Tuesday, June 21, 2016

London 2015 Day 31: Hampstead Heath, Boris Biking in the Rain & Tea

London 2015 Day 31: Hampstead Heath, Boris Biking in the Rain & Tea

A little slower start again today after so much walking yesterday. My "chill" weekend was a sort of "do MOST of the things" rather than "do ALL the things"...

The day started with some research about where a good Tea house was in London. I'd already been to the magnificent Savoy for tea so I wanted a more kitchen-y/homey kinda place to get a different experience. After looking through some Yelp and other reviews for "Best Tea in London" spots, I found one called The Tea Rooms in Stoke Newington... "that's sortof North London, right?!" I was already planning to go to Hampstead Heath today so figured this was maybe... close enough? I called and booked a reservation only to realize it was an extra hour of transit to get there and back. Whatevs. That's what weekends are for!

Up I bussed to Hampstead Heath. A quick flat white to get my energy up for a walk, and off I went, in awe. "I just found the best part of London!" I said to myself as I was walking into the magnificent tree-canopy entrance to Hampstead Heath off of Well Walk. Definitely felt as if I had just transported myself to Berkeley as I was walking through the entrance.

Glorious!! The bright green trees and beautiful pathways sure were a sight to see and experience. I even got a whiff of the past -- thistles?! There was some smell in there that very clearly reminded me of my youth in Oxford. Crazy. Countryside, glorious countryside!! I couldn't believe this unbelievable Secret Garden of a place was only 4 miles from downtown London. A total win. Just incredible. I wandered for a few hours throughout the (many!) pathways.

From there I made my way to a place called Kenwood House where there was a lake to sit at. I sat for a while and made a "buddy" (a funny bird, who seemed to be walking around a lot and having a good time).

The hilarious bird adventures continued. I walked closer to the lake and found another insane looking bird, who I called the "miserable bastard" bird. He was wandering back and forth, head down and sulking, hanging his head, with this sour look on his face. Any time another bird would be anywhere near him, he would hop over one part of the gate and start chasing the other birds! "What a miserable bird!!"

Intro to: Miserable Bastard

Uh oh, he's... looking right at me...

Miserable Bastard seemed unfazed that there were some adorable small ducks near him

Grumbling to himself

Now he's feeling sorry for himself. (This is the gate he would jump through to go chase other birds, he did it several times!)

Miserable Bastard being anti-social. Look at the young duck trying to say Hi!

Sulking away, in a really bad mood
After laughing at the absurdity of the ridiculous duck in a ridiculously bad mood, I headed off to continue walking for a while. I found the "pools" -- outdoor public pools that were separated by gender ("Men only") so old school! I think these have been there for a very long time. It was sortof like a lake with a cordoned off area to swim between.

From here I went to Parliament Hill, to see big landscape views of the city. A nice spot to chill for a bit, as many other Londoners were doing.

I caught up with my parents about 2:30 as I was walking through Primrose Hill. This was a fancy area (if I was in Berkeley before, now I'm in SF!) Fancy food spots, little pet stores, a bit "Noe Valley". The Primrose Hill park was kinda nice but after the majesty of Hampstead Heath I kept walking. Plus, it was most definitely time for an ice cream. It was 2:30 and I hadn't had breakfast or lunch yet? Kinda nuts... I gotta work down the 10 slices of Pizza I had on Friday, but this is nuts! After a quick ice cream to tide me over, I needed a break.

My legs and hips were gonna fall off after 3 hours of walking straight-up. So, I got a Santander "Boris" Bike rental, finally!!! Fun!!!! Very good! It is an excellent system, and very easy to use. A good "luggage spot" in the front as well to carry whatever you've got around your shoulder.

I biked through Regent's Park (some of it), but a lot was not bikeable. Nice to see a bit of it though as I hadn't had a chance to get there yet. The bikes are timed so you are charged a certain amount for <30 and="" for="" min="" more="">30 min. So I did a "drop and swap", dropping off the bike at one location and then hoping to pick up another one. As it turns out, you need to wait 5 min before picking up a new bike. Of course, since this is England, while I was waiting to get my new bike, it started raining.

And it rained more... and more... and more...

I mapped it and found out it was about 30 min bike ride to the tea shop, can I do it?? "This is so much better than walking", I thought, but... the rain! I didn't have a rain jacket (wasn't it supposed to be sunny today?!). I biked in the bike lane for a bit ("Oh, HERE it is...") but then decided to give up and take the bus when it started to rain further. Too crazy.

I dropped off the bike right as a group of three people were scrambling to pick up bikes in the rain. But there were only 2 bikes at their pickup spot so they were looking around trying to figure out what to do. They were so psyched I was dropping mine off ("Thanks, mate!") and the three of them headed off. I had dropped it at Kings Cross/St. Pancras Station, and managed to get RIGHT onto my bus, directly to Stoke Newington! Yes! Insanely, it was still a 40 min bus ride from there? I had chosen the farthest possible Tea room in London, it would seem. Well, the adventure continues.

I got to The Tea Rooms and my table was ready, which was great. It was exactly as I was hoping, a very "homely" atmosphere, as the internet had suggested. I picked Earl Grey and drank 2 pots-worth! I was so damp and hungry, and mowed through the sandwiches... rahhhrrrm! This was kindof like yesterday, nothing to eat until 4pm! Crazy man! Too busy doing all the things.

This experience was nice and relaxing, tasty sandwiches. The scones were well made and I had a normal scone and a "fruit" scone (raisin). The best part was the homemade raspberry jam, which tasted like fresh pie filling!! The clotted cream also was awesome. More tea to make room... and then the 3 desserts were all VERY nice.

First up was a Victoria Sponge, finally I got to try it! It seemed like everyone kept talking about this cake and it was a very classic British cake, so I was glad to finally try it. In the cake there was the same jam as the homemeade one... yes! The second dessert was an almond muffin/cake with very unexpected icing -- it was not overly sweet though, which was a pleasant change and which rocked. The last one was a banana chocolate square, also just excellent! Also, surprisingly, not overly sweet. Lots of warm tea and a great afternoon break, I left very satisfied and pleased with my choice to schlep all the way out to Stoke Newington in the rain. Given the vibe of the tea house, I figured the Stoke Newington high street would make for a nice quaint, cute stroll... nope. It was kinda meh, so I ditched and just decided to bus back home, to St. Pauls and then Central Line alllll the way home. Whew. I got home around 6:30pm, a long day! A really long day, again actually (do all the things).

First some relaxing, emails a bit, shower and laundry, and then eating the leftover food from Harrod's. I chilled for a while, and then went to get groceries to make shortbread for our event on Tuesday, "The Great ILM Bake Off" (based on a British baking show I've never seen called "The Great British Bake Off").

While I was out, I stopped at Ya-Hala, my favourite local hummus spot for "The Usual" -- Mixed Grill Schwarma and Hummus Beiruty. So fast and SO good!!!

Tonight I finished laundry, and had to start prepping to leave London. Crazy stuff, time flies! My Ya-Hala dinner paired very well with my Vanity Fair Star Wars article magazine reading.

Tomorrow is a holiday but I might still go into SoHo area so I can take care of some stuff with a real computer and not just my iPad. I'm also planning to go to Dishoom in Covent Garden, and back to the SoHo Whisky Shop (The Vintage House) again to wander. Then hoping to get back to Fortnum & Mason. Then pack and get ready to roll. If I'm actually relaxed and packed tomorrow night, maybe I'll go and see Mad Max or Tomorrowland at the Cinema.

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