Listen up, anglophiles. I'm about to give it to you straight - all that we simultaneously hoped and feared is true.
Those British movies that depict picture-perfect English villages - complete with cobblestone streets leading to a floury bakery and also, there just happens to be a moor that overlooks the big city in the distance (where you can eat your breaded wonders and moon over life choices)? Yep, we thought those kinds of places couldn't possibly be real. Just Hollywood magic. Just the stuff we drooled over in Jane Austen movies. "Mister Darrrrrrrcy!!!!"
It's all real.
I've seen it. Tasted it. Walked those clickity-clack cobblestones. Munched on the breaded goods. Gazed upon the heathered hillsides. I'm here to tell you that our Hollywood dream is nothing phony, feigned or produced.
The perfect English village exists, located on the northern rim of London. Its name is Hampstead Heath. And it is, indeed, as delightful as our imaginations could have ever summoned.
We took the bus & train ride up to Hampstead Heath because our amazing friends reside there these days. These are our buddies from our time living in Boston, when we all had the same schedule (and no kids!) and therefore could hang out all the time. We would walk to each others apartments in the snow and would bake and play board games. But Troy and Carrie have always been international travelers and dreamers at heart (we knew the States couldn't keep them for too long), and it was so lovely exploring this bit of north London that they now call home. I am so thrilled that they are exposing their children to such an extraordinary slice of life, a true English village experience.
I was slightly dazed by the whole village experience, and completely forgot to take pictures with our dear friends (please tell me I'm not the only one who does this - it's like you get into real conversation and the camera stays put away for hours). They showed us around the picturesque hilly hamlet, introduced us to their favorite bakery and of course, we all picnic-ed out on the heath. A real heath, overlooking downtown London in the distance.
You could call it perfect, but I wish there was an even better word.
Stevie and I stole an hour away to have tea and scones on the terrace at The Burgh House. It was perhaps my favorite date of the whole trip, so relaxed, enjoying buttery sweets in what was the most wonderfully overgrown English garden. Truth be told, Stevie and I disagree so often, it would probably scare some of you who are even-tempered souls. We are both opinionated and often too strong-willed, so our day-to-day is often wrought with differences of opinion and trying to prove to the other that we are right. It's not the most shining quality of our marriage. So when we can actually connect and put our differences away and relax with each other, it is the most nutritious and uplifting thing.
This was one of those days, one that I will remember for a long time. We just laughed. We ordered seconds. We dreamed of what it would be like to live in a village like this - "how could we get our families to move with us?" - and It was everything I could have wanted. Just laughing with my beloved in the sunshine, sipping on some English Breakfast tea and wondering what this next child of ours is going to be like. Seriously, what is he going to look like?!
That village grabbed a hold of my heart and kept some of it, tucked into the wilderness of the mossy heath. One day I'll bring all my boys back, show them the tree their daddy climbed and force feed them berry scones (though they will probably ask for eggs, because "its manlier"), and keep building upon these sweetened memories in the charming Hampstead Heath. It was the most picturesque English village, and the quaintest of days.
The best part is that it was all so real.