A LETTER FROM HOGWARTS, EVACUATION AND ITALIAN CHEESE (A London Travelogue)
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At first sight, the things listed in the title have probably as much in common as I have with Kim Kardashian.
But if I think twice, we actually now share something else besides height and a big butt (mine still being quite smaller, FYI) – we share a selfie where I try more or less successfully imitate Donald the Duck. And I sure do hope, these are the only things I have in common with her (er – well, I would mind those millions).
Of course, a selfie happened “only” with the wax version of Ms.K in the Madame Tussauds museum in London, where for around $30 you can pose together with movie stars, politicians, and other famous people. Also, in the end you take a ride with a train (An amusement park INSIDE the museum? Genius!) through historic milestones of London history and shortly after you end up in a gift shop. How convenient, eh?
Overall impression? So-so.
I guess I wasn’t that impressed by the wax version of Pitt, Trump, or royal family in comparison to other sights in London.
But, since there weren’t ANY queues (some travelers talk about a 3-hour-waiting-line, no thank you) there wasn’t much to regret besides an overpriced experience. I guess this is something you are supposed to see when in London 😛
But if you are on a short visit I’d recommend to spend your time somewhere else. No, seriously. There is cooler stuff around.
When we settled down in our Airbnb apartment (which was located conveniently next to Victoria station), we spent the first day mostly wandering around the city.
I’ve been to London once before, but only for a day, so I guess I can say I’ve seen next to nothing. We have checked if Mother Queen is at home (and waited in vain for that invitation to a cup of tea) and tried to take compulsory selfies with friendly squirrels in Hyde Park, horses at Horse Guards, and mighty Westminster Abbey (that’s a lot of selfies, indeed). We checked out a Big Ben (er – didn’t see much since it was wrapped all around due to maintenance) and London Eye (which was – guess what – also closed down due do maintenance).
Since we heard Soho is the “district to be there in the evening”, we headed there as well, and while on our way, at the Trafalgar Square we popped into National Portrait Gallery to see the Tudors and other rather famous portraits. My favorite there is a portrait of Elizabeth I, who was quite a magnificent woman, especially for those ages, when the ruling was mainly reserved for men.
Meanwhile, we almost “died of thirst” in Soho, because approximately a zillion people decided to go to a pub that night so everything was full. When we almost gave up on our mission to find beer, we found a little no-name pub in a quiet street, half empty. It is true that this was maybe due to mortally drunk teenager at one of the tables who yelled constantly and swore like an old soldier, and it is true this was not the best porter in the world, but still – there was beer at the end of the day 🙂
A LETTER FROM HOGWARTS
The next day we were about to go… on a Hogwarts Express! 🙂
To every Harry Potter fan out there who is at least as half obsessed as I am (9 and 3 quarters out of 10, no less) – I cannot recommend enough to see Warner Bros Studios in London where the movies were shot.
This was actually our main reason why we went to London since I had been complaining for years that I do not understand why I’ve never got a letter from Hogwarts, none of my friends were vampire slayers and I’ve never found Narnia in my wardrobe (Who can relate? Hands up!)
So, when I recently turned 30 I found a letter under the door (!!), you know, that “old-looking” kind, with a seal and everything. Honestly, I didn’t have the slightest clue what is in it and I waved at Bojan with it, saying “ Hahaha, what are you up to now, this looks a like a letter from Hogwarts :D”
No need to say that upon opening it my mouth opened widely and tongue rolled out to the floor like in a cartoon and I guess I probably lost the ability to speak for a few seconds before I started to hop around like a rabbit on an ecstasy. Going to Hogwarts?! Yaaassss! And even if it is when you turn 30 – who cares? 😀 Actually the idea was, of course, Bojan’s, my bro prepared the content of the letter and a person who knows calligraphy wrote it. How cool is that?!
Unfortunately, we had to fly to London in a boring “usual” way, with a plane (or at least that’s what you say to muggles because mentioning broomsticks would be suspicious). Nevertheless, it was the best possible gift! You can read all about our visit to the Harry Potter studios here.
Do you know what is good about London?
Yeah ok, a zillion things, I know.
But as budget travelers, we liked the fact that even though it is an expensive city, a lot of sights have free admission. Woohoo!
