Monday, October 3, 2011

London - Day Six

Rachel made me laugh at our blogger meet-up when she mentioned how many times people, probably tourists, ask for tube directions to reach a landmark she could point to down the street.  Simon and I seem to be equally directionally challenged and agreed we could still manage a wrong turn regardless.  So, determined to stay above ground for a walk to Covent Garden I set out after breakfast.  Asking my longtime blog friend, Kristina, if she knew of any places I could seek out she mentioned Miller Harris.  How could she know that I've been researching scents since last winter?  Wearing samples of jasmine vert, coeur de fleur, geranium bourbon and la pluie over the next few days provided blissful floral waves on hot, crowded tube rides.  On my last day in London I nipped back for a large vessel of the la pluie!
And while not on my itinerary, I laughed as I made my way down this street and discovered Pineapple Dance Studio!  You can barely walk for more than 10 minutes in London without discovering something historical, famous, culturally significant or highlighted in some magazine.  Anyway, my actual destination was the Cath Kidston shop around the corner and opening time was fast approaching.  Time to dash!
Thanks to Jane Campion and her beautiful film Bright Star I knew a visit to Keats House in Hampstead would be a priority during this visit.  Exiting the Hampstead station I nipped across the road to browse the Oxfam bookshop before making my way down the High Street to Downshire Hill and finally Keats Grove.  Now in my mind, I imagined that just down the street (above photo) a vast expanse of hillside would appear and Keats House would be along a winding path.  Urban development since I don't know how long ago meant this landmark now exists amongst the other beautiful residences just down the street and on the right.
Walking through the gates and around back I paid the 5 GBP admittance and made my way through the sparsely decorated rooms.  No photography was allowed.  During the time Keats was in residence with Charles Brown the house was semi-detached but made to look as a single dwelling.  The rooms were generous with fabulously large windows on the lower level and I couldn't help but imagine the hours Keats stood there, gazing out at the Heath.  A floor clock belonging to Charles Brown still chimes beautifully clear in one of the lounges.  In a display case of belongings the engagement ring John gave to Fanny featured on the top shelf.  Eerily, a copy of Keats' death mask stands in the corner of his bedroom.  This is a house to contemplate in, to imagine its former residents going about their business while you desperately wish you could recite Ode to a Nightingale by heart.  Don't hesitate to visit the house, preferably on a gloomy day, it just suits the mood.
It was time to search for a cafe where I could grab a bite and within a two minute walk around the corner was just the place.  I ordered the Croque Monsieur and gasped when I saw how much cheese flowed around the plate.  Oh mon dieu!  I managed to get through it without requiring the Heimlich manoeuvre and after finishing my pot of loose leaf tea I once again set off through the streets of Hampstead.  And wished for a lottery win so I could choose any number of properties that caught my eye.
My next journey took me to the Strand where I would finally meet up with Claire!  After her long day at work she greeted me outside her office and without missing a beat we joined the throngs of people on the sidewalk.  She thought the Sherlock Holmes pub would be fun for me but unfortunately it was closed due to construction so it was on to The Clarence on Whitehall instead.  Claire was such good company and even more lovely than I had imagined.  Being quite clever and very informed I hoped she wouldn't find me too boring but we chatted about all sorts of things from pets to books, relationships, kitchen appliances and how she came to be in London after growing up in Scotland.  The pub was cosily packed with customers, so packed that the gentleman with his family at the table next to ours commented on how wonderful our Rekorderlig strawberry-lime cider smelled.  Munching on nibbles while we chatted the time went by all too fast.  Claire still had a train journey ahead of her so after a couple of hours we made our way to Charing Cross station but what's this...a Waterstones in the way?  Claire and I browsed for a bit and I took advantage of their 3 for 2 offer and a stunningly beautiful behind the scenes book of Downton AbbeyMoon Tiger by Penelope Lively came recommended by my friend so I especially look forward to reading it.  And then we parted ways.  I want to sit cross-legged on the floor during a lazy Sunday and chat with my new-found friends and not watch the clock!

