London Stories and Tips

Little Venice to Start With

Little Venice Photo, London, England

July 6-7, The flight overnight was fine as usual and as usual, I didn't get a whole lot of sleep, dozing off once or twice for short periods I think. The first of many little glitches that seemed to plague this trip happened when I attempted to pay for the Airbus ticket. I had found £15 in my travel wallet before I left home but it turns out the 5 pound note was expired, though I would later be able to change it at a bank for a new one. No big deal, I had some cash I had changed before I left.

My hotel this time was the Thistle Lancaster Gate, right across from Hyde Park on Bayswater Road. I won't add a review for it because it's closed now. I entered the hotel property through a gate off Bayswater Road, not realizing the actual front entrance of the hotel is on the street behind, which is actually the street called Lancaster Gate.

Checked in and left my luggage with the concierge as of course, you can't get into your room at 9 a.m. as a rule. I expected that and had a plan in mind to walk to Little Venice and have a canal cruise, ending at St. Pancras where I would pick up my pre-paid train ticket for Monday. Off I went, walking in the general direction towards the Paddington area. The immediate neighbourhood is all large terraced houses converted into hotels.

A few blocks away I started seeing little mews courtyards with brightly painted houses and stopped to take a picture. Nothing. Flat batteries. No power! Argh! Glitch number 2. I had my digital camera as well as my Canon Eos and took a photo with the digital instead and set out to find somewhere where I could get camera batteries. I had one spare but the Canon takes two.

I haven't gone very far but not having slept all night, I'm flagging and I need caffeine and a toilet. I duck into a Café and rejuvenate. I queue for the toilet only the woman that emerged said there was no paper (!) so I headed to Paddington station closeby and I spy a Kodak sign for a photo developing place. They had batteries and all was well.

After visiting the restrooms in the station (where, btw, I discovered my credit card on the floor of the stall as I was putting myself back together!!! I think it must have fallen out of my waist pack which sometimes turns itself upside down near-glitch #3) I went to the ticket office to see if, on the off chance, I could get my train ticket there instead of going to St. Pancras and luck was with me this time.

From there, it's about a 10 minute walk to Little Venice in the Maida Vale area of west London. I was a bit surprised really, with the neighbourhood before you get to the canals. I expected gracious picturesque houses and what I found were low rise apartment blocks albeit on leafy streets with a nice park nearby. I think though, other areas of the neighbourhood on the other side of the canals are nicer than the bits I saw. The canal area itself was pretty.

Little Venice is an area where the Grand Union Canal meets up with Regent Canal, both very busy waterways in the previous centuries. There are lots of trees, pretty painted bridges over the water and both sides of the Grand Union canal lined with houseboats and narrow boats all painted and decorated. I was barked at by one very large black shaggy dog, a French breed of something I forget just now, but one I'd never seen before. How dare I impeach upon his little stretch of canal! His owner was somewhat gruff but did mention the breed (but I've forgotten now) when I asked and I did compliment the dog as being quite beautiful, which he was.

Onward to the more open area of water which is the actual junction of the canals. There are cafes and restaurants in a couple of the boats, and a gallery in another as well as boat tour companies. The two more popular ones are the London Waterbus, which goes as far as Camden Lock and Jason's Wharf which goes all the way to King's Cross where there is a Canal Museum. I got the London Waterbus though I had a bit of a wait for it. I walked around taking pictures and sat for awhile with a bottle of water.

At 11:00 the boat arrived for it's next trip to Camden Lock. The boat ambled down the canal, amid the shady trees. The water is rather dirty, green and murky, not particularly attractive. You pass by a floating Chinese restaurant at one point and can actually get off at the London Zoo as well. Sometimes the sun peeked through the clouds making pretty shadows and reflections but mostly the clouds dominated.

Nearly to Camden but again a glitch (#4)! There was a large tree down across the water! It must not have been there long as the boat has been traveling back and forth all morning. The wind must have really caught this one. They pulled over and we got off and walked the rest of the way to Camden Lock which wasn't very far. An interesting plaque pointed out the under water ramps that were built to help rescue horses who were sometimes startled by the steam trains pulling across the nearby bridges into Euston station and would sometimes fall in the water. The canals were busy shipping lanes and horses on the towpaths would pull the barges along the water.

I arrived at the Camden Lock market about noon. It's Wednesday so the market isn't fully open like it is on the weekend. The plus side of that is that it isn't crowded either. There's still enough of it open to make it worth while visiting and going on a weekday makes it far more enjoyable than fighting the crowds. There are 4 or 5 markets in the Camden area. This one is I think the largest and is a bit of a rabbit warren of walkways, courtyards and shops.

Camden has long been famed for having a lot of local colour, and, colourful locals. A lot of the punk and Goth culture is represented here in the stalls, local art, shops and shoppers. It's a funky part of London and the markets contribute a lot of vibrant buzz to the area, with or without the tourists added to the mix. I browsed the market area and picked up a takeaway carton of Chinese food with large prawns eyeing me from under the green pepper strips on my cardboard plate. A cheap, light lunch was just what I needed though when I got up from the table I realized my coat had been dragging in a mud puddle! You just can't make this stuff up! Luckily it dried quickly and as it's a taupe brown it didn't show the stain much.

Off down the high street where the shops are brightly painted and there are some really cool plaster and wood figures attached to the walls above the door. I saw an oversize rocking chair, boots, and a large shark or whale or something. Browsed in a high street market and eventually found a shop where I signed up for a local pay as you go phone number for the mobile phone I had. I wandered a bit more but I was really getting tired by now, mid afternoon. I knew there was a bus that would take me back very close to the hotel so set about finding where I would catch it going in the correct direction.

The sky was getting darker and colder now, with the wind really picking up. There was a little shop near the tube station where the bus let me off and I picked up a sandwich and some snacks for later. I did get back to the hotel before the rain started, luckily, picked up my bags and got to my room. My feet were sore and blistered in one or two spots. I made tea, plugged in the phone charger, had a shower and nibbled while the rain and wind beat against the window. Lucky I wasn't out in that. No umbrella on earth would have been of any use!

About 5:30 I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and I crashed. Other than getting up briefly to use the toilet, I slept through until 2 a.m., laid awake for a couple of hours and slept again until about 7:30. Apparently that wind and rain storm did a lot of damage and flooding in parts of the UK. I slept through most of it!

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