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    Bring the Family

    Browsing the booths at SoWa

    Mark Shanahan/Globe staff

    WHO: Globe staff writer Mark Shanahan and his kids

    WHAT: Browsing

    WHERE: SoWa Open Market


    As a much younger person, I lived not far from London and spent occasional weekend afternoons wandering the crowded stalls of Portobello Road, one of the city’s many outdoor markets.

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    I browsed everything from art deco ash trays and antique binoculars to incense holders and bohemian handbags, and I once ran into former Clash guitarist Mick Jones drinking tea. (“Ten years too late, mate,” he said after I paid him a compliment.) And when I got hungry, I ate. There were loads of vendors selling falafel, noodles, gyros, you name it.

    As a much older person – and now a parent — my appetite for street scenes like this hasn’t diminished much, but where to go in Boston?

    Easy. SoWa Open Market, with its mix of products and produce by local artists, designers, chefs, and farmers, comes close to approximating the lively vibe of the outdoor markets in England.

    On a recent sunny Sunday, I took my kids, Julia and Beck, to check it out. We parked the car on Albany Street, in the shadow of I-93, and strolled over to the market, which occupies an acre or so of tarmac on Harrison Avenue every Sunday between May and October. (SoWa is short for “south of Washington.”)


    By noon, the place was bustling, and my daughter, a budding consumer, was immediately wide-eyed, impressed with the variety of garments and gadgets.

    “Look, daddy, a cool piece of driftwood with a dock for my iPod,” she said.

    Beck, a big and reasonably adventurous eater, was more interested in the phalanx of food trucks. He wanted to sample the Silk Road BBQ and a cup of the California tart frozen yogurt from the Froyo Truck. (I opted for a couple of cold and spicy Grillo’s Pickles.)

    On this day at least, it was a young, good-looking crowd — a different demo than, say, Faneuil Hall — and there were a lot of dogs. It was also hot, so we ventured indoors to SoWa Vintage Market, three large galleries filled with vintage fashion, home furnishings, and assorted other stuff.

    Beck perused some costume jewelry while Julia obsessed over a Raleigh Twenty, a groovy ancestor of the newfangled folding bikes.


    “It says $120 or ‘Bo,’ ” said Julia, looking puzzled.

    “Bo?” I said. “Oh, right, ‘best offer.’”

    Julia got on, but the bike was a little too big and she looked like Miss Gulch from “The Wizard of Oz.” She was disappointed, of course, but then a mod-print maxi dress caught her eye and she wandered away.

    SoWa Open Market, 460 Harrison Ave., is open on Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., May 6 to Oct. 28.

    SoWa Vintage Market, 460C Harrison Ave., is on Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., all year.