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London's East End: A Super Sunny Sunday Saunter

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

The gentrification of East London clearly did not extend to this street sigh

27 Years ago, my friend and I jumped on a plane last minute and flew to London courtesy of her airline buddy pass. Our accommodation was the ‘very posh’ YMCA in Paddington. Well, we thought this was cool because we had no idea where we were and being in London, alone, was ‘posh’.

We were having a blast, roaming around the city and taking in everything, cheap, that London had to offer. One evening, we decided to be super-cool and see the Uk band Swervedriver concert the East End. As we were now Tube experts, we boarded the Circle line and headed to the East End of London.

If we actually had been Tube experts, we would have known that one should never, ever take the Circle Line if alternatives are available. Halfway there, my friend proclaimed “I’ve seen East Enders! I am afraid to go!”. I guess we were never as cool as we thought we were.

I bought this poster in 1990!

She would be very surprised if we took that same ride from Paddington to Liverpool Street these days!

Gentrification came in the 1990's and now Shoreditch/Hoxton/Whitechapel area is a trendy place to spend a sunny afternoon, which is what Em and I did last weekend.

The history of this area of London is long and rich, well poor actually.

photo of Brick Lane circa: 1900
Source: Joe Flanagan

Brick Lane traverses Bethnal Green, Shoreditch and Whitechapel. In 1666, Joseph Truman joined William Bucknall and opened Black Eagle Breweries. By 1853, this brewery was the largest in the world, producing 40,000 barrels a year. The area soon became a magnet for people seeking refuge from oppression and poverty. Irish and Huguenot weavers settled in the East End, soon followed by Ashkenazi Jews. Since the 1970’s Brick Lane has been the heart of the Bengali community in London.

It was on Brick Lane that we started our weekend stroll. Our first stop was the Beigel Bake Bakery, which sells yummy beigels for around one pound, 24 hours a day. There are 1001 vintage shops, two indoor markets, a Rough Trade record shop and a disproportionate number of curry houses on Brick Lane. The area has a thriving art scene, where one can view Banksy and other renown graffiti artists on a walking tour. I also got my own private walking tour of all the bars and pubs that served my under-aged children.

Our next stop was the 350-year-Old Shoreditch Market. This recently 'hipsterised' former fruit and flower market now boasts many upmarket brands and shops. I saw a Chanel out of the corner of my eye.

We then headed to Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel High Street. Much to my happiness, the gallery had several film installations with seating. Such happiness as my dogs had stopped barking and had rolled over and died!

Sitting at the gallery was bliss for my feet, but it was soon time to move on to our Jack the Ripper tour. More walking!

As we Meandered the streets, Our very knowledgable guide told us the gory details from events happening that autumn, 1888. We learned more about life in Whitechapel at that time; how people lived and how they earned a living. The architecture of the area is fascinating, with many original buildings remaining.

Backtracking to Brick Lane, we had an early dinner at the Cereal Killer Café.

The cafe opened in 2014 and sells small to moderately-sized bowls of American cereal for close to $10 a bowl. It also produces such delicacies as Cinnamon Toast Crunch breaded mozzarella sticks, and rum, cherry coke and Captn' Crunch cocktails. Who would have thought this business model would be successful? But it is always busy and has expanded to four locations. Go figure. If I had had this idea when I was a child, battling a nasty addiction to Quisp, I would be very rich by now.

Then again, I would have eaten my profits.


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