Travel report: London 2016

During May break I decided to do a spot of traveling again. This time, I went to London. Yes, again, London. I pretty much go there every year as I just love the place. During this particular trip, I wanted to revisit a few of my favorite spots, visit some new places and take a tour at the Harry Potter Studios. This post is all about what I did during my 6 day trip. So get comfortable as this will be a long and picture heavy post.

Houses of Parliament with Big Ben and London Eye

Since this wasn’t my first time in London I did quite a few things off the beaten path. Don’t expect major sightseeing, as I already did that. I did manage to walk around quite a bit and so I did see some of the major sights whilst my many walks, but it wasn’t the focal point of the trip. Here is a day by day low down of what I did.

Day 1: East End

The first day meant traveling from Holland to England. I caught a plane some time late in the morning, but since I thought it might be busy I arrived much too early at the airport. It did leave plenty of time for breakfast! The flight was pretty smooth and uneventful and I arrived at my hotel around 1 PM.

After waiting till I could enter my hotel room and a spot of lunch, I went to the east end. On 18 Folgate Street you will find this door. It is the door to Dennis Severs’ House: a historically accurate presentation of rooms with furnishings typical for late 18th and 19th century London homes. The tour is to be done in silence and it is like walking through a still life.

I then walked around Spital Fields and the Old Truman Brewery/ Brick Lane area for the rest of the afternoon. Every first Sunday of the month there are huge markets in that area and it’s fun to walk around and try some food. There are some good vintage shops there as well and Rough Trade East is located just around the corner too.

The weather was excellent on my first day in London and after some dinner at a restaurant close to my hotel, I turned in for an early night. This shot was taken from my hotel room window, which was very close to St. Pancras/ King’s Cross. I find it’s one of the bests places for a hotel as you have easy access to any part of town from there.

Day 2: Harry Potter Studios & Shakespeare Exhibition

Day two was a bit dreary weather wise, but thankfully that was the day I had planned to do some indoorsy stuff. Because I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden Studios! When students and friends start recommending you go there, you know you have to. It costs a pretty buck but I think it’s well worth the money. Hopefully the pictures show you why.

Waiting in line with my tickets! YAS!

One of the many Ford Anglias used for shooting the second movie.

Cupboard under the stairs!

Yes, you can actually, physically walk through The Great Hall. Look at those doors!

Gryffindor dorm room.

Dumbledore’s office. The studios contain many of the indoor sets they used for filming. And they also give you tidbits of information too. Such as the beds in the dorm room were build for the first movie, but never changed for the later ones. So as all the boys got older, they no longer fit in the beds. And all those books in Dumberdore’s office? Old telephone books with leather covers apparently.

Hogwarts Express & platform 9 3/4. They built a train station for the later movies!

Halfway through the tour there is a lunch area where they serve butter beer. It is a sweet fizzy drink, a bit like children’s champagne, with a foamy caramel whipped frappuccino on top. It was a bit too sweet for my liking.

So many things that you might think are CGI, in fact are not. Many things were actually built. Such as the Knight Bus, which was constructed by stacking two double decker buses on top of one another. In order to ensure it didn’t topple over, a lot of concrete had to be poured into the base, but this thing was actually driven through London for the third movie.

One department that I was most impressed by was the make up/ creature department. So many masks and dummies were made. There’s Dobby in the back! Fronted by a stack of the Monster Book of Monsters.

Animatronics was another great nugget of info. This is Buckbeak the hippogriff that Harry and Hermione free in the third story. For the movies, three Buckbeaks were built: one that bowed, one that reared up and one that spread its wings. They even built the Hungarian Horntail from Goblet for Fire, flamethrower and all.

You can have a stroll through Diagon Alley…

… and then circle the model used to film the Hogwarts exteriors. Yup, a lot of work went into these movies that you’d never guessed had happened. After the Harry Potter Studios, I headed back into town and to the British Library for the Shakespeare Exhibition. It started raining right about then, so I waited for the rain to let up and went for dinner after that.

Day 3: Piccadilly Circus, China Town & Covent Garden

Most of my breakfasts I had at the nearest Pret A Manger. It is a healthier chain of quick service restaurant that serve quite good coffee and a good cup of tea. There’s fresh fruit, salads, and plenty of other foods to eat. I find they are especially good if you’re vegan or trying to avoid gluten: they have a good selection of foods that cater to different dietary needs.

After that good start, I headed out to Piccadilly Circus. Get there early and you can still take a good shot of this iconic London hot spot. From there, I went to the Boots Flagshipstore that is located right there, followed by visits to Waterstone’s and Fortnum and Mason.

From Piccadilly Circus I walked to Covent Garden via China Town. I just roamed around, did some shopping and then saw Captain America: Civil War in the nearest Odeon. After the movie I went to dinner at Jamie’s Italian and had a delicious pasta.

Day 4: Rolling Stones Exhibition, Muggle Tours walking Tour, & A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Globe

Having reached the halfway point in my trip, it was time for some serious London activities. My first stop on Day 4 was the Saatchi Gallery.

Currently there’s a Rolling Stones exhibition on. It is a tad overpriced but it was fun to see how they honed their skills over the decades they’ve been at their game.

It’s called Stonesism in case you were wondering. I finished earlier than expected which left me with oodles of time. So I decided to walk from Sloane Square to London Bridge, which according to Google Maps is a 6 KM walk. Of course I choose a slightly different course and it took me a tad longer than the 75 minutes Google told me it would, but I arrived just in time for my next activity.

A Harry Potter walking tour with Muggle Tours! Again, I prebooked this, and it was a fun walk. For 2.5 hours, we roamed the streets guided by Will (who resembles Hagrid apart from the height to give you an idea) and we had lots of fun. I took other HP themed walking tours before and this one does take you to some other filming locations. Such as Westminster Tube station and the street where the Ministry of Magic is apparently located. They also take you to Knockturn Alley.

After that it was time for dinner which I had next door to The Globe. I hadn’t been there in years and decided to go see a Shakespeare play in the year he’s been dead for 400 years. I saw Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was hilarious. I had reread the text just before I went, so I knew the story quite well and the fact that this was the view I had, made it even better.

I walked to London Bridge station after a long day. But I couldn’t help but snap this shot of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Day 5: Oxford Street, Carnaby Street & Soho

Day 5 was a day that I had reserved for shopping. I went to Oxford Street and shopped my little heart out. I encountered two palettes which I thought I would not be able to find anywhere. But lucky me, I found the Too Faced Sweet Peach and Urban Decay Alice in Wonderland palettes at Debenhams.

After that shopping bout, I walked over the Carnaby Street where there was some sort of festival. I had this delicious burger in a little hole in the wall place there and walked around Soho for a bit to find the nearest tube station. I had to pack my suitcase as tomorrow would be my last day!

Day 6: Camden & going home

But I wouldn’t be going home straight away. There was time to visit Camden before I had to head to the airport. So I did. I went to Camden Market and Camden Lock, where I mostly browsed and people watched.

At Old Truman Brewery I already found this tea brand called Yumchaa. I was out of cash at that exact moment, but I found the same girl with the same stand in the little Camden Lock market hall. After buying some tea, the girl showed me their little tea room. They have a few across London but this was the first one. I had a lovely cup of tea and delicious muffin.

And that, sadly made up the end of my trip. I absolutely loved it. It was a good blend of shopping, sightseeing and lots and lots of walking. I believe I’m still sore from all the walking I did!

I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

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