Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Visit to Venice…In London

Last weekend, I escaped my crazy apartment life to enjoy the British bank holiday (i.e. Steve had a free day off) with the newly wedded Harmons. Along with their friends (nicely, now my friends), Tamara and Kris, we trooped over to Paddington on Saturday to a part of London known as “Little Venice. The moniker comes from the obvious similarity it shares with the original city—canals. Before the days of roads and rails, the Thames was the major means of goods transportation to and from the capital city. Accordingly, a complex system of levees and canals developed. The best remaining example of this once great system is Little Venice. Saturday was the area’s annual canal boat cavalcade and festival. The lure of sunshine and street meat was too strong for us to resist, so off we went to join in the fun.

The weather was gorgeous and the setting very pretty. All the trees and plants were new and fresh—the weeping willows hanging over the lovely stone bridges that crisscrossed their way across the canals made for an almost storybook atmosphere. We wandered for a while up and down the canals—touring a few of the narrow boats (thus named because of their small size, necessary to travel up and down the canals without getting stuck) and checking out the vendors. After a while, the call to eat, drink, and be merry overcame us, so we found a place on the banks to park ourselves and decided to let the action come to us.

From the our excellent vantage point, we could watch the boat parade, examine the amazing amount of dogs out for a stroll, and pity the poor parents pushing strollers full of hot and whiny kids through the crowds. We were also able to get some sun (a phenomenon I had disparaged of ever having the chance to do again) and enjoy sausages, fresh cider (which had a decidedly barnyard quality for which I did not much care), and white wine.

As if street meat and cool drinks weren’t enough to make our day, the onslaught of a troupe of Morris dancers surely sealed the deal. I have no idea of the history behind Morris dancing. What I do know is that we derived great pleasure from watching these beribboned and black-hatted men prance around in front of us with bells on whilst trying to whack each other with sticks. They even had a jester who interspersed yelling things at the audience with joining in the dance. It was obvious that these men were having a great deal of fun, not mainly because they were all imbibing freely from the pewter tankards each man carried. After their performance, more than one member of the audience spotted them a round. Not us, though—we’d already spent all our money on rounds of our own.