And now for something completely different….although it does have to do with canals and narrowboats. I refer to the oh, so sanitised Paddingon Basin near Paddington train and tube station. It was also featured in the latest Jason Bourne film if you follow that sort of thing.
We left Westbourne Park and Carnivaland behind and travelled the short distance to Little Venice. We ploughed through the rubbish thrown into the canal from the night before. Just ahead was a wall of rubbish from the Cut, put into a mural by some local youth contingent. Makes you think.
The problem with all the garbage is that it gets wrapped around the prop shaft and can, if left, burn out the engine. You wouldn’t believe what people dump into the canals. Motor Bikes, fridges and other old large appliances, mattresses, the ubiquitous shopping carts, old tires (tyres) and even old cars. Madness. Makes you despair sometimes.
When we got to Little Venice, we decided to go to the right to see if we could find moorings in Paddington Basin. The other choice was left along the Regents Canal to Camden Town. But, as I said in a previous Blog, that direction would have been futile. Problem is, there were no spots available in the Basin, or so we thought. So, we turned our boats around and headed back to Little Venice to take our chances elsewhere. But first we stopped so that Eddie could fill up his water tank.
Then a miracle happened. A knight in shining armour, mounted on his white steed came along and said it would be his quest to find us mooring in The Paddington Basin. Actually, it was my best friend’s son on his bicycle. He used to live on a boat in London and knew these waters like the back of his hand. Off he went on his bike to seek our moorings.
5 minutes later he was back. “There’s a fellow moving out tomorrow and is willing to move to the outer dock so you can have the 2 spaces in there,” says my best friend’s son. “How did you manage that?” I asked. “Simple. You just ask until you find the solution. I had to do it all the time when I lived down here. Mooring spaces are at a premium, so you push in here and nudge in there.” We admired his chutzpah.
We turned our boats back around and off we went. Eddie backed in and I went in front first. We tied up with Eddie being on the inside against the dock and we were against the concrete embankment. Which would not have been a problem had it not been Bank Holiday weekend. Tourists streamed into the Basin to enjoy the restaurants, the outdoor TV, the fountains and the boats. Just ahead of us was a narrowboat offering paddle board lessons. And the weather was hot.
It became obvious that people thought our boats were on display or for hire. One chap got on the back of our boat and took a picture down into our galley. Others asked if they could hire us to take them for a cruise. Some tried to stand on the outside gunnel for photo ops. I pointed out that this was our home, not a tourist site. One chap looked stunned. “You live on the boat? But where is your home, your house?” he demanded. “We have no house,” I said, “This is it.” “You are very brave, very brave indeed,” the man said and walked away muttering something to his family in a tongue I didn’t understand. Probably how crazy we are.
After a couple of days of this, we turned the boat around and tied up to Eddie. Problem solved….although people still came by asking for rides. The only ones who completely ignored us were the office workers who returned in droves after the holiday weekend. That suited us just fine.
We stayed for a week, the maximum time allowed without paying any mooring fees. Better than even the cheapest hotel rates of £150/night or more at local hotels. What to do with all the money saved on accommodation? Act like tourists ourselves. See the sites, try different restaurants and drink rum and coke.
So we first took a busman’s holiday by paying for a narrowboat ride from Little Venice along the Regents Canal to Camden Town. No point losing our mooring by taking our own boats. We walked back later. Big mistake and longer than we had thought. But we got some great photos. Especially on the walk back.
The rest of the week was spent on an open top bus tour of London and a cruise from Waterloo Bridge to Greenwich and back on one of the many tourist boats that go back and forth on the River Thames each day. We saw the great old city from every angle, even looking down into the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
We witnessed the raising and lowering of Tower Bridge, a replica of the old city of London made out of wood and ready to burn on a barge (the 350th anniversary of the London fire) and all the sights along the river. Eddie was like a kid at Christmas, taking photos of every nook and cranny of river life and bus top views. I took my modest few.
After a week of the best the city could offer, we untied and headed for home, passing all the places we had seen on the way down, but from a different perspective. The only thing that remained a constant was the rubbish in the cut. Good to be back to our marina home. Going north next time.