“In Camden Town, I’ll meet you down by the Underground” – Suggs
I want to get back to writing more stuff like this. We all know the “Top 5 this” and “Top 8 that” posts are good for combining the key sights together into one article, bringing in page visits and also for SEO purposes. However those types of posts are tailored for giving advice and tips and collectively they’re a cool record of my travels but they lack passion and personality. Sometimes, I just think “fuck it, I’m just going to write about what I did”! And if it helps other travellers out in any way then it is all good. But yeah I was a story teller long before I was a business backpacker, so back to basics today 😉 You don’t have to read it, but I do enjoy writing it!
“Got the tickets from some fucked up bloke in Camden Town” – Jarvis Cocker
Back before Don’t Stop Living existed, back when I lived in London I used to love exploring different nooks and crannies of the English capital city. After a bit of a breakdown while staying in Bournemouth, I was reunited with my friends James and the famous “Millwall Neil” yet again in May 2015 so we decided on a day out with a difference. It was no booze up my friends. I’d decided to knock the alcohol on the head for 12 weeks (I’m now 8 weeks into that as of tonight!), I decided on a healthier diet and less crazy days. After a bus from Bournemouth to London, I met Neil at Chalk Farm and we planned a day out with a difference – Primrose Hill Market, Camden Town, the Canals of London, Cycling from Bank to Chalk Farm and a visit to St. Martin’s College! I was drinking alcohol free Beck’s as well! Here’s what we got up to.
1. Primrose Hill Festival
First up we headed for some street food at the Primrose Hill Festival which was really lively with food markets, kiddies amusements and a dog show. It reminded me a bit of Neil and I on Australia Day in Parramatta in 2010. We were five years older, no less wiser.
It was a hot Sunday and a one day event here at Primrose Hill in London. There were loads of food stalls. I grabbed an English pork sausage roll, Neil grabbed some Paella and we ate relaxing in the park with a view over London. James joined us and we decided to hit up Camden Town. Thousands of people attended the mini festival.
2. Backpacking in Camden Town
Camden Town is a hippy place and I’ve been a few times. I’ve always loved it. I’ve watched rock gigs here in the Barfly and Koko down the years, I’ve had some good days out in the nearest thing London gets to Christiania, the hippy Freetown which borders Denmark.
I like the vibe in hippy Camden. By day it rocks a hippy sunshine beat and you can smell the wafting marijuana in the air. At night it pumps out a rock n roll beat with the odd bit of sleaze out on the streets. If you have been to Camden at night, you will know that the best London escorts available come out here at night and you can feel the sexy drugged up vibe in the air! But we were here to enjoy the sunshine and chill out!
By day we simply toured the market area on foot, browsed in a few hippy shops and markets and made our way through the busy streets. It was a Sunday – it’s important to note that the London tube closes at Camden Town (and sometimes Mornington Crescent too) on Sundays due to the traffic. Sundays are the most popular day to go to Camden.
3. Canals of London
On our day out in the city we toured the canals of London. You might be surprised to learn that London has canals. They are actually much nicer to the ones in Venice and Amsterdam in my opinion. We walked part of the way and then cycled some of the way.
Our walk took us past Camden Lock, some kayakers and two Wetherspoons pubs (which we resisted). We saw Hampstead Road Lock and also headed through a busy food market. Not quite the engineering gem as the Panama Canal (A man, a plan, a canal, Panama) but a really cool place to walk along.
4. Cycling from Old Street to Chalk Farm
We headed to collect a friend’s bike from a posh Japanese shop in Old Street. James and I grabbed a bottle of Dr. Pepper each and the three of us decided to hire bikes and cycle it back to Chalk Farm.
The bikes to be hired in London are nicknamed “Boris bikes” after the Lord Mayor Boris Johnson brought them into existence a few years ago.
What I love about these “Boris bikes” is they are FREE for the first half an hour and only £2 for the first 24 hours. That’s a bargain and a great way to see London is on bike.
5. Muriel Street
On the cycle back to Chalk Farm from Old Street we passed a ton of notable places. There was Pentonville Road, about 4 streets on the Monopoly Board and then there was Muriel Street! Named after my Mum of course. I actually totally forgot we visited Muriel Street until I started writing this post and the memory came back.
6. St. Martin’s College
The Pulp hit “Common People” in 1995 was where I first heard of the famous St. Martin’s College in London. Millwall Neil was there on that “oh Melbourne it’s going to be a long night” experience in Melbourne in Australia, also back in 2010. We had now done another full circle by cycling to St. Martin’s College.
“She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge, she studied sculpture at St. Martin’s College” – Jarvis Cocker (again)
Now I was actually outside St. Martin’s College – we went in for a quick look, drank some water and James and Neil asked me for a rendition of the Pulp song, 20 years on.
7. Pub for Non-Alcoholic Beck’s
We heard there was football on so Neil, James and I decided to go down the pub. I opted for a non alcoholic Beck’s which was ridiculously more expensive than their pints of real beer. Ah well. At least I was staying alcohol free for 12 weeks. We watched the Arsenal v. Man United match which finished 1-1 and I remarked that next season I’d be watching AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League.
