by Sandra Hutchinson
One of the oldest and most famous of London’s food markets, Borough Market, is located on the south side of the Thames, the South Bank, adjacent to Southwark Cathedral. (Note: We were surprised to learn that Southwark is pronounced “suh-thrk”!) William Shakespeare lived and worked in the neighborhood, (the reconstructed Globe Theater is nearby) and it is believed he shopped for food here, since there has been a market on the site since at least the 12th century. It is a lot of fun to wander through the stalls and passageways, and some vendors offer tastings.
During the 20th century, the market was a wholesale operation, largely selling fruits and vegetables to “greengrocers.” After its decline in the 1990s, it was revitalized by a charitable trust as a retail market, open to the public. People flock to the market, open seven days a week, for British-produced products as well as imported foods. The market’s website has useful information on hours and the products you will find there. The website also has information on the vendors (“traders”), an interesting blog, recipes and the market’s history.
The gentlemen at these stalls were encouraging shoppers to taste their dishes — a Thai green curry and a seafood paella.
Not for vegans…….
An example of an international vendor, here, from Croatia.
We managed to find the much-touted Neal’s Yard Dairy, just outside the large Victorian structure where most of the vendors are located. Neal’s Yard offers cheeses sourced from the UK and Ireland, and has its own maturing rooms where cheeses are turned, brushed and washed until ripened. We purchased a few hunks of British cheese, to enjoy later on a picnic in Greenwich.
We discovered samphire at the market. It’s from the parsley family and grows in marshy areas near saltwater. We also saw tender wild asparagus for sale.
The English do love their meat pies and sausage rolls!
The Southwark Cathedral looms over the streets around the market and is worth a visit!
After we left the Borough Market, with Stilton cheese, baguette and salami in hand, and made a quick visit to Southwark Cathedral, we found our way to the Thames to hop on an “Uber Boat,” also called Thames Clipper, to head east about six miles to Greenwich. This was at the suggestion of our taxi driver who had earlier dropped us off at Borough Market (we adore the black cab taxi drivers, who are the definitive source of information on anything London). The photo below, taken from the south side, shows the Fenchurch Building, also called the “Walkie-Talkie,” which features a public sky garden on its top floors.
These boats are described by some as high speed river buses, and they stop at 24 piers along the Thames. They have very comfortable inside seating with large windows, as well as outdoor seats. We boarded the boat at London Bridge City Pier, and headed east, proceeding directly past the Tower of London and under Tower Bridge.
I found it kind of thrilling, to be honest, to pass by the Tower and see other landmarks from the perspective of being on the water. After we went under the bridge, the captain sped the boat up and for a decent stretch of the river we were zooming right along. If you watch the video, near the end of it you can see the Shard, the 72-story (in the UK, “storey”) skyscraper in Southwark.
We disembarked at Greenwich and hiked to the top of Greenwich Park, site of the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian Line (0 degrees Longitude).
We didn’t have time to buy a ticket and go through the Royal Observatory, in whose courtyard visitors can stand on a metal line embedded in the stone.
I took this photo of visitors standing on the Prime Meridian line through a wrought-iron fence. A kind and generous guard whispered to us where we could find an extension of the Meridian outside the enclosure of the Royal Observatory Courtyard. Thus, we were still able to officially stand with one foot in the western hemisphere, and the other in the eastern.
We had to get back to central London since we had tickets for a 7:30 pm performance at Royal Albert Hall, so our visit to some other Greenwich landmarks was cut short. I did manage to see the exterior of the Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College, which fans of Masterpiece Theater’s Poldark should recognize as the filming site used to represent Parliament in the series.
Returning to London on the boat, we passed directly by many landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and the London Eye, until disembarking at Battersea Power Station pier to walk about a mile back to our hotel in Belgravia.
If you’re in London, I highly recommend seeing the landmarks from the perspective of the Thames. Here’s the website for Uber Boat/ Thames Clippers with details on fares, routes, etc. If you purchase your ticket upon boarding by touching your phone, don’t forget to scan it when you disembark so you don’t get charged for the maximum route!