I know I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy reading the Emily Books blog and admire the range and diversity of books that Emily reads and her intelligent and humorous writing. As I was reading her blog a few weeks before my trip I realized that I would be in London on the Sunday of her October walking book club and decided that my friend and I must go. Thankfully, I already owned a copy of the book up for discussion, The Home-maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and my friend was willing to give it a go.
I emailed Emily for directions and information about where to meet and learned that the group meets at the Daunt Books shop on South End Road in Hampstead, nearly across the street from the heath. Emily works for the shop and started the walking book club a few years ago to combine two of her loves: books and walking. You can read more about it here.
Due to a tube station closure and to getting lost we were late, so instead of trying to find the book shop we waited by the heath entrance to see if we could spot any groups who seemed to be talking about The Home-maker (dove grey books in hand) and just a few minutes later I saw Emily, whom I recognized from photos on her blog, come walking up the street trailed by many enthusiastic readers. After confirming we were in the right place, we joined in the group and had a lively discussion while walking over the green and gorgeous heath. At the midway point we stopped under a huge, ancient tree and revived with delicious plum cake that Emily had made herself. It was a great experience and if I lived in London I would join in every month (though they are currently on a hiatus as Emily has just had her first baby).
After the discussion we all rambled back to Daunt and I had a nice talk with Emily and a browse in the shop. I bought three books – Love and Summer by William Trevor, Old Filth by Jane Gardam and Pleasures and Landscapes by Sybille Bedford.
When we had made our purchases we set off down a picturesque side street to go to the John Keats House which we had noticed when we were lost and had given up on looking for the book shop (so there was a positive side to our misfortune). We bought our tickets for the next tour at the Keats house then explored the beautiful street where the house is located and discovered the neighborhood library.
The tour was fantastic and it was a joy to see where Keats had met and fallen in love with Fanny Brawne and where he had penned some of his most beloved poems. I especially enjoyed touring the kitchen and servants’ area of the house, as these are so rarely shown on tours.
Next, we set off across the heath in search of Kenwood House, which was remodeled by the great architect Robert Adam in the 18th century. It took us a while to reach Kenwood (I am a slow walker) and we arrived shortly before closing. Sadly, half of the house was already shut off for an evening event so we only got to see one side, but it was beautiful nonetheless, especially the library with its original Adam ceiling and breathtaking hand stitched rug. The artwork is also quite amazing.
On my next trip to London I’d like to go back and see the other side.
The day we spent in Hampstead was one of my favorite days in London. I loved the heath, the walking book club and the quiet streets lined with lovely houses. And any day I get to spend in a wonderful book shop is a good day in my eyes.