Today was a rare sunny day. The only nice thing about the constant rain here is that it makes you all the more appreciative every time the sun appears. I feel guilty spending a sunny day inside. So this afternoon I decided to check out Holland Park. Like my last park adventure, I got out my map and planned a route. It seemed pretty straight forward. But as I’m beginning to learn, few things are straight forward when walking in London.
If I may, I’d like to take a minute here to address whoever named and designed the streets in London: What were you thinking? The names aren’t bad–Pembridge, Courtfield, Collingham, they all sound nice and Britishy. But the problem is you didn’t come up with enough names. There is a Pembridge Road, Pembridge Gardens, Pembridge Square, Pembridge Place and Pembridge Villas. You can’t just tell a taxi driver you want to go to 10 Pembridge. It’s also really hard to make out whether it’s a Gardens, Court, Place or Road on the map. And what’s the deal with changing the name of the road every quarter mile? And not making a single straight street? London is lovely but it seems as if you don’t want people to be able to navigate it.
I’m not sure if you can tell, but I got a little lost on my walk today. Not miserably or panicky lost, it was as pleasantly lost as being lost in a new city can be. I set out towards Holland Park, which on the map appeared as a giant green area. Parks in London have actual opening and closing times. “How do you close a park?” You might be wondering. Well, they close the gate. The giant green space on the map, I soon found out, was entirely walled off, with openings far and few between. Just as I was beginning to think I had gone too far, I found an entrance. And was greeted by….
Not what I was expecting, but certainly pleasant. I huffed it up the hill, past the playground and into the wooded area. I passed a large group of young school boys. I think I said it last time, but little boys with British accents in formal uniforms are the cutest thing. I also passed a woman sketching on an easel.
How lovely is this?
I had no idea what to expect from Holland Park. I thought it would be more open like Hyde Park, but this park was very secluded and quiet with multiple trails branching off. If only I were the type of person who ran in parks or read on park benches…this park really made me want to do both. I continued walking, choosing a random trail. My Google maps route showed no winding trails. I was only meaning to cut through the park on a straight path, but it didn’t seem to exist. So along the trail I went, following a hand-in-hand elderly couple. Lovely.
It’s hard to explain the kind of peace and happiness that comes when walking in a secluded park on a breezy almost sunny day. I was really feeling it…until I realized I had no idea where I was. I thought I was walking in the general direction of the street, but suddenly the path curved. I kept walking, hoping it would curve back. It didn’t. Finally I saw a sign that pointed one way to the way out and another way to the wildlife area. I stood there at the proverbial crossroads and finally chose the path less traveled–to the wildlife.
I passed this colorful bird:
I think this was the wildlife area, a little dissapointing, but there were ducks. After I took this photo the ducks got out of the water and started approaching me, so I backed off. The path started getting more muddy and I was wearing my white Pumas, so I decided I had had enough of the path less traveled–it was time to go back and look for the way out.
I made it out of the park but realized, once again, that I had absolutely no idea where I was. This was certainly not the way I had come in or the way out I had planned on the map. So I kept walking until I got to the main street. It was the street I had taken to get to the park! I prematurely celebrated my ability to navigate myself. I walked for a good 10 minutes before I realized I was not getting any closer to Notting Hill. In fact, I wasn’t even in the Notting Hill or Holland Park postal code.
I had found the right road and then managed to go the wrong way on it.
So I turned around and walked another 10 minutes just to get back to where I came out of the park. My intended route was only 2 miles round trip, but between my detour in the park and misdirection on the street, I probably walked closer to 3 or 4 miles today. I’m really glad I decided to forgo my “Blend in with the locals” wardrobe and instead wore comfortable shoes and pants. I would have really been hurting if I hadn’t!