I stayed with one of my dearest uni friends Jane, in her lovely apartment in Primrose Hill.
In the morning I thought I’d go and have a little wander around the lovely London ‘village’ where I used to live, but as I walked along Gloucester Avenue, I came to a halt.
What was I thinking? It would only stir me up and make me feel weird going back to the places where I was so happy twenty years ago, so instead I decided to do something I’d never done before.
I headed down the steps which lead to the Regent’s Canal.
Built in 1812 this man-made waterway was a crucial connection from the Thames, over at Limehouse Basin in the East End, to the Grand Union Canal, which goes all the way up to Birmingham.
It was a crucial cog in the machine of the Industrial Revolution, creating a transport system much more efficient than horse and carts.
When I lived in Primrose Hill you couldn’t walk along the canal. It was abandoned and way too dangerous, now it’s the most glorious haven right in the centre of London.
If I’d turned west, I’d have ended up in Maida Vale, but I wanted to walk to Kings Cross and one of my favourite eateries, so I headed east, noting a sign that told me it was a one and half mile walk.
The moment I got down to the towpath I was met with a joyful burst of urban vegetation, early summer sun dappling on the water. Instant tranquility, right in the middle of London. I was enchanted.
I was also a little bit nervous, due to the historic reputation, especially going into the dark under the many bridges, but I soon got over that, admiring the hawthorn, the elderflower trees, heavy with blooms and the beautiful willows, dipping in the breeze.
The most dangerous things were the cyclists whizzing past on the towpath which is very narrow in places.
On I went, past Camden Lock market, which still seems as vibrant and fun as it was when I first went there as a teenager, admiring all the lovely new and converted buildings lining the canal, envying the apartments with balconies looking over the water.
Everywhere I looked was the combination of urban grit and fresh nature which I find so captivating, particularly where there was a Victorian wall, 21st century graffiti and rampant weeds. And the odd shopping trolley.
Getting nearer to Kings Cross, by a huge construction site and an old gas holder, I stopped to chat to a man called Marcus who lives on the canal, with a continuous cruising licence, which means he’s never in one place for more than two weeks, constantly moving around on London’s waterways.
He’s been living that way for 22 years, doing up longboats and selling them on.
There’s a whole community on the canals, he said. It gets hard in the winter, even with a wood burning stove, but he couldn’t live any other way.
Just past Marcus I came to the glorious St Pancras Lock, with its manicured garden and the weatherboard club house of the St Pancras Basin Cruising Club, then a bit further on to this wonderful barge and a thicket of willows where some young children had been taken on a thrilling exploration.
I could hear their hoots of delight as they poked about in the muddy undergrowth.
Round one more corner and there were steps covered in astroturf, leading up to the wonderfully developed Granary Square, where Central St Martin’s School of Art is now based in the amazingly redeveloped (unusually, in a good way…) area of King’s Cross, which used to be uniquely grim.
Granary Square is also the site of two great restaurants.
Grain Store, is a chic but relaxed a relaxed semi-vegetarian (there is some fish, but no beef as it’s too bad for planet) by once Aussie-resident French chef Bruno Loubet and Caravan, my favourite place for brunch in London.
I sat outside in the sun, watching the fountains play – and a little boy playing in them – and ordered jalapeno corn bread with eggs, bacon and avocado. I texted my old buddie from Sydney Morning Herald days, Michael Idato, who was in town, to hop in a cab and join me. He did.
After eating we strolled down towards the Tube station and came across a brand new branch of Granger & Co, the third London venue by my friend Bill Granger.
I could see him through the window, but he looked super busy – it’s opening on Monday – so I blew him a good luck kiss and walked on.
What a perfect morning.