As you enter the antique shop, a wave of smoke wafts over you. Yellow light shows dimly through the artificial mist emitted by the cigar. Around you rise large stacks of books, piles of old coats, suitcases, lamps, old metal gadgets you’ve never seen before, and boxes of unknown treasures.
As you round a corner, you spot the proprietors: two old women in flowered dresses and hand-knitted shawls watching a black-and-white television propped up on an old rocking horse. One of them takes another long pull on her cigar while the other smiles at you. “Looking for something, dearie?”
You look at her and the chaos of goods around you and think, “I bet they don’t even know what’s in here.” Out loud you say, “Oh, no thank you. I’m just looking.”
Just then, a young man comes in, looking harried and looking for a hare—a ceramic hare. “My girlfriend saw this little bunny in your window in the other day, and I wanted to buy it for her, but I noticed it’s not there anymore . . . Have you still got it?” The desperation is clear on his face. One woman crinkles her nose a little in thought and then toddles toward a low cabinet, and reaching a wrinkled arm inside, pulls out a rabbit like a magician. His face lights up. “That’s it!” As he happily pulls out his wallet, you decide maybe you’ll ask if they have that chess set you’ve been looking for.
There are many antique shops like this in the United Kingdom; almost every major town has one. Some resemble this hole-in-the-wall in Bath while others, like Jacob’s Antiques in Cardiff, are huge and filled with individual shops dealing with anything from World War II to Doctor Who. There are also upscale dealers—like Castle Antiques in Edinburgh or The Red House Antique Centre in York— that specialize in high-end goods. Different shops usually specialize in different types of goods: jewelry, furniture, toys, antique books, and on. Hay-on-Wye is a town famous for its bookstores that offer the avid bibliophile original prints and maps as well as first editions and other rare finds. Depending on what you hope
to find, there is a shop for you.
Shop owners take pride in their goods and, if you explain to them what you are looking for, will do their best to find something to interest you. The best part about antiquing is taking the time to talk to people about the objects they sell. When Camilla and Hannah wandered into Castle Antiques in Edinburgh and saw the museum-quality chandeliers and figurines, they quickly realized it was out of their price range. But instead of walking out, they talked with the proprietor, Harry Parry, an unassuming old gentleman in spectacles. He showed them his greatest treasures: a medicine chest from the 1700s, filled with the original bottles, and a magnificent marble Italian fireplace from 1830 that he said he would never sell. The store, he said, was just something to do. These treasures from the past were his true passion, and he delighted in showing them off.
When you are hunting for antiques in the United Kingdom, there are some good tricks to get you going on your way and finding those off-the-beaten-path souvenirs. Information Centers are in most of the major towns. Don’t be afraid to ask. Their job is to point you in the right direction. Antiquing is a common hobby in the UK, and most places will have maps and lists of those locations.
Look for something specific that is important to you. It’s best to go in with a plan to stay focused because there are sometimes literal mountains of things to go through. Even if there are, don’t let that scare you away. You might not have to spend hours sifting through the stacks to find what you want. Ask the owners of the shop. They usually know the general area of the thing you’re looking for, and if they don’t have it, they might know another shop that does. Antique dealers keep close tabs on the market so they can supply what the customer wants.
Try to find out the history of what you are buying. Knowing an object’s past can add to its value for you and make it a priceless memory.
Check websites (such as those listed below) for online listings of antique shops and items for sale. Use their searchable databases to pull up stores by antique types or locations so you can plan ahead if you need to. However, spontaneity has the added benefit of unearthing surprises, so don’t rule it out.
Being in an antique store is like being in a museum. But instead of just looking, you can try on the clothes and the jewelry, flip through the pages of the books, and run your fingers across the textured surfaces of furniture and embroidered fabrics. You can ask questions about the people who owned these items, hear the stories, and hold the history in your hands.
For more information, visit—
Man vs Horse
It’s one thing to compete in a cross-country marathon against humans, but racing against horses is another matter. In Llanwrtyd, Wales, human runners race 22 miles against horses to win a cash prize. Held annually since 1986, this race has been won by humans only twice, yet competitors keep coming back each year hoping to be the next winner.
Think this is cool? Check out “Wacky World Sports” in Stowaway’s upcoming Fall 2011 issue.
Flea Markets around the World
Figuring out where to shop can be a big issue, regardless of where you are. When you are traveling around the world, you may find yourself asking, “Where can I get the best deals?” “Where do the locals shop?” “What specific advice do I need for flea markets?” Read on to learn more about flea markets that are sure to give you a bargain and let you practice your haggling skills.
See “A Haggling How-To” (page 73) for help with haggling.
Daily, 9 am to 9 pm
This large market has seven levels of merchandise, including purses, shoes, clothing, electronics, jewelry, and traditional Chinese souvenirs. Each level sells different merchandise: One level is devoted solely to perfume and makeup, and another is devoted to shoes and bags. Take your time to carefully look over the merchandise, and make sure to be patient—you might find a vendor selling the exact same item for a cheaper price. If you’re more interested in getting the best deals and don’t mind spending a little extra time, consider taking a few days to tackle this
Camden Lock Market
Daily, 10 am to 6 pm
Though originally a craft market, Camden Lock Market now features a variety of shops, restaurants, pubs, and theaters. Because of its open schedule, you’ll probably want to go to this market during the week to avoid the larger weekend crowds. Keep in mind, however, that not all of the vendors will be open during the week. Plan ahead of time for the specific shops you want to visit, and make sure they’re open when you go. If you’re more interested in the pubs, restaurants, and theaters, you won’t usually have to worry since they’re usually open until at least 11:00 PM every day.
Casabarata Flea Market
Saturdays to Thursdays, 9 am to 8 pm
Located in the northernmost city of Morocco, this market is the hallmark of European and native Moroccan cultures. You can find copious goods from both of these civilizations, including tajine pots (clay cooking pots) and bric-à-bracs (ornaments). Because the quality of the merchandise varies, it is important to take your time. If you are patient, you can find rare treasures within this market, though it may take some digging.