Archive for May 3rd, 2009

Go go go: Little Venice festival

Tomorrow is the last day of the Canalway Cavalcade at the best part of Regent’s Canal – in North London in the section of it known as Little Venice because, you guessed it, it’s an adorable canal area with picturesque bridges, colorful canal boats, and grand flats lining the canal. Take the tube to Warwick Avenue and follow the signs – this festival is a yearly gathering of a large number of the host of eccentric canal boats (and canal boat owners…) that roam London’s waterways year round. Come see them decorated in their finery and enjoy this little-known yet tightly-knit subculture.

We went last year and it was amazing, a real treat: canal1

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Even if you can’t make it tomorrow, Little Venice is always recommended as a place to visit – it’s one of those wonderful parts of London that feels like a magical other place entirely, when you emerge from the tube and have been transported to an entire other place than from whence you came. If it’s a sunny day and you’re looking to get outside of central London, have a stroll, and maybe a nice cup of tea overlooking some water, Little Venice is the place for you.

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Camden Insider

We love the Camden markets and high street, and have been going there off and on for some time, but we met up with our Venezuelan friend yesterday who showed us two really great spots near the lock market that definitely deserve a blog entry.

Camden high street and its series of markets is an overwhelming and unforgettable experience, and you can go again and again and experience something new each time. The biggest thing you absolutely must be prepared for is crowds – lots and lots of people, but to be honest, if you let go and flow with it, the sheer volume of people and noise really adds to the experience. Though much more sanitised than it used to be two decades ago as it emerged as the centre of the punk scene in London, Camden has retained a grittyness and a weirdness and has refused to be shifted upmarket, like Spitalfields or Borough (not that I’m complaining about these two as they currently are!) May be a future post about navigating through it all, but in the meantime, go check out:

There are several main areas serving food in the Camden market area, and our new favorite food stall, located in the food stall area nearest the canal lock,  is Arepa, serving up the best Venezuelan food (and what yummy food it is!) in town, as verified by our personal friend and bonified Venezuelan native. An arepa is a type of cornmeal-based pita pocket tortilla bread thing that is TASTY. You order and they take a ball of the arepa dough, pat it into a circle about the size of your hand, and then grill it. Then, they slice a pocket into it and fill it with whatever combination you fancy – you chose from black beans, shredded beef, chicken avocado, grilled vegetables, grated cheese, and grilled plantains. There were four of us that went and between us we sampled combinations of all of the above and oh my lord it was all incredible – MAKE SURE you get the plantains though, whatever you do. Filling and fun, each arepa thing only sets you back 4 pounds. Warning: it will leave you craving that cornmeal base something awful! I’m going to have to go back asap…

So, there is lots of food to choose from in Camden, some of it good, and some of it well dodgy. Be a smart market visitor and avoid the gross food they sell in the permanent little booths that line the most crowded part of the market – whether it’s chewy pizza, scary Indian, or msg-ed Chinese – and find one of the two more temporary looking clusters of freshly made food, where in one of which you’ll find Arepa. To get there, go to Camden tube. Exit the station and turn right. Go straight down the high street weaving your way through the crowds until you get to the bridge over the canal and the lock market starts. Cross the street and turn left before the bridge (the big one, which cars can take) at the Starbucks. Go past the Starbucks to the footbridge over the canal ( you can’t miss it) – take that bridge and you’ll be overlooking the food area with the Arepa stall.

Then, for a perfect complement, check out what is officially our new favorite tea place in London (and damn, that is a hard place in our hearts to win!): Yumchaa. Yumchaa have been selling their amazing tea blends at various markets for awhile, and have recently opened up this place in Camden and it’s rumored on in Soho too? We’ll have to get back on that. At any rate, this tea place is perfection and I wish so much I was a student so I could go chill there during week days when Camden is much less crowded. It’s in the same place as the Arepa stall, just on the upper level. The best way to get there is again to cross the footbridge over the canal river and you’ll be on the second level. Go past the Lockhead pub (I think it’s called) and past the vintage store and then you can’t miss yumchaa. Beautifully decorated, there is an amazing and unique amount of special tea blends on offer, broadly sorted by black, green, red, and white teas. You get a full pot for 2 pounds! I had a blend called Courtesan, which was rooibos (red) tea flavored with raisins, spices and a bunch of other good stuff, while A had berry berry nice, a roobios flavored with you guessed it, a mix of berries, which we highly recommend, and our Venezuelan friend had a really cool rooibos blend called chili chili bang bang which had fruit, peppercorns, and chilis in it! The atmosphere is wonderful, the cakes are moist and tasty, and you get a great view overlooking busy Camden market below with its constant stream of people.

Enjoy – maybe we’ll see you there soon – cuz we’ll certainly be there a lot 🙂

Update: St Paul’s Cathedral

The bad news: I went to St. Paul’s last week and was severely disappointed to realise that the very top viewing gallery, the Golden Gallery, is currently under construction.

The good news: Apparently they are almost done and will have replaced the terrifying open grate staircase. New opening date is sometime in June. Will update when find out more. The whole cathedral and the first two viewing galleries are still open, but if you can hold off until after June to go, do so!


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