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Garden spot along river offers unique Olympic souvenirs

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LONDON – A trinket from London’s Hatton Garden offers a journey within itself. Vendors from all over the world set up shop in the garden, a small area that offers a breathtaking view of the River Thames.

The arrival of the Olympics Games has transformed this idyllic area into a lively epicenter for handmade goods.

“The atmosphere of Hatton Garden is incredible now,” Francesca Marcenaro said. “It always has been, but the Olympics is just a new opportunity.”

Marcenaro designs and sells exotic jewelry in Hatton Garden — a perfect souvenir for those traveling abroad. Her passion began when she was a child living in Italy. Moving to London offered her business a chance to flourish.

“London is very inspiring,” she said. “The atmosphere is sparkling and people are free to express themselves.”

Very colorful and unique in design, her jewelry attracts the attention of many visitors from overseas. Marcenaro said buying locally in London creates a special connection to the item not offered by mass-produced goods.

“Purchasing locally is like having a trip around the world. You’re in London but at the same time, from lots of different countries,” she said.

Deborah Hyman, whose stand sits across from Marcenaro, echoes that view.

“What feels so good about locally made goods is that you know the story of where they came from and how, you go home with something unique and special,” she said.

Hyman’s venture in jewelry design started with a visit to an old-fashioned toy store as a young girl in Scotland. Her grandmother bought her a jar of beads, which she quickly turned into bracelets for the whole family.

Now, she brings her jewelry to Hatton Garden almost every day of the week. While not as colorful as Marcenaro’s jewelry, Hyman’s vintage-inspired pieces lure many to ask questions and look. Like Marcenaro, Hyman has noticed a slight increase in traffic since the games began.

“I sold one necklace to a lovely Chinese man here for as part of the Olympics and I love to think it will be treasured by someone special to him back in China,” she said.

Hayman has met many other tourists looking for something unique to bring back from the games. While volunteering at Hays Galleria in southeast London, she and a few other volunteers got a bonus: seeing members affiliated with Team Great Britain.

“What was even better, though, is the wonderful, friendly and fun atmosphere that can be felt all around London,” she said. “We may grumble about how we get to work during it but I think most of us feel really proud about the fabulous opening ceremony and how London has welcomed everyone.”