Sunday May 13th we started the day with a walk out of the Western end of Limehouse Basin and along the Regent’s Canal. Apart from taking your life in your hands avoiding joggers and cyclists, it was a delightful walk. We went past some lovely parks (including Victoria Park in Mile End), some lovely canal boats, some very dodgy looking (and certainly not canal-worthy) boats and on to Haggerston, where we stopped at the Towpath Cafe for a lovely coffee, fresh mint tea and date and walnut cake. Finally at Islington, the canal vanishes in to the black hole of Islington – a long tunnel under Islington High Street and so we headed off through the very trendy and very organic Islington Market to Kings Cross. From there we caught the tube back to Limehouse.
The Regent’s Canal was built during the early 19th century following an Act of Parliament in 1812. The canal was part of a master plan cooked up by the architect John Nash (who was a director of the company set up to build the canal) for the Prince Regent (who acceded to the throne in 1820 as George IV). The plan included Regent’s Park (strictly speaking called ‘The Regent’s Park), Regent’s Street as well as Portland Place and we have been left a legacy of magnificent Regency buildings from Nash’s cooperation with the Prince Regent. The canal has had a chequered history and three times in its history companies have tried to convert the canal into a railway – the first was in 1845 and then again in 1859 and 1860. Luckily for us, all three attempts failed and the canal remains.
Late afternoon we headed off to Herne Hill to the Open House Art event in Dulwich where Belinda was exhibiting with a friend in a house on Winterchurch Road – the next road along from Burbage Road where Pete and Jan used to live when Pete worked at Latymer and Dulwich. Lovely to see Belinda and catch up.
Monday May 14th we headed off in the morning to the Lucian Freud exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery – a great exhibition charting the various phases of his work from the 1960s right through to an unfinished portrait called Portrait of the Hound of his assistant David Dawson and his whippet Eli which was on his easel when he died. Some fascinating and very varied portraits with amazing use of colour to accentuate the landscape of the face, plus lots of naked flesh! From there, a lovely lunch in a nearby cafe (Notes) recommended by a very friendly member of staff at the gallery. Then we walked up Regent Street to Oxford Street – shopping …. enough said ….
Tuesday 15th March – a quiet day. After lunch headed off to the newly refurbished Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark was only reopened in April 2012 by the Queen after a 6 year restoration, nearly brought to a conclusion by a disastrous fire in 2007 when an industrial vacuum cleaner was left on overnight – an expensive mistake! As part of the restoration they have raised the ship several metres off the ground and she is now supported by a series of struts allowing you to walk around and under the hull. Everything has then been topped with a glass cover to protect the hull. This allows you to get a real feeling for the lines of the ship and you can immediately sense why she was one of the fastest tea clippers around.
Wednesday 16th March – spent the morning walking the other section of the Regent’s canal. Got the tube to Kings Cross and then found the end of the Islington Tunnel and started walking from there. A lovely walk past Camden Market and on to the top end of Regent’s Park Zoo and the Snowdon Aviary designed by by the 1st Earl of Snowdon and built in 1964. The aviary currrently apparently has green peafowl, sacred ibis, little egrets, cattle egrets, waldrapp, ducks, and African grey-headed gulls, but all we saw were a few egrets feeding at ground level. Fair enough I suppose as we hadn’t paid to get in anyway! Then we walked on via the Paddington Basin through to Little Venice.
Little Venice is in Maida Vale and is at the junction of the Regent’s Canal and the Grand Union Canal, so from there canal bots can make their way to Birmingham and beyond. The main part of Little Venice is called Browning’s Pool after the poet Robert Browning who lived there between 1862 and 1887. Some say it was Browning who coined the name Little Venice, but it seems more likely to have been ironically named by Lord Byron. Probably more appropriate as it isn’t very little and is certainly nothing like Venice with the main A40 elevated section going overhead! Then headed on to Paddington and caught the tube back to Limehouse.
In the evening headed back out to Leicester Square and to Hay Fever at the Noel Coward Theatre. Hay fever was written by Noel Coward in 1924 and is a wonderful period piece. It is part farce and part comedy of manners. It tells the story of four utterly eccentric, self-obsessed (or even rude?) members of the Bliss family who each invite a guest for the weekend. The family are so immersed in themselves and a family row that in the end they don’t even notice the guests fleeing the house. It was a great production with a great cast including Lindsay Duncan, Jeremy Northam and Olivia Coleman.
Thursday 17th March – our last full day in London before heading home for a couple of days and leaving the boat in Limehouse ready for the next leg. For our daily outing we went to a lunchtime concert at LSO St.Lukes – a converted church a few minutes down the road from the Barbican, run by the LSO and Barbican. The concert was being recorded for broadcast as a Radio 3 lunchtime concert in mid October. The programme was JS Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin No.1 in G Minor, Partita for Solo Violin No.3 in E Major and the Sonata for Solo Violin No.3 in C Major. The best known of the three was the Partita. The soloist was a German violinist – Isabelle Faust.
See the London – May 2012 picture gallery for more photos.