One of the most enjoyable days out I ever spent in London was when I took a canal boat trip from Little Venice in North-West London to Camden Market. Little Venice, as you might guess, is an area where 2 or 3 canals come together and it has drawn well-off people to the area for over 200 years. The houses around there are all very elegant Georgian style villas fronted with climbing plants and scented bushes. It’s a short walk from Warwick Avenue underground station to the boat quay.
On the quay, you buy a single or return ticket and you can spend a pleasant 20 minutes having a drink or a coffee by the canal. For a special occasion, you could have lunch in a really pretty French restaurant floating on the canal by the boat quay. I have never felt sufficiently rich yet to give in to the temptation of eating there, but one day…
As the trip starts, the guide introduces himself and tells us what we are going to see. He’s an ex-actor and he decorates the journey with quotations from Shakespeare to illustrate his points. As we move closer to central London, we start to pass by some old industrial sites. Here is the place where the canal boats used to unload the coal they had brought down from the coal mines in the north. And here is where they kept their horses.. yes the boats had no power but horse power so it was a 300 kilometre walk for the horse from Manchester to London .
Soon, we start to pass by the more wealthy areas with parkland, trees and the mansions of the rich, famous, corrupt and diplomatic. Mostly, these belonged to more interesting people in the past. Shortly after that, the canal passes right through the middle of London Zoo in Regents Park. You can see the birds and the giraffes and a few of the antelopes if they feel sociable.
After passing a floating, bright-red Chinese restaurant, we take a sharp left turn and very soon arrive at Camden Lock. You can smell this before you see it as it has a food stall for every nationality in London. This is when you feel happier about not having lunch at the French restaurant. These are really tasty and about a quarter of the price.
The final part of the experience involves wandering around Camden Market and trying not to buy something unusual, interesting but impractical. I failed on this unfortunately, still.. I’ll wear that hat some day.