London–Day 3: Brick Lane, a moss-covered lorrie, and a boat called Audacity

Brick Lane Cereal Killer

We took the overground rail to London’s East End, which is buzzing on Sunday afternoon. We started at the beigel place, and I do mean “beigel” because that’s how it’s spelled in London. One might expect an extra “l” or even a wayward “u” from Brits, but for some reason, the round, chewy staple of New York delis is spelled with an “i” in London. We also saw a line out the door of the popular new eatery, Cereal Killer Cafe, which actually serves little boxes of cereal.

Brick Lane marketSpitalfields Market is a huge indoor marketplace where you can buy inexpensive scarves, unusual earrings, hot samosas, funny T-shirts, handmade crafts, and a range of cheap, plastic items that you could get lots of places. Of note was the vendor whose truck was covered with moss. I didn’t even see what he was selling, but it definitely stood out. And outside the market toward Brick Lane are temporary booths selling vinyl LP’s, fruit drinks, and every kind of ethnic food you can imagine.

Brick Lane musician & dancersBrick Lane itself is teeming with local color. A reggae musician set up a small performing area for himself, prompting some elderly folks to move to the beat.

We dove into Brick Lane Books and found a hysterical fake children’s book and some gorgeous post cards. After braving the crowds in the food tent, we managed to wedge ourselves into a bit of available space at one of the few picnic tables out back so that we could eat lunch sitting down.

Brick Lane Coffee lego straw holderI bought a matted photo of toppling phone booths and sampled four different mouth-watering flavored chocolates, including  liquid sea salt caramel and orange vodka. We relaxed a bit with a latte at Brick Lane Coffee, where straws and lids are stored in a container made of legos.

We strolled along the Regent’s Canal to get back to home base at Duncan and Ellen’s, where graceful willows hung over  uniquely decorated boats that proudly displayed their names–names such as Scrumpy, the Hedgehog, and Audacity.

Regent's Canal willows

As we left the East End, we stopped off at a farmer’s market to get salad fixings for dinner. Then after a light supper back at the mews, we headed into our evening in West End’s theater district, where we saw a fabulous show called Showstoppers! (The exclamation point is part of the name.) It’s musical improv, in which the director asks the audience to offer suggestions for a premise that the actors can build a story around. Given the setting of a haunted brothel, the six players were instructed to sing and dance in particular styles that were shouted out, including The Lion King, Once, Grease, and Carousel. All of them were quick on their feet, had wonderful singing voices, and did an amazing job of pulling off a funny and engaging musical on the spot. I highly recommend it to anyone. If I lived here, I would probably see it again and again, since each night will be a different experience.

Brick Lane button people
the button people

And judging by what we saw in the East End, every visit there is likely to offer new surprises. We’re taking a guided walking art tour there on Wednesday…

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