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postcard from hampstead, london

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

I love London. I love it a lot, and I always have, and I always will. I don’t know what it is that spurred this great love affair with the British, but their charm and humor and cities full of history and culture and things to discover are what keep drawing me back. Since I was a tiny tot (middle school-aged, more accurately), I was nothing short of obsessed with London. I wanted to visit, I wanted to live there, I wanted to study there, I wanted to marry a British man and get dual citizenship and have cute little babies with British accents. Finally, in 2011, I made my first trip to the enchanting whirlwind of a metropolis; three years have passed and I spent half a year studying there since then, but my heart still beats fiercely for the city.

IMG_3198London is, of course, known for its dreary days and wet weather. When I studied there in 2012, I experienced all kinds of British weather, from a few inches of snow (that consequently shut down the entire city…) to downpours to unusually hot streaks. This May, though, I experienced one day of rain in a sea of perfect, sunshine-y, blissful spring days. These blissful days were spent wandering the streets, hopping on the tube and setting off for an unknown part of the city I hadn’t yet discovered (my favorite pastime in 2012, too).

As if I needed any more reasons to love the British capital, this time a day of solo exploration fortunately brought me to Hampstead, in north London. IMG_3197IMG_3191IMG_3189Hampstead is one of the ritzier parts of London, with celebrities inhabitants like Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Thompson, Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench (to name a few…). If I were one of the rich and famous, I, too, would choose north London as a place to plant some roots. It’s undeniably quaint and just so English and yes, people in this area might be known to be a little “stuck up,” but HEY they just have STANDARDS, am I right?IMG_3188IMG_3196How kind are those Brits? Not pictured but very much enjoyed from my ramblings in Hampstead include: a fancy solo dinner in a French restaurant along Hampstead High Street, lots of time spent reading in book stores and in the grass, window shopping, people watching, coffee drinking. IMG_3187IMG_3185IMG_3161

I wandered along a path that curved down a hill behind this old church, and eventually made my way to Hampstead Heath. The Heath is one of London’s oldest and largest green spaces, has awesome views of central London, and on a day like the one I was there, it was packed with Londoners who were thirsty for some vitamin-D. IMG_3168

The next time I go to London (whether it’s for a trip or a move), I will definitely spend more time in north London. I lived in gritty Wembley in the northwest while a student, spent lots of time with a boy who lived in Stepney Green in East London, went to class on Regent/Oxford Streets in central London, and stayed in Notting Hill in Southwest London this May. My days in Hampstead were beautiful and refreshing, but I think it’s time we get better acquainted. Knowing myself and the way I can’t stay away for too long before the UK itch comes back, I’m sure I’ll return sooner than later.

What’s your favorite part of London?

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9 Comments

  • Reply papict

    I’m glad you got to see more of London than just the city centre. My favourite part of London is the museum district. I know that’s terribly touristy of me but having lived just outside London for some years (in Essex) that is the area I miss most.

    November 10, 2014 at 8:54 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      When I lived in London in 2012 I was in Wembley – definitely not the most beautiful part of the city… so I was always wandering around, exploring different prettier areas while. I loved Highgate but one area I had never been to was Hampstead! I can’t believe I spent so much time in London and had never been there. So cute. 🙂

      November 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      (And I like the museums, too. It’s a touristy area for a reason! 😉 )

      November 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm
  • Reply Isabel

    astounding <3

    November 11, 2014 at 3:43 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Agreed! Hampstead is so beautiful.

      November 11, 2014 at 9:56 am
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  • Reply Kevin Humphreys

    It always amazes me to see how outsiders see England and indeed London. Being from the country and not liking anything about it, I find fascinating how people from around the world see the country as such a wonderful, beautiful and cultural place and yet for me at least anyway being here and living it everyday never see any of it, in fact I tend to see how the country as lost a lot of those things. I’ve never seen beauty in this country or found it wonderful here and any culture we did have seems to have long gone. We hold on to the past so fiercely that we can’t move forward and create new or move forward. Again this is just me and what I see, think and feel, I was born and grew up here in the 80’s when everything was taken away from us and set us on the path to the nothing we live in now. It truly is bleak here in England, but I guess its nice for someone to come into as an outsider than for someone that only knows this. I really need to sort out my passport and get myself to the land that has always fascinated me, the good ‘ol USA.

    January 30, 2015 at 12:56 am
  • Reply Kristen

    Hi Kevin! First of all — love your little picture there, is that a play on Mylo Xyloto?

    Loved hearing your native insight. Growing up, I always had a huge fascination with the UK and was determined to live there someday. I fell in love with the stereotypical charm & quirkiness of your country, and though I know it’s an idealistic way to look at England, it’s still what keeps me coming back for more! I studied in London in 2012 so I saw my fair share of bleak, dreary days over those months, and I spent the majority of my time in Wembley and east London — definitely not the most charming of London’s neighborhoods.

    I guess it’s all a matter of perspective — choosing to see the good in a place even though you know there is plenty of bad to go around. It’s similar to your fascination with the US, maybe? I know a lot of people from Europe who were all dying to get to America and explore (because there’s just soooooo much to see!), but I think foreigners will always see new places with more rose-colored glasses than the natives because the natives are more exposed to the everyday, mundane realities. The “real life” stuff. Anyway, thanks for your comment! Hope you make it to the US very soon — we’d love to have you!

    January 30, 2015 at 1:09 am
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