Morning visit to Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Travel Blog

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Random shot of 2 colourful doors!

For someone that came on a long flight, I must say I got very good sleep. I woke up around 7am after a solid 9 hour sleep. And when I woke up, it felt like any first morning in London - nice! Living in the world of AC here in the US, the feel of London's hostels are always different. The windows are open and you can feel that first morning breeze come through the window and creep up on you as it says "it's morning in London. Wake up!".

Wake up I did. And headed straight to the kitchen. I was really really hungry. I'd bought my grocery from the Pakistani newsie's and feasted myself to a small box of Kelloggs' choco flakes + milk, bread + swiss cheese and a cup of Onken Yoghurt. Really filling.

Another random shot
Oh, and tea. I met a few people from France who had come for the Notting Hill Carnival and I was chatting to them about it. Wait... Notting Hill Carnival? This weekend? Sh*t! I had forgotten, and I already had my day's programme planned! :-(

So I had to change my planning in order to accomodate a sneak peak into the Carnival, which wasn't really that much of a big deal seeing as I knew Hampstead wouldn't take me an entire day. I finished breakfast and headed back up to my room, I chatted with my 2 "roommates" - one was an Aussie and another, a British engineer who was biking around France. Everyone that I spoke to about the carnival said it opens only around 11am so no point in my hanging around in the city till then, might as well keep the original plan of going to Hampstead.

Entering Hampstead Heath

I finally left the hostel around 9am, and caught the Tube and headed to Hampstead. The walk to the Earl's Court Tube station is always a delight. I've been to several places in London but there's something about Earl's Court that I just love. Can't explain it, I just love it. It has that crisp feel in the morning, those brick coloured buildings are virtually irreplaceable anywhere else in the city and the roads yet narrow are always bustling with activity, there's something very London about this place. It's just hard to describe, but I love Earl's Court. The early morning walks to the Tube station justify my fondness for this place time and again.

Anyway caught the train to Hampstead Tube stop. Hampstead was a place I was always curious to see for a variety of reasons - I'd read about it in several books including "1 day getaways from London" which kept stressing on the rich green and cultural heritage of the place.

I reached the tube station and an Indian lady who works at the Tube station helped me with directions to both Kenwood House and other attractions I could see in Hampstead Heath. It appears the 2 big attractions in the park are the ponds and Kite Hill, or so I gathered.

So I made my way out of the Tube station and along one of the narrow roads that lead to the entrance of the park. En route, I could only just marvel at the houses and architecture. Again, the architecture was your typical London architecture, but the whole place just screamed POSH for whatever reason, the houses, the doors, the gardens, the silence (perhaps that it was Bank Holiday?!), I don't know but all these factors just came together and made it look really grand.

I reached the park by about 10am and started walking.

Now, one big problem I have with this park is that it's not made for tourists! Ok, I shouldn't be angry (after all, don't tourists love bragging about how they didn't visit non-touristy spots!), but I'm so pampered with wonderful signs in London helping tourists that I was expecting to find signs pointing me to Kenwood House and such but nothing. I had to rely on asking the joggers. But it was also quite nice to see a different side of London - a city that comes out on a Monday morning and go for a jog with the dogs. It was a different, more laidback London. Not the usual lot of tourists one sees when in Zones 1 and 2.

I didn't do much except walk around, get lost, get lost again and walk around till I came to Kenwood House.

Rear of Kenwood House
The walk by itself was lovely. It wasn't raining, just the Londoney overcast skies. It felt green, quiet and nice. I love that about London - people could complain about the real estate, the cost of living and the lack of space but they devote so much of green to the city. The house was closed (opens at 1130am, great!) and I was already hungry. So I stopped over at the canteen, had a nice big egg sandwich and a bread pudding. Both were excellent. I continued down the hill, out of the gated area and back into Hampstead Heath. I passed by the many ponds and this was where I could see more of London relaxing. I was only thinking of how many more come out had the sun been shining. As I said, it was nice seeing laidback London for a change.

Kite Hill I thought was quite overrated.

Pond near Kenwood House
There were lots of people, sure but the "breathtaking views of London" were hardly that. To begin with, as much as I love London (or San Francisco for that matter), they've never been cities with die-for skylines. Infact, outside of St.Pauls, London Eye and the Houses of Parliament, the rest of the London skyline to me is quite drab. I have mixed feelings about Kite Hill - on 1 hand, I enjoyed the wide open space, the fact that it's London and still so quiet. And on the flip side: there's the anticlimactic view, the amount of time it took for me to get here and not really get a whole lot out of it, all that left me feeling a bit disappointed. In a nutshell, I don't think this is something I'd recommend to a first or a 2nd time traveller to London. Whilst Hampstead is a good experience (thanks to the long walk from the Tube to Heath in which you see the lovely serene and upscale neighbourhood), as far as it being a tourist attraction goes, you'll be hard pressed to find Kodak Moments.
Front view of Kenwood House
Especially if you're the cheesy one like me. For me, the highlights came as I descended the hill and saw Londoners fly kites, kick a football, etc. All that was really nice and spontaneous and unexpected.

So I walked back to the Tube station, and caught the Tube to Oxford Street. Whilst holidaying in Bengaluru, I had seen this cool pair of Benetton shoes which I had liked but the size they had were a bit big for my feet. I was hoping the Oxford St. store would have it, but alas not. Anyway I just spent some time on Oxford Street - notably in Topman and River Island for some new British fashion but couldn't really find anything that good. Or perhaps it hadn't changed that much since my visit in May, LOL!

I had lunch in a Japanese rsnt. I wasn't feeling too well - had a cough and cold and my dad's instructions when I left Bengaluru for London was not to eat anything cold or fried.

The canteen at Kenwood House
That takes away most of the cuisine available except things like rice, noodles, etc which you get aplenty in Japanese resnts! So I had a big bowl of veg noodles in a coconut based soup. This break also gave me some time to rest my feet before I went for a power walk through Carnaby Street and the by alleys of Oxford Street. I love this area of London, always brimming with activity.

From here, onto Notting Hill and the noisy Carnival. Now I suddenly felt like the London mania had begun. If only I were here for another week at least. If only, if only.......

 

JenBUK says:
Its great reading someones blog about a place Ive lived...new perspective.
Posted on: Nov 05, 2009
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Random shot of 2 colourful doors!
Random shot of 2 colourful doors!
Another random shot
Another random shot
Entering Hampstead Heath
Entering Hampstead Heath
Rear of Kenwood House
Rear of Kenwood House
Pond near Kenwood House
Pond near Kenwood House
Front view of Kenwood House
Front view of Kenwood House
The canteen at Kenwood House
The canteen at Kenwood House
One of the many ponds in Hampstead…
One of the many ponds in Hampstea…
View from Parliament Hill
View from Parliament Hill
View of London as seen from Kite H…
View of London as seen from Kite …
People flying kites
People flying kites
Lovely random shot - a family play…
Lovely random shot - a family pla…
Erm... we know already!
Erm... we know already!
View of the neighbourhood on my wa…
View of the neighbourhood on my w…
Hampstead
photo by: Vikram