London Houseboat Living

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Read any article about houseboat living and you’re sure to stumble upon words like “idyllic lifestyle” and “romantic abode”.

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I’ve never been inside of one, but I love to walk past the narrowboats in London, lining the Regents Canal.

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Jorge and I took a little walk down the canal path last weekend after our sunny, flower-filled walk through Regents Park.

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Cutting off from the park near the London Mosque, we headed down the canal all the way to Little Venice.

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The decor on some of the houseboats is brilliant – rusty old watering cans, tacky pink flamingos, hand carved fish and old ratty boots filled with dirt and pretty plants.

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The boats are set up into little communities and I’m sure they probably have that vibe for those who live there as well.

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They’re quite quirky with fun names painted across the sides, smoke stacks or rooftop gardens, some with tiny grassy patches across the pathway and the creativity that is essential for living in tiny spaces.

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Some also show a good sense of humour.

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There’s often a cat hanging out by the entrance.

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Many times residents and their friends are sitting on the deck around a table, living the life, chatting, drinking glasses of wine or eating sandwiches, sunglasses on, floating gently, relaxing.

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Other times, you see people washing their boats or doing some sort of maintenance.

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Though some of the communities of houseboats are pretty private, I’m not sure I’d like to live on one that touches a busy pathway like those near Broadway Market in Hackney.

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There are quite a few houseboat mooring areas in the city on the canal and the Thames from Chelsea to Canary Wharf, Hammersmith to Ladbroke Grove, Hackney to Little Venice.

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There was a festival of canal boats on at Little Venice the day we walked by – the Canal Cavalcade – so I took many of these photos there.

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There was silly bunting everywhere to give it a sense of festivity and most of the doors were open so it was possible to sneak a glance inside.

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They are very decorative and intricate structures in most cases, full of little details and personal touches.

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The residents must have a nice sense of freedom as they can just drift off down the canal whenever they like and not even leave home.

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The Canal Cavalcade is an annual gathering that kicked off about 30 years ago and now attracts about 130 houseboats, morris dancers and artisans.

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Though they may look similar from a distance, each of the boats has its own character.

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It’s worth stopping for a little wander if you’re passing through next year.

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Seeing so many houseboats up close just asking to be photographed was a treat!

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But they’re just as lovely, and maybe even lovelier in their natural conditions without the celebratory atmosphere. They may not be as shiny in day to day life but they seem more authentic.

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A lot of the boat owners/renters we’ve passed along the canal also seem to have bikes, or maybe it’s just more noticeable as they are attached to the outside!

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It seems to me quite an eccentric lifestyle, an embrace of minimalism and a sideways step away from the expectations of the rat race society.

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It must be pretty amazing to wake up to swans or ducks swimming past your window or seeing a nest being built from your bed.

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I would imaging the maintenance isn’t much fun though, and with a tight living space you have to be extra tidy and organised.

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I think the best part about it would be the deck, taking a cup of tea out there in the morning with a good travel magazine and waking up on the water.

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I’m off to Amsterdam tomorrow night for a weekend with the girls so if it’s anything like my last few trips there, I’ll come back with plenty of houseboat photos!

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They even have a houseboat museum…

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Would you ever live on a houseboat? Do you? Or do you know someone who does? I’d love to do an interview with someone who has made a boat a home. Put me in touch if you know someone!

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Broadway Market and Regents Canal

It was another sunny Saturday last weekend, so Jorge and I ventured East for the second time in two days. Last Friday night we went to the pop up night market in Haggerston called Street Feast, which I didn’t take any photos of, but it was fun until it got too chilly in the late night air. We had New York style hot dogs (which weren’t really…) and I enjoyed a “mahoosive mojito” (which had mahoosive price of £10 and was a normal sized drink).

I haven’t been to Broadway Market in ages, so since we had a long and sunny Saturday stretched ahead of us, we decided to explore the natural habitat of London’s urban hipster. It’s prime street art territory around there as well, so without even looking for it, I ended up taking a few photos on the way.

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P1000250Photo: Mr Penfold & Sweet Toof

Also along the way, across from rows of condensed housing is the creepy looking God Worshipers Ministry. The Love Renewal Centre.

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And then the two giant bird pieces, a collaboration between by Irony and Boe, one right outside the market and one on the edge. They also recently created this amazing fox on Waldegrave Road in Turnpike Lane not long ago.

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The market was pretty crowded but nowhere near as packed as Portobello or Brick Lane. It’s much smaller anyway. Plus, for the moment anyway, it tends to draw Londoners rather than tourists.

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There was a bit of live music.

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And more on the other end.

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We walked by the shop that is something of an institution, F. Cooke which has been selling traditional pies, mash and jellied eels for well over 100 years.

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I love it when shops use their signs for quotes and poetry or a bit of humour rather than advertising or boring menus.

