home sweet hampstead

i was told, on my recent {and only} voyage to hampstead in london, that the land was originally and primarily used for pig farming. i was also informed that shortly after the pig farming-era, it was transformed into a sort of dirty laundry mecca. what no one happened to mention, is that hampstead is an absolute gem, a little haven of hilly streets, lovely homes, and curious shoppes. i spent almost no time there {my caravan of four blonde american girls plus one baby was on it’s way to the swimming ponds in hampstead heath} but what little i saw has got my mind stirring –
oh what a place it would be to call home.

old map of hampstead, london, old maps

{the telegraph rates hampstead as being the sixth most expensive neighborhood in london – that doesn’t surprise me – the area has been called home by a plethora of creative souls [karl marx, w. b. yeats, and sylvia plath] – click image for source}

the first information i ever absorbed about this neighborhood
was from a coffee table book in my cousin’s flat.
it reads . . .

” . . . the neighbourhood’s focal point is Primrose Hill park, which reaches over 78 metres at it’s highest point and affords panoramic views across London to Canary Wharf and the Millenium Dome in the east and to the chimneys of Battersea Power Station in the west. Enclosed by the Crown in 1842,the area’s landmark Victorian squares and crescents were built up around the newly public park throughout the nineteenth century. . . Just north of Primrose Hill is Hampstead, one of the most expensive places to live in London . . . Traditionally known as an artistic and literary enclave from the eighteenth century onwards, Hampstead still has an intellectual reputation. It is the highest point in London, and then as now was considered the perfect place to get away from it all.”

new london style

{new london style – chloe grimshaw, photographs by ingrid rasmussen}

i have no pictures from the “town” of hampstead,
but quite a few from the ever-expansive, gorgeous park
known as hampstead heath.

hampstead heath, map of hampstead heath


– – – welcome to my view – – –

hampstead heath, the forest, london

sunbathing, hampstead heath, london, sunny weather, beautiful sunshine, laying out

{there are eighteen total ponds in the park, three allow swimming – the highgate men’s bathing pond, the kenwood ladies’ bathing pond, and a mixed [coed] bathing pond – a few even allow fishing, which is one of my favorite things in the world to do}

there is just something special about this place – it is unlike most of the other parks {royal or otherwise} that are splattered within london’s city limits. it has a wild side. whereas these other, less-fortunate parks are complete with  manicured lawns, perfect landscaping, and proportionately-groomed trees and pathways, the heath is a natural wonder with overgrown fields, life-filled forests, and lakes that remind me of the stripper pits back home. these lakes or ponds are seemingly carved into the earth, surrounded by trees and weeds and growth, and are both murky and deep {in the best kind of way.} the lake in the picture above is not like those that i am describing but if i could have posted a picture of the ladies’ bathing pond, i definitely would have.

let me tell you a bit about this pond . . .

women only, hampstead heath, london, bathing pond, topless ladies


i had no idea, after stumbling down a long, rocky road under huge trees, that we {the other americans, baby, and i} were going to arrive at such a miraculous place. we emerged into a large, sunny patch of land, literally dubbed the “tranquil meadow”, and on it were over a hundred, happy london women, lying on pretty fabrics, soaking in the sun. the sign {pictured above} was absolutely correct. i won’t lie, i did doubt if they took the no-men rule seriously. they absolutely did. there wasn’t a man in sight, and good thing [not that i, personally would have minded] but many of these girls were proud, free spirited, and sunbathing topless.
all of a sudden, i left {what has turned out to be a more} conservative-london and emerged into what i had imagined {and hoped} a more liberal-europe to be.

if there is something about me that you will learn from reading this particular post, it’s that the notion that a man is legally allowed to show his chest and a woman is not, is overwhelmingly offensive to me. i can’t stand the very thought of it – especially when near bodies of water such as lakes and oceans, natural places of life and freedom where i should not feel governed by such outdated, old fashioned, sexist guidelines. yes, i said it. if i’m being brutally upfront and unmerciful about my feelings – {and this is my blog so i am allowed to be} – with the soaring obesity rates around the world, and especially in the united states, my chest doesn’t look all that different from that fella’s down the way.
it’s true. and it’s a travesty.

