London for introverts is a topic I’ve been pondering for a few months now, noticing how I (endowed with reclusive tendencies) gravitate towards quiet, deserted spaces in this seething, swirling metropolis. When I first mentioned writing something on the subject, my similarly reserved other half joked the guide would be just three words long. Stay at home.
Yet despite my monastic inclinations, I like to see the world. I find I often relish being alone, or in quiet company, while surrounded by the thousands of others experiencing their daily lives in this city, soaking in the quotidian mundane taking place around me, seeking serenity in the hubbub. At weekends, we tend to avoid Zone 1 as though the Great Fire is once again swooping through Londontown, seeking still sanctuaries, shying from the crowds while other days I can frequently be found haunting city centre bookshops, or museums bursting at the seams. My tolerance for people and for noise fluctuates and varies. Perhaps yours does too.
So here goes. The first instalment of a new series around these parts: London for introverts (and, I feel keen to stress, also those who might not identify as paid-up, card-carrying introverts, but who also enjoy the occasional reflective moment or can bring along a chatty friend). As the months pass, I hope to feature my favourite old and new spaces: peaceful gardens to wander through, open expanses of green, clandestine corners to sit with a book or one’s thoughts, and refuges from busy city streets in our high-spirited, sometimes skittish city. I hope you’ll stay a while.
Enter Chiswick House. Easter Monday marked our first visit. I’d filed its existence deep in some forgotten filing cabinet of my brain long ago, vaguely conscious that this majestic neo-Palladian villa was only half an hour’s walk away from our flat. But, as always, London seems to vacuum away hours, days and entire weeks and we’d not yet made the trip.
To visit first in spring was a true chocolate-box experience, for this must surely be the season of its zenith. The modest conservatory ran wild with camellias (thought to be Europe’s largest collection) of every sherbet shade; tightly balled fists sat next to fading glories, running the gamut of colours from dazzling glacier cherry to faded apple blossom. Wisteria, aromatic and glistening, hung from gleaming white windowsills. The kitchen garden’s bounty called from beyond ivy-clad stone walls as the long shadows of British Summertime filtered through anceint cedars, casting delicate stencils across the lawn. Cypress trees hugged hidden pathways and mother ducks squatted on the banks of the languid stream that cuts through the middle of the grounds, framed by many a bench from which to sit and soak in the romance of this classic Italian-inspired garden.
It was a maudlin day for us; our sweet, frail, elderly cat had passed away in the night, and we walked as much to distract from our sorrow as to see the sights. What a quietly captivating place it was to while away those sad, lingering hours, bathing in the stillness, taking note of all the newborn spring colour thriving and striving around us as our thoughts lingered on that morning’s farewell to an old life come full circle.