And after the Hampstead Walk? You're spoiled for choice. There's so much of interest there. (There's interest and there's interest – when you're talking Hampstead you're talking surpassing interest.)
First of all, you can just do more "on foot". You'll have got a great feel for the place – its history and "cast of characters" and the way it fits together and character and idiosyncrasies – from the walk
. It's the best possible introduction to Hampstead. But having got your Hampstead wings from the walk, well, you can take off and Hampstead-soar for the rest of the day if you're so minded. As you'll have gathered from the walk, there's a reason Hampstead has attracted all those artists and photographers and film mkers – people with a highly developed visual sensibility. It's because the place is so beautiful
. As you'll see
for yourself (with a little help compliments of the "composition" of the route: where we go, the location, location, location
vantage points) – it's eye candy from first to last. So you could just carry on – maybe after a pub lunch – walk some more of it (including the Heath – well, more of the Heath
) off your own bat.
And there are so many little "specialist museums" (for lack of a better word). There's Fenton House. There's Burgh House. There's the Freud Museum. There's Keats' House. There's the Camden Arts Centre (it's a ten minute walk over the brow of the hill, toward Finchley Road and West Hampstead). There's Kenwood House on the Heath. (A good brisk walk across the Heath – be your third bite at the cherry because we do two bits of the Heath on the walk – to Kenwood House and a bite to eat and a cup of coffee in their stylish cafeteria: no question about it, that's a really special Apres Walk treat; and hey, if you want to, just carry right on to Highgate and make it a two-fer – catch the Old Highgate Village
walk at 1.45 pm).
And shops? Well, you'll see that little outdoor market in Flask Walk toward the end of the walk. And right there is the cup overfloweth, comfy, rumpled, old curiosity shop of a second hand book shop. Run by Jerry from San Francisco. So helpful, so friendly. It's book lovers' heaven, that place. And that's not to mention Hampstead's chic boutiques. It's chock-a-block with them.
And the wild card? Well, I've got two for you. One is definitely mid-summer fare – unless you're Corinna
. Pack your swim suit and cool off after walks one
and two (walk one
being my, David's
, guided walk; and walk two being your Apres Walk Heath-Kenwood House foray!) with a dip in one of the ponds. Spoiled for choice you are: there's a men's pond, a women's pond, and a mixed pond. It's Thoreau-esque, that. It's nature up close and full-throated and all-ashimmer and Monet-in-NW3 and intimate. You got, say, four days in London – that swim in one of the Hampstead ponds will be the most enduring, vivid, special memory of the whole time. It's a tweet that really will make a splash – a Facebook ace.
Restaurants and coffee bars and La Creperie? Well, ask me at walk's end. (You most certainly won't have to ask me about Louis' Hungarian Patisserie – because it's our penultimate stop on the walk.)
But maybe just single out one here. (This one's the other wild card
.) It's for anyone who's got a little bit of the old adventure juice in their veins – wants to try something that's very different, that no other tourist will get a taste of. It's this. Head over the brow of the hill and walk down to Finchley Road. Cross it and turn left. Not very far along there's a turning on the right called Lithos Road. Look for 2A Lithos Road. It's a community centre. Upstairs – on the first floor – is the most wonderful Ethiopian restaurant called Ras Dashen (named for a mystical mountain in the land of the humanity start-up – that all by itself is frame-of-mind adjusting; as are the posters rubric'd: The Land Where the Sun Shines for 13 Months).
Hampstead's Ras Dashen is run by Mimi and her mum. Mimi serves. Her mum's the chef. It's very traditional, very good, and so affordable. Last time I was there three of us feasted for just over £40. Without the wine it would have been just over £25. Lots of restaurants bill their fare as "home cooking" and almost always that's "terminological inexactitude". It's not in this case. You're eating what Sophie Sirak-Kebede (Mimi's mum) would cook for you if she invited you home for dinner. What she's been cooking for years. Learned, doubtless, from her mum. And her mum from Mimi's great grand-mum. And so on. Very special indeed.
Another appealing note, you sit at one of those traditional little Ethiopian tables called a Mesobe, each of them topped to the north with a colourful, wicker-work cover shaped like an elve's cap. The which gets doffed at the appropriate moment. It's completely communal because the whole meal comes on a shared "plate" of bread. It's about the size – and roughly the thickness – of a thin pizza crust. But so far and no farther for that resemblance. Because the Ethiopian "bread platter" isn't dry, isn't crisp, isn't a yawn taste-wise. It's moist. It's soft. Texture-wise it's sort of like a sponge-cakey pancake. And on it – all over it – separate heapings of the various dishes
, the offerings. Then there's a side platter of the same bread (or more or less the same bread). Rolled up in strips. You grab one of those strips, tear it in half, and then use the bread strip (in a kind of pincer movement) to scoop up a tasty dollop of whatever you fancy. It was all good. Very good. Very spicy – and delicious. A mixture of vegetable and meat dishes. And something salady as well. Nothing very heavy, nothing lumpen. Absolutely delicious. We had a bottle of Ethiopian red (passed on the honey wine Mimi recommended, thought it might be too sweet). The red was sweet – but it worked. Balanced out the spicy nosh brilliantly. Good meal. A find.
So, yes, if you've got even a trace of the derring do in you – want to push the envelope a bit – like out of the way discoveries and trying things that are undreamt of in most people's philosophies (thank you, Hamlet, for supplying that line!) – well, go for it.
And afterward, well, Finchley Road
Station is a three-minute walk away. It's the Jubilee Line. Whisk you back into central London – Bond Street
Station is just four stops away – in no time at all.