London Trip- Day 8. Last Day in London

So, it looks like my fabulous Spring Break trip has come to an end.  And what an amazing trip it was!

Today we had a laid-back day.  We went this morning to Oxford Street again to look for prom dresses.  I tried on some nice dresses at a place called Coast, but the two dresses that I really loved didn’t fit quite right- so it looks like my prom search has been extended until I get back home.

After our morning of shopping, we had a quick bite to eat and then we made our way to Her Majesty’s Theatre to see Phantom of the Opera.  There are not accurate words in my vocabulary to express how incredible that show was; maybe I’ll try again later when I’ve had time to process the extraordinary production I’ve just seen.

In the words of my mom (and I agree), typically in Broadway productions you always forget about the men because they’re overshadowed by their female counterparts.  In this case, though the actress playing Christine was amazing on her own, the Phantom and Raoul certainly held their own with her (and in fact, were my favorites).

Such a great way to end my great experience here in London.  And, though I’d admittedly rather stay just a little while longer, I couldn’t have asked for a better time here.

I’ve got to go for now, to begin the packing process in preparation for my early alarm at 4:30 am  (11:30 pm home time) but before I do, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who read my blog and who made this trip possible in the first place.

Until tomorrow (when I’ll try to keep you abreast of my travel plans).

-Mady

London Trip- Day 7. “Yer a londoner, Mady!”

Yesterday we visited Westminster Abbey and the Warner Brother Studios for a tour of the sets, costumes, and props used in the Harry Potter movies!

We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside Westminster Abbey, but the church was gorgeous!  There were hundreds and hundreds of carved statues all around.  My favorite part was at the end of the tour, when we visited “Poets Corner” that honored some incredibly famous writers.  I found small plaques for Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, as well as a large shrine for William Shakespeare (and many more- those were just my favorites).

We walked around (admittedly lost for a while) and managed to at least get some cool shots from the outside of the buildings and in the garden areas.

After that, we went to the Warner Brothers Studios.  We successfully found our trains (with only one delay on the way back) and made it to the studios on time for our tour.  We walked through the studios for about 3.5 hours.  We saw Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the Knightbus, Number 4 Privet Drive, and many more.  I saw an exhibition of special effects and even got to try it myself!

See it here!

There were so many fun things to experience and do there, I don’t know if I could pick a favorite.  I think the highlights in my opinion, were definitely the detail and thoughtfulness added to each one of the props, costumes, and ‘rooms’.  Using the digital guides that were offered, I learned so much about the construction and creativity that went into making all of those movies.  The behind the scenes opportunities were really special.

Additionally, I really loved the intricate model of the Hogwarts castle and properties that they had built.  It was HUGE and made completely by hand!  I don’t think the pictures I’m including could possibly do it justice, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it was quite a sight.

Overall, though a long day, it was definitely a great one.  Later on today you’ll be getting another blog post- a total of two for today, as promised!

 

London Trip- Day 6. I wish shopping could be a career.

Today was a more relaxed day, as we stayed in the city and explored the various famous department stores and markets around here.  We visited Harrods, Selfridge’s, Debenham, John Lewis, and the Covent Garden Market.

Never in my life have I seen department stores as big or imposing as Harrods and Selfridge’s.  Not only did I get a self-conscious sense that the store workers could tell solely by looking at me that I couldn’t afford their 5,000 pound prom dresses, but I got lost quite a few times in the labyrinth that is ‘womenswear’.

While today I was unsuccessful in finding a prom dress, Mom and I had a great time at Selfridge’s- a store she was determined to visit because she watches the TV show.  We found a lovely little cafe on the bottom floor of the store called Dolly’s, where mom enjoyed ice cream and I had a chocolate chip cookie and mint tea.  (I told you afternoon tea has become one of my favorite traditions during my stay in London!)

Next, we made our way to the Covent Garden Market, where we ate a nice lunch; I ordered a grilled chicken caesar salad, and mom ordered chicken wings, but we ended up switching meals before the end of our time there.

The Covent Garden Market was bursting with street performers, homemade art, and fancy stores all mixed together.  We bought several small trinkets and enjoyed taking pictures with the performers- we even got a video of Elsa saying ‘hello’ to Katie (who is maybe her biggest fan?)!

Overall it was a really nice day, and I enjoyed the chance to sleep in a little later.  Tomorrow we head to the Warner Brother Studios, for a behind the scenes tour of some Harry Potter sets!

London Trip- Day 5. “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

Following our literary trend, we spent the day at Bath to see the Jane Austen Centre!

Though this day began with a rough start, it was definitely a great experience.  We began on the Underground, heading to the National Rail Station at Paddington to take us to Bath, a distance about bath spa train1h30m away.  But, the Circle line didn’t arrive on time- no matter how many times I checked the time and regardless of how many curses I shouted at it in my head.  When we finally did arrive at the Paddington station (with 4 minutes to spare), we still had to pick up our tickets- not an easy machine to find, and certainly not one able to be found in 4 minutes.  As you’re probably guessing from the tone of this post… we missed the train!

However, lucky enough for us, our tickets entitled us to use any train to or from Bath throughout the day.  So, we waited in the little ‘lobby’ area for about an hour and boarded the new train to Bath.

Despite the rain, we made our way toward the town’s centre- which is one of the prettiest cities I have seen so far on this trip and many other trips alike.  We ducked into a fancy alleyway to get out of the rain, and ate at a new restaurant called “Dough”, where we had a nice margherita pizza before continuing on our way.

After asking directions from several locals, we found the centre, and bought our tickets just in time for the next guided introduction.  I loved learning so much about Jane Austen’s life and family, as well as her inspirations for her many of her books- that actually stemmed from her extended stay in Bath.  All the employees were once again dressed in costume, and very knowledgeable about all things Austen.

lizzy bennet

Once our tour at the center was over, and we had scoured through every nook and cranny in the gift shop, we wandered around Bath for the remainder of our time there, before we had to go back to the train station.

