The adventures have continued from our first few days here in London! I can’t believe that we’re already off to Wales tomorrow. I could seriously stay in London for months and months and be happy! Good thing Taylor and I are headed back here in just a week.
Yesterday, we woke up and caught the Tube over to Leicester Square. I’m really digging the public transportation! Too bad Louisville only has the TARC buses, I would love to take the subway to class and work.
We had a few hours to kill before our Harry Potter walking tour, so we browsed about and shopped a bit. We were majorly lusting over the goodies in the Barbour coat store! I guess if you lived in England, you would own a lot of coats – now I know why Kate Middleton is always rocking the coat-dress! Chilly temps + rain = coat weather, year-round.
The Covent Garden/Leicester Square area is really neat – packed with theaters and shops and restaurants, it seems like a place to definitely investigate further
if when I visit again.
Then it was off to meet our tour guide for the Harry Potter walking tour! This was Mom and I’s selection, Dad was just along for the ride. It actually ended up being a great tour though – we saw lots of areas of London that we had yet to check out, and saw a few cool HP sights from the books and movies along the way.
Our guide, Yuki, was dressed for the occasion, complete with Sorting Hat.
Our first stop was the street lined with book and record shops that people believe inspired the entrance to Diagon Alley.
Then we walked towards Trafalgar Square, home of the last movie premiere and the scene from the movie where Death Eaters swoop through London and into Diagon Alley. From there, we walked to Great Scotland Yard, the home of the exterior shots of the brick wall with (added) telephone booth that transports Harry and co. down into the Ministry of Magic. We learned that a lot of real London places were used, but were altered in some way for the movies, either physically or with CGI.
From there, we walked down to the Thames and hopped on a boat. Along the way, we saw some of the bridges that the Order of the Phoenix fly over when transporting Harry to the safehouse via broomstick. We also saw some other London sights.
We hopped off by the Globe, and walked through Burough Market and then across the Thames River back into Central London.
From there, we trudged on towards our final destination – but not before we walked past a Laduree storefront! Mom finally got a picture, since they didn’t let her take one in Harrod’s.
Finally, we reached the end – King’s Cross Station, home of Platform 9 3/4!
Our tour was over lunchtime, so we were starving by the end. Nothing a quick bite to eat at a shop in King’s Cross couldn’t solve though! From there, we headed back to our hotel for an hour or so to rest up and change clothes. And then? It was off to Dream the Dream.
But not before we had dinner at L’Escargot, a French restaurant nearby in London’s West End theater district. Pea veloute and tomato tarte for me! And a champagne cocktail.
Then we headed over to the theater. A little background – growing up, we used to sing Les Mis on long car trips. Dad and I assigned roles, and knew every word. When my high school performed it, I didn’t even really have to learn any lines! So seeing it on Broadway in London? Pretty much one of the highlights of my life.
And it did NOT disappoint! The singers were incredible (especially Javert), the staging was fabulous – and we were in the second row. I went to bed a very happy girl.
This morning, we got up bright and early again ready to hit the Tube over to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
St. Paul’s is the official church of London (and Great Britain), but Mom was mainly excited to see it because Princess Diana got married there.
We toured around, learned the history, took in the magnificent artwork on the walls and ceiling, and then decided to climb the dome. I only made it part way up before
having a mild panic attack chickening out due to my fear of heights, but Mom and Dad climbed up to the viewing deck and had some spectacular views of London.
From there, we browsed through the gift shop and then stopped for a brief lunch. Then we headed off to our afternoon destination, with a brief stop at Aldersgate Street along the way to see where John Wesley was converted!
Our afternoon destination? The Olympic site in East London! Cannot believe that Taylor gets to carry the torch, go to the games, and saw the Queen, William and Kate in Nottingham today – she has become so totally British. We apparently had our own near brush with royalty today, as Prince Charles and Camilla were at the Olympic site in the morning – too bad our tour was scheduled for the afternoon!
When we first got off the subway, I was a little taken aback – the area they chose is very rundown and blighted. But as we soon learned, this was one of the big selling points for London winning the Olympic bid! In the process of preparing for the games, they are also redeveloping and revitalizing a whole area of the city.
Our tour started at Three Mills, a recording studio where the movie director Danny Boyle (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) has been plotting for the Opening Ceremonies. Rumor has it, they’ll be featuring live animals in some kind of rural English scene…
From there, we walked along a little tributary river that apparently used to be filled with sewage. They’ve had to do some serious revitalizing around here before all of these athletes and dignitaries arrive!
Then we strolled past a new building by IKEA, built to resemble the Olympic torch…even though the building has nothing to do with the Olympics. Everyone is capitalizing on them!
Finally, it was on to the main event – the Olympic stadium! Obviously, we couldn’t get too close due to security measures and the ongoing construction and preparations. But it was still incredibly neat to see the home of the Olympics in just 44 short days before they begin!
To the left of the stadium is a big abstract sculpture, made to resemble the five Olympic rings and donated by one of Britain’s wealthiest citizens. It has gotten a lot of flack so far, but I think it is kind of cool looking! To the right of the stadium is the aquatic center, built to resemble a wave or a manta ray with two large wings added for extra seating.
And finally, we headed towards the athlete’s village, where over 17,000 athletes will be housed in eleven buildings for the two week duration of the games. Can you imagine living right next door to your competitors for two weeks? Hopefully it fosters a sense of community in the spirit of the games, and not a sense of competition!
One of the neatest features of the Olympic site is that it sits right next to a brand new, enormous shopping center, called Westfield Stratford mall. Of course we had to check it out after the tour was done! But first, we stopped for a bit of afternoon tea to refuel.
I’m going to miss this part of English life. Then it was off to explore the mall and do some shopping! After a few solid hours and several purchases, we finally hit the International food court (way cool) for some Thai food before heading back to our hotel.
Tomorrow morning, we’re off to the airport to pick up our rental car – and Taylor!!! – and are then headed for Wales. Should be quite the adventure with Dad driving on the wrong side of the road, and shoving all of our luggage into one tiny car! But what’s a trip to Europe without a little adventure?
Cheerio from the Olympic mascot, whom I find rather cute but Mom loathes.