london // day 5

The 94 bus, my new best friend, takes me to the corner of Selfridges, from which I walk to the Wallace Collection. I had been planning on making a stop there anyhow, but the fact that Eugenia mentioned it as one of her favorite museums only further sparked my interest. The museum has just opened when I get there, which means I get the place nearly all to myself. I quickly come to understand why Eugenia loves the Wallace Collection so much: it really immerses its visitors into the collection’s past world of luxury and appreciation for worldly objects. For someone who is not particularly interested in weapons and armor, I strangely end up reading all about the various helmets, swords and guns in the lower galleries. If anything, I realize men were as conscious of their armours’ design as women were of their dresses’.

If there’s one room that’s absolutely not to be missed at the Wallace Collection, it’s the Oval Drawing Room. Decorated in the style of the late Rococo period, this pastel-colored drawing room takes me right back to the interiors in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Now someone please bring me a pyramid of choux à la crème and some custom shoes to try on!

After the Wallace Collection I walk along a duck and swan-filled pond in Regent’s Park, which I imagine must be even more pleasant in the spring. At the north end of the park I reach Primrose Hill, which is the name given to both the grassy hill itself and to the neighborhood surrounding it. At this point, I know I am tracing the footsteps of Sylvia Plath, who would once take little Frieda and Nicholas for walks in this very park. In fact, I am visiting Primrose Hill with a clear objective in mind: to find the house where Sylvia lived. I thus exit the park and take Fitzroy Road. Having forgotten which house number to look for, I eagerly walk along the street and wait to be surprised.

Here it is: 23 Fitzroy Road. To my great disappointment, the house is only marked with a plaque for Yeats, who lived there before Plath (she picked the place for this reason, as she was a big fan). Whether this travesty is a result of sexism, British disregard for Plath or mere mistake, I do not know. I am, however, still very glad I am able to see the townhouse. It’s my own little literary pilgrimage.

Plath also lived in a home on Chalcot Square, which is seconds away. Though I can’t be sure if the square was the same way when Sylvia lived there with her husband Ted Hughes, today it is filled with cheerful, colorful houses. Again, I have no clue as to which number to look for, and since there is no plaque either, I have to make do. [I later find out that Plath and Hughes were supposed to have lived at number 3 on the square, so I guess I must have missed the plaque (either that or there isn’t one to begin with).]

Simultaneously, the weather has started to turn and my stomach to grumble. I pass by the adorable Primrose Bakery (I don’t even step inside - just thought I’d mention it because it’s so damn cute) and a high-end deli called Melrose & Morgan. The latter has a beautiful selection of fresh produce and dry goods, as well as a cooked dishes you can either take home or eat in the shop’s cozy café section. I purchase a box of dark chocolate truffles as a gift for my kind and generous hosts - if there’s one thing my French parents taught me, it’s to never be an empty-handed guest (and in the art of gift-giving, quality chocolate is nearly always a safe bet).

At Corner One Coffee, I have a quick but savory lunch consisting of a bagel with gooey mozzarella and roasted veggies. Camden Lock Market is minutes away, and it’s impossible to miss if you just follow the crowd. Again, busy crowds really aren’t my thing, so this market will not be my favorite part of the trip (but it is worth checking out!).

If you’re looking for something sweet, two places caught my eye (both for their on-point graphic design and delicious-looking treats): Cookies and Scream (vegan milkshakes, ice cream and baked goods) and Miss Poppy Cakes. For a neat selection of classic novels, try Books Iconica. For locally designed clothing and jewelry, Collective Creative Marketplace is the place to be. Special shoutout to the jewelry artisan Oh Panda Eyes, who creates quirky Harry Potter, Sherlock and Doctor Who inspired wearables. The kinds of pieces I think are crazy cool but would never dare actually wear.

Though I know it is closed on Thursdays, I stop by Keats House just to get a feel of where he lived. His cute little white home is located in a quiet area of Hampstead - I’m a little sad I don’t get to visit. I then go to Burgh House, a tiny museum that provides me with some historical background on Hampstead, the neighborhood I am currently in.

The weather is still just as lousy when I exit the Burgh House, but at least I’ve warmed up a bit. Freud’s House is luckily only a few minutes’ walk away. Ironically (because I hold strong grudges against Freud, his daughter, and psychoanalysis as a whole), the Freud House is the only museum in London I have had to pay an entry fee to so far. Still, it’s pretty neat to be able to see Freud’s office after having analyzed it in my last cultural studies course. The room is exactly as we had seen it in photographs, with itchy-looking kilims and pillows piled up on the ottoman and ominous wooden statues on the desk. Upstairs, I visit Anna Freud’s room, as well as a special exhibit consisting of letters exchanged between Freud and his lover Martha Bernays before their marriage - Freud & Eros: Love, Lust and Longing. Upon reading these I discover, not entirely surprised, that Freud was also deeply misogynist (c.f. Freud to Bernays in 1883: “It seems a completely unrealistic notion to send women into the struggle for existence in the same way as men. Am I to think of my delicate, sweet girl as a competitor?”).

From Freud’s house, I bus all the way to King’s Cross Station. No, I don’t have a train to catch – I simply wish to see the infamous Platform 9 ¾ that has been created in honor of the Harry Potter series (you may or may not have realized this by now, but I am a huge Potterhead). Expectedly, a line full of tourists is waiting to get their picture taken pushing their trolley into the Platform 9 ¾ wall. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead, I snap a photo of a complete stranger pushing the trolley. That’ll do.

Because I’m still drenched and cold from walking in the rain, I venture into the British Public Library just next door, buy a tea from the café and take a seat there. I’m not carrying a book with me (since my stolen bag experience in Barcelona I’m back to travelling with only the bare minimum in my pockets), so I pull out my phone for a little Fanfiction. I carry on reading an impressive story (quite appropriately, a Harry Potter one) involving Hermione, Tom and the butterfly effect. It’s a complex time-travel fic - a fresh change from the overused ‘Hermione goes back in time to change Tom and falls in love with him’ plot.

As planned, I then head over to my friend Eugenia’s for dinner. I get to see her siblings again, and my have they grown! Eugenia’s mother has prepared a delicious Mexican dish, and it is altogether a lovely meal.

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