with that said, here was a place where none of that nonsense mattered! close enough to hear and hidden enough to barely make out, a picturesque dock had been built who knows how long ago and women were lined up to some steps that lead down to the cool, greenish water. most, including myself, simply chose to close their eyes and take the plunge. man, did it feel fantastic and refreshing. if i thought the meadow was full of people, the lake / pond had just as many girls of all ages, laughing and splashing and enjoying some physical relief from the painfully hot day. no pictures were taken here due to the nature of the environment but if you can imagine a perfectly serene situation, then you’ve imagined the ladies’ bathing pond in hampstead heath. there were actually a few rules besides not being allowed to use mobile phones.

you were also not allowed to bring alcohol, children under 8, and “technically” you were not “allowed” to sunbathe in the nude. in our little circle of four plus one not-even-close-to-eight year old, we actually managed to break every single one of those rules. after an hour or so of jumping into the water, sincerely feeling that all was right with the world, and enjoying each other’s feminine company, the caravan was politely informed by a lifeguard that babies were not allowed. the play-dumb technique comes in handy sometimes but it is only okay when you know that no one else is suffering. henry, although the reason for our departure, barely made a peep the entire time we were there. {the rules are rightfully in place to keep the meadow peaceful and private and perfect} he rather spent that part of his day giggling, playing, and gazing at boobs he will one day wish he could remember.

– – – and now onto the moments that i was able and allowed to capture – – –

hampstead heath, baby swans, nest of swans

{can it get any better? i wasn’t even using my camera’s zoom feature, i was really this close to them!}

hampstead heath, beautiful, fields of gold

{if i focus long enough, i’m back in indiana – grazing fields, gravel roads, blue sky and the rest of it – cue the song”fields of gold” which i’m proud to say i still adore}

after leaving this massive haven of earth and water and sky, we stopped by a wine shop / thing shop / deli. the baby was fed a bottle, we snacked on cheese and olives and wine, and i found a stunning silverware set that i may or may not go back for. originally £65, it was reduced to £45. i showed interest and the owner made an offer to me of £35! although extremely kind of her, at this point, i haven’t decided if my desire to possess the lovely six-person cutlery set is stronger than my present desire and desperate need to save money. part of me is trying to be super, ultra-responsible, and a second part of me is reminding the first part that realistically, i will probably be taking out a huge loan to go to school herehopefully with a low interest rate – so why not!? “live a little” as charming armande would say in “chocolat” . . . i sometimes hear her words when i’m being hesitant about spending money at fancy-er places, like jazz clubs and delicious food markets. but i think it’s healthy to let go a little. i’m not talking about an over-priced automobile or crazy expensive vacation – just some pretty forks and spoons, and a first-rate glass of whiskey. nothing obscene or unnecessary, i assure you.
i suppose you will know in less than a week if i go back for that silverware set.

flowers on the table, a deli, lovely place to eat, london

deli, london, feast, wine and cheese

{securing our bountiful feast!}

antiques, for sale, the best kind of shopping, london

{my favorite kind of shopping experience, old things blanketed by a tiny layer of dust – can you see my maybe-future set [complete with case] in the middle?}

{just a close up - it's not like i'm obsessed or anything . . . }

{just a close up – it’s not like i’m obsessed or anything . . . }

as though the day could get any better, a coworker of my cousin asked us if we wanted any of her houseplants! she is moving back to the u.s. and can’t take them with her – i was informed by my cousin that if i traveled the relatively short distance {a couple blocks} and transported them back to our flat, that i could claim ownership. done and done. it wasn’t easy though. said coworker also had a plethora of groceries that i simply couldn’t refuse so i had quite the load to move – two loads to be exact. luckily and skillfully, i was able to carry out this task with the help from a rickety-old baby pram / stroller and also a sense a humor.
see – i looked completely insane whilst i was making these trips. i had not bathed, nor had i even changed from the trek to hampstead, and i’m certain people thought i was completely out of my mind walking down the dark streets with this get-up below . . .

plant lady, crazy person, london

{to make it worse, i was totally aware of how strange i must have looked, so when people stared [a lot of people stared] i would burst out in a fairly uncontrollable laughter – surely making everything that much more bizarre for those witnessing my crazy plant-lady plight.}

i’m glad i can laugh at myself from time to time.
now i have half a dozen beautiful new plant-friends to freshen up my little room in london.

game of thrones, aloe vera, london

{not sure if i’m more excited about my george r. r. martin collection or my new aloe plant}

london, plants

{it was worth every confused, slightly-judgemental glance – i’m as happy as a clam right now!}

some tidbits to end the night on . . .

“don’t worry so much about ‘not supposed to’ – live a little”

– chocolat –



and a favorite music video . . . with the appropriate subject matter for this post.


and finally, goodnight.



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