Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pub Review: The Constitution, Camden

The Constitution is right next to the Regents Canal, a short walk along the towpath from Camden Lock. When we got there at Sunday lunchtime there were only a couple of people there. The beer was nice and the garden out the back over looking the canal would be lovely in the sunshine. The Oktoberfest beer was lovely. 
I would like to go back to this pub when its busy and have a good night out. Definitely a pub worth stopping at if you are walking along the Regents Canal. 

Canal Walk: Paddington to Little Venice

On the Sunday morning we went for a walk. For a change Kate the official, but probably not chronic alcoholic, beer reviewer of towpathtreks.co.uk was coming for a walk rather than a pint. Admittedly we were walking to Camden and a pub but for now she was just walking. 
We found the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union and did a lap of Browning's Basin at Little Venice. 

Pub Reviews: The Narrow Boat and Prince of Wales, Islington

We took the tube to Angel, Islington and found our way to the top of the tunnel that takes the Regents Canal underneath Islington. Its a short walk from the tunnel to Wenlock Basin and the Narrow Boat pub. 
The Narrow Boat is a modern pub with access from the street above or the towpath below. There are windows over looking the Regents Canal and balconies to sit out on in good weather. The pub is as much about food as it is about drink. But the drink was good, Red Fox and London Pride by Fullers and Sharp's Doom Bar. The drink prices weren't too bad either. 
Despite it being busy it wasn't too noisy and we found a table. When we ordered food it came surprisingly quickly. There are specials on the blackboards and a single sheet menu. The prices are not bad, this is Islington after all.  The wild boar and apple sausages were very nice. 
If the Narrow Boat is for people who want wild boar sausages and wine, then the Prince of Wales a little further along the cut is for people who want a pint of beer and a pickled egg. It did have Spitfire and Adnams but that was about it. The pub was fine, the tv was showing the football and some old people were enjoying a quiet drink. No one was enjoying the pickled eggs. 


Out of the two pubs the Narrow Boat was far nicer. I will definitely go back there. 

On the Trail of the Ripper

The best laid plans of mice and men and towpath trekkers often go tits up. The main purpose of this trip to London was to walk the streets of Whitechapel looking for Jack the Ripper. We picked a guided Ripper walk and decided what to wear weeks ago. It was all planned to the minute, we knew where to go, when to be there and who to meet. During the day we heard the Circle Line was closed. Not a huge problem, we would go to another station on another line and walk to the meeting point. 
We got changed at the hotel, I was suitably dressed all in black, my companion dressed as a Victorian whore.  And so we headed off into the night. But wait, we didnt know how to get from the tube station to the meeting point and I didnt have a map. So with lightening speed, I grabbed the first map from the nearby shop and we headed off to the station. On the way to the station I glanced at my watch only to find that for some inexplicable reason it was 7:15pm, the tour started at 7:30pm a long way away. There was no chance the tube would get us there in time. So we needed a taxi.  After standing by Euston Road watching endless numbers of cabs drive passed with their lights off we were beginning to lose hope. We crossed the road. We looked at the station. We looked at the buses. We looked at each other. What we weren't doing was getting anywhere. In the end we saw a taxi with its light on and ran into traffic and jumped in. We tried not to notice that the taxi took us past the hotel we had started in and sat back to watch the clock and fare competing with each other. We drove down the back streets and alleys of London and got to Tower Hill at 7:41pm. Too late? A very large group of people walked past. Too many to be a Ripper Tour. We walked around the station and found the posters for the Ripper Tours, they started at 6:30pm, 6:40pm, 7:00pm and 7:30pm. It was 7:45pm. There was no sign of any Ripper Tours. We had no idea which way the tours would have gone. So a man in black and a short whore stood by the station wondering what Plan B was.  Plan B was to go to the 10 Bells pub and drink gin. The problem with that plan was we didnt know where the 10 Bells was. In fact we didnt know where any of the Ripper sites were, that was the whole point of the tour. A phone call to Southport got us the address of the 10 Bells (and the Blind Beggar) so after much staring blankly at a map (one that was the wrong scale for this sort of thing) we headed off into the dark streets of Whitehall. We walked for a few minutes, I was reluctant to say I had no idea where we were going. We stopped. I admitted we had no idea where we were. My companion looked close to tears. A street sign and a better look at the map got us on the way again. But what was that...? An Irish voice in the night. Talk of murder and prostitution. It could only be a Ripper Tour! We dashed as fast as a woman in a corset can down the side street. And there under a railway bridge they were. A very large group of people was stood looking up at a man talking to them about murder most foul. This was the very tour we wanted. These were the people we saw earlier. We joined the group and with great relief listened to the guide talk about women being killed. 
Whitechapel at night is closed. There are no bars or shops or restaurants. The whole place is deserted. Empty. Apart from the Ripper tour groups. There are a lot of them. This fact was most obvious in Mitre Square, the site at which Catherine Eddowes, prostitute and fire engine impersonator, was killed by the Ripper. Mitre Square is one of the more famous Ripper sites. As we entered the square there were 3 or 4 other groups there, each either being lead across the square or being spoken to by their guide. There was a real danger of losing our group as we passed through the other groups. Our guide had to keep his voice down so as not to compete with the other people talking about intestines and knives and Victorian policemen. Quite a surreal sight. As was the race to the next ripper site, rushing up the road with another group rushing up the other side. There were about a hundred in our group. We stood in front of the former workhouse, once home to all the Ripper victims. The building is now accommodation for students. Every now and again one would come out of their front door and find 100 people stood looking up at them. It was obviously a little disconcerting.  
The tour finished by the 10 Bells and we went in for a much needed gin. The pub relies on two things, the Ripper walks and students. The students out numbered the Ripper fans. It was packed with annoying people in fashionable glasses and silly hats. Hipsters I believe. Or maybe just plain old wankers.
The pub has some original tiles from the days when the Ripper victims and maybe the Ripper himself drank here. There is no real reason to go here other than its link with the gruesome murders 120 years ago. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

London Weekend Trip

Towpath Treks went to London this weekend. We went to review canal pubs, hunt for Jack the Ripper, find Ophelia and watch the shadows. The trip trod the line between triumph and disaster at all times. 
We left Liverpool at lunchtime, at least one of the party was slightly hung-over I am ashamed to say. In just 2 hours 20minutes we were in the nations capital and soon after that we were in the first canal pub of the weekend the Narrow Boat, Islington. 
After reviewing a couple of pubs we divided our group and while Kate the fearless beer reviewer went chasing shadows, the rest went chasing a diabolical serial killer.
After much walking and some dressing up we were worn out. 
The next day brought a towpath trek from Paddington to Camden, another pub review, a fruitless search for Ophelia, umbrellaless rain and a train ride home to Liverpool.