Friday 12 April 2013

A Northerner in London Town – Hampstead & Belsize Park

After a fractious night at Ibis, I can never sleep well in hotels, we headed out on the Northern line to Hampstead.

There is something rather beastly about the Tube.  You have to keep your wits about you; otherwise you get pushed out of the way or end up on the wrong train.  At least it wasn’t rush hour so we managed to get a seat.
Hampstead is a rather well-healed neighbourhood.  It’s the sort of neighbourhood where you need to have serious money in the bank to live here.   As a result there are some rather posh shops in this neck of the woods.  However, sod that, we came here to browse the charity shops. 

There was a nice Oxfam bookshop with friendly staff.  There were some records for Neil to browse, however nothing caught his eye.  On the other hand I found a book.  This Oxfam was definitely cheaper than the Oxfam on Gower Street, which was extortionate.
Hampstead is built on a hill and whilst most of the shops are on the main road, the more interesting shops were on the side streets.  There was an indoor antiques market, which reminded me of some of the antique shops you could find in Chelsea in New York City.  I loved the antique quilt stall, which was stacked high with beautiful handmade quilts.  Outside the antique market we found a gorgeous, furry, tortoise shell cat who didn’t mind us stroking her.  However she did object to the young child trying to stroke her and scooted off – what a sensible cat!

There were some high street shops in Hampstead and I ended up buying a navy cat shirt from Gap.  Neil informed me that the branch of Snappy Snaps was indeed the ‘Wham!’ branch which George Michael drove in to.  Obviously he had to take a picture and post it on Facebook.
We found another antiques shop that looked like it should be on one of those obsessive compulsive hoarders  shows.  You really could not imagine how you could get into the shop, let alone browse round it.

Hampstead is a really genteel neighbourhood, with a well-polished veneer of middle class niceness.  It doesn’t quite have the same bling-tastic feel of Kensington.  We didn’t manage to find Hampstead Heath as we had lost our bearings.
We ended up going down Rosslyn Hill and headed towards Belsize Park.  It was a nice walk and the houses along the road were well manicured.  You can’t imagine the house prices here being affected by the recession as it’s such a desirable neighbourhood - it even has its own professional theatre here.

The shopping area around Belsize Park is centred around  the Tube Station.  You could easily eat out here most nights in the local restaurants.  There was a nice looking artisan bakery where you could pick up brunch.
There was a charity shop which we popped into and we found some old people.  Old people in London are almost invisible, especially in central London, but you can find them here in Hampstead and Belsize Park.  There was one gentleman whose face was so sad and out of place in this modern world.  I wished I could have seen him in his prime with hope in his eyes.  However that was now a distant memory and all I could see was loss in his eyes.

Surprisingly we bumped into the local alcoholic who asked us to go into the local off-licence to buy him some booze.  It takes some doing to get barred from your local offy.  We declined his request and he got quite vocal with us.

After that incident we decided to move on, but not before Neil took a picture of Belsize Park Tube station.  He was running a music quiz on Facebook whilst we were exploring London – you got to admire his multi-tasking and dedication to music.

So off we popped back on the Tube – our next stop… Chalk Farm.

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