Like any well-planned city, London has its fair share of green spaces. Whether originated as royal hunting grounds or created as a result of the eighteenth-century revelation of their healthful benefits, today these parks offer a respite from the frenzied city traffic and a chance to find the natural within the urban.
Battersea Park, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James's Park, Hampstead Heath--in the past two days, my mother and I have walked to and through each of these. I have the blister on my pinky toe to prove it. In addition to getting some exercise and soaking up the greens of the towering trees and expansive lawns, we found a few geocaches--a great way to add a little diversity and entertainment to any outing.
Each park showcases different sights. There's the huge Peace Pagoda in Battersea and the even larger Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. From the footbridge over St. James's tranquil pond, you can see Buckingham Palace in one direction and the London Eye in the other.
But our favorite by far was Hampstead Heath. Situated a good four miles northwest of Central London, it took a 30-minute bus ride past Trafalgar Square, along the edge of Soho, and through funky Camden to access this monumental park, one of the city's largest. Here, the carefully arranged gardens and neatly manicured lawns we had grown accustomed to were replaced by rolling woodlands and wild, heather-covered meadows. Up and down the hills we strolled, stopping at the top of each to admire the views back towards the city. An excellent finale to our tour of London's parks.