Crystal Palace Dinosaurs and Market
London is finally getting some warm weather. We have had a rather cold and damp year so far, so the warm weather of Spring is very welcomed. Last weekend was the Bank Holiday (a three day weekend) where we had the Monday off. In America, it was Memorial Day, but here it doesn’t have the same significance. That’s alright, I still appreciated the soldiers!
On the Sunday and Monday, I was able to give my first tours in over a year. It was fantastic to be back out on the street of London with a small crowd. The families I toured around seemed to love it, and I even did a video of my getting ready for the tour. (check out the YouTube channel!)
As a London tour guide, I also like to wear my London tourist hat on occasion. My friend Robin lives in Crystal Palace, and on the Saturday, I decided to finally accept her invitation to come down and check out the market. Robin is American, has lived in London about the same amount of time as me, and is resourceful, intelligent and always willing to try out something new in town. I am always in awe at how involved she becomes in something she is interested in. When we were walking around the market and the town, I felt like I was with a celebrity because everyone knows her. She has volunteered for the Olympics, worked on the market stalls, and even was involved in the local community initiative programmes. She is definitely one of my role models for living your best life.
Before meeting up with Robin, I headed to Crystal Palace via taxi and got dropped off at the park. I used the taxi time to catch up on some magazines. I am still not ready to hop on the tube or trains yet. I arrived at the entrance to the park and started to walk around. The Crystal Palace park is known for its dinosaurs. They were the first dinosaur sculptures in the world, commissioned in 1852 and unveiled in 1854. With all of the palaeontology work that has been done, the sculptures are now not 100% correct, but they are fascinating and well-loved by the public. They recently had a makeover, so they look great. My husband says we visited them years ago, but I just couldn’t remember.
I took a stroll around the water lake, where the dinosaurs are dotted around here and there. It was nice to be outside without a jacket for once. The dinosaurs look like something from the 80s TV show Land of the Lost. They were sculpted by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, with input from Sir Richard Owen on accuracy (of the time). What a wonderful idea, to create dinosaur sculptures and place them permanently in a park for people to enjoy! Should we do this for other parks with other extinct animals? Is it too sad to think of all the animals that we could fill parks with? The sabretooth, the dodo, the quagga and the wooly mammoth come to mind.
It was early, so I strolled along with fairly no one around, except the odd family who had their kids asking questions about the large reptiles. Snapping the obligatory photos and videos I needed for social media was easy with less crowds. I know it is a common site to see “Instagrammers in the wild” doing their thing, but I kinda want to do it in private so I arrive early and snap quickly. I abhor those selfie takers who really impede on other’s space by trying to get the right shot. That’s what editing is for!
As I finished walking around the lake and spotted all the dinosaurs, I came upon an opening with a cafe. Outdoor seating was available, and I knew that I probably needed to have something on my stomach before meeting Robin for the market. You know the saying, never go grocery shopping hungry? The same applies to market shopping. This cute little cafe had a loads of options. I asked the waitress, “Which of these is a smaller portion? I am meeting a friend later and don’t want to be too full in case we grab some lunch.” It was about 10:30am, so I was thinking that by 1pm or 2pm I might want to eat again. She made the recommendation for The Aussie, and I ordered it along with a glass of apple juice and an oat milk flat white.
A few minutes later, my waitress delivers what can only be described as a plate to feed the dinosaurs. Wow! This is small?? I haven’t seen these portions since our last trip to Texas. I was really impressed. Sourdough toast, smeared with Vegemite, topped with a mix of tofu scrambled eggs, rocket (arugula) and sweet chilli sauce. I think there was some veggie sausage, but it was hard to tell. It was delicious, and I slowly finished. The item that sold me was Vegemite. For all of the years I have lived in London, I have loved Marmite. Vegemite is the Australian version, and I have always been told that it is like Marmite but with sugar. I didn’t think that would be good — but it is! I have to add that to my shopping list.
After breakfast, it was time to stroll to Robin’s house and then to the market. Crystal Palace has hills, so I got the vibe that everyone is fit and healthy here. I had seen several joggers in the park and one of those outdoor fitness groups, so this was forming my opinion of CP residents. I walked passed several houses that were mid-Victorian masterpieces, including one with a blue plaque to Hawkins (the dinosaur sculpture guy!). We both headed up the hill and to the market. Robin has lived in CP for years and was a great tour guide of the area, explaining the community, the layout and talked about the community initiative programme. It was great to NOT be the tour guide for once, I love listening and learning.
We arrived at the market, and I felt a wash of happiness spread all over me. Was it the sunshine or was it the fact that I love markets and hadn’t really been to one in so, so long? There were a few antique shops that I would have loved to linger in, but we were here for food and we stuck to the plan. She introduced me to several of the stall holders and the market creators, and we sat for a while and had a chat. Talking to people in public again…. who knew this would be a novel thing? The picnic table was large enough that I felt like taking off my mask was safe. For a brief moment, normality set back in.
The market was created a few years ago by these very forward thinking ladies who wanted to highlight small, local producers. They hand-pick who can sell at the market, and are so pleased that some who have enjoyed great success since their start here are still happy to return each week. I was shown photos of the tomato stall, which makes me want to come back during the peak of tomato season. I was tipped off that the marmalade on offer at one stall just won a major award, so I naturally had to pick up a jar. (It was so good!)
We finished the market, and I was so pleased with my purchases. I especially cherished the courgette flowers I managed to pick up. Markets are great because you don’t get the same options as you do in a store, instead you get a whole new variety of foods. The lady that made apple juice from her orchard also sold apple and pear puree and poached pears. They were delicious with my homemade ricotta later that week.
Our bags full of goodies, we walked along the high street and I looked at various shops. London’s little neighbourhood high streets are great for small businesses, like the Greek shop we stopped in where I bought fresh pitta. There were so many charity shops, it was hard to resist. We settled at a restaurant with a back garden for a drink and girl talk before I hopped in a cab and headed home. The driver was super chatty, and I was really enjoying the warm breeze coming in through the slightly cracked windows. “Perfect Day Vibes” were making my skin tingle. Dr Samuel Johnson was right when he said, “London has all that life has to offer.”