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We spent some time in one of the best art and design bookshops in the area – Artwords (which made my list of favourite independent shops in London a while ago). We left with two new piece of inspiration for our bookshelf. The first was Creative Space: The Urban Homes of Artists and Creatives which shares images and interviews with people in Barcelona, Berlin, London, New York, Paris and Toyko. The other one is a London Design Guide which I haven’t looked through yet but seems to have a lot of good suggestions in it for food, shopping, etc. split by some popular areas of the city.

Outside again, the sun was beaming down and people were making the most of it, coats off, sunglasses on, lounging around.

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There are bikes everywhere around here.

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Wandering through the market, the food looked and smelled pretty delicious. There seemed to be quite a few free samples passed out as well.

There was roasted hog.

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Fresh Salmon folded onto slices of home baked bread.

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Buckets full of olives.

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Fresh bread.

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Stacks of cheese.

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Veggies.

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Dried meat.

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Takeaway lunch.

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Or find a table nearby.

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Wash it down with some juice, or there are plenty of pubs in the area. Take your pick from the Cat and Mutton, the Dove Freehouse & Kitchen or Broadway Market.

P1000278Photo: Entrance to The Cat & Mutton pub

Lots of coffee shops too. Climpson & Sons is rumoured to be one of the best but it was packed so we didn’t go in. Also Wilton’s on Wilton’s Way nearby has a good reputation, uses beans roasted at Climpson & Sons and has fewer crowds.

There’s racks of £5 vintage dresses, and lining the street behind the market are other trendy clothing shops, second hand shops and vintage shops. Hipster fashion galore and plenty of sartorial inspiration in the streets as well. People watching is brilliant around here.

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And of course there’s flower stalls.

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Jewellery.

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We had lunch in the Turkish Solche Grill and Meze Bar on the corner near the canal.

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Food was good, prices were cheap and we sat under a giant skylight where we could feel the sun, but the service was slow and scattered and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for that reason. The had some fun drippy candles though.

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Interestingly, while trying to remember the name of the place I read this article about shots being into the restaurant in August last year. A little reminder that despite the relatively recent gentrification of this area, it still has another side to it!

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After lunch, the sun beckoned and we took a two-mile walk down Regents Canal to Islington.

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There were flowers in bloom and people sat along the water watching the canal boats pass, many of them on phones, of course…

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We followed one boat floating along at walking pace for quite a while.

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The architecture along the trail is a strange mix of modern and crumbling, council flats, cottages and office blocks as well as some newly developed buildings with retail space.

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There was a stretch with some beautiful prunus trees in blossom.

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Bikes everywhere, people running, dogs on walks and babies in prams, there was plenty of traffic on the narrow stretch of pavement between the wall and canal. And it was quite windy, as you can see from my lion mane hair!

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Houseboat life might be interesting for a while, simple, pared down to the basics.

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Boots for planters and such.

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And with a pretty view!

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All in all, a beautiful place to spend one of the first days of real Spring in London!

Canal Walk: Broadway Market to Limehouse Basin

Picking up where I left off around Broadway Market, I continued my walk along Regents Canal all the way to Limehouse Basin.

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The weather had cooled down a notch and a half, so I had my fingerless gloves on this time, wrapped up in a big scarf, wishing I had a travel mug full of hot tea.

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Noticed a few of these random veggie signs posted by weeds that look ever so slightly like the plant indicated. There was one for onions nearby next to a dried up weed with brown seed pods that looked as much like onions as these do lettuce. Anyone know who put them there?

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More art along the walls, colourful bricks. Mighty Mo loves the canal and seems to have done quite a few collaborations with Sweet Toof like this one below.

Mighty Mo & Sweet Toof

Of course Sweet Toof’s work is everywhere, like this one with a dead ROA piece.

Graffiti Tunnel

I stood there for a while and watched the geese looking at these creatures that seemed to have invaded their canal bank.

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Here’s a closer shot of the ROA – Sweet Toof piece:

Sweet Toof and Roa

It was a pretty grey day, but couples were still walking, joggers still racing by and cyclers clanging their bells to pass everyone else.

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Spotted this little arrow pointing to the “west”. Apparently the little man wanted to go east…

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And more Sweet Toof…

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I took a little detour off the canal path to take some photos of Stik’s work up above (but you can’t see those yet. mwahaha!) and this is standing on the steps looking down the path. And I may possibly have slapped an LLO sticker on that pole on the way down. It was asking for it.

Hackney Canal Walk

And some more Sweet Toof…

Sweet Toof Reflection

This one’s hiding out.

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Anyone know who is the artist of this cat fight?

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Everything seemed to have paint on it for a little stretch of the walk.

