As the sun beat down and the water lapped against the boat, if you closed your eyes you could be forgiven for thinking you were on a Mediterranean cruise, not just yards away from the bustle of London life.
But there is a not so quiet revolution going on in a corner of Westminster, making Paddington a great destination for those wanting a London break with a twist.
While thanks to Paddington Underground Station, the major attractions such as London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Madame Tussauds are just a short hop on the tube away, closer to home there’s an abundance of attractions that will keep both grown ups and the little ones entertained all day.
With more than 200 rooms - and for the energetic swimming pool and fitness centre - our base was the Novotel Paddington.
Just yards from the tube for those wanting to go up west, the sleek and contemporary hotel is nestled in a purpose built modern village, featuring shops, and gleaming office blocks – Visa and Vodafone are among its neighbours.
While our room may have been the entry level, there was nothing basic about the ‘Superior’. Tastefully decorated it featured all the mod cons today’s travellers expect, including a queen size bed, 55 inch TV, swish bathroom facilities - and for those who can’t switch off a work area and laptop safe.
After a bite to eat in the hotel bar - a casual setting offering a range of simple but authentic dishes – it was time to head out to discover Paddington.
Almost immediately we bumped into arguably the area’s most famous resident, where standing proudly in Sheldon Square was a statue of Paddington Bear. Fans of the children’s classic can make a beeline to platform one of the nearby station where, after arriving in Blighty from Peru all them years ago, the bear was first discovered by the Brown family. The station is also home to the Paddington Bear Shop, where an array of memorabilia in homage to the furry fella can be found.
Just a five minute walk along the canal towpath through Little Venice it was time to board a vessel for a cruise along the Grand Union Canal.
Where once horses pulled goods and materials between London and Birmingham during the Industrial Revolution, today the scene is one of tranquility with tourists able to take their time to take in a different side to London.
Gently leaving the fast-paced London life behind, we cruised through the elegance of Maida Vale and Browning’s bird sanctuary, before travelling along the northern boundary of Regents Park, through London Zoo and on to Camden. If the two-hour return trip is too long, Camden provides a great chance to disembark and take in the sights and sounds of Camden Market where street food vendors and independent retailers, selling everything from vintage and original fashion to hand-made accessories collide in an experience not to be missed.
After several hours, it was time to calm down once again and settle down for the return journey, where once ashore, it was time to enjoy a drink in the laid back bars around Paddington Basin, where office workers started to filter out after a hard day at the office.
If you’ve built up an appetite and don’t want to venture too far for dinner, Desejo do Brazil is highly recommended.
About a 10 minute walk from the hotel, the steakhouse is a treat for meat lovers where hospitable passadores deliver a range of beef, chicken and pork to your table, until you decide when you’ve had enough.
After such a busy day it was time to return to base to enjoy a nightcap, before experiencing how comfy the queen size bed was.
Breakfast in the light contemporary dining room didn't disappoint, self service, a choice of fruit, cereal, and yogurt for a healthy option, with the choice of full English or Continental.
While there is some building work ongoing, touches like an ampi-theatre where people can gather to watch performances or major events on a large TV, give Paddington more of a community feel.
So no matter what kind of London break you want, it is a great location to enjoy the best of both worlds.
3 Kingdom Street
LONDON - UNITED KINGDOM
Tel (+44)207/6600679 - Fax (+44)207/2666010
Rooms start at £187 with a 10% discount all year round.
We travelled by rail with Grand Central for £35 return per person (booking in advance)