I felt I’d seen too many tourists and shops. It was time to go somewhere less-trodden.
But first let me recommend a good place for coffee. Instead of the repetitive hotel breakfast, I had this really tasty sausage and egg sandwich from Lo Spuntino. This is a family-owned cafe just round the corner from Queensway station. The cappuccino was the best I’ve had anywhere.
My destination was Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly parkland in northern London bordering on zone 1 and 2. It is about the same size as Hyde Park, but is less manicured and has a more diverse landscape.
I exited Hampstead station into a street that sloped gently upwards. 15 minutes later I reached one of the heath’s entrances. This one led to a woodland.
It’s probably not a good idea to venture alone into a woodland in a strange city, but the presence of other walkers eased my worries.
The paths were lined by memorial benches:
There were no road signs, but with a map and compass, I found my way out of the woods…
… and into one of the vast meadows. This is one of the highest points in London and the view is protected by law. Office buildings of Canary Wharf can be seen from here.
This dog tried to give me a hug. Now nice! It’s not everyday that you get to meet a friendly Londoner.
Beyond the meadows were several ponds. The sky was starting to brighten up:
After more walking, I found myself at one of the gates of Kenwood Estate (click to enlarge):
This is Kenwood House. Isn’t it magnificent?
The Kenwood House was formerly a villa of some nobles. Signs here also refer to it as “Iveagh Bequest” because it was donated by Lord Iveagh to the nation in 1927. It also appears in the film Nottinghill.
I took a rest in its garden and had a scone and tea. I have no idea why they didn’t provide/sell cream and jam with the scone. Eating scone without them is like washing hair without shampoo.
Entering the house was like stepping back in time (sorry for the cliche). Paintings by important artists were on display inside and they were marvelous. However it was the atmosphere that I found most memorable. Despite the opulent decoration, the interior managed to have the kind of tranquility in a Japanese garden, indicative of the refined taste of the its former occupants.
My mom, after seeing the pictures, said the heath didn’t look much different from country parks in Hong Kong, which she thought have much better natural scenery. It wasn’t the nature that I was seeking, but rather the quintessential Englishness that the place exudes.
Time for lunch. I left the heath and went to the nearby Spaniard’s Inn. This place is very old: it was built in around 1585. During those times, highwaymen frequented the area and used the inn to target wealthy travelers.
Thankfully, its patrons are less deadly these days. Again, as I pushed open the heavy wooden doors and stepped on the creaky floor, while trying not to hit my head on the low doorway, no one responded to my presence. This time, however, I saw people ordering at the bar and realised the mistake I made yesterday. This is how they do it in an English pub: you order your food at the bar, and tell them which table they should bring the food to. Drinks, however, must be carried yourself.
I got myself a huge fish and chips. The fish was silky smooth like Cantonese steamed fish, though the batter was a bit soggy. Of course, I wasn’t able to finish the chips.
The inn had a lovely garden. Note the white board exterior of the building.
The lunch gave me the energy to walk all the way back to the tube station…
The street was lined by real estate agencies and I checked out some of the ads. This is one of the more expensive areas of London and two-bedroom homes here generally cost HKD8-12 million. None of the ads, however, mentioned the size of the flat.