Sometimes the best travel experiences happen by accident.

My train ticket was an open return from “all London Terminals”. I assumed that meant all London Terminals (now why would I think that?), so I took the bus to the station closest to me: Waterloo. But apparently I was wrong.

“The next train to Edinburgh departs from King’s Cross at 18:30,” the lady at the ticket counter told me. It was 14:30. Lucky for me, the Southbank Centre and Real Food Market were just around the corner and I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.

Real Food Market Banner

What: Real Food Market, rising stars in London’s street food scene

Where: Southbank Centre Square, behind the Royal Festival Hall

When: EVERY Friday-Sunday afternoon/evening

Cost: FREE (except the food of course)

Happy Accidents

Suitcase bumping over the rough pavement behind me, I wandered down the street, trying to decide what to do with my afternoon. On the next block, I noticed what appeared to be a village of tents. Drawing closer, I saw that it was a market. Like a desert wanderer happening upon an oasis, I stared wide-eyed at each of the tents, a smile spreading across my face.

But the best part was the smell: from here, Indian curries making my eyes water, here burgers smoking on the grill, and here the sweet scent of nutella spread on hot crepes. The people, both vendors and customers, were just as diverse as the food: a student group chowing down at one of the provided picnic tables, friends greeting one another with hugs, a multitude of accents and languages, all intermingled in this happy atmosphere.

Real Food Market in London

Real Food Market: Chorizo Stand

After Sufficient Marveling and Wandering…

I finally realized that my stomach was grumbling. A bit overwhelmed by the number of choices, I stopped at the next booth I passed: wraps! I ordered a Mexican-style wrap with spiced rice and corn. The vendor heated it up for me and I paid the reasonable price of £3.00 (or 2 for £5.00). My cheapest meal in London so far — including the pre-made sandwiches you can buy off the shelves of the local Sainsburys. And it was delicious.

Real Food Market: Wrap Stand

The Sweetest Thing

When I was in Athens for TBEX, I had read that thyme-infused honey is a Greek specialty. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any small enough honey pots that I could take in my carry-on. So here I was in London one week later, and guess what I found? Yep. Greek thyme-infused honey. In a small pot. And affordable. Wild Hives gets their honey directly from the source. They had many options besides Greek. And for £5.00, I got to pick three 40 gram pots. Perfect little souvenirs. I went with Buckwheat honey from Lithuania, and the Fir and Thyme honeys from Greece.

Real Food Market: Honey Stand

An open mind leads to the best adventures

I could have allowed my foiled travel arrangements to put me in a bad mood and trekked to King’s Cross with blinders on. But instead, I kept an open mind and happened upon something lovely — quite literally following my nose.

Real Food Market: Smoothie Stand
Real Food Market: Craft Beer
Real Food Market: Creperie Truck

Have you had any accidental tourist experiences? What was your favorite?