Thursday, November 3, 2011
The other day I met a friend for lunch in St. John’s Wood, a residential London neighborhood that is known to expats as the home of the American School in London. As close as the neighborhood is to Hampstead, it is rare that I make it down there. But every time I do, I remember how much I like it.
Maybe it’s because St. John’s Wood reminds me so much of Hampstead. Both have a Maison Blanc bakery, a Jeroboam’s wine shop, and an awful Tesco Express. Both have a smattering of shops and boutiques on the high street and an abundance of beautiful historic buildings. Both are full of American expats that like to live in picturesque parts of London. But St. John’s Wood has several distinguishing features.
The most famous of these is Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles recorded the majority of their albums. Every time I walk by the graffiti-covered wall outside of the building, I wade through large groups of Beatles fans from all over the world. They stand in clusters, anxiously awaiting their turns to replicate the famous Abbey Road album cover in the zebra crossing while locals navigate through to get on their way.
Another big landmark in St. John’s Wood is Lord’s Cricket Ground. I have only been to Lord’s once, and it was for a black-tie charity event, not a cricket match. I’ve always wanted to return to the home of cricket for the quintessentially English experience, though. If for no other reason, Future Systems’ Stirling-Prize-winning Media Centre draws me in like an alien spaceship luring an unwitting victim. Seriously. The thing looks just like a UFO.
There are less futuristic places in St. John’s Wood that are worth exploring, too. These include the neighborhood’s historic parks. The St. John’s Wood Church Gardens are full of families on sunny days, and are home to an old cemetery where the likes of painter John Sell Cotman are buried.
In the same park is the beautiful St. John’s Wood Church, which is situated right near Regent’s Park and the Regent’s Canal walk. Not far from there is the stunning London Central Mosque, a famous landmark on the northwestern edge of the park.
Back up on the high street, I met fellow travel blogger Oneika for sandwiches and salads at Gail’s in St John’s Wood. While we have a Gail’s in Hampstead, meeting a fellow expat in a neighborhood that is the home of both a famous international school and a number of staunchly English institutions felt very fitting. Maybe next time I visit I will even branch out and try a new restaurant.