During Easter last year, my mother and I decided to take a trip to London. As you can fly there from Inverness in little more than an hour it makes it a good destination if you only have a few days. Kevin doesn’t get bank holidays off work so he couldn’t go. Also we were visiting Harry Potter Studios and he’s not a HP fan.. Must be a muggle?
We took the first flight from Inverness to London so we arrived nice and early. When we landed we took the train from London Gatwick to Charing Cross and then the underground to Lambeth North which was conveniently located near our hotel – Novotel London Waterloo. Luckily we were able to check in early so we dumped our cases in the room (which had a great view of the London Eye btw) and headed out into the big smoke.
Although I have been to London a few times before, there were still a lot of things we wanted to see and do. But let’s be honest you could go to London 100 times and still find more to do. First thing we had planned was taking a trip to Choccywoccydoodah, a chocolate shop that sells loads of goodies and also has amazing chocolate structures, as seen on the TV show it is named after. When we were finished stocking up on chocolate, we decided to go for lunch. Just before we went to London a new craze called ‘Freakshakes’ went viral. This is basically a monster milkshake that would contain your daily intake of calories in one glass. Of course we wanted to try one so we opted for Maxwell’s Bar and Grill for a salted caramel shake topped with cream, a doughnut and marshmallows mmm… Thankfully we shared one between us because it was huge and very sweet. We also ordered some food on top of that before leaving feeling sick, having completely overindulged!
We then headed to London Bridge where our walking tour with Tour for Muggles was starting. We arrived a little early but this gave us a chance to take in the views of Tower Bridge and the River Thames. This tour is completely dedicated to Harry Potter, even our tour guide arrived looking remarkably like Hagrid. He was really entertaining and charismatic as he told us lots about the Harry Potter movies and took us around various sites in London that were used for filming. We even went to the street that inspired J.K Rowling to write the books. It was so good and a completely different kind of walking tour from any that I had been on previously, so HP fans get it booked!
Later, we went to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for MORE food and a few well deserved cocktails before heading to the Fortune Theater for the performance of The Woman In Black. The show is the longest running on the West End and only has two actors in the performance. We were unsure what a show with such a small number of actors would be like but it was fantastic and a little spooky at times. If you are planning attending a show in London and fancy a change from a musical then I highly recommend going to see this one. The theater was built in 1922 and is much smaller than other theaters in the area which gives the show a very intimate feeling.
Harry Potter Studios day! We were up early to catch the train to Watford Junction before boarding a shuttle bus that took us to the studios. If you love the Harry Potter books or movies then you will absolutely love it here. The studios are massive and contain hundreds of props from the movies and areas where scenes were filmed such as the Great Hall, the Hogwarts Express and Harry’s house at 4 Privot Drive. We used an audio guide while we were here which was helpful in explaining each section and explained how the movies were created. We also got to try Butterbeer which was surprisingly nice. This is a popular wizards beverage for you non HP fans (Kevin). I highly recommend visiting here at least once, even if you aren’t a fan, it is a magical place.
When we were finished we headed to Knightsbridge for lunch at Mari Vanna, a restaurant which specialises in traditional Russian cuisine. The restaurant is decorated in an old fashioned style with lots of picture frames on the walls and bits and bobs in cabinets. If you are ever here make sure you take a trip to the toilets, they are also decorated in this style and are pretty stunning – weird thing to say.. I know. The food is a bit pricey but it is so delicious that it is worth it. We both opted for beef stroganoff served with different potatoes; the meat was served so tender in a creamy sauce. For dessert we ordered traditional Soviet cakes. Once finished our bill came in a wee purse which was cute. I would highly recommend a visit here if you want to try some Russian cuisine and see some really cool decor. Next time I return to London I will be back for sure. Next we went to check out Harrods, a luxury department store which was nearby. We didn’t buy anything but browsed the really expensive items (which we couldn’t have afforded even if we wanted to make a purchase). When we were finished window shopping we walked to Buckingham Palace where we got our obligatory photos outside the famous gates.
Then we took the tube to Whitechapel and met our guide for our final activity of the day, a tour around the area where the unsolved, gruesome Jack the Ripper murders took place in 1888. There are many companies offering this tour, we researched them before we arrived and booked our tickets with ‘The Jack The Ripper Tour With Ripper Vision’. Our guide was great as he had studied the case for years meaning he was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer any questions we had. Apart from whom Jack the Ripper was of course! However, he did explain who many of the suspects were at the time, as well as telling us detailed information of the victims and showed us the areas where they were found. It rained throughout the whole tour but it didn’t dampen our enjoyment of it at all. The mystery of the case is as intriguing today as it was in the 19th century. While we were doing the tour we walked through Brick Lane, world famous for its curries and packed full of restaurants that smelled amazing. We had intentions to return during our trip but didn’t have time.
Cold and wet we grabbed a takeaway, not too far from our hotel, called Herman Ze German. We both chose CurryWurst (a German sausage served with a curried tomato sauce and chips) before heading back to our accommodation. It was pretty good but not quite as tasty as the Curry Wurst I had in Munich.
This was our last day in London and we were up early to make the most of it. We decided to walk along the River Thames which gave us a great view of Westminster and Big Ben, until we came to the London Dungeons. I have visited these before in Edinburgh and Amsterdam, but my mum hadn’t been to one before. It is an interactive attraction that reveals the gory details of the city’s history while adding in a few jumps and scares. It was actually really good and one of the best ones I have been too. Your admission ticket also entitles you to a drink at the end in the old style themed bar, which we loved.
Next we were going to go on the London Eye, but the weather was bad (Typically British) and the queues were long (Again.. Typically British) so we decided not to bother. Instead we headed to Covent Garden where we killed a bit of time wandering around the market. It’s worthwhile taking some time to visit here as they have a variety of quirky shops and an old toy shop selling vintage games. For my mum’s birthday she was very kindly given a gift of Afternoon Tea for two at the Savoy. So by the time we finished browsing the markets, it was time to head there. The Savoy is a really posh hotel, something we’re not used to, so we had to drink out of China cups with our pinkies up. The decor is really nice and classic in style, like the Mari Vanna, make sure you take a trip to the toilets because they are designed beautifully and are very opulent. We spent around three hours here eating the delicious finger sandwiches, scones and cream cakes. We also had champagne, but at £18 per glass each we only had one. It was a great experience and had a lovely afternoon listing to the pianist.
It was late afternoon when we left but decided we could just squeeze in a visit to Churchill’s War Rooms, a museum dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill and also contains the cabinet war rooms that housed the British government during WWII. I found it really interesting (my mum not so much). There is a lot of detail in the museum though so we were rushing in the end; I would recommend allowing at least two hours here. If you enjoy history you should definitely pay it a visit. Later in the evening we went to the Ice Bar, again this was for my mum to experience as I had been to one before in Prague. It was expensive to visit in London at £16.50 each for access and a drink. The ice room was also really overcrowded which was a shame. The one I visited in Prague was much cheaper and roomier so I wouldn’t recommend going in London unless it’s something you really want to do. We ended the evening enjoying a Chinese meal in Chinatown before flying home the next day. After all the early starts I was sooo tired, but it was worth it!
Until next time London, Erm.. Farewell.