Be careful, be very careful when there is a ‘den’ hidden in the name of a place. All things secret, all things cult, all things unique and outlandish – a perfect melange of typical tourist like items and characteristic Londoner attributes – nowhere in London will you find the presence of both but in the intriguing, historic, camouflaged den of London, Camden.
Yet another day out for the Team Onetimefashionista. In the past few weeks, we decided to transform ourselves as tourists in our own beloved town. We went to Hyde Park to ride a bicycle then in the next week we went to the Natural History Museum to get awed at the wonders and mysteries of the nature around us. This weekend, we decided to head towards the North London gem of London – Camden to discover its quirky side. Even before we could get into the tube, the quirky London weather decided to turn its chill of the year upon us. The chill in the air made it chillingly cold and clear in the first five minutes of stepping out of the door that the coldest day in the year was finally there leaving Shehzaad haplessly under-clothed. Camden or not – the cold was there to stay as Tanusree always warns, ”There is nothing called bad weather, you need to dress up right and appropriate for it!”
Another way of sensing the pulse of any London neighbourhood is by estimating the size of the crowd in any London underground station during a weekend. Camden is such a place which turns into a pilgrimage of tourists and residents from all corners of the world and the country itself. Teeming with people coming out of the Camden underground station, we came out to freeze to death. Surprising that even after living in London for so long, how one can get caught with pants down (or no pants at all?) on the first officially cold day in town. It seemed that even the ocean of people floating around Camden will not be enough to keep Shehzaad warm. So to briefly stay away from the chill, we got inside the Camden Lock market. Narrow side-ways and alleys and the independent traders and start-up designers with their off-beat products – mostly vintage clothing, street fashion accessories, antiques, jewelries and arts & crafts seemed to be a hit with tourists in London.
Some of the shop fronts in Camden call for a must-take photo opportunity even if you decide not to venture in. The massive hanging airplane, or the elephant head in front of the shop ‘Namaste’, the big four shoes or the lady legs dangling – these were shops with characters – announcing their unanimity with the borough of Camden.
There was refuge from the cold in the smell and warmth of the makeshift food stalls busy with hungry gourmands. Only in Camden you could get to see Argentine steak stall, Venezuelan maize food, Korean take-aways, Turkish kebab, Indian roti wraps and Caribbean food all ready to entice your taste-buds in the same congested vicinity.
However to acclimatise ourselves better we decided to climb up the stairs and look for a space in the busy Lockside Bar & Restaurant. Not only do they serve excellent food but you also get a good view of the bustle below.
For brunch, Shehzaad settled for a mixed sausage with mashed potato dish while Tanusree tried the classic fish and chips.
After pacifying the hunger in stomach we thought it was a good time to quench the thirst to explore every nook and cranny the place had to offer.
We roamed around the shops in the first floor in the Camden Lock market where the range of products, their uniqueness and affordability seemed unparalleled. Starting with the witty house decoration one-liners to aromatic candles, leather goods to lamps, vintage clothes to tribe jewellery – it is surprising to see such a diverse range of unique items in an otherwise small sized area, mind you that the actual market area around Camden is not that big and can be walked up in all good couple of hours but with a range of products wide enough to give you some amazing gift ideas for the upcoming Christmas.
Like aimless wanderers we kept on mixing up our left turns and rights when we finally decided to try out some mulled wine and organic ”winter tea”. The cold snap was too much to pour some damp on the attempt as the drinks could not live up to their expected ‘hotness’.
Turn around and there was the Turkish stall selling Falafel. We knew what to take for dinner back home.
Turn right, someone selling charcoaled chicken meal and we knew that our menu for late evening was looking ever more diverse.
Camden indeed keeps amazing us everytime we go there since it has this attribute where the most unique items and types of people are all respectively sold and seen in a rather small space.
The interesting thing is that the amount of one-liners you will see imprinted on t-shirts for sale, or even on mugs or wall-hangs – as if the place is always desperate to make a statement about everything and everyone. Camden is always opinionated and full of people who have an opinion. Some wear or buy t-shirts to make those points, some get tattoos or piercings done in shops here to drive home the same aim. Either way, whatever you want to come out as – you have to come down at Camden to do that.