Earlier this spring, I ventured to London to check out how the city was preparing for the Olympics. I visited the Stratford area where the Olympics are being held as well as Heathrow's control tower. I also took a trip along the city's canals because old waterways generally steer travelers into ancient neighborhoods and I wanted to see the aging city as well as the gleaming new destination.
I set my sights on a strip of canal in the northern area of Shoreditch, where I stayed in the lovely Boundary hotel , but, when I asked for directions, the concierge told me point blank that I was wasting my time.
Still determined to find a waterway, I decided to take a walk in Regent's Park, which contains a lovely, albeit famous, canal. The sun was uncharacteristically bright for London as I entered the Park, which abuts a ritzy area where the women are, as the local saying goes, "too posh to push." The Park is lush, well-landscaped and easily walkable. There were plenty of people out to enjoy the brisk, spring weather.
I found the canal near the Park's western edge, where I was suddenly ensconced in silence.
Feeling alone and exposed, I walked a bit faster, passing no one but the occasional biker. The whole area seemed pretty desolate for being in the middle of London. Then, quite suddenly, I ran into slew of teenagers, tourists and canal boats as I turned a corner and passed under a bridge.
I had stumbled into the middle of a miniature Venice. Sweet house boats lined the canal and homes sprung up right on the water. Soon enough, the canal was awash in street food smells and noise in Camden Lock. There were vendors of all stripes selling food--delicious crepes, Indian curry, hot dogs, you name it, as well as tchotchkes galore.
Since it was such a nice day, there were students and office workers strewn about the grassy areas. It was certainly a scene, but you could take your food and sit by the water easily.
Though the idea of Regent's Canal is more ancient than groundbreaking, I found the tiny waterside community in the heart of London singularly charming. It's may be the ultimate refuge from the chaos the Olympics will rain down on the city, an easy diversion into one of London's Royal Parks.