If you could clone one element from another city you’ve visited — a building, a cultural institution, a common street food, etc. — and bring it back to your own hometown, what would it be?
In London, a near-continuous chain of parks which starts with Kensington Park, moves east into Hyde Park, then north into Green Park. They run through some of the busiest parts of London, close to numerous tube stops along the edge. The parks offer up 150 acres of green space complete with lakes, walkways, gently rolling terrain, and beautiful landscaping.
The only other city I know as well as London is the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. It too has a lot of green space — the Mall, East Potomac Park, Constitution Gardens, The Ellipse, and the area around the Capitol. All of these areas are criss-crossed with roads and busy, with runners on its pathways, tourists snapping pictures, office workers eating lunches, and school children racing off buses on field trips. There’s no doubt that these parks are enjoyed by all, and I’ve glad we have them — they’re beautifully planned and well laid out to contain the many memorials and museums. But they just don’t give that feeling of escape that seemingly endless acres do, nor the tranquility.
In North London there’s also the vast, country like Hampstead Heath which stretches across 791 acres of woodland, playing fields, swimming ponds and meadows of tall grass in north London from Hampstead to Highgate. Both Hampstead and Highgate were independent villages a couple of centuries ago, and a trip to the Heath was a day’s outing for Londoners.
The Regent’s Park, designed by noted landscape designed John Nash, covers 395 acres and includes a rose garden with more than 30,000 roses of 400 varieties. Sports facilities span nearly 100 acres it includes the largest outdoor sports area in central London including a lake with rental boats. There’s also a zoo, a bird sanctuary, and open-air theater.
Due south of Regents Park running along the south side of the Thames is Battersea Park: 200 acres of parkland with various activities including another zoo and lake.
There are various other parks of varying sizes and specialties throughout the city. Psychologically, too, it’s nice to be able to walk around and frequently pass some peaceful, green areas. The parks I’ve mentioned are basically in inner London — where the population is dense.
The only other place I can think of that offers an escape like London’s is New York’s Central Park which is 843 acres — that’s a big park. It’s a place you can really get lost in and sometimes that’s exactly when you need in the midst of a hectic, crowded city.