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Walking past all the houseboats tied along the edge, you can’t help but wonder what it would be like to own one, to wake up each morning, climb up on the  small deck at the front and drink your morning tea on the canal. A lot of the owners grow plants on the roof.  Most of them have names. This one was one of my favourites. “Somewhere” evokes wanderlust, vagabonding freedom. Somewhere.

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There were plenty of bridges that crossed low over the pathway. A couple of them only big enough for one and a half people.

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Saw this man contentedly feeding the gulls and the ducks. Thought he’d look nice in black and white. Seemed to fit his character.

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This picture was all about the colour and texture. There was a long brick wall, painted blue. And I loved it for its rich simplicity.

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Here’s a paste-up from Ludo.

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Love a happy message on a colourful wall. Anyone know who the lovely person is who put it there?

Every Moment Can Be Joyous

All the trees are bare, branches wispy, naked, revealed. Winter branches along a Winter canal.

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Natas’ monster seems at home in the mossy trees along the brick wall.

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I found a fishie with interesting innards.

Fish!

And a view of Canary Wharf I hadn’t seen before. I like the contrasts of this scene, the scrubby foreground and the shiny background the graffiti and the bankers, the liquid and the steel.

Canary Wharf

Everyone walking by in hats and scarves, waiting for the seasons to change.

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This made me think of the M&M shop in Piccadilly which I haven’t been inside of yet. (How you you possibly devote so much space to M&Ms and why are people so interested?)

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A canal monster’s tail near Mile End Park.

Choices, choices…

And another houseboat full of summer breezy dreams.

These guys were also hanging out near Mile End Park.

And their horse. Of course.

Eventually I made it to the end of my journey, very ready for that cup of tea.

This is Limehouse Basin.

Canal Walk: Camden Market to Broadway Market

Remember Friday’s Happiness Switch? Well that was at the tail end of my walk from Camden Market to Broadway Market, snaking my way along the Regents Canal pathway. But as I’m sure you have guessed by now, there are plenty more photos where that came from!

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It was surprisingly busy. Joggers zooming past, panting heavily, iPods dangling. The less motivated ones relaxing in the grass where small bright patches of sun warmed their backs. Cyclers and Borris bike beginners weaving through with their jingling warning bells.

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And then the rest of us meandering along, taking in the scenery of grunge and graffiti, house boats with eccentric names bobbing on water, plants growing on their roofs. People like me with cameras. A girl speed-walking whilst reading a novel. Dogs trotting along with drooping tongues and owners in tow.

Hope is Beautiful 2

Couples holding hands, couples arguing loudly about whose fault it is they are now committed to a dinner party next weekend, couples making out on benches.

Rusted Bridge

As the day slowly faded, a warm light glowed around the boats and bounced off of the water.

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I spotted the estate in Hackney that’s become an art exhibition of sorts called “I Am Here” – a reminder of the real people who are involved. The project’s intention is to “open up a reflective space concerning issues about visibility and ‘urban renewal'”.

Faces in the Windows

And then I spotted this old building with its faded sign and broken windows:

Ron's Eel and Shell Fish

And an odd collection of colourful flags tied to a structure…

Prayer Flags?

A comment on love versus money from Loko Ais…

Thoughts of Money and Love

The tunnels cause the pathway to narrow because they add the slant to the far side so that sometimes only one person can pass at a time, making things interesting when bikes pass.

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The water was quite still and made for some interesting reflections.

Shoreditch Reflection

Robbo’s covered up an old Banksy piece here:

Team Robbo Rollin with the Stoned

And Pable Delgado strikes the canalside:

Pablo Delgado

The closer I walk toward Hackney, the more street art starts to appear from the likes of Swoon, Pablo Delgado, Stik, Robbo, Loko Ais and Sweet Toof.

Graffiti Walkway

Next time, I’ll continue the canal walk from Broadway Market down to Limestone Basin and see what other goodies there are to discover.

Today, I’m off to the London Art Fair 2012 in Islington. Last day if you’re looking for something to do!

Switch on Your Happiness

Hey, it’s Friday! Time to “switch on your happiness”! Loving this piece I found installed at the top of a stairway where Regents canal flows lazily past Broadway Market:

Actually, I think this is a good photograph to print out and tack up above my desk at work and one for the mirror at home for Monday mornings (just for extra measure). It would probably be good for the artist, Sophia Fox, to install a few on the tube as well. Wouldn’t hurt, right?

This is one of my favourite forms of street art. It’s small so you feel a bit special when you find it. It’s creative. It makes me smile. And it’s something that sticks with me. There is, in fact, a whole series of colourful “Happiness Switches” from Sophia’s collection. There are even mapped locations where we can go hunt them down (I love a good treasure hunt)! If you work nearby one of them, scope it out for me and see if it’s still there please!

I love the idea behind Sophia’s work as it echoes the ideas behind LLO as well. She explains, “Through my work I like to bring a smile and perhaps the appreciation of little moments of happiness.”