and cheerful market banter. Playful and friendly exchanges can be heard between stallholders as well as between the sellers and buyers. Typical sale pitches from the fruit stall vendors tempt passers by; £1.50 for a punnet of strawberries and £2 for a bag of apples. While boisterous shouts from the fishmongers draw market goers to their catch of the day.

Not only is there an array of fresh market produce (breads, cheese, cakes) on offer but also all sorts of food stuffs and street food fare from pulled pork rolls, seafood paella, gourmet burgers to deep fried crab claws. If I had to choose a favourite food stand I would have to say it would be the German van, where they serve up a variety of delicious Bratwurst, spiced pork burgers and breaded boneless chicken legs. Yum!

Seating is rather hard to come by on the road itself, so I suggest heading to a cute little square just off the main drag, Colville Square. Here you can find a few benches and patches of grass to munch away on your tasty market treats.

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If you’re like me and get somewhat flustered winding your way through elbow-to-elbow crowds, a word of advice, try heading to the market early, before 10:30am. You can then have a proper wander around before the crowds get there. Or try later in the afternoon. Be mindful though that the market starts to wind down around 4pm onwards.

Useful Info

Notting Hill Gate Station becomes uncomfortably congested on Saturday mornings, so if it’s a sunny day and you have the time then I would suggest getting off a stop before and walking. Queensway if you’re coming in on the Central line from the East and Holland Park from the West.

Once at Notting Hill Gate Station, if you’re not sure where to go or how to get to the market, simply follow the crowd.

Also there is only one ATM on Portobello Road (annoyingly positioned about halfway down the road), so make sure you get some cash out before you begin your bargain hunt otherwise you’ll be facing an extremely long line and wait for cash.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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Columbia Road Flower Market – London

Aug 2013

With our leaving London date fast approaching and there still being so much to see and do I began madly ticking things off my London ‘must do’ list. I was (and had been for some time) desperate to get to Columbia Road Flower Market. So before we moved State side I made it my mission to go. And with the weather on our side, one sunny Sunday Nick and I, along with our friend Cara headed over to the East End to take a stroll down the colourful street.

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Situated in the heart of East London, with Shorditch to the west and Brick Lane and Spitafield nearby Columbia Road Flower Market, since it’s early beginnings (1840s) until present day has provided the East End with a magnificent assortment of locally and internationally grown flowers and plants.

Today, a vibrant and bustling market, Columbia Road Flower Market literally bursts with life. Flower sellers trade off their stock from stalls that overflow with freshly cut flowers, potted plants, trees, herbs and all sorts of other types of flora. Some traders have been operating since the 1940s!

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Walking down the road, amidst a canopy of sweetly smelling foliage (jasmine, rosemary, lavender), vendors chant cockney rhymes and shout out prices like “two for a fiver”, which simply cannot be passed by.

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Neither can you pass by the array of independent shops, galleries, cafés and delis that line the Victorian terraced street that the market runs along. Each selling the usual bric-a-brac and vintage fair that East London is known for, as well as locally produced pottery, jewellery, knitted scarves and hats.

Leaving the market, market-goers carry away armfuls of plants and flowers. Both Cara and I walked away with potted orchids (a steal at a fiver each) and a beautiful bunch of flowers. As we headed for the train all I kept thinking was, ‘I can’t believe I left it so long to come!’ I know that if I had come earlier it would have become a regular Sunday outing.

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Like other London markets I recommend going early morning (about 8am), as during the middle of the day it becomes ridiculously crowed. We were more leisurely in our approach, arriving around 1pm and the usual pleasant walk through the sweet perfumed stalls became stressful and to be quite honest rather painful. I cannot count the number of times I lost Nick and Cara in the crowd.

If you’re one for a lazy Sunday morning or want to grab yourself an even bigger bargain try heading to the market around 2pm. That’s when things start to wrap up and traders practically give away their flowers.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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Borough Market – London

Aug 2013

Nearly all ‘Jesstours – London in a day’ began at Borough Market, which coincidently happens to be my all time favourite London Market. Originally a fresh fruit and vegetable market (the market and its trade dates back to the 13th century – making it London’s oldest market), Borough Market is now home to a variety of fresh, seasonal food stalls. That’s right Borough Market offers nothing but food, glorious food. Now that’s my kind of market! If you’re a food lover like me, then you’re going to be in complete and utter foodie heaven.

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Borough Market serves up the best quality of British market fare and produce in town, with artisan foods and delectable goodies, such as mushroom pâté, wild boar baguettes and devilishly good brownies, just to name a few. For those with a sweet tooth you can not go past the high stack of brownies from Bread Ahead as well as any of the pastries, tarts and other sweet treats that line the table of Artisan Foods. I can’t resist a slice of Artisan Foods dark chocolate and raspberry cake, which is so dense and rich that it is pure indulgence.

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If savoury is what you’re after then head straight to the area of the market called ‘Three Crown Square’, where there is a plentiful supply of breads (yes please!) dips, pâté’s, olives, cured meats, cheeses and oils. I love The Tomato Stall (so aptly named that it needs no further introduction), which sells perfectly ripe tomatoes, sun drenched tomatoes, tomato relish and other tomato-based products so fresh and bursting with flavour.

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Not only is there an abundance of scrumptious food but also copious amounts of drink. In the summer months you can expect to find lines for freshly squeezed juices as well as Pimms with lemonade while in the winter people adorned with their winter woollies queue for mulled wine and hot chocolate.

My number one tip is to get there early to avoid the hungry crowd of tourists at lunch. Getting there around 9am means that you can taste test your way around the market before deciding what you want to eat later. Believe me, you will need this time, as you will be overwhelmed by choice. After a few visits though you’ll soon have your favourite stalls and like most locals will make a beeline for that treat that keeps you coming back for more.

One such treat that is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, is the Swiss raclette from the cheese stall Kappacasein, which provides its customers with a generous helping of melted cheese poured over potatoes, baby gherkins and pickled onions. Even if you don’t go to this stall you’ll certainly smell it. The heady aroma from the melting cheese fills the air, so much so you can smell it as you enter the market from Borough High Street, a distance of 30 metres or so.

Once you have your food in hand grab a table or a spot of grass in the courtyard of the Southwark Cathedral and happily munch away on your delectable delights.

There is something particularly lovely and ‘London-y’ about visiting Borough Market, with the trains overhead pulling into London Bridge Station, The Shard towering above, Southwark Cathedral and the River Thames nearby. Personally I think it is an incredible start to the perfect London weekend!

Ps. If you’re a Bridget Jones fan you might be interested to know that Borough Market is home to the loveable Bridget herself. The Globe Tavern that sits on the edge of the market was used for the exterior shots of her cute little flat.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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