London is one of my favorite cities to walk in. There is so many quirky and historical things to see that you’ll miss if you take cars or the Underground. I feel so invigorated when I make my mile walks.
My love of London walks really started when I studied there. For a variety of reasons, I ended up having to walk from the West End to Kensington on a daily basis. Initially, I thought it was only a mile or two but after I got home, I discovered its more like 4-5 miles. No matter, it was worth it.
In that walk in particular, I got to know the Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in the summer. Since I usually travel there in the winter, I never really spent much time in the parks. In the summer, they are bursting with life. The lawns are almost fluorescent green with bright bold flowers. There are wonderful waterways, whether a little stream or a giant pond, where ducks and geese congregate. And there’s the occasionally goose. I also discovered that there were special traffic signals for horseback riding.
Other parts of Central London are well worth walking. One fun activity is noting the names of all the pubs. I’m not sure if there is a tradition of creating ridiculous names for pubs in British History or if it just accidentally came that way, but the names of some pubs are truly spectacular. My personal favorite is the Hung, Drawn & Quartered, which is located near the Tower. We went there on a recent trip; it was nice but very much a bar for people in the City, i.e. Investment bankers. Another bar with a great name is the Bung Hole on High Holbein Street.
The fact remains that its hard to stumble into an area that doesn’t have some history. For instance, near Temple (or the Inns of Court), you can see the Temple Bar gate. It is where London and the City of London meet. Every year, there is a ceremony where the Queen stops there before entering the city. The Lord Mayor offers a scepter as a gesture of loyalty. The gate itself is very impressive with a dragon at the top. Nearby is the flagship for Twinning’s, a very tiny but long store for all of your Twinning tea needs. In addition to the Inner and Middle Court buildings, there is one building of the Outer Temple. It’s not its own inn; I think the Outer Temple is the name of a building of some barristers’ chambers. Nearby, there is also a statue of Ben Johnson, famous for his English dictionary. And there are the legal courts in a wonderfully over the top Victorian building.
Outside of London is wonderful too though I am less familiar. In September, we went to Hampstead Heath, which is a wonderful park with great climbing trees. We could see the skyline of London from afar. Hampstead Heath also has secret watering holes (well, not so secret to the locals). We stumbled upon a pond for women only. I snuck in and it looked charming. There is a male only pond and then a mixed sex one. It wasn’t a particularly cold or warm day but there were a few women swimming in the water.
We wandered through the Heath and eventually came to Highgate Cemetery. I may have mentioned this cemetery before but I’ll briefly discuss it. Apparently, the family that owned it in the 1970s abandoned it so nature took over. Trees are growing out of graves and vines have encircled tombstones. Gravestones are cracked. It’s beautiful in its decay. We discovered that Douglas Adams is buried there in a rather nondescript grave. There was a bowl of pens and a towel. Karl Marx is also buried there with a gigantic sculpture of his head. It’s a little terrifying.
I can’t wait to walk around London once again.