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Back to the East

Posted on 2009/02/20 11:43:40 (February 2009).

[Sunday 15th February]
East London seems to have been featuring in my weekends a lot recently (well, twice) - probably because this is the area both Chie and I have, quite frankly, always avoided until now.

Interestingly just the other day Jeremy Paxman was on the telly talking about the Victorian era as seen through a series of works of art. One thing that stuck in my mind was the description of East London in Victorian times - for those living in the West of the city it was seen as a foreign and terrifying realm into which they feared to venture. The French artist Gustave Doré was fascinated by this and went on several forays to draw and paint scenes from East London, but always went with a police escort.

Whilst obviously the East London of today does not quite display the same level of lawlessness and squalor as was the case in the 19th century, the contrast with the West is still fairly sharp.

However, amidst all of that, there are some nice things dotted about in East London, as last weekend's pub exploratory can attest. So in a similar vein Chie wanted to visit the Columbia Road flower market today. Getting to this involved getting off at Whitechapel (which for me will always me inextricably linked to Monopoly) and then walking through some slightly less savoury parts of the capital. Once we actually arrived at the flower market though there was a sudden and very pronounced change of character - the endless fried chicken purveyors were now replaced with fashionable and colourful little boutiques selling all manner of crappy nik naks I would never want. The market itself was vaguely interesting I suppose, albeit a tad overcrowded for my liking, and we didn't actually buy anything.

After that we headed in the direction of Old Street to visit the Geffrye museum, which had an exhibition on interior design throughout the ages. I determined from this, from a decor point of view, I would have been happiest living in the mid 1700s.

For lunch we originally considered going for some Vietnamese food in the little Vietnamese district around Old Street, but none of the menus really grabbed us (particularly in the vegetarian department) so we fell back to plan B, and went to Square Pie in Spitalfields market.

After that we decided a quick drink might be in order, so we gave Dirty Dicks near Liverpool a go. It was a bit middle of the road in my book - it had low hanging beams, exposed brickwork, and barrels everywhere; these were all clearly plus points. On the downside though there was a big TV with the rugby on, and a cluster of fruit machines - plus the clientèle all seemed very transient, and the staff were a tad on the frosty side. So I guess I'll file this one in the "passable" category.

We headed back home after that, stopping off at Sainsbury's to pick up things for dinner. We had a sort of middle eastern meal featuring grilled halloumi and some giant Lebanese flatbreads, which was all rather nice.

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