London: Highgate Cemetery & St. James Park

The flight from Seattle to Iceland is only 7.5 hours, and from Iceland to London is 2.5. Breaking the flight up as I did (taking advantage of Icelandair’s free stopover program) made it MUCH more bearable than a non-stop flight straight to London. Plus, on both these legs, I was lucky enough to have the seat next to me vacant! I barely had any jet lag at all, because having the empty seat to spread out onto meant I was able to sleep really well.

I dropped off my bags at my hotel, and got my Oyster card for the Underground, and went immediately to Highgate Cemetery.  By the way, if you’re planning to visit London, whatever you do, don’t fall for those “tourist Oyster cards” you can buy ahead of time. They cost you so much more money. An regular Oyster card is completely free – you pay only the amount you load onto the card. It’s super easy to get from the automated machines, as well. That “tourist” version is totally a scam!

I’ve always loved old cemeteries. They are so beautiful.  And Highgate is one of the best.

It is unbelievably crammed with graves. And there are modern ones, as well. They still accept new burials – though it will cost you, if you plan on burying anything other than ashes.

You can only go into the really old side with a guided tour. There are apparently many dangerous areas, with holes and drop-offs, and toppling headstones.

It’s legal to be buried anywhere in England – our guide put his mother in her beloved backyard garden. And did not tell the new owners when he sold the house. And many people do put their ashes here, in Highgate. I can see why. There is a peace here.

These are the broad “main” paths we were allowed to walk on. There are tons and tons of smaller paths, many of those choked by vegetation and graves. They just pile the graves in, wherever they find any spare bit of room.

There are mausoleums as well. This one was built to resemble ancient Egypt, during the Victorian craze for all things Egyptian. It was not very popular, though, because while Victorians might have been fascinated with Egypt, they didn’t feel it was quite properly Christian to be buried there.

We were taken inside the one of the largest mausoleums, but weren’t allowed to take photographs. I was glad I had a little penlight with me, because I was able to study all the little details on the caskets. They were rotting apart, but you could still see how beautifully decorated they were.  On top of the mausoleum, are the Highgate beehives. Yes, they make their own honey here.  Life and death.

Some of the older stones leaned against each other. I imagined they had grown into a friendship, over the years.

Trees had grown up through others, draping them with roots.

There were so many beautiful little details.

After Highgate, I went to St. James Park.

I was hoping to see the flock of tame pelicans they have there, but the pelicans were sleeping across the lake.

There were lots of other waterbirds, though. More varieties of duck than I can put a name to, and Toulouse geese, and my favorite, the swans. They were friendly, and people were feeding them by hand.

Last of all, I took in a little of the Hammersmith Vintage Textile Fair. I found many, many things I couldn’t afford; I wanted everything I saw, really. I ended up with part of a Victorian beaded sleeve, in black, and a narrow yard of embroidered fabric.. Someday, it will be the perfect thing for a costume!

After all of that, I was so worn out that I curled up in my hotel room and ordered Takeaway.  I used just-eat.uk, and it was brilliant. Just put in your postcode, and it brings up a list of all the Takeaway places in your area that deliver, and their menus. You pick what you want, and either pay with a card or say you’ll pay in cash, and in about 40mins, it shows up at your door.  Lovely. I had the best wonton soup I’ve ever had!

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One response to “London: Highgate Cemetery & St. James Park

  1. beautiful pictures….Lis…..and will need to talk to you more on the oyster card….I’ve always purchased my pass before I left US…

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