So we spent a good amount of time in National History Museum where you can find numerous displays about human evolution, minerals, volcanoes, earthquakes (with simulation!), and all the possible (stuffed) animals, including skeletons and models of dinosaurs (raaaawr 🦖).
We tried to walk past some sections rather quickly (er – say it, in a couple of hours) because you’d need a week or two to really see it all. Then we headed each in their own direction, me directly towards T-Rex.
When I was just about to capture “the good profile” of a triceratops I heard a voice from the speaker saying something about an exit (a sudden disappearance of countless school groups didn’t strike me as a weird at all). Then I heard the words “evacuation” and “don’t panic”.
I couldn’t help myself but to think for a second about all those terrorist attacks that are happening lately so I ran like a chicken towards the hallway.
Turned out, I was the only one running.
When I reached the hallway, there was a river of people slowly moving to the exits. “No panic” order is seriously taken around here. So I joined them, and in a couple of minutes we were all outside where I spotted Bojan instantly, since he was the only person going towards and not away from the entrance, filming the whole process of evacuation. Typically.
Until today I do not know what was the reason behind the alarm, but their Twitter said it had something to do with standard precautions. The bottom point – gotta go back to London, couldn’t hang out with Rexie as long as I wanted!
Being “bike people” we naturally had to rent city bikes only to realize after a couple of hundred yards that most roads in the park had a “no cycling” sign. Why, oh, why? And on top of that, the bicycle lines are rare in the city so you have to ride on a road, possibly between two double-deckers. Since I prefer to take my dose of adrenaline during downhill biking, where the possibility of a bear attack seems smaller than getting hit by a black cab on London streets, we used the bikes only one afternoon.
One of the things we loved a lot in London was Camden Market. Here you’ll find stands outside and inside (inside old horse stables, that is to say!) with all kinds of stuff – antiques, vintage clothes, and clothes that hardcore metal bands wouldn’t mind to wear. I almost ended up buying a long leather “Dracula- princess- looking-coat” myself, which would then hang in the back of my closet forever after. You can fill your stomach at an open market containing delicious international food.
If you are a history lover like me, then you shouldn’t miss a visit to a Tower of London where you can find crown jewels (did you know that some pearls from Queen’s current crown are often said to have belonged to Elizabeth I?), a lot of weaponry and some torture objects, but it is mostly known for being a place where a few of king Henrik VIII’s wives were beheaded. Obviously the guy suffered from a lack of ideas when it came to ending a marriage and an ax seemed like a simple and quick solution in comparison to another divorce, which could impact his reputation.
Yeoman Warders, guards of the jewels (former soldiers serving the Queen for at least 20 years who are lucky enough to get to live in the Tower) take you on a free hour-long tour. This could seem “touristic”, but it’s actually really interesting and in our case hilarious since the guy who toured our group could easily make a career of a stand-up comic if he wouldn’t have chosen to serve her majesty instead.
Later, when wandering around by ourselves we stumbled upon a couple of actors dressed up. I had no problems fitting in (pretending to be a princess now and then doesn’t hurt, right?) and before we knew it we were discussing passionately who is cheating on who in the court and who is going to end up under the ground soon. If you are short on time, I advise you do not start the conversation since apparently it took some time to set a deal in the 15th century. 🙂 A great experience!
Near the fortress and the oh-so-famous-I-have-to-take-200-pictures-bridge, on the southern part of River Thames, there is a cute little Borough market.
There you can buy (and most importantly, try!) many fresh foods, from French baguettes, mushrooms which names I do not know, a lot of different fish, olives from Spain, sea urchins from whoknowswhere, vegan borek (seriously, vegan ?! As being a neighbour of Balkan countries, believe me when I say there’s no such thing as vegan borek 😀 ), traditional fish&chips and mmm, heavenly good cheese from Venice area. We tried many – from the ones with beer, prosecco, moscato,… Believe me, you have to go there!
Baguettes, cheese, and a pint of beer – and we happily rolled into our beds. Best dinner in London!
Mere 4 days in London weren’t even close enough to experience everything London has to offer as we barely even scratched the surface – the Kensington palace, Greenwich, tons of museum (yep, a history freak talking), Notting Hill – are some of the places to start with next time!
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