London, England

Wed, July 6: Balham Lodge

The hostel we stayed at in London

The hostel we stayed at in London

This was a comfortable little hostel that I picked because I thought that it was near Roehampton University (It turns out that although it is only 5 miles away as the crow flies, it was 45 minutes via taxi or tube.  I think the problem is the location of the University, not our hotel). But anyway, our room was very comfortable, with its own bath, and a fairly good size (not the closet Mikaela and I had on our trip to London 4 years ago). The building, which is of architectural interest, dates from Edwardian times and is part of the well-known Heaver Estate Conservation Area – a series of streets and terraces developed about 1890. The house was restored in 2006 and is actually quite cute.

First evening: fish and chips and cricket at the park….

Our first evening in London, we were too exhausted to want to try to go do anything. But we walked to the Balham high street to find something to eat, and settled on fish and chips for our first English meal. Fish and chips are served as takeout food there (only they call it take-away food). Then we took the fish and chips to a nearby park called Tooting Bec Common (parks are called commons here. I’m sorry but the name Tooting Bec makes me laugh). The fish was crispy and the “chips” (aka french fries) were soggy. You eat them with salt and malt vinegar, not ketchup. It was pretty good, actually. The long English evenings are lovely (it doesn’t get dark until 10 PM) and the sun came out. The weather was balmy and nice. That is the way I remembered it from when Mikaela and I were here before – cloudy, rainy days, and then nice, sunny evenings. Tooting Bec is a large park with a small lake, and playing fields, tennis courts, walking paths, a playground, etc. It reminded me of Udall Park at home, only with more grass and lots of trees – the same sorts of uses: there were lots of people strolling in the park with their dogs and kids, joggers and walkers and bicyclists on the paths, a cricket game going on…we sat on a bench and watched the cricket game for a while but couldn’t really follow what was going on. The teams were young men in uniforms, but I don’t know if they were school teams, or what…There was an old fountain there that looked as if it dated from the time the area was built, in the late 1800s. Once I get pictures uploaded from my camera I’ll post some.