Monday, May 2, 2011

Little Venice

Saturday was another lovely day, so we tried to find something we could do where we wouldn't be overwhelmed by the swarms of tourists who are in town for the Royal Wedding. A quick search of the Time Out London site yielded a good prospect: the Canalway Cavalcade.  It seemed to have many of our preferred elements of a fun day out: off the beaten path, on the water, food & drink, performances, arts & crafts, boats, and most important -- FREE!  We didn't even know there WAS a canal in London, but we hopped on the tube and rode up to Paddington Station to check it out.  We knew we were on the right track when we came across this sign:
The festival was centered around an area called "Little Venice," which is the triangular area on the map above.  The canal was lined with dozens of narrow canal boats, and there were many more in the large basin at Little Venice, all painted bright colors and festooned with flags.  After a quick lunch at one of the restaurants lining the canal, we headed into the thick of the festivities.

Decorated for the Royal Wedding
Wood-burning stove - a fixture of most boats
The canal was lined on both sides with vendors selling food, crafts, and other items.
Cheesy Royal Wedding souvenirs
I think these are Pork Rinds
We sampled some of the food, including strawberry tarts and fudge (but NOT pork scratchings), and took in a performance of a traditional Punch & Judy puppet show.  We both remembered seeing Punch & Judy as kids, but couldn't remember the last time either of us had seen a show.  It was very cute hearing the crowd of British kids yelling "Oh YES he DID!" in unison.
Punch & Judy
Later we encountered what sounded like a Dixieland brass band playing along the waterfront.
After we had exhausted all of the entertainments of the Canalway Cavalcade, we boarded a water bus for a trip up the canal towards Camden Lock.  We had no idea what was at the other end, but we figured the boat trip would be fun and scenic.
water bus arrives
The trip was indeed scenic.  We passed through Regent's Park and the London Zoo, and traveled through a variety of tunnels and bridges.
We also went through some swanky neighborhoods with large, stately homes.
And passed by this canal boat which appears to have been converted into a Chinese restaurant.
We managed to get past the Pirate Castle without incident -- although we did have a run-in with a pirate boat along the way.  (Sadly, it was on the opposite side of our boat, so I couldn't get a photo.
After about 45 minutes, we arrived at Camden Lock.
It was MOBBED with 20-somethings, like a quaint version of the Georgetown waterfront in DC.
It turns out that the Camden Lock area is the home a a HUGE market.  It is a warren of indoor and outdoor stalls selling all sorts of ethnic foods, t-shirts, clothing, jewelery, crafts, art, souvenirs, and secondhand/vintage goods.
outdoor food court

This part of the market dates to 1854!

I covet this arts & crafts armoire with peacock tiles (only £7500)

I think this was a store.  We were afraid to go in.
unique seating near some of the food stalls

We ended up wandering around the market for a couple hours, and dined on dim sum and noodles from one of the food tents.  We were definitely a bit older than the target demographic for most of the vendors, but I wouldn't mind going back sometime with someone who actually enjoys shopping and taking a closer look at some of the shops and stalls. Most of the people we encountered were at least half our age and rather creatively dressed.  On our way back to the tube station, we encountered the largest concentration of piercing/tattoo parlors I've ever seen.  We must have passed about a dozen of them in just 3 or 4 blocks!

It was quite a full day, and we had another one ahead of us, so we turned in soon after we got home.

1 comment:

  1. I know someone who enjoys shopping!! I wonder if you can trade Josh in for that armoire...


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