I started prom dress shopping, and though finding several that I liked, wasn’t ready to ‘seriously commit’ to anything I tried on.  (Which I felt bad about, especially when a piece of one of the dresses got caught in the zipper and two women + a pair of scissors had to cut that piece of the dress off.  Good thing it was only the ‘hanger ribbon’ and served no real purpose in the dress.)

Again on the way home our train was delayed, due to some kind of mechanical problem on the track that caused a backup of all the trains and made us go very slowly (I don’t know what the speed limit is for the trains- but I know we weren’t going fast enough).

Now, here I sit, after having enjoyed a take away meal in my pjs, about to FaceTime the grandparents to tell them about our day.

More to come tomorrow!

P.S. Beware the National Rail Service…but brave it anyway to see Bath!

London Trip- Day 4. Two peas in a…London Eye-pod?!

mady laughing

Today I got to spend time doing very nerdy things with my friend Inès, from Strasbourg.  I had such a great time with her and am so lucky that she was able to make the long trip from Strasbourg to London.

 

As the title of this post says, we began by meeting at the London Eye (though beforehand, mom and I got distracted by Big Ben).  It was a really great way to see the city- it seemed to expand in every direction!  Surprisingly and unlike many other ferris wheels I’ve been on (I hope it isn’t blasphemy to compare THE London Eye to a normal ferris wheel?), this one moved very. very. slowly.  Something I wasn’t expecting, but I think gave me better value for the ticket price and a more complete view of the city.  It was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience!

After that, we took the tubes to Charing Cross Road where, not only were there nice bookshops, but I found the plaque commemorating 84 Charing Cross Road- YES!  From the book!  It was so cool!  Being the bookworms that we are, Inès and I picked out books for each other to read, then one to read together.

  • For Inès: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  • For Mady: The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie
  • To read together: The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

Lastly, Inès and I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street.  This museum was basically an old style home- replicating the 221B that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson would have lived in.  We saw various study areas, Sherlock’s bedroom, as well as exhibitions of ‘souvenirs’ Sherlock had gathered from the cases he solved, and wax statues of the criminals he had caught.  With all the staff dressed in the style of that time period, it was like stepping into history and the Baker Street I have always imagined through the eyes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

It was so nice to see a my friend!  I had such a great time today and got lots of pictures to commemorate it!

 

London Trip- Day 3. “To be or not to be”

hamlet

Today we made the trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, to visit the birthplace of William Shakespeare, as well as to see his play “Hamlet” at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company).

William Shakespeare’s birthplace was so cool- with costumed actors and educators inside the building, I really got a sense of the times he lived in.  I learned a lot of interesting facts about Bill S. and his life;

  1. William Shakespeare’s father, John, made and sold leather gloves (he made his own leather).  His son obviously didn’t follow his father’s career path, but he does reference a lot of his father’s trade in several of his plays.
  2. Charles Dickens and other writers lead a campaign to save Shakespeare’s home in 1847, when it was purchased for 3,000 pounds by public subscription.
  3. William was the 3rd of 8 little Shakespeare’s.
  4. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway and they had three children; two of whom (Susanna and Judith both married, but Hamnet didn’t)
  5. Shakespeare’s writing career spanned from 1589 to 1613- 24 years of writing!  (that is if my math skills are on point)

After that, we went to the RSC to see a production of Hamlet.  This was a modern interpretation, starring Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet.  I really, really, really loved this version of my favorite tragedy ever written by Shakespeare, and found every actor to be FANTASTIC!  The only thing that I noticed was that after Polonius was killed (spoiler alert), I saw his hand move twice!  And I saw him breathe- though I suppose there isn’t much he can do about that.  Otherwise, I LOVED it- it certainly did justice to the Bard!

After a long day of traveling, with a total of about 6h on the train/tubes, I’m ready for bed!

London Trip- Day 2. Palaces & Undergrounds & Museums- Oh my!

Before anything else can be said, I feel the need to write a HUGE thank you to Erin Crowther.  Erin, without your Oyster cards, Tube map, advice, and the adapters that you sent with us, we would have been totally lost.  BUT, with your help, navigating the underground was a breeze!

Our day started out with visiting Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard.  It was really a fun experience, that definitely added to the grandeur of the Palace itself.  My only complaint was that there were sooooo many people and at some points it was all but impossible to see the ceremony.  We didn’t get to see the Queen…but we did notice a family of 5 who got to watch the ceremony from inside the gates…royal cousin perhaps?

On our way to the British Museum, we stopped at a really nice little Italian restaurant, where we had fantastic, authentic Italian pizza and pasta.  It was one of those meals that was so delicious I didn’t want to stop eating- even when I was full, and almost made myself sick.

After lunch, we managed to find our way to the British Museum, where we spent most of our time in the Greek and Egyptian rooms (and, admittedly, the gift shops too…).  I especially loved the Rosetta Stone, which is a large tablet in different languages, that was crucial in deciphering the meaning of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script on the stone.  I also really enjoyed the Giant Statue of King Ramesses II, which, though half of his hat was missing, was still an imposing piece of art.

Once we had satisfied most of our curiosity, we stayed in the British Museum and enjoyed an afternoon tea and a slice of chocolate cake.  Hands down my new favorite meal/snack of the day.

 

Today overall was a great introduction to London.  Our plans for this evening include dinner out and Harrods- that is if mom wakes up from her nap in time!

Check back here tomorrow for another update of my adventures in London; tomorrow we head to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the home of Mr. Bill Shakespeare himself!