Food wise we opted for greasy kebabs and I headed back to Neil’s to sleep after a long day. This was a great day out and hopefully the first of many more unusual lads days out. We used to drink 12 pints a day and visit 6 rock clubs. Now we tour posh bike shops, drink alcohol free beer and cycle through London.
And that was that. I was knackered so had a decent night sleep, which reminded me again of the Beatles song I’m Only Sleeping and even weirder as Suggs did a cover version of that and I toured Abbey Road the next day! Neil and I had a meal that night and I headed to Kuwait. I hope to see Neil and James real soon as they are top mates and I miss them. Thanks to Neil, JJ and James for this quirky day out in London. We end as we began with Suggs.
“In Camden Town we’ll walk there as the sun goes down” – Suggs
Here are some videos from the day out:
The Suggs Hit – Camden Town:
Pulp – Common People:
18 thoughts on “Primrose Hill Market, ‘Hippy’ Camden Town, Boris Bikes and the Canals of London, England”
Camden is one of my favourite parts of London, if your hungry and short on cash walk around the camden lock and you can feed yourself for free on the amount of tasters that will be handed to you by stall owners. I was only trying things to see what I wanted to eat and didnt bother in the end,as I was full. As Jonny as mentioned the camden tube station can get bloody busy, we have been on saturdays and have been bumped up the line as we have a young child with us, but other “tourists” who dont understand the concept of waiting in line, start pushing and cutting in and it can get a bit nasty at times.
If anyone has kids and goes to the zoo which isnt too far away you can get a lock boat back around to camden lock for a few quid, I’m not sure how this works when your going the other way as there is no ticket checks done for the zoo at this part of the lock so a freebie perhaps, I’ve never tried.
The lock boat is something different and nice to see the kids playing in the canals as jonny got a photo.
Once you get off the boat at camden lock, the lock house i called it was a maze of small shops selling everything, food stalls and bars.
Love this place and as I highlighted I brought a small child and while it can get busy, most people are aware of the kid and where happy to make way for us.
Amy Winehouse muriels etc are everywhere around camden, if your not a fan of her in camden I would keep that to yourself, she is like god in this area.
Sorry if I’m stealing your thunder jonny, but a cracking place and a place that I dont think everyone who visits london would goto, I fully recommend.
Hi Michael. Totally with you – I love Camden. London easily made my top 10 cities from around the world – https://dontstopliving.net/my-top-10-cities-from-my-first-100-countries/ and there are some cool parts to it. Now that my best mate is based near Camden, I’ll be going to a few more gigs on my next trip back. “The Winehouse” would make a decent name for a bar actually! I also love Greenwich, Covent Garden and Shepi B. I lived in Shepherd’s Bush when I was soul destroyed PR office worker in Hammersmith from 2006-2007, the last office job I had before I quit to go backpacking. I’m also a sucker for London pub crawls. Love hopping in and out of the bars there. Safe travels. Jonny
All those places you have mentioned are proper london where the locals would go and have a nose around, dont see many locals walking around buckingham palace. You actually get a vibe for the city (although my only issue with as you have touched on no boozing) London is the bars and how rotten pints are because everyone drinks bottles and pipes etc dont get cleaned, they are also all being bought over by friggen whetherspoons or yates and while they have tried to keep their look you know its a spoons straight away as soon as you open the door and I personally think to myself frig this and leave. If your ever in Soho, alot less seedy during the day than I expected there is a couple of brew pubs one named the old coffee house and the Lyric, pints are cheap and the atmosphere was great.
Hi Michael, Yes I’m taking a break from the alcohol for 12 weeks, over 8 weeks into it now! BUt opposite to you I love all the pubs in London. Over the years I have probably been in over 600 bars in London and have done the following pub crawls:
– Monopoly Pub crawls (41 pubs in 36 hours – crazy sh*t)
– Circle Line Pub Crawl
– Countries of London Pub Crawl (wrote about it before here – https://dontstopliving.net/countries-of-the-world-pub-tour-10-nations-in-one-day/
– Sherlocks Holmes Pub Crawl
– Football Stadiums Pub Crawl (wrote a bit here – https://dontstopliving.net/football-grounds-of-london-pub-crawl/
In Soho there is a pub called the Green Man (it’s on Brewer Street which is on the front of Oasis second album) and it STILL does pints for under £2!!
So while the pipes may not always be clean, there are hundreds of cool vintage pubs in London including one in a toilet and one in a library. I’m sure I’ve been in the lyric but not the other one you mention. Will check it out next time! Safe travels. Jonny
Great post Jonny! I love this area of London. It is real alternative! Primrose hill is also gorgeous. I have spent some summers there, having picnics in the sun, over looking the city.
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Hi Abbi, Thanks. I am glad you like it. I’m a big fan of London of course (it made my top 10 cities) though due to the fact I’ve been to a load of other places, I rarely write about London. Hippy Camden Town and Primrose Hill are great spots. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Greenwich, Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith. There are so many cool parts to explore and I’ll be back in London in September again. Safe travels. Jonny