(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by
clicking on the image)
A delightful trip was had by all on the return trip down the Thames and into Little
Venice, London. Rob and I enjoy having company on board and we discovered that
the supermarkets provided us with everything we needed. Irish mussels in garlic
and butter sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, Indian curry sauces, French bread, pates,
cheeses, Greek olives, Italian olive oil, English butter, pork pies and an array
of fresh vegetables were available through Tescos, Waitrose or Sainsburys the
major British supermarkets. They all also feature wines from every country and
we were happy to get new grape varieties that were not common in the USA. For
example, wines made of Cinsault grapes from South Africa are new to us and quite
enjoyable. We have to agree; the cost of what we consider luxury food in the USA
is much less in England without all the import tariffs. Vegetables are also better
value for example, red, orange or yellow peppers are about 75 cents each here
and I was paying close to two dollars apiece in Washington D.C. Milk is richer
in cream and Seriously Strong Cheddar (a brand name) is less than half of what
I paid in D.C. Rob and I were serious beef rib eye aficionados but we were amazed
to see how easily we'd stopped the red beef and segued onto porkloins, fresh salmon
and duck which is an excellent substitute for redmeat. The ethnic sauces help
to liven meals up.
Thus we feasted our way back down the Thames into London. After days of fresh
open air boating on the generous Thames, the Brentford flight of locks about 17
of them beckoned passage back into the metropolis of London. John was excited
about his first experience in locking after all the manned locks of the Thames.
Enthusiastically he took lock key in hand and jogged ahead of the boat to prepare
the gates for opening. It was a good introduction as he was up to the task and
he enjoyed the exercise. We are hoping he will be onboard when we go through the
Caen flight of 29 locks on the Kennet and Avon on our way to Bath next year.
Entering London from the Thames is a bit of a jolt. The lock at Brentford is
abused by graffiti and trash and as a result, padlocks have been placed on some
of the gates to prevent further vandalism. After the pristine beauty of the river
and its towns we were now in urbanity with all its miseries. Barbed wire, industrial
waste, bleak commercial buildings were our vistas now. The moorings felt less
safe, with less lighting and no other boats around. A venture into the town of
Brentford itself revealed lots of bright yellow placards appealing for witnesses
to a recent murder; the roads were torn up with reconstruction and bright orange
cones. Pubs had a vaguely ominous feeling inside and we were not tempted to hang
As we progressed further towards the city there was change. A beautifully tailored
golf course and a quaint village of houseboats greet us just as we approach the
M1 aqueduct. There the true meaning of canal boating is illustrated quite eloquently.
High and above the multi-laned gridlock of the main highway known as the M1 that
leads into London, we glide on a quiet waterway with no other traffic. Surreally,
in silence, we all stare below at the state of the world as so many of us know
it, steaming cars crawling along hot asphalt in a shimmering sunset brilliant
with air pollution. We are where we want to be, this is certain.
A couple of hours later the curved bridges leading to Little Venice appear.
Ornately sculptured and decoratively painted, we pass under them and enter narrow
boat city, London style. There is no particular type of narrow boat that dominates.
There is also a huge variety of real houseboats that I suspect do not have motors
and probably have never seen another location. We find a mooring easily enough
and bed for the night.
Little Venice, Rob and I sat in the cafe that bridges the canal here last year
around this time. We dreamed that one day we would be part of this scene, and
here we are. A wonderful moment and we felt lucky to have realized it. A neighbourhood
in the heart of the Northwest London, a walk from Oxford Circus and Paddington
Station, full of theatres, galleries, pubs and restaurants. Just a good place
for a walk as well.
Another ex-pat, Rene Goodman, lives in the neighbourhood of Faringdon in London,
an old friend and a bohemian artist. We meet in an Irish bar near Camden, Fiddlers
Elbow, where we enjoy traditional Irish music. London is a hodge-podge having
been through a terrible bombing during the war. Modern, post-modern, traditional
and ancient all have their patch in the city and it is quite interesting to see
and explore once your eyes focus. It would take some time for us to accustom ourselves
to the layout of this town.
We had decided to forsake our winter mooring at the Willowtree Marina in the
suburban town of Yeading near Hayes. The marina was lovely safe, clean and pretty
with all the amenities we could want. But the town is a 45 minute bus ride from
the train station which is in turn another 45 minute ride into town. It reminds
me of the outskirts of New York City and I hadn't travelled this far to come so
close to home. Bleak semi-detached houses with trampled front lawns, gangs of
kids, mom and pop shops on the corners. Loud football oriented pubs. No outsiders.
We had discovered that a mooring was available in Camden Lock in London and decided
to go for it.
We knew that we would not be as coddled as we would be in the marina: no shoreside
electrical power point, no security or laundrette on our doorstep. Yet, the allure
of living in this great city outweighs these considerations and we are willing
to give it a go. We suspect we are among some pioneers who will actually pay to
moor in Camden Lock since other narrow boat acquaintances had let us know they
had stayed there for free last winter. Not wanting to create any problem, we pay
the winter mooring fee to British Waterways and decide to spend our winter in
London proper and in the manic and wild world of Camden Town no less.
.....on to 2002