Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Heart Hampstead Heath

Last summer, I spent a month in England for a Shakespeare-focused study abroad program through my college.
I arrived in London on a Friday- depleted by the worst jet lag EVER. After the program's brief orientation in the lobby of our hotel, I crawled back up to my shared room and fell fast asleep.
The next day began with a hazy English breakfast- poached eggs, beans, toast and greasy susage. I had no plans for the day, and so was delighted when a girl asked my roommate and I to come with her to the Ladies' Swimming Pond at Hampstead Heath.
We took the train from Bloomsbury to Hampstead, prepared to take a walk through picturesque Hampstead to its namesake park. We stopped at a small sandwich shop for delicious sandwiches and pastries. I mean- we are talking freshly baked bread, cheese from a local farm, and sweets that Edmond Pevensie would sell out his sister for.
As we entered the grounds of Hampstead Heath, I was in awe. It is a seriously enchanting place. The three of us meandered dreamily through tree groves, wheat-colored meadows, and rocky paths.
When we arrived at the swimming pond for women, I felt as though my lifelong Anglophilic dream had finally been fulfilled. There was a small meadow brimming with purple and orange wildflowers. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes layed out (some sans tops!) with straw hats and read, chattered, laughed, and came in and out of the pond.
The pond itself was also small, but big enough for all of us to swim in at the same time and feel like it was ours. There were lily pads and ducks and fish. The small wooden dock at the front end of the pond was covered with women dipping their feet, and there was a changing room for us all to shower and get our swimsuits on.
We sat on the meadow, ate our delicious lunch, and basked in the surreal space we found ourselves in.
It was sad to leave, but the familiar English gloom pushed the sun out from overhead. We put our sweaters on and walked home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

[Hampstead Heath]" has a shade of green for every possible felicitation of light; that paints itself in russets and ambers in the autumn, canary-yellow in the splashy spring; with tickling bush grass to hide teenage lovers and joint smokers, broad oaks for brave men to kiss against,...Hampstead Heath! Glory of London! Where Keats walked and Jarman fucked, where Orwell exercised his weakened lungs and Constable never failed to find something holy."-Zadie Smith