Today I’m back on Portobello Road, but further down - past the antiques area and into a large section of the market, packed with stores, bars and street food stands. It's also full of stalls that sell fruit and veg, speciality foods and the wonderful ‘Portobello Green’ - a market that deals in second-hand clothing, vinyl and all kinds of vintage paraphernalia. It’s no exaggeration to say you could spend a few hours in this part of the market alone. And from the sublime (he Hummingbird Bakery - with American-style Red Velvet cupcakes that you'll die for) to the ridiculous (tattoo parlour signs that will make you laugh until you weep) there's something for everyone.
First things first. Much like the antiques section, this entire area is jam packed, so if you're not partial to crowds, it’s probably not for you. Also, bear in mind that amongst the treasure is plenty of trash - so be ready to rummage. This aside, I love the atmosphere of this part of the market - it’s incredibly cosmopolitan, with people of all ages and backgrounds wandering the streets, and music blaring constantly. Since the area has a large Afro-Carribean population (and is home to the world-famous Carnival, held here every year in August) don't be surprised if reggae assaults your ears at regular intervals.
Besides the huge array of street food on sale (think paella, falafel, crepes, Pad Thai and a hundred dishes more...) there’s plenty of things to pick up and take home with you - plump, juicy olives (black, purple, green), shiitake and trumpet mushrooms, organic cheeses from across Europe, speciality breads, and freshly-baked pasties. And if you want to rest your weary feet, there’s an array of bars and cafes at which you can grab a macchiato, chai or gin and tonic. The pubs either side of the street do a roaring trade at the weekends so getting a seat is a challenge, which accounts for the hoards of people standing on the pavement, holding pints of beer!
Heading down into Portobello Green, for those who’ve always yearned for an ink design on their arm there’s a legendary tattoo parlour, a stall selling all kinds of English football merchandise (training kits for kids, and scarves and mugs for loyal adult fans) then an enormous section devoted to…well, almost everything can can imagine. Second hand clothes (velvet smoking jackets, leather biking apparel, old vinyl, jewellery, stylish hatwear. second-hand shoes and purses…it’s the perfect place to find a unique outfit.
Full of period pieces, funky designs and unique vintage items, it's really worth a visit. And for those who can't bear the crush of Saturdays, try Fridays (lots of retro items and plenty of antiques) and Sundays (more bric-a-brac, books and vinyl). Under the big white canopy (see above) there's nothing a fashionista won't die for - fascinators fit for society weddings, silk dresses, sparkly purses and plenty of flowery frocks too. Opposite, 'guerilla traders' sell items out of their suitcases. I can't tell you how many times I've felt a thrill at having discovered something marvellous in one of them!
To sum up, yes, there are tourists, yes there are crushes, and yes it can be loud and chaotic but I'd still advise any first-time visitor London to make a trip there - because it's hard not to find something about it that you absolutely love.
Next time I'll be wandering further down from Portobello in Golbourne Road...