Monday, July 19, 2010

Neighborhoods of the Rich and Famous

If I were going to move to London (and I'm not going to move to London), I'd first have to win the lottery (a Powerball jackpot would be best), and then I'd find a place to stay in Hampstead. The neighborhoods on the outskirts of London are great; both Kew and Wimbledon are about 30 minutes on the tube from central London, Hamstead is a little closer, but still has that "village" feel. It's also the home of several celebs (Ricky, Russell) and for good reason, the homes are beautiful, the Main Street (or High Street as they're called here) has a ton of shops and cafes with the tube station at the top of the road, and Hamstead Heath, a fantastic, wild, huge, sprawling park with a view from a hill of almost all of London spread out below it, is a 15 minute walk from the tube station.
But before heading out to Hampstead yesterday, acting on a tip (thanks Laura!) I trotted across the bridge to the Tate in search of some Andy Warhol prints. My friend Laura emailed me that she had heard that the Tate has a series of prints Warhol made of his mother in its collection, and since the apartment we're staying in is almost directly across the river from the Tate Britain, it was easy enough to run over there and investigate. I asked the person at the information desk about the Warhol collection and she said that any Warhols would be at the Tate Modern (I learned that the Tate Britain does show contemporary art, but only by British artists). The info-girl was able to look up the Warhol collection currently on display at the TM on her computer but we couldn't find the ones I was looking for, which just means they aren't currently on show, but it was a fun little scavenger hunt anyway.

Then I jumped on the tube and headed up to Hampstead. Peter was spending the morning at the British Museum, I spent the morning taking a nap (I've never really gotten over the morning effects of the jet-lag) and then wandered around Hampstead, looking in shops on the High Street, and having lunch in a cafe. At 2pm I met Peter and Sumathi at the tube station and we headed to the park, walking through really fabulous residential neighborhoods on the way. Once we entered the heath, we found Parliament Hill which affords a great view of greater London, and from there got hopelessly lost. We walked and walked down paths and tails (Hampstead Heath is 790 acres, we passed exactly one trail map) but lost our bearings along the way and ended up in the middle of the park just wanting to get out. By asking a few different people we did manage to escape dying there and having to eat one another, Donner party-style, and made our way back to the High Street and the comfort of a bakery.
Monday night after our woodland adventure, Peter and I took a spin on the London Eye, which is a giant ferris wheel that was built for the millennium celebration; it turned out to be such a cash-cow that it remains a permanent fixture on the South Bank.

Today we wandered around the City of London with my friend Chris. When people talk about "The City" they are talking about a one-square-mile area of downtown - the financial district. About 8,000 people live there but about 350,000 people work there. We started our tour at the Royal Courts of Justice, saw a bunch of Christopher Wren-designed churches, stopped into a couple of ancient pubs, found some hidden, quiet, quaint courtyards, and then took the tube to go Sloan Square to go shopping, but ended up in the Saatchi Gallery instead. I love looking at this kind of contemporary art, mainly because it makes me laugh, usually at it, but still, what's wrong with that?

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