It happened a year ago. I had just finished my Masters Degree, so I was compensating the long hours spent in the search engines with some London exploring. I took a look at my map, in which I started to collect my geolocalised photographs of London and I realised that there was one area that I had never explored before: Barbican.
It all started when I decided to start from Moorgate, visiting London Met's Moorgate flagship building, and after realising that to the right I was right there in Liverpool Street, I decided to keep walking until I found Lamb's passage. The rest is history: I found myself in the middle of Whitecross Street Party, a 24th of July, with a sunny day and myself, full of excitement of such an amazing vibe right there between the City and the Silicone Roundabout (Old Street).
A year has gone by, an as most of my last year's discoveries, Whitecross Street Party needed an encore. Coincidentally, a 22th of July, 2012, gifted us with great sun, as a year before.
And there it was, as joyful as I remembered. But this time I knew exactly where I was going. This time I knew where to get off, I knew its extent, and I actually knew a bit about the artists featured. Such a quirky little street from EC1Y, just yards away from the cold concrete of Barbican Centre.
The big surprise of the day was to come across the actual Ben Wilson in person. Known for painting chewing gum stuck to the floor in Muswell Hill, here he was, on East Centre, laying on the floor with his trousers stained with paint, decorated some gum with this year's theme: the olympic torch.
I must say that I am brave enough to explore the city and go to gigs on my own, but when it comes to talk to strangers, it is not that easy. I admit that I followed while he was speaking to somebody else, so that I managed to find out his other colourful little pieces around Whitecross. Hard to spot but finding them feels like little treasure hunts. It kept me looking at the floor for the rest of the day.
Art for all taste and ages. It felt like a rebirth after the gloomy wintery summer that we had. Could't get much more colourful and joyful.
Although that's what I thought.
The day was not over. I had a trick up my sleeve, and actually consisted on a tight agenda.
Just as one of those constellation ordering that only happens once every two million years, the London Underground Network was fully functional for the first time in (most probably) EVER. I surfed all my way to Mile End, sheltering from the unusual heat on the now chilled new Metropolitan Line trains (and went back again to boiling point with Central Line). There I was, waiting for my friend R while trying to figure out which way to go once in the canal. Again, unexplored, we opted for the dodgy way that fortunately, was leading towards Hackney and not Limehouse.
A bit after, just before we almost lost our faith in our orientation and our mobile batteries had drained out while trying, there it was, the distinctive sign for market: Banting.
Mile End Floating Market. From the 20th of July to the 16th of August and from then, will migrate to (the not so sure I like the idea) Little Venice.
See, some have argued that markets in London are overpriced and full of hipsters and foodies wanting to show off. I personally don't really care. Weekends are for markets, and this market represented probably my only opportunity to get into a canal boat. By the way, I want to use up this opportunity to advertise that I am looking for friends with boats. Hello!!!
Why people keep visiting Buckingham Palace when there is a gorgeous canal full of excitement?
Look, a polar bear made out of recycled plastic carrier bags. Is this Lost?
Seriously. Floating markets are great. You never know what you are going to find.
Maybe a herbal hippy pharmacy...
Blokes under frindgy umbrellas and dotted tablecloth
I like sneak peaking other's boats...
Or you can find a bookshop. You local sailor library just at your doorstep.
Mind your head, and the two cats inside.
People was really enjoying the sunshine
London Market essential: vintage clothing stall
And we kept walking down the canal until I realised I was crossing boundaries never explored before. I was actually stepping into the black hole between Haggerston and Camden and I was well excited.
Wait a minute... I hear music...
Oh yes, Shoreditch Festival!
A bit of Sweet Toof decorating a food van and little local bands giving some ambiance to the afternoon.
Good or bad, it is walking further away on the canal, reaching Islington, hidden between the swanky streets of Angel, just behind Camden Passage that you think: Is this really London? How come I don't spend all my weekends here by the water?
You London haters. You may argue whatever you like. You can't hate this. I found the cure to your sorrows...
But that's another story.