Traveling solo in a metropolis like London makes me feel a bit like a kid in a candy shop. There is just so much to do. Where to start? What to do? After the long flight from California, I was energized in spite of how jet lagged I was. At the top of my list of places to visit was Primrose Hill. It was romanticized in one of my favorite cusp-of-the-Millennium songs by Emiliana Torrini. My love for that song prompted me to educate myself about Primrose Hill. I learned that it was one of the most prominent vantage points in all of London. Since I’m a sucker for a good view, I decided this was where I would begin my solo journey.
I had never rode the tube before and was a bit intimidated at the thought of taking it. A transit guard gave me directions to Primrose Hill. He made it sound so simple but in spite of the fact that there were three train lines, 3 stops and 2 switchovers. I ended up taking a wrong train somewhere and ended up in Camden Town which was okay, since that was another place I had planned to visit.
Camden Town reminded me a little bit of NYC’s Greenwich Village with its counter-culture vibe and assortment of shops and food. I wandered around and stumbled upon a mural of one of my favorite artists, Prince. I continued to wander, take pictures and engage in an occasional conversation. Most of the people I spoke to were not English. Again, I was reminded of New York and its fusion of cultures. A Romanian man stopped me and invited me to take a gondola ride down the Regent’s Canal. He proclaimed his boat ride was way better than all other boat rides since it featured a live musician… it usually goes for 30 pounds but since he liked me, he was going to offer it to me for a mere 12 pounds! I couldn’t resist. I love music and this guy was just too much of a character for me to say no. And I’m so glad I did because the Music Boat was the highlight of my day.
The musician strummed his guitar and sang falsetto, at times engaging with the audience and inviting us to participate. It was absolutely charming. The man who steered the boat picked up “rubbish” from the canal along the way. I found myself helping him. It was hard not too. I felt free and at peace riding in the gondola, listening to music and communing with my fellow passengers. It was utterly delightful and that experience made me fall in love with Camden town and the Regent’s Canal, rubbish and all! We road down the canal and passed private homes and boats, Paul McCartney’s favorite Chinese restaurant, the London Zoo and people of all types camped out on the walkway. It was a festive ride and just as soon as it began, it was over and I found myself getting off the boat.
I ended up walking along the canal, the same path the boat took until I was able to cut over and into the Primrose Hill area. It was much smaller than I imagined. People of all ages littered the grass at the bottom of the hill and I hiked to the top listening to the Emiliana Torrini song on my iPhone for nostalgia’s sake. I chatted with a few people, some locals some visitors, like me. I eventually broke away from the view atop Primrose Hill to explore Regent’s Park and then headed back to my hotel in Kensington somewhat exhausted but also invigorated.
It occurred to me that aside from my investment in the Oyster transit card, I had spent very little money walking around London and communing with the locals.