Saturday, June 16, 2007

Take Courage

Take Courage, originally uploaded by supafly.

Friday I had a leisurely morning and decided to do one of the walks from the Lonely Planet London book. I decided to try the Highgate/Hampstead Heath walk. I took the #343 bus to Borough and the Northern Line train to Archway. From there, I began my walk up Highgate Hill. (I traced the entire walk on my google map - check it out!) At the top of the hill, I saw the pub in the photo with the sign "Take Courage" on it. That is how I'm feeling about my time in London. It's a bit lonely being by myself all day with noone I knew nearby, but I'm trying to do things I enjoy and writing about it here since I have noone to talk to about it during the day (and I'd look kind of nutty talking to myself all of the time).

Across the street from the pub and around the corner from St. Joseph's church was Dartmouth Park Hill and the entrance to a beautiful little park called Waterlow. It was so nice to be in a quiet green space away from the hubbub of the city. The only other people in the park were mothers and fathers with baby strollers. In the park I found a narrow lane shaded over with trees. I assumed this was the "Swain's Lane" I was to find according to Lonely Planet. It wasn't, but it looked like the kind of place a swain would take a girl to woo her.

Next on the walk was to supposed to be a stroll through Highgate Cemetery, but I was too cheap to pay the entrance fee. (Karl Marx and Michael Faraday are buried here among others.) However, it ended up that the real Swain's Lane ran parallel to the cemetery, so I peeked in as I walked. The cemetery was so overgrown that it looked more like a forest that happened to have odd shaped rocks (tombstones) popping out here and there through the green.

After passing many picturesque English cottages, I crossed Highgate Road and entered the larger park called Hampstead Heath. It was truly enormous and it was hard to tell where Parliament Hill was because there were many rolling mounds in front of me. This park was less tree covered and had many more wide open spaces where people were walking their dogs and playing football (soccer to us). There was also a group of guys caring a box of electrical equipment. A police car drove by me as I ambled up and almost by accident found Parliament Hill. The park was so vast that there were many spots where I was completely alone. I found a set of stairs that seemed to lead up to a small hill, but when I got to the top it was THE hill - Parliament Hill - and there were several people up there on the benches scattered across the hilltop enjoying the view. One guy had biked up the hill and was drinking a quart of milk. Another woman was sitting on the bench with the best view (picture on flickr) and talking on her cell phone. I chose a bench and sat for awhile.

The next stop was the mixed bathing pond (there are also separate men's and women's bathing ponds). I didn't swim as it has been quite chilly in London but I could see someone out there enjoying themselves. After exiting the park, I was supposed to stop at the poet John Keat's house, but I couldn't find it. I did find more picturesque homes that all had names instead of house numbers. I should've written some of them down. I'll have to go back again. The least imaginative one was simply "Hampstead Cottage" for the park I had just left. I did find another house recommended by the guidebook which they described as a "unique modern house." I almost missed it because it really wasn't unique (except for being so modern compared to the houses surrounding it). However, there was a sign in front of it offering tours entitled, "unique modern house."

I took a wrong turn somewhere and instead of ending up at the Hampstead tube station where my journey was supposed to end, I missed Keat's house by 1/2 a block and ended on a small square near the Royal Free Hospital. It was well past lunch, so I stopped at the Marks & Spencer Simply Food shop. It was my first time exploring the shop and it had a wonderful food selection. They have potato chip flavors here that you just don't see in the U.S. I notice "sweet thai chili" is a popular one. They also aren't afraid of "bacon" flavored chips. I opted for "leicester and green onion flavor." It was a much subtler version of sour cream and onion without the sour cream. I also got a (ubiquitous here) prepared sandwich (chicken, avocado, and bacon). Everywhere you go has these pre-made sandwiches that are cunningly cut into triangles and then packaged in a triangular case. For the really hungry, they have a variety case that contains three triangular halves in different combinations instead of two. They had a bakery section and I almost got a cherry tart but decided to try their ginger cake instead.

I sat in the square across from M&S eating with the whinos that were gathered there. I'm not sure what the law is about drinking outdoors (although drinking outside of pubs is quite common). However, when a police siren sounded nearby, the whinos near me tucked their beer cans in their pants and walked away.

Rather than backtracking to the missed tube stop, I decided to keep walking. I walked down Haverstock Hill to the Belsize Park stop, but then decided to keep going to Chalk Farm stop because (silly me) I thought there might be an actual farm there as I had read there are a few working farms in London. Instead, I found lots and lots of stalls selling clothes along the road between the Chalk Farm and the Camden Town tube stops. One part of the market felt a bit "Disney Landish" because it was in an enclosed area with a food court. Behind the food court was row after row of stores selling vintage clothing. Closer to the Camden locks were store selling cheap t-shirts, wellies, and fake LeSportSac bags.

On my way to the Camden Town tube stop, a girl stopped me on the street to see if I wanted to get a hair cut. I haven't gotten one in awhile so I decided to go for it. It's one of those places where students are learning so it's really cheap. I have an appointment on Tuesday, I'll let you know how that goes.

After a rest at home, I met Marshall at the Broadgate Centre for a free showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. They were showing it on a big screen in a circular plaza that was surrounded by terraces of people drinking. The movie showing made Chicago outdoor films seem so calm and orderly. Half of the people there kept talking and drinking throughout the movie and their speaker system wasn't that great, so we were only able to hear half of the dialogue. (What was the plot of that movie? I had a hard time understanding it.)

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