The Med in London – Staying at The Holiday Inn Camden
If you catch a British city in the right light, it can have the vibe of the Med. OK, between Brexit and the rain, admittedly this doesn’t happen very often. But I’ve experienced a sunshine buzz in Bristol and Liverpool as the scenery and the culture have come together to add up to more than the sum of their parts. And a stay at the Holiday Inn in Camden Town got me in the holiday mood…
Am I dreaming?
If close my eyes I can almost believe I am on the waterways of Europe. The sun is shining. Two young people are climbing into a gondola with a bottle of wine and two glasses. At the end of the boat a man is quietly strumming a mandolin. On one of dozens of delicious smelling street stalls a trader is hanging freshly made pasta on a rack. A tourist boat cruises by. A woman in a floaty dress is buying a box of multi-coloured macaroons. Birds are going after the bread thrown at them by tourists on the riverbank. Above them a bicycle goes over a bridge. Just nearby, a boater opens a lock gate. And I am watching it all from my balcony.
The buzz of the Med
But I am not on the waterways of Europe. I am in London’s Camden. I am at the Holiday Inn, which backs onto Camden Lock. If you want a view in the British capital that has the buzz and vibe of the Mediterranean then this is it. Although admittedly I haven’t tried it in the rain, when it may well resemble the waterways of Salford. Britain always looks better with a sunshine filter doesn’t it?
Tales from the riverbank
I head down through the hotel reception area, furnished with comfy sofas, a little library of second hand books, games and a bar. Out on the street the afternoon is unfolding and Camden is packed with folk who have that Friday feeling. I walk along the riverbank, and consider jumping into the gondola that is just setting off down the canal to London Zoo. The ‘music boat’ takes 45 minutes, costs £10 and serenades you with Turkish strings. But it feels like a good day for a walk.
I don’t get very far. A few hundred metres down the riverbank, I am enticed onto a boat. The Boston Belle wide beam narrowboat café offers percolated coffee to passers by. Owner Phil explains that he cruises down the Regents Canal, the River Lea and the Southern Grand Union canal. On a little table at the front I watch the rest of the world go by as he brews me up a frothy coffee and hums along to Mike Oldfield tunes.
Street art also brightens up Camden Lock. Further down the canal, a portrait of Amy Winehouse being carried by angels stops me in my tracks. And it’s then I notice the way the light falls under the bridge, and the busker who is fluttering jazz notes into the breeze. I sit by the river for a while, watching the tourist boats crawl past, full of people relaxing in the late afternoon.
Hub of art and music
The main Camden Lock street market is winding down, but still quite bustling. I try on a few hats in an alley of hat shops. I head onto the main street and spot the Mad Hatter having a tea party and join him for a chat about how lovely he is. I meet a friend and have dinner in a vegetarian restaurant. And I head back to the Holiday Inn to seek out the i-Mac that is a trademark of many of the refurbed Holiday Inns. And behind it a mural catches my eye. It’s a sketch of all the musicians that have lived and worked in Camden. So many, going back through my past.
Life after sundown
As the sun goes down I look out onto a bridge that is fairy lit by sunset. The waterways are quiet but Camden is ramping up again for the evening. And if I throw back the curtains and open the window, I’ll be able to see and hear it all from my balcony.
Disclosure:Note: This post was brought to you in a collaboration with BritMums and Holiday Inn who provided accommodation for the purposes of this review. All wonderings, musical wonderings and Mad Hatter conversations were my own.