Tuesday, May 22, 2012

London on $98 a Day - London's Squares

London is crowded. Many of its thirteen million people live in narrow, four-story row houses with, if they're lucky, a walk-in-closet-size backyard. Others are stuck in tiny flats with no garden space at all.

But no one need suffer from lack of greenery in this Olympic host city because London boasts an abundance of parks, both public and private. The huge public parks are beautiful, but it's the 13000 smaller "squares" that David and I found most interesting.

The sister and brother-in-law of good friends of ours have lived in London for forty years; after enjoying coffee in their beautiful townhouse, they introduced us to their Ladbroke Square. The gate on this fenced property can only be unlocked by one of the people who live in the townhouses surrounding the Square. In other words, this park is only enjoyed by 500 people who pay dues (the British version of HOA's perhaps) to provide the resident gardener's salary (Yes, he and his family live in the Square!), and maintain the playground and tennis courts.
Gardener's Cottage

As we walked along the paths of this gardener's delight, our friend Ron explained that his sons had loved growing up with the Square right across the street. They'd clambered on the playground equipment as children and volleyed a tennis ball back and forth as teenagers. Guy Fawkes Night was always a special occasion, too, because the gardener, who'd been sent to fireworks school by the townhouse owners, put on a thirty-minute display that was the envy of the Notting Hill neighborhood.

We saw a man sitting in a chair enjoying the warmth from the sun. Ron said he sat there every day. Can you imagine a better way to spend a sunny afternoon than in your very own park? Me neither.

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