Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 29 - Highgate Cemetery and a small bit of Paris

the B519, also known here as Highgate Hill street in Highgate
Our second to the last leisurely morning mixing a light breakfast with lively conversation at Ellis Fields. After we finished, we headed out for Highgate in the borough of Camden, London. Richard had originally planned for us all to use the underground (“Le Tube”) but a planned two-day strike kicked off that day so we were forced to drive.

Fortunately traffic was light and parking easily found -- although we had to wait about ten minutes until noon to park legally on the street. Once free of the car we strolled down the main street before making our way  to Le Pain Quotidien for a wonderfully fresh, scrumptious lunch. Susie and I had the good fortune to eat at not one but two of these in Paris last year and found them to be a great value: the food delicious, the price right, the ambience cozy and the serving staff immensely friendly and helpful (the two working that morning were from Latvia and Italy).

I had the smoked chicken club tartine with chorizo chips and lots of greens
Susan had the avocado tartine
several in our group split the rhubarb tart
We enjoyed the partly sunny sky as we left the restaurant and made our way down one of the small side streets on Highgate Hill (reportedly one of the highest and steepest in greater London) to the entrance of Highgate Cemetery. Richard and Pauline had peviously made reservations and purchased tickets for a guided tour of the West, and oldest, side of the cemetery; in fact, the only way you can see that part of the cemetery is through a tour.

We were lucky that day since it was partly sunny, slightly coolish in the shade and our guide was the registrar of the cemetery, the man with the answers so to speak.

For the next hour or so our little group of about 16 wended around various paths, stopping every so often as our host related bits of cemetery history intermixed with personal histories of a handful of burials all within the framework of explaining certain elements of funeral symbolism and architecture. It was fascinating to me, of course, but everyone in the group seemed to enjoy not only the talk but the very feel of the space itself.

entrance to the west side

Egyptian avenue

At the end of the tour the four of us and most of the rest of the tour group crossed back over to the east side and with the handy map explored on our own.

Among the denizens buried there — and those we tracked down — were: Karl Marx, his tomb, which was originally located in a different part of the east side, is topped by one of the largest stone heads I’ve ever seen;  the writer George Eliot,  and Thomas Shepherd who served in the Union army during the American Civil War.

Alice Crisp opted to have a high relief of her "faithful" friend Emperor put on her tomb


manager of the Sex Pistols

Ferdinand Barzetti

Patrick Caulfield - his the upright pretty much says it all for everyone buried here

Anna Mahler, sculptor and daughter of Gustave
As it was nearing closing time we eventually found our way back to the entrance and then walked through nearby Waterlow Park where the four of us stopped to have coffee. 

Leaving Waterlow Park and returning to Highgate Hill street  Richard caught sight of this little plaque on the wall surrounding the park, a reminder of the history lurking around these streets -- a plaque marking the former entrance to a cottage once owned by Andrew Marvell, "Poet, Wit, and Satirist," and a colleague of John Milton (yep, THAT John Milton).

Even though our return route was pretty much uphill we were soon back at the car -- making just one stop at a small wine wine shop for a cold bottle of Blanquette de Limoux to celebrate the finale of a grand and wonderful trip. Less than a half hour or so later we were all relaxing comfortably in Ellis Fields, in eager anticipation of the evening meal, Pauline's renowned "Toad-in-a-hole" dinner

Our waiting was not in vain and the meal was everything we expected and more:  Pauline amazed us with her version of Toad in a Hole, sausages cooked in Yorkshire Pudding, with sides of vegetables and mashed potatoes, all washed down with a Crozes-Hermitage, compliments of Dick and Dorothy. A wonderful evening of lively talk over delicious food and tasty wine. Life really doesn’t get much better than sharing it all with good friends.

Toads peeking out of their holes. . . 

Now, THIS is real comfort food.

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