A dreary and drizzly day met me in London upon my arrival. My typical plan, of spending the afternoon soaking up the rays of summer sun upon the Heath, was washed further away with each raindrop that fell. It wasn’t particularly chilly just damp. I had been saving a few things to do do for when the weather turned should I still be travelling to London. I opted for staying in the same area if Hampstead but exploring the last English residence of the romantic era poet John Keats. The abode is just off the Park area a short walk from either bus stops along the high street or the Hampstead tube station. I headed first in the rain to towards the Heath as it was the August Bank holiday weekend and I had seen signs up advertising the children’s fair that would be present at the fair grounds just off Downshire Hill. I walked along the path noting few differences between an English fair and a Canadian one, save the names of treats and an archery game of chance rather than a Wild West gunslinger shooting range. The typical mobile rides, slides, carnival foods, and midway games adorned the park green space. There were few patrons perhaps due to the weather. From there I meandered along the edge of the park to Keats Grove and up that street to the Keats house.
A nominal £5 entry fee gains you entrance to the building. You are given a card for that price which is valid for visits for a full year. I had timed my arrival with the guided your that is given at 15:00(3pm) certain days, check their website for current information on the tours. I wanted just enough time to wander the rooms and read te pamphlets in each before the tour started to give me a good base for the talk. I found this was indeed helpful as the historian spoke of many topics from his birth to early death, including the short 2 years Keats lived in this house. It was nice to catch the tour and it is included withy the entrance fee so it is well worth it. I was fascinated with the idea that I was standing on the same floorboards that the great poet and his literary friends once stood almost two hundred years before. It was in retesting to hear the guide talk about the nightingale birds who were the subject of one of John Keats’ most famous odes, “ode to a nightingale”. It was also lovely to hear about the romance between Fanny Braune and Keats. It included letters of admiration slipped under doorways after he had contracted tuberculosis, so Fanny would not fall ill too, as Keats disallowed her coming in contact with his illness. It is no wonder that he was indeed a romantics era poet. The weekly summer garden was cancelled due toy the weather but the your still lasted a full hour and only showcased the main floor rooms.
After leaving the historic home I walked down to the Marks and Spencer Simply Food store so I could do my weekly shopping for English cheeses and baked goods. I love the packages of cheese that range from £1.50-£2.75 in various varieties cheddar to Wensleydale. I love the Diablo Chili Cornish Cruncher wedge. The bakery had the scones, crumpets and English muffins (simply called muffins over in England, I prefer the all butter kind) that I love to stock up on. There is something fine in having a crumpet that way it is supposed to be made and hand carried from London. I find the English style baked goods lacking in taste back in Canada.
Across the street is a lovely Bakery/coffee house chain called “Le Pain Quotidien” (the daily bread) I ate my late lunch there. The soups are organic daily specials. A bowl of soup, half tartinade (open faced sandwich) was under £10. I chose to round off lunch with the richest, foamiest, most divine hot chocolate I have ever tasted. It was lovely sipping my soup bowl sized drink whilst slurping up a curried lentil soup and munching on an avocado tartinade and rustic breads. It was also fantastic to sit in the warm cafe with the smell of fresh bread enveloping my senses and watch people scurry the streets in the downpour from my dry perch.
My time after lunch was spent wandering random roads staring up at homes wondering what life inside was like before I caught the bus back to the hotel area. I quickly stored my cheese in my room fridge, freshened up and met the crew in the lobby to set out for dinner.
We chose to go to the neighbourhood of St. John’s Wood, a few neighbourhoods south of Hampstead. The Captain had been to a Lebanese Restaurant, Sahara, as had I and wanted to try it again. The food was delicious and bountiful as before. The staff were very accommodating squeezing in a large group right away despite us not having a booking. I enjoyed the grilled halloumi cheese to start and chicken Shwarma wrap with a salad rather than fries. We spent a great deal of time sitting around the table discussing work, our lives, telling jokes and laughing. It was a very pleasant evening out with friends.