By now I have been to London roughly a dozen times and it never disappoints. London is full of things to do for the tourist and/or traveler, history buff, theatre buff, shopping aficionado, well you get. London is also big. It is very easy to stay in Westminster and think you’ve seen London. Mainly because you will have done so much!! Over the years I have stayed in Westminster, Bermondsey/Southwark, Kensington, tower Hamlets, and Bayswater. We have explored more. But I had never been to Camden and if I am honest had no real desire to go. I loved Westminster and its theatre scene and Southwark. I got comfortable.
This past spring, work brought me back to London so we decided to tack on a few vacation days at the end. However where I was presenting was by St Pancras Station. It wasn’t convenient to stay in Westminster so Camden it was. A couple of hours after I arrived, all I could think was why did I wait so long? Camden has to be seen to be believed. At any given time of the day Camden High street ( and one you are over the bridge Chalk Farm Road is bustling. But not with the frenzied, focused energy you find in Westminster or the City. You get the feeling that people would actually stop to chat and a lot of them do. After the conference, we could really explore and we did.
For those in the Real Ale Movement, the Bree Louise pub is where it is at. This pub is old school London but clean, very friendly and the food is out of this world. @benton8tor nearly lost his mind at the beer selection which unlike other London pubs had a huge variety. Some from local brewers. Fun Fact Camden is home to local breweries, Camden Brewing. IPA, Bitters, the like. It is mainly cask ales. Side note: they also serve the best ploughmans with local cheeses.http://www.breelouise.pub/
If you are in the mood for pubs, Camden has lots to offer Some are a little rougher, (i.e. the Good Mixer, home to Amy Winehouse and Noel Gallagher) and it doesn’t accept cards but a fabulous spot for any music lover, full of history (and probably other things). It was in the Good Mixer , watching pool and listening to Camden’s own group Madness that we knew we were really here! http://www.thegoodmixer.com/ But the Lock Tavern was one of my favourites. It on Chalk Farm Road and Harmood. Harmood is the street where @benton8tor’s grandfather lived so it had special significance for him. It was still March and London was 21 and sunny ( I was both horrified global warming! and ecstatic sunshine!!! In March ! In London!!) so we could sit on their roof top terrace overlooking the famous Camden Market. They had a good beer selection too. http://www.lock-tavern.com/
Camden Market, located in the old horse stables has to be seen to be believed. Not high fashion but trendy fashion forward shops alongside steam metal punk shops, shoe stores, food vendors of every persuasion, milliners, antiques, and tourist shops. A definite must do. I bought one of my favourite dresses ever in Camden street. @benton8tor bought a watch. Ben’s approaches to watches are not to tell time but rather do they look interesting or cool. So when he was looking at a rather interesting watch in a Camden store, I knew he wasn’t serious about buying it. Also it was 50 pounds. He ended up getting it for 20. Considering he didn’t really want it to begin with, I am not sure who won that barter. That said it is an awesome watch. https://www.camdenmarket.com/
Though Camden was fascinating, it was new to me and new can be overwhelming. So when we met Ben’s cousins for dinner, I was relieved it was in Westminster. Alighting at the Leicester Square tube station, I took a deep breath, touristy, busy and full of energy I felt like I was home. I knew where I was going, where to find my favourite shops, pubs ect.. I relaxed. And dinner was a Joe Allens famous for its position in the theatre district and a good place to watch for celebrities. The food is good and wine list even better. http://www.joeallen.co.uk/
But back to Camden we went. We had little time left and new we couldn’t possibly do everything we wanted to. Gin tasting, a visit to the breweries, that would have to wait until next time. However we managed to squeeze in dinner at Chutneys a very delicious vegetation Indian restaurant. And my piece resistance, snack and champers at Searcy’s champagne bar in St Pancras station. Searcy’s manages to mix a 1930s art deco vibe with very modern decor, right in the middle of a train station. Literally right beside a train. We had some lovely champagne and we said our farewells to Camden. http://searcys.co.uk/
We were in Camden 1 week after the Westminster Bridge terror attacks. Since then, England has suffered 2 more horrifying attacks. But the British culture of resilience and support is stronger. If you are thinking about visiting England, don’t be deterred. You would be far more disappointed not to go and despite media reports, there is a far greater chance you will be completely safe and have the time of your life.