Today I headed for Camden because the name sounded familiar and it didn’t look too far away on the map. This haphazard method of sightseeing hasn’t led me astray so far, so why change a good thing?
Emerging from my hostel I was greeted with dark clouds and a brisk wind. Finally, some real British weather! All these sunny days had me thinking I was vacationing somewhere in Spain.
Hunkering down in my jacket and leaning into the wind, I set off for this magical place called Camden. I really didn’t know what to expect having done no research. One of the most amazing things about the city is that everywhere you look on a London map, you see something that is vaguely familiar to you even when it’s not. My walk to Camden turned out to be a bit of an unexpected trek. So much for looking close on the map.
I passed through a somewhat industrial-looking area deserted of people before finally getting to Camden Town. Luckily, I reached the High Street just as the sky opened up with rain. Ducking into one of the many second-hand/vintage shops, I picked through the racks of clothes as I waited for the rain to abate.
Unlike the second-hand shops in Hawaii, this place actually had interesting and fashionable pieces that leaned slightly toward the punk rock. Before I realized it, I had a handful of clothes that I didn’t really need and had to put them away before I was even more tempted to buy them.
As I continued along, I passed many trendy shops and restaurants and the overall vibe was similar to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, only edgier and darker. There seemed to be a gritty realism to the place where neo-punks mingled with neo-hippies and formed a new subculture.
When I finally reached the famous Camden Markets I was a bit disappointed. Despite being entrenched within this alternative sub-culture of punk rock and piercings, the stalls were all about capitalism and pandered to tourists. Every other stall sold the same hipster screen-printed shirts or outrageously short and/or thin dresses that did not suit this weather. There were mobile phone accessory shops, where you could get your phone pimped out, next to darkly ominous tattoo parlors. The alternative lifestylers were sending a mixed message that’s for sure.
Regent’s Canal passed through the town and Camden Locks reminded me of a Medieval version of the Ballard Locks (or more officially the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks) in Seattle, Washington. What I enjoyed most about the area were the buildings. Their color and texture made their age undeniable. I could just picture this as the setting of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist or some other turn-of-the-century, poverty-stricken tale.