Follow the ongoing travels and adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the Canals of the UK and Europe aboard their narrow boat 'Oo-La-La', read the monthly account of their travels and view photos documenting those travels. Follow the adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the canals of England and Europe aboard their narrow boat OO-LA-LA
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Travelogue: England - 2002


January

(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on the image)

A couple of months have passed since we moved to Regents Canal near Camden Lock as temporary residents for the winter. It is a unique place to be since we are poised between two of the most divergent neighbourhoods in London: Camden Town, a youthful, alternative and very funky place to be and Primrose Hill, established, well off and fairly conservative. We didn't discover Primrose Hill for the first couple of weeks, so flamboyant and attention getting are the sights in Camden Town. Extreme punk, piercings, tattoos, and the absolute bleeding edge in teen fashion is what Camden is famous for. The lock itself is featured in some of the artwork in the pubs and restaurants as Camden High Street goes right over the canal and the bridge is a hangout for locals and aficionados. Every weekend is a party scene and vendors of all types of merchandise set up stalls in the Camden Lock Marketplace; browsing is always interesting as well as people watching. There are many coffee shops, pubs and the famous Jazz Cafe that features many famous acts. Walking down High Street is always a great pick-me-up and instant immersion into culture, any culture.


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Camden Lock Shops in Camden Town 'Tattoo Parlour' - Camden Weird hair! Camden Town
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Sometimes, however, we enjoy getting away from it all. One day we opted to go down the opposite way from Camden, toward whatever is at the other end. We climbed the stairwell up to the street level and found a rather staid looking street with only one commercial venue, The Engineers Pub, a posh restaurant-pub and friendly place to be. After a quick beer there we continued on through the area, a neighbourhood of elegant row houses and parks. On Regent Park Street there are delicatessens, bookshops, boutiques and cafes. We turned a corner to find the Princess of Wales pub and popped in for a pint; there we saw a flyer with jazz Sundays advertised and decided to make it a date for the next Sunday. Unlike most pubs in London, the folks were friendly and talkative and it encouraged us to return, reminding us of the country pubs we had been in outside of London.

Our mooring spot is rather small compared to Little Venice, only about 11 boats on the average compared to Little Venice and the dozens of narrow boats and houseboats there. More private, surrounded by high old brickwalls on the towpath side and 18th century homes on the canal side, there is no sight of traffic or roads and there is a sense of being in a secluded spot. Having said that, there are many tourists and locals alike, which frequent the towpath and enliven the scene. We hear every language we can recognize and many more that we don't; sometimes interested enquiries accost us as we leave home. The curiosity is fun for us, and we enjoy entertaining visitors. It seems that narrow boats are just part of life for the English, but very exotic for tourists, so Oo-La-La is part of the tourist scene in Camden.


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'Princess of Wales' public house 'Princess of Wales' interior Icebreaker Gary London Zoo
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Our compatriots here are young and fiercely independent and happy in their lifestyle. Almost everyone here is a liveaboard. Married couples, single men, families with little babies and single women comprise our group. All of us know each other and are familiar enough to ask for a cup of sugar or chat whenever we meet. In a way our bonds are forged from living in the world-renowned 2002 city of London as part of its tradition, history and past. Just behind our boat there is a ramp of stones that was created 200 years ago. Nearby is a plaque explaining that the purpose of the ramp is to rescue draught horses that fell into the canal when startled by the nearby train rumbling by while they pulled a canal boat. Frequently we see tourists stop to read the plaque and discuss it. It is encouraging to see such interest in the canals.

Not that it is always so rosy. At each end of our mooring there is an iron gate that no one locked when we first arrived. There was no trouble, so why lock them. Then we had a few kids bang on our windows for fun so it became a habit to lock the gates at sunset just to avoid the annoyance.


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Primrose hill Little Venice in winter Byrnes Rob on the Oo-La-La Rob and Marlane beside the Oo-La-La
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One Sunday we found ourselves in the Princess of Wales for their 2PM jazz session. The pub has high, open windows, so even in the midst of winter it is fairly bright and cheerful. We found a table and settled in for a typical Sunday roast of pork with several vegetables: brussel sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, leeks, carrots, parsnips, peas and lima beans. After this happy repast we settled in for some truly authentic jazz with a five-piece band. During the break we were able to talk with the members and get a handle on the London music scene. The atmosphere was very friendly and it became our winter refuge every Sunday and never let us down. We brought out of town visitors and localfriends alike and they all agreed that it was one of the best Sunday afternoons. Agreeing with them, we are now trying to keep it a secret, but not succeeding too well. In fact, it appears the pub itself is trying to dampen enthusiasm since all the window flyers have since disappeared, the pub is full from top to basement every Sunday, but we still want to say it is a wonderful place and we were lucky to find it.


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Rob and Marlane * * * *
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The winter has been surprisingly mild for us. Much warmer than a winter in Atlanta, Georgia or Washington, D.C., the foliage is bright green at the end of January and the parks are very beautiful still. In fact, there are buds on the trees and even some that have started to bloom. We keep asking folks when the cold weather is going to start, but the answer is this is the way it is. Lovely.

Now the itch of travel is setting in, lets go! We are thinking it and saying it but the lock stoppages are a vital concern. During the winter, the British Waterways(the governing authority on the canals) and the Environmental Authority (in charge of the rivers) issue a list of stoppages which indicates which locks will be closed due to maintenance work. Generally, most of this work is completed by the end of February and in our specific area there appears to be free sailing on the Thames between London and Oxford, our desired cruising ground after January. So, with a week to go here on the Regents Canal, we will be investigating possibilities for our escape into the springtime.

.....on to February 2002

 


 
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