I always expect to walk a lot when I’m travelling, but apparently living here means walking a lot too. It’s the same in most big cities, of course, and London provides few reasons to drive. (I drove in central London today and it was like an adventure park ride; more on that later.) From where I’m staying in Tottenham it’s a ten minute walk to the closest tube station, and from there – wherever you’re going – it’s up and down stairs, changing lines, walking a couple of streets to your destination; it’s constant movement and it’s the easiest way to get around.
Last Friday I discovered that my new phone has a built-in pedometer when it alerted me to the fact that I’d walked 17.7km. This wasn’t an accident; I’d set out with Bonnie and two of her housemates, Charlotte and Ellen, to do a canal walk and as luck would have it, we’d been blessed with the sunniest kind of February day London could muster up. From Camden Markets we strolled along the canal past houseboats and the London Zoo. It’s a pretty enough walk, although I imagine all the prettier in spring and summer. We took a detour up Primrose Hill (alas, no primroses in sight) where a surprisingly wide view of London can be seen, before looping back into Regent’s Park.
Regent’s Park is perhaps the biggest in central London, something like their Central Park (but nothing like Perth’s Kings Park). Schoolboys were doing rugby training and locals were walking their dogs. Birds nests were exposed in the bare branches of trees. We stuck to the path rather than get stuck in the mud; walking on the grass is hazardous here.
After meandering through gardens and across bridges, we passed through Marylebone and Soho – and suddenly we were in Trafalgar Square. You know those moments when you feel like you’ve stepped into a photo, like you’re really, actually, in a place you’ve imagined? This was one of those moments. The Square is majestic; huge statues before roaring fountains, and the National Portrait Gallery looming above it all. I’ll return there later, but this time we pressed on to Embankment and the river. From the Golden Jubilee Bridges above the Thames we could see Westminster, the London Eye, and the National Theatre. We snapped selfies like the tourists we all are from time to time.
I expect I’ll do more long, exploratory walks from time to time, wherever I am. But I enjoy the incidental walking just as much. On Sunday, I headed off on foot to the nearest swimming pool, a convenient twenty minute walk away. Finding the pool broken (yes, really) I set out to find a different one, which took me through a different area of Tottenham – admittedly, one that I’ve been advised not to walk in at night, but different all the same. I didn’t make it to the second pool in the end, but I walked a route I might not have otherwise. I like the local feel, and it’s best discovered on foot.