It may sound crazy, but you really can take a day trip to Venice while you’re in London. Okay, it’s just Little Venice – a neighborhood in the northern bit of London – and may not be as famous as its Italian namesake, but it was still worth a little excursion while Mr. husband and I were in London.
Studying the Maps
Since Little Venice isn’t at the top of Things to See in most London guidebooks, I happened to discover it by scouring some maps when I was trying to sort out how to make the most of our week in the big city. I knew I wanted to walk along Regent’s Canal, but wasn’t exactly sure where to start our journey. Well, a little time with the city map and the Underground map, and voila, I’d found our starting point in Little Venice.
A Little Bit About Little Venice
With a name like “Little Venice” you have to expect canals (although there are some mighty fine canals in Amsterdam too, so why not Little Amsterdam?). And canals you’ll get because it’s the meeting point of Regent’s Canal, the Grand Union Canal, and the Paddington Basin. In keeping with the Venetian terminology, the point where these waterways meet has an ever-so quaint nickname “The Lagoon” (officially named Brownings Pool, you can see why the nickname is more popular).
For a rather hefty-for-what-you-get fee, you can ride a waterbus along the canals (sorry no “O Solo Mio”-singing gondoliers), but Mr. Husband and I opted to walk…once we figured out where we were going.
As with most of our days, we began by hopping the Tube, making a few transfers, and emerging from our mole-like journey (this time at Warwick Avenue on the Bakerloo line – which is at the very top of my Favorite Underground Line Names list ).
The Stroll Along Regent’s Canal
Although we only took Regent’s Canal to Camden Market, the waterway actually extends over eight and a half miles all the way to the Docklands (on the Thames in East London). Construction on the canal began around 1811 to provide a way to transport goods from the Grand Union Canal to the Thames. Seems like a fabulous idea, but progress got in the way, and by the 1840s, people were already talking about doing away with the canal and installing a rail line in its place.
The canal was actually purchased by some railroad-loving businessmen for a million pounds in 1845. Luckily, the government thought it would be a horrible idea to put a railroad along Regent’s Park (and its wealthy neighborhoods). A few more attempts were made to put a rail line in, but, as you can see from the photos, they failed.
The walk along Regent’s Canal takes you along the northern edge of Regent’s Park where you can see some modest homes. Not impressed with wealth, well, you can also catch a peek of some of the winged-wonders of Regent’s Park Zoo aviary and even some African cousins of the Babe the Pig. You can also take a side trip up to the top of Primrose Hill.
Oh the Humanity – Camden Market
We thought we’d grab some lunch at Camden Market, take a quick gander at the market stalls, and then hop the Tube home. Bad idea. The day we went was not only a Sunday, but a Sunday on a bank holiday weekend. The market was wall-to-wall (if there were walls) people and “walking” was more of a shuffle as the herd of humans oozed their way forward. We did get some (rather disappointing) lunch, but after that we couldn’t bear to push through any more human flesh so we headed to the nearest Tube stop.
Which was closed.
So we hoofed it to the next stop, another fifteen minutes or so of wading through humanity. After the market crush, we needed some open space and spent the evening meandering through Hyde Park.
What do you think? Is Little Venice or Little Amsterdam a better name? Any canals you like to stroll along or favorite walks you’ve taken on your travels?