All of the yellow pins on the board mark the parks, gardens or squares I visited: Russel Square, Hyde Park, St. James Park and Tavistock Square. One of my favorite things about London is that every few blocks there is a park or a square for you to sit in. Every park I went into or passed by was well kept; some had fountains that children could play in or to add soothing noise to the air; others had elaborate gardens with colorful flowers. All of the parks had places to sit and relax, which was such a great way to escape the loud, crowded streets of the city.
What intrigued me the most was what else was inside or around the parks. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the words “sublime” and “beautiful” as “beautiful” as “(1) excelling in grace of form, charm of colouring, and other qualities which delight the eye, and call forth admiration, (2) affording keen pleasure to the senses generally, (3) impressing with charm the intellectual or moral sense, through inherent fitness or grace, or exact adaptation to a purpose, and (4) relating to the beautiful; aesthetic.” The OED defines the adjective “sublime” (in terms of “things in nature and art”) as “affecting the mind with a sense of overwhelming grandeur or irresistible power; calculated to inspire awe, deep reverence, or lofty emotion, by reason of its beauty, vastness, or grandeur.” Some of the parks I visited I felt were beautiful, some of the parks I considered sublime.
Tavistock Square, located right outside of my dorm, was one of the beautiful squares on my trip. The layout was simple and open; a few benches lining the walkways, trees that weren’t too tall. Everything was green or brown. There were a few statues in the corners of the park but, because of where they were located, they weren’t overbearing or obtrusive. One tree that I always sat across from had a small plaque underneath, telling us that it was a “peace tree.” The main purpose of the park was to act as a place of rest and relaxation, and there weren’t any obvious statements of power or control that I saw. Russel Square was a similar story; it was a bit bigger and louder, for it had the fountain that little children splashed around in. People laid out on the grass to try to tan, friends gathered around benches or tables at the small cafe in the park. The presence of the cafe was again unobtrusive and didn’t take away from the overall beauty of the square. These two parks were beautiful and not sublime for it brought “keen pleasure to the senses” from it’s simplicity and function; it was appealing to the eye in a subtle way.
St. James and Hyde Park, on the other hand, were examples of the sublime. When I went to Hyde Park, I walked around the Rose Garden and by some of the bodies of water in the park. The Rose Garden was filled with dozens of types of flowers, all very well kept with bright colors and interesting shapes. There were overhangs with vines and more flowers growing on top, fountains of naked women, all located on a winding path with several options of which way you want to experience the garden. It was overwhelming at times to choose the right path that would take me to the part of the garden I wanted to see.
St. James Park was also very large; what made it sublime was the view of Buckingham Palace through the trees. At first the sight appeared to be beautiful due to it’s charm, but the longer you stared at it the more it became obvious that it was sublime. Much of what the palace stands for, the monarchy and power and privilege, is felt by seeing this view of the palace from a distance. It is a reminder that even when you are trying to relax and escape the day’s pandemonium, you cannot escape the power that royalty has, nor will you ever attain it. St. James Park and Hyde Park are sublime because they are overwhelming and meant to leave you with a sense of awe, gawking at the power they present. Overall, parks were quite an important part of Englishness and the London experience.