When I first arrived in Hatfield, I was truly underwhelmed by the town and its lack of personality. Instead of street markets, there is a shopping mall or a Walmart-like grocery store. Instead of independent coffee shops, there is a Costa. Truly, the town possesses very little that appears to the kind of traveller I am.
Fortunately, St Albans is only a bus ride away.
Located just three miles from Hatfield, St Albans is the perfect antidote to Hatfield’s dreariness. St Albans is a beautiful old English city with plenty of history, interesting shops and great pubs. It is also home to a lovely street market, held Wednesdays and Saturdays. The market’s existence has been documented back to the 9th century and received a Royal Charter in 1553. It is located right in the city centre, running along the length of St Peters Street. It’s a fantastic way to stock up on items such as colourful fruit and veg, unique clothing items and even fish.
I spent the day wandering around, admiring the different items available at each vendor’s stall. I enjoyed a freshly baked treat and coffee from Bakehouse, and admired artisanal olives and charcuterie. While I try and limit my own personal meat consumption, I am always impressed by the varieties and flavours of charcuterie that creative people are coming up with! It definitely seems to be a revived “art” form, particularly here in the UK. Cured meat is certainly one type of food that benefits greatly from localized production, whether it is in France, Italy or England.
After browsing the award-winning market, I went for a walk in Verulamium Park. What a beautiful place – even the cold weather couldn’t diminish the happiness I gained from walking around in the fresh air and taking in the English countryside. I felt a bit like Elizabeth Bennet, strolling through the hillside on a misty afternoon. Thankfully, my own Mr. Darcy is at home in Canada waiting for me!
I highly recommend a day trip to St Albans if you are in London. It’s only 20 minutes by train from St. Pancras in central London and offers the perfect small town respite from the Big Smoke. After only one afternoon in St Albans, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of this lively place and I look forward to more afternoons there soon.