Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grand Union Canal Walk - East London

So now you know!  Mr. Paradis and I toddled off to "Blighty" last week to celebrate Mothering Sunday

at not-quite-the-family-ancestral-heap.  (Did some of you get a little bit of the wrong idea Wednesday?)  In other words,  just "Mum's house"in a regular neighborhood, not too far from "the Outwoods".  

After a couple days there, we were able to find our sunny way to London and walk walk walk.   While the sun shone and shone.  

This walk is an adventure out from London Fields (anybody read Martin Amis' "London Fields"?  now you know!) thru Tower Hamlets ...........

on our way to.......hang in with me, and I'll show you!  (He is raising the water in the locks so that the boat can go through.)

Have you ever considered longboat life on a peaceful canal?  (With a Redstripe drinking peanut gallery lending moral support?)  This is truly a life on the move.   If only slowly.

The canals could take you right through London past Camden and the top part of Notting Hill and all the way to Birmingham in the North.  What would you need?  Bicycles and daffodils.  Good company and not much more.  Well a tolerance for damp.  Because it is not always sunny weeks in Blighty.

This is a neighborhood that was once very depressed, even sinister, famous for its Kray gangster twins and sometimes evil doings.  But it has seen a great deal of redevelopment, the Olympic Games will be taking place very close by next year, immigrants have flooded into the 'hood, as well as artists, strivers and clubbers, as Shoreditch, Hoxton, Hackney, Spitalfields, have become words falling often and easily out of hip lips and no longer just evoking (to me, at least, in the past) decline and expectoration!

This public art project is an emblem of the neighborhood's change.  Pictures of locals pasted onto a public housing structure to be redeveloped?  Mr. Paradis and I thought it was quite good!

So what would it be?  Does this make you dream?  Would you like to be a glam new flat-owner, a funky old boat owner, or an extremely lucky proprietor of both - with your pleasure vessel parked right out front?  And somewhere dry to take shelter in till the next sunny day?

As a homeowner of a couple years, I've come to be thoroughly convinced that water is NOT really MY FRIEND!  But could this little oasis change my mind about things?  Entirely possible.

Who'd a thunk it?  Expansive water views just steps from the City of London?  (OK, well a vigorous stroll if not so much steps!)

And a little of the rhythm of the countryside, with the peaceful swishings of the weeping willows.

This looks like an old mill converted into an architectural studio with the appropriately groovy-but-sober Volvo station wagons parked out back.   Kinda nice life!

With steps away.....for your lunch break......the Island Queen.  Islington.

BIG SIGH.  One of my all-time favorite London places.  It's one of those Victorian pubs with soaring ceilings and many rooms and the feeling that you've been invited to join in a really delightful party by beautiful strangers who you know will quickly become your friends.  If you needed an incentive to make the canal walk this would be a good one!

Or you could press a little further on to Islington High Street.  Where you can meet your OLD FRIENDS.  In the usual ways.


  1. i am definitely loving the local accent you seem to be taking on while showing us round.... my most favourite city in the world! [you're a londonder?]
    just now, at the very moment, i have decided against visiting london (for it presently being a little expensive in my wallet) you are giving me this. tease!
    but seriously, thxs. ah, the locks... the weather, when you're lucky. the up and coming neighbourhoods, and me fears that olympic dream... so no visit to london next year either...
    oh well. if there's you showing us 'round, we're fine... cheers, mam'selle.

  2. Wonderful! Happy to see my old neighborhood. I lived in Islington a few years ago (hum... some 10 years ago...). Have a lovely weekend!

  3. Ohhh, I love this SO much, Paradis. :-) What a perfect day for a stroll. I loved seeing these neighborhoods through your eyes and am perfectly charmed by that little oasis. :-)

  4. Loved this walking tour MP... such a wonderful city ...and your views are just the best.
    V busy of nice to pop in!

  5. Oh, I adored this! Thank you for sharing! Mostly, this is a part of London I've never been to (on my last trip, I stayed near Euston Station and on Christmas Day, walked a little bit near the canal north of there and felt a little bit scared to be there mostly alone -- except, of course, for a very nice couple walking their basset hound!) and so I loved seeing pictures. The old-mill-converted-to-architecture-studios reminded me quite a bit of Harry Weese's River Houses.

    Thank you, MP, this was lovely to dream on!