A Gothic Experience
For my last full day in London I wanted to finally visit a place I’ve always longed to see but could never fit into the agenda: Highgate Cemetery. I know you’re thinking: Whhaaaatt??? You like creeping round a cemetery (can you say taphophile)?, but stay with me on this one.
I got rather a late start to the day and missed the breakfast at the hotel. I searched up and down Southwark Street and was able to find a very busy and popular breakfast place called The Table.
Table for one, please.
I started the day with this – the biggest pot of tea I’ve ever had:
Feeling slightly adventurous today I decided to try something I’ve never eaten: mumble-mumble. I was approached by the lovely and perky twenty-something waitress with a very thick English regional dialect that I was struggling to understand. I placed my order for the Full English (the only way to go in my opinion), and the perky twenty-something asked me:
Server: Would you like to have mumble-mumble with that?
Server: Would you like some mumble-mumble with your breakfast?
Me: <long pause>….Pardon me?
Server: Would… you… like… some… mumble-mumble with your breakfast?
Me: <another long pause> Ah, sure I guess so.
I was too embarrassed to ask yet again what she just said so I simply went with it.
I had NO idea what I just ordered but it turns out it was Black Pudding. Black Pudding is a type of blood sausage originating in Great Britain and Ireland. It is made from pork blood, with pork fat or beef suet and a cereal, usually oatmeal, oat groats or barley groats...
The order came and it looked like this:
… and it tasted like sh… well, never mind.
Anyway let’s move on.
The Black Pudding notwithstanding, it was an awesome breakfast and I was now ready to face the day. On to Highgate Cemetery.
Highgate Cemetery is an absolute Gothic masterpiece. How can I briefly describe this amazing place to you in just a few sentences…?
Highgate Cemetery is located in north London. There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves across the two cemeteries – West Cemetery and the East Cemetery. The Cemetery is notable for some of the people buried there as well as for its de facto status as a nature reserve. The West Cemetery is a designated Grade II in Britain, meaning it’s a protected and preserved entity.
Nature has overtaken a lot of the headstones, making it very eerie and atmospheric. The place is Gothic in the extreme and to take it a little further there’s even the legend of the Highgate Vampire; I didn’t see him that day so obviously he wasn’t feeding on plump, middle-aged Canucks.
As mentioned, there are two halves to the Cemetery – the West and the East. The public are allowed in the West Cemetery only as part of a guided tour, which run every half-hour or so. The public is allowed to wander in the East Cemetery without restrictions. There’s quite a few famous people buried here – the East Cemetery is know for its graves of Karl Marx, George Eliot, Malcolm McLaren (allegedly, McLaren’s body was buried here to the strains of the Sid Vicious version of My Way) and many others. Probably the most famous tomb in the West Cemetery is that of George Michael, but we were told on our tour that his grave location is secret and hidden from the public for fear of vandalism, etc. from fans.
To get to Highgate Cemetery, I got off at the Archway Underground station and made my way up:
To get to Highgate Cemetery I walked up Highgate Hill, which is not exactly the poorest part of town as I found out:
Liz and Audrey hang out on Highgate Hill:
Then I cut through Waterlow Park:
… and arrived at the Cemetery. I bought my ticket for the West Cemetery tour, which didn’t start for another hour-and-a-half, so I used the time to do a self-guided tour of the East Cemetery, and this is only a very small portion of what I saw:
It was 3:30, and time for our guided tour of the West Cemetery at Highgate. The tour was about an hour-and-a-half long, and was absolutely engaging:
By the end of our tour darkness had mostly fallen. I didn’t want the Highgate Cemetery Vampire to claim me, plus I was getting quite hungry at this point anyway, so it was time to retrace my steps through Waterlow Park to find the Underground station. I headed back to the hotel, found something to eat, caught up on this blog, then called it a night; tomorrow is going to be a big day.
This is my last night in the U.K.; tomorrow I catch my flight back to Toronto.
Signing off for Sunday.
Good night from London, the coolest city on the planet.