Discovering Hampstead, London
There’s no better way to start a day but to indulge in a bit of commercial magic: taking my photo at the 9 ¾ platform at King’s Cross was a fun experience. After my Harry Potter’s fan moment I was ready to do something completely different. I wanted to wander around beautiful Hampstead. Armed with nothing but a printed out blog post by A Lady in London I was eager to explore an affluent London’s neighbourhood often described as a colorful charming village full of Aston Martins.
Leaving the tube station Hampstead I looked around and smiled. I could smell the promise of a great day in the crisp air. I turned right and started walking uphill Heath Street while admiring the beautiful houses and their immaculate gardens. I actually felt like I was walking around an English village. I couldn’t believe that I was still in London. It was sunny but at 10 am there weren’t a lot of people out and about. Soon I saw a sign for Holly Bush pub but I didn’t come across Church Row street which I was supposed to according to the directions that I was following.
Never mind, I continued to walk on and soon reached a sculpture of Churchill in front of a shop. Why was he there? And was that his American counterpart with him? I marched on and came to a roundabout with a small lake/pond and saw a Jack Straws Castle. Wasn’t that a pub before? Now it seemed to be some sort of fitness center. I figured I went on too far and decided to go back down the street towards the tube station to try to find the Church Row street.
Suddenly I was blessed by a moment of pure London magic! Two women passed by me and as soon as I recovered from the shock I swung my head back to look at her again. What should I do? Do I go after them and ask an Oscar-winning actress for an autograph? Oh, I couldn’t do that. It’s too mortifying. Besides there she was just walking around like a normal person. I couldn’t believe my eyes but it was really Emma Thompson!!! This could only happen in London! But this wasn’t the only star-struck moment I had that day. Who knew that Hampstead was a perfect place for a bit of celebrity spotting? I took a photo of Emma Thompson from behind like some sneaky paparazzi but I couldn’t resist.
Having survived such an unexpected moment without fainting or embarrassing myself I walked down the street and asked two guys for directions to Church Row street. They haven’t heard of such street and didn’t manage to find it on their smartphone’s google map. Anyway, I returned all the way back to the tube station, checked the printed out blog post again and saw my mistake. I was supposed to go down the Heath street and not up which I did. It didn’t matter because I got to see a famous British actress because of my mistake.
I soon found the lovely Church Row street which was just around 100 m from the tube station on the right (down Heath Street).After I took some photos in Church Row street I passed by a quiet small cemetery and turned into another lovely street Holly Walk. I guess most of the houses are very expensive in this area even the small cottage-like ones. I wish I could live in one of the pretty, colourful, small houses I saw during my walk around Hampstead. I was still pretty much alone in the streets when I came across the Holly Bush pub. It looked like it was just getting open and it was still too early for a drink or a lunch. So I walked down the steps of Golden Yard back to the underground’s entrance.
Then I turned down the Hampstead High Street. All the usual shops and restaurants are there like in any other part of London. The High Street was full of people which was an unwelcoming change to my previous solitary walk so I didn’t walk further down much but turned onto Flask Walk as suggested in the route I was following.I passed by an antique shop in Flask Walk street and soon found myself surrounded again by beautiful countryside-like houses. And tranquility. I did come across other people now but I still managed to take in my surroundings without any disturbance. Soon I saw the Burgh House which was unfortunately closed (it was Saturday). There was an inviting-looking café in the courtyard but I was sad that I couldn’t go in the Burgh House and see the Hampstead museum too. I continued to walk down the street hoping to find an entrance to Hampstead Heath park. I reluctantly walked by the Wells Tavern pub but I still had a lot to see before I could allow myself to rest and have lunch.
There are a number of blue plaques on houses in Hampstead. I saw the blue plaque for Robert Louis Stevenson and John Constable but I’m sure I missed many other interesting ones. Finally, I saw an entrance to the Hampstead Heath Park. Well, it looked to me more like an enchanted forest where I could easily get lost and not a park. There weren’t any signs for Kenwood House so I decided to head in the direction of the traffic noises to find the exit. I found my way out of the park and ended up at Jack Straws Castle again. I saw some signs ahead and then I almost bumped into the same guys who couldn’t help me with finding the Church Row street earlier. They asked me if I was still looking for the Church Row but I laughed and said that I was looking for the Kenwood house now. They told me that I could reach it in two ways. So I decided to go down the road from the Jack Straws and not through the park.