Arriving back at the B&B, Joseph met me part way on the stairs to let me know the kettle had been boiling for ages.  Yes, I am that predictable.  And so another night was passed while I sipped tea, wrote in my journal, listened to random English television programs and thought about how very lucky I am.


  1. Ooh, Miller Harris, what a lovely present to yourself ... but I don't think I could ever decide which one I like best!

  2. Oh so glad you visited Miller Harris. Did you have time for a cup of tea? I wonder if La Pluie is a new frangrance. Will have to try a spritz! I wear L'Air de Rien, which according to the website is evocative of dusty libraries and old books, which just figures! K x

  3. Great photos.

    That book about Downton Abbey looks interesting


  4. I'm so sorry Miranda and I didn't get a chance to meet you this time Darlene especially as we must have almost crossed paths in Hampstead! I love the two new Miller Harris scents as well - though I'm leaning to La fumee! Donna

  5. If you didn't make it this time and you love scents you should make a pilgrimage to Les Senteurs in deepest Belgravia. It's small but amazing

  6. I'd love to visit Keat's house--it's a little sad that it now sits in the middle of a neighborhood--imagine what it must have been like when he was living there! Must keep an eye out for that Downton book--very tempting. No finds at the Oxfam shop? I always drool over the books people seem to snap up for pennies!

  7. You have inspired me to make the pilgrimage to both Jane and Keats' houses soon, Darlene.

    It was truly lovely to meet you; you exude warmth and comfortableness and I had a very enjoyable evening - here's to the next one!

    You took advantage of the last of the 3 for 2 Waterstone's; James Daunt (of Daunt Books) is now at the helm and has withdrawn what he considers to be an "irritating" offer!

  8. I have so enjoyed your recollections of your visit to London. Sometimes we have to have an outsider point out to use 'Brits' what we have on our doorstep!

  9. That is definitely the cheesiest Croque Monsieur I've ever seen but it does look delicious. After seeing your Cath Kidston bag, I was fighting internally as to whether visit the shop myself. I didn't, knowing that the temptation would be greater than my luggage allowance permits, but then there was a shop at the airport when I was flying out to Amsterdam! I contented myself with starring through the window longingly, probably the best decision given how my suitcase was already straining with my new books.

  10. I don't think I've ever seen so much cheese in one sandwich! I wouldn't have been able to resist it either. What a wonderful day. I've ordered the Downton book for work & am looking forward to having a look when it arrives.

  11. I've enjoyed reading your posts on your visit to London and I'm so impressed at how much you got done! I visited Keats House several months back and thought it was quietly beautiful. And Hampstead is just lovely, isn't it?

  12. mary, A spritz a day should last me until this time next year making it the perfect souvenir.

    Kristina, la pluie is new but now I'm curious about your scent of choice, too funny!

    Carol, It should come with a drool's that gorgeous.

    Donna, la fumee is intoxicating, I brought a sample home for my husband but have worn it myself! It would be lovely to cross paths with you one day, next trip!

    Desperate Reader, Ooh this does intriguing so it's going in my little notebook of things to do next time, thank you!

    Danielle, No joy in the Oxfam shop that day I'm afraid but I had the pleasure of a small stash back in my room.

    Paperback Reader, Here is to next time, Claire! I must say you have a gorgeous accent by the way. And how can offers of a free book ever be irritating? I do respect the man but really...

    Jo, You should be thankful every day for living amongst such stimulating culture and heritage! We can switch homes if you like!?

    Captive Reader, Bet you were holding your breath at the check-in gate!

    lyn, Try not to drool on it! I haven't even had time to admire my copy yet but a lazy day can't present itself soon enough.

    Verity, Hey you! Hope you're feeling much better.

    chasingbawa, You are so right, Hampstead is one of those places where you could live happily in a box just to call it home.