May 8, 2011 Sunday
After a tiring but utterly wonderful Harry Potter walking tour, Maiko and I hopped on the tube and headed for the hotel. Maiko wanted to meet up with some High School friends whom she hadn’t seen in years and she invited me to tag along.
Yuko and Madoka arrived at around 5:00 PM to pick us up. I got in the backseat and was surprised to the drivers seat on the right side of the car. I quickly remembered that in the UK, drivers sat on the right side up front and people drove on the left side of the road.
Yuko made sure to take Camden High Street so we could catch a glimpse of the famous Camden Town Market. I took a mental note to visit the market if I ever came back to London.
Camden Town Market, photo courtesy of The Adventures of Josip & Melanie
Yuko drove straight on toward Hampstead. She made a right on Downshire Hill and parked the car near there. Maiko and I followed Yuko and Madoka up the road. We passed St. John’s Church on our way to the park where Maiko’s friends (and our current tour guides) wanted to take us.
St. John’s Church, Downshire Hill
Soon, we reached the park.
Locally known as “the Heath”, Hampstead Heath is an old park covering 790 acres of land from Hampstead to Highgate.
My fatigue evaporated as soon as we started walking in the park. Though my feet were killing me after the long walking tour, I didn’t mind walking up narrow roads.
Houses by the pond
We passed by a pond which Yuko said was actually a mixed bathing pond—meaning boys and girls were allowed to swim together—along with the various birds and ducks who inhabited the area. I don’t think swimming in the greenish looking pond is a good idea, but what do I know. The few people who were there didn’t seem to mind.
Maiko and the bathing pond. Note the few swimmers in the background
The small road we were walking on began to steepen. I paused for a picture, and to enjoy the sudden breeze.
Enjoying the breeze in Hampstead Heath
When we reached the top, the view took my breath away–literally. After the long climb, I was a bit out of breath.
View from the top of Hampstead Heath
I found out later on that the grassy hill we were standing on was one of the highest points in London. No wonder we could see the whole city.
The park was full of people enjoying nature in various ways. Some jogged through the many pathways, others biked on the roads allowed for cyclists, while others picnicked or simply found patches of grass to sit on and enjoy the view.
A couple of people even flew kites.
We stopped to enjoy the view and I snapped pictures while the three friends caught up on stories.
I was happy I got to meet them. Yuko in fact surprised me (she’s the one on the right) as she looked completely Japanese but spoke with a British accent.
After enjoying the view, Yuko and Madoka led us back down the hill, through the park and onto the street. We walked on Heath Street, and enjoyed the various shops around.
Yuko and I started chatting and she found out that I was a writer trying to get published. Being the good friend that she was, she led us to Fawkes Keith on Flask Walk– a second hand bookstore in the area.
There was an interesting sign on the wall outside the bookstore, and I asked Maiko to take a picture of it.
When we arrived at the bookshop, boxes of books lay outside, and the owners were obviously doing inventory. It was 10 minutes past 6, and the shop was supposed to be closed for the day, but the wonderful owners saw how disappointed we visitors were (me in particular), so they told us to go on in and enjoy the shop.
While Maiko, Madoka and Yuko chatted with the shopkeeper (who was actually from New Jersey, but had been living in London for years), I looked through the dusty shelves. I had to squint while browsing as the light bulbs in the shop were rather dim. There was barely enough space for to stand between the shelves and definitely no room for anyone to pass through while I was browsing there.
I found a copy of “Wind in the Willows” from 1931, and decided I would by it for a former student, whom I would be meeting in a couple of days. I found a collection of poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published in the 1700′s and bought that for myself for £4!
I was very pleased with my purchases, to say the least. I wish I had more time to hunt for more hidden treasures, but the shopkeepers were busy closing shop and we had to move on.
Although our dinner reservations weren’t til 8pm, We headed toward Horseshoe Brewhouse & Dining.
The Horseshoe, photo courtesy of Ewan Munroe
We ordered tea and drinks and chatted until about 7:30pm, when they led us to the table Yuko had reserved.
Dinner at the Horseshoe with friends
The Horseshoe is known for its traditional English pub recipes. Maiko ordered some mussels and I ordered myself a nice, juicy steak.
We talked and exchanged stories for a couple of hours–enjoying the delicious food and the free bread.
Before long, it was time to go. Yuko and Madoka drove us back to the hotel and we said our goodbyes.
In our small dinky hotel room, I replayed all the events in my mind–In Piccadilly, I got a signed copy of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, ate the best ice cream and drank the finest tea at Fortnum & Mason’s, and even got to meet Bill Nighy! The London Walks Harry Potter tour was the best tour I ever went on and I was still reeling from all the awesome information we gleaned from our awesome tour guide Kontiki Richard. And Hampstead was an easy, relaxing walk in the park where I got to meet some cool new friends.
The day was long and tiring, but Maiko and I didn’t sleep until 1am–as we each ended the day by calling our mothers back home and wishing them a Happy Mother’s Day.
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