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Hampstead, London's Loveliest Suburb

September 1, 2015

I've been wandering again... someone get me a leash.

Today is the first day of September, which means yesterday was the last day of summer, and I am in full-blown denial. What’s worse, it poured solidly yesterday so I didn’t even get a chance to embrace the last day of the supposed sunny season. Instead, I am looking back on my recent wander around a part of London that did allow me to make the most of summer weather, and an area I hadn’t really explored before; the village of Hampstead.

Within this area, there is the incredibly impressive Hampstead Heath, a sprawling green park which deserves - and will receive - a post of its very own. Rather than going for the Heath itself this time, I simply strolled the streets of what I am inclined to call London’s loveliest suburb.

Walking through Hampstead makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. This sleepy, slow-paced suburb used to be a relaxing getaway, not far from the city, that Londoners would escape to when in need of some country air. Although now in Zone 3 of sprawling London-town, the beautiful chaos of the city has not quite reached this corner. Hampstead is also full of rich history, and I had a handy wee book telling me about it as I walked the streets. That’s right, shameless tourist-in-my-own-city I am.

Our book made for great reading on a cider-stop in historic Hampstead pub, Old Bull & Bush

 

Fun facts about this beautiful part of town just keep coming, and make it all the more interesting a place to walk around. Didja know, there is an unfinished tube stop under Hampstead which would have been the deepest station at 221 feet below ground? It was examined by Churchill during WWII, as he considered using it as a back-up shelter for the cabinet, but never proceeded with the plan and the station remains deserted, incomplete and closed to the public.

Hampstead has a certain old-world quality that makes you feel transported both back in time, and somewhere far from the city, although in reality you’re close enough to see the metropolitan skyline from the highest point in the Heath. It’s the chosen neighbourhood for many of Britain’s famous stage and screen actors, as well as musicians, politicians and other famous figures. If I had a little (read: a lot) more money, I’d live here in a heartbeat. Just to make you love it as much as I do, here are a couple of sights to be seen in London’s prettiest residential area, and reasons why I love this place so much.

There is more green in sight than there is building, no matter which way you look, and houses like this one pop up among the trees all over the place.

One can quite acceptedly pick blackberries off the squillions of bushes there are throughout the entire suburb, and you can bet I made the most of this opportunity.

Seriously though, just look at them. If there was an ideal way to spend the last warm days of London summer, I think I nailed it.

It's a place where old women walk around in get-ups like this, and no one bats an eye.

And it's a place where old men sit on park benches and just quietly reflect on things, nodding in greeting as you walk by.

It's a place where old Minis park across the road from new Minis, along a street lined with brick and pastel-hued abodes, and you feel like you're on a film set.

It's a place where cottages are covered in ivy and have adorable garden paths. Scratch that, it's a place where there are cottages, with gardens and space, rather than only rows of terraced houses... in London! What is this magic?

It's a place of white picket fences and small-paned windows...

...and a place where you are constantly reminded of your idols who once called these streets home.

It's a place where instead of footpaths there are forest paths, and the stroll to your local store is a touch prettier than most.

It's a place where the windows are delightfully decorative...

... and where all the buildings have been named, providing a sense of instant personality.

It is a place where history stands casually, built into the very streets. This is an old lock up built around 1730, and one of the last of its kind, which was used to imprison local offenders.

Hampstead is a place where you can visit the homes of literary icons like John Keats. Where you can sit on benches in his garden where he wrote some of his most famous work, and whose apt words I will shall sign off with:

 

What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth.

 

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