I’d never been to Camden until just recently when some friends and I decided to head there on a day out. As someone who has lived close to London for most of my life, I always surprise myself with how badly I know it. As we made our way past the bustling and crowded market, I mourned the fact that I’m far too old for it now. I wanted to be one of those sixteen year-olds with £50 in my purse that would buy me a whole new right on trend wardrobe!
Never mind: instead of shopping for clothes, we could head for Camden Lock and a cruise along the Regents Canal in the Jenny Wren, a traditionally painted narrowboat. For £11.50 we could spend 90 minutes enjoying corners of London I had never dreamt of, listening to aspects of London’s history I knew existed.
Opened in 1816, the Regents Canal was built to link the Grand Junction canal to the Limehouse basin and the Thames. Today the route cruises past Regents Park and London Zoo, with stories seemingly linked to every inch of it while you wonder who all these twenty-first century canal boats belong to, not to mention the vast, exclusive and seemingly uninhabited houses in Regents Park.
Part way along the canal we had spotted a blackboard: TWO COURSE LUNCH FOR £20. That would do us very nicely after the cruise. In fact, “nice” doesn’t begin to do justice to the wonderful lunch we were served at Michael Nadra’s restaurant, an oasis of light and calm tucked away in a bend near the towpath on the Primrose Hill side of the canal. The décor and music were relaxed: the staff friendly, welcoming and efficient. The food was absolutely glorious; for more details, check the website.
From the restaurant it was just a five-minute stroll to another spot I had never visited before: the viewing area at the top of Primrose Hill, one of the most exclusive residential areas in London. Here there is the most breathtaking and engaging view of the London skyline. There’s a metal plaque which helps you identify all the most famous buildings of central London, but it’s fun to see what you can recognise before you check the plaque to see if you’re right. Rewarded with some sunshine too, we could fully endorse William Blake’s lines: “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”
Good company; a cruise; history; wonderful food; a walk; a stimulating view; sunshine. As days out go, that will do perfectly.