LONDON // Primrose Hill to Camden Town

On the Thursday of my London trip - knowing that Eve, my barista sista', would be busy at work - I had booked myself a special treat with some money I'd been given for my birthday. It meant I needed to be a little further North West than I'd so far been and I decided I would head up that way and spend the day there.

After I'd fuelled up on caffeine at Ozone Cafe, I hopped on a tube and headed for Euston station, from where I began my lengthy stroll in the sun.  My walk took me almost the length of Regent's Park, bypassing the chatter of noisy animals and noisier school children at London Zoo as I set my sights on Primrose Hill. 

If it wasn't for numerous recommendations to take a walk here, I think the only thing I would have known of Primrose Hill was its place in '101 Dalmations'. In the story, the dalmations live with their owners in the area known by that name and use the hill itself as the location for the "twilight call" that kicks off the search for the missing puppies. It was easy to see where the inspiration came from as I passed dog after owner after owner after dog enjoying the sunshine and open space. It was a beautiful green park to take a wander through - dog or not - and it wasn't long before I found myself heading to the top of the hill.

The views up there are something special. Much like the hilltop in Greenwich, there are panaromic views across the city of London, from the enclosures of the zoo in the foreground to the familiar features of the skyline behind. I could pick out the cluster of Canary Wharf, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Shard, the BT Tower and the London Eye, though I'm sure a more educated observer could pick out much more. I read a write-up somewhere that proclaimed it the city's "best free view" and I could certainly understand why. Impressive! 

London zoo

I stayed up there for a while, lounging around like so many others enjoying both the scenery and the sun, before heading down the opposite side and into the area that shares its name with the hill.

The houses here are so pretty - all pale and pastel coloured with delicate little balconies - and reminded me of those in Kensington or Chelsea. I dread to think how much it must cost to live in a house as attractive as these, but just look: 


Besides their beauty, it was one house in particular that prompted me to roam these residential streets. One of my favourite writers since my teens, Sylvia Plath (poet and author of 'The Bell Jar') lived here with her fellow-poet husband Ted Hughes just a few years before her tragic death. Sure enough, it wasn't long before I came across the blue plaque confirming this fact upon a house on Chalcot Square. I wonder if it was painted the same pink colour when Plath lived here?

I must have looked a bit odd taking photos of what I presume to be someone's home, but that's the great thing about London - no one bats an eyelid!

From there I made a quick trip just down the road to the Primrose Bakery - producers of my favourite baking books! - to pick up some thank you cupcakes for Eve, before heading down to Regent's Canal.

Blue plaque

The canal cuts a route across London that once connected the Grand Junction Canal to the River Thames. It's a picturesque waterway used as much for picnics and leisurely strolls as it is for kayaks and canal boats and you can walk all the way to Hoxton and Victoria Park back over in the East. 

I only walked the short stretch to Camden Lock where I diverted myself into the sprawling market in search of lunch. 

Camden was one of the first places I ever visited in London and I still hold a particular fondness for it. I love the buzz and the diversity of the markets and I think the secret emo kid within me appreciates the area's "alternative" scene. 

Between the Lock-side and the Global Kitchen, there is waaaay too much choice when it comes to food, covering all sorts of continents and cuisines. I wasn't feeling especially adventurous that day and settled on some macaroni cheese from the 'Mac Factory' and I can't say it was a bad choice. So much carb, but so much yum! 

MarketCamden Lock Market
Camden Lock Market

It's easy to get absorbed (and admittedly a little bit lost) in Camden, but I didn't have too long to spend before it was time to head back in the direction of Regent's Park (the short route along The Parkway this time) to enjoy my birthday treat. 

From May to September every year, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre - a 1250 seat auditorium in the heart of the park - stages four different productions, each on a limited run. One of this year's shows was a new adaptation of what might just be my favourite story of all time: Peter Pan! 

Back in 2009, when I turned 21, I celebrated my birthday by making a trip to London with my mum, especially to see Peter Pan brought back home to the location where J.M. Barrie is said to have written much of the play. In a huge, purpose-built marquee in Kensington Gardens, we sat around a circular stage and watched in awe as Peter and the Darlings flew around the auditorium and projection techniques made us feel like we were part of the scene. It was an incredible production - all the more special for its setting - and I was a tiny bit concerned that the Regent's Park version just wouldn't compete. 

How wrong I was! Quite by contrast, the set here was simple, with the cast visibly constructing each scene from the same few props. While the stage might have been minimal, the impact certainly was  not! Putting an unfamiliar spin on the well-known tale, the Lost Boys became a tragic representation of the many young men who marched into battle during World War 1, while much of Neverland became the trenches of the Somme. The cast switched between soldiers' uniforms and the costumes of wild but innocent children throughout, bringing the reinterpretation to life. It was incredibly moving - a brutal kind of beautiful - and I fully admit to having shed a tear or twenty.

I'm so glad I was able to get a ticket before it came to the end of its run, though sad that it finished before I was able to recommend it to anyone. It's had such good reviews that I wouldn't be surprised if another theatre eventually picks it up, in which case, go - it's a must!

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Pretty much the perfect birthday purchase and the ideal way to spend a day in the London sun. 


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