After a while it didn’t look like I was going in the right direction (my trusted pocket-size London map was worthless here) so I retraced my steps back to the Jack Straws. Then I asked some older men for the directions again and entered the Hampstead Heath park where I previously exited it. I was back in the huge forest-looking park without any clue as to how to find the Kenwood house simply by following the directions like turn left at the big tree and so on. Then, a Korean woman approached me and asked me for the directions to the Kenwood house thinking that I was the local. Despite being immensely flattered I had to tell her that I was just a tourist too and that I too was looking for the said house. A man walking his dog passed by us and we asked him for help. The Korean woman (I’m sorry but I don’t remember her name) and I walked on together towards the Kenwood house. We chatted about all the usual stuff and then I saw Emma Thompson again. I whispered to the Korean woman (she too was a big fan of Love Actually):hey, that was Emma Thompson just now! She ran ahead to stand in front of Mrs Thompson but she didn’t ask her for her autograph either, she just looked at her and ran back to me. Incredible! I saw Emma twice!I imagine Emma got a bit startled when she saw my new acquaintance running after her 🙂
The Korean and me said our farewells outside Kenwood house. I quickly recognized the tree opposite the Kenwood house (that’s actually the back part of the house) from the Notting Hill movie. I sat on the grass below the house and just looked around and relaxed for a bit. I love the neatness and the greenness of English parks. I wandered around the house grounds and saw a café and a shop. I decided to go in the Kenwood house since it was free entry. But more about my visit in a separate post.
I only had one thing left to do after my visit to Kenwood house. I wanted to admire the views of London from the Parliament Hill. I asked two men who looked like gardeners for directions and they laughed at me rudely and said: are you lost love? it’s just ahead. That wasn’t very nice of them but it didn’t matter since I soon admired the views of London. Green all around me and then London sights ahead in the distance. I was in awe. But was I really in the right place? Unfortunately the photos I took don’t do justice to the beautiful views.
I left the park and the Kenwood house grounds and found myself in the street. I reckoned I should just go left down the road and I was right. I walked by the Spaniards Inn (another old famous London pub) and eventually found myself again at Jack Straws castle. So, If I had walked this way earlier when I thought I was lost I would have actually found the Kenwood House but I wouldn’t have walked through the park or see Emma Thompson again.
I decided to go in the park again just to take a few more photos. And then London magic happened again! Walking directly towards me with his dog was none other than the funniest man in Britain. I saw Mr Bean!!! I mean, I saw the actor Rowan Atkinson famous for his portrayal of Mr Bean (and Johnny English movies). I couldn’t be quiet twice so I asked him: Are you Mr Bean’s actor? (yes, very clever of me). He just said:Yes, I am. Then I said : Great! and moved away like the most moronic person ever. No, I didn’t ask him for an autograph or if I could take a picture with him. I just took another sneaky photo from behind. I saw two world-famous actors in a matter of a few hours. And actually almost at the same place!!Be still my heart! 🙂
I badly wanted a scone so I walked down the Heath Street again and went in a cake shop which I spotted earlier. Alas, they didn’t have a scone but told me where I could get one. Instead of having lunch at a pub as I envisioned before I had lunch (and a great scone ) at the Belgian restaurant Le pain quotidien in High Street. With a full tummy I decided to linger a while longer in Hampstead. I walked further down the High Street and then just turned in some random street. I wandered around a few streets taking photos of pretty houses and cobbled streets. Then I came in front of the 2 Willow Road house-a modernist home from 1939 and now a National Trust site. Unlike Burgh House this one was open but it had an entry fee. It didn’t appeal to me so I decided to go back to the underground. I almost spent an entire day wandering around Hampstead but I couldn’t stay longer because I had to visit a certain chocolate shop too.
I couldn’t have imagined a better day. Even if I hadn’t seen the two famous actors it’d still be one of the best days I’ve ever had in London. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the beautiful streets of Hampstead. I felt like I spent a day at the English countryside. And yet I was still in my beloved London.
Ps. If only I had met Hugh Grant too!:))
Have you walked around Hampstead?
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