We finally made it to London! We have been trying to get to London since September when I last blogged about our adventures in booking last minute flights. This time we decided to go for it and actually found some decent flights through www.momondo.com with British Airways. We went over the Labour Day long weekend (May 1st weekend), which turns out is also a Bank Holiday in England. We used www.priceline.com to bid on a hotel in the city and ended up at a great hotel in the Tower Bridge area of the city right between the Bank and Monument tube stations. I will say this – I am a big fan of the London tube. It’s easy to get around, straightforward to pay if you get an Oyster card, and rather efficient.
We flew into Heathrow on Thursday afternoon. We jumped onto the Heathrow Express, the express train from the airport to central London, and made our way to Paddington station. We took the tube to our hotel, Club Quarters Gracechurch Hotel, and managed to find it walking through the streets despite the pouring rain and arriving in the middle of after-work rush hour.
The next day we went on a free walking tour of London. The staff were totally overwhelmed with the number of tourists who showed up and we were lucky to get a spot on the tour despite not having signed up in advance online. Our tour guide was great and pointed out a lot of key sights in central London, including Covent Garden, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, and St. James’s Park.
In the evening we went to see The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The show was spectacular, especially the use of props and lighting. Our seats had a limited view (we couldn’t see the bottom left part of the stage), but it was still awesome to see the show.
The following day, Saturday, we went to the WB Harry Potter Tour in Leavesden outside of central London. Because it was a holiday weekend, they were doing construction on some key railways and we had to take some buses to get to Leavesden. That was quite the adventure and included getting dropped off at a bus stop on the side of the highway, missing 3 consecutive buses in a row, and taking 2 hours getting back to the city after the tour. My suggestion – book in advance with Golden Tours, a company operating out of central London that includes return bus transportation in addition to your ticket to the studio. Would have been much simpler!
In any case, it was totally worth the crazy journey to get to the studio because the tour was AWESOME! We had an entrance time of 12:30pm and stayed for close to 3 hours (one of the guides said the record is a tourist who stayed for 13 hours!). There are 2 different sound stages, J and K (for J. K. Rowling). The first has the Great Hall set, complete with costumes the cast wore, the table setting props, and house points. It also displays the Gryffindor common room, sets from the Yule ball, info on the animal actors, the horcruxes, a digital Marauder’s Map, the set of the Potions classroom, a broom flying lesson (we didn’t partake because the line was so long), and the set of the Ministry of Magic, just to name a few! There was an outdoor courtyard showing the blue Ford Anglia that Ron and Harry flew to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the 3-decker purple Knight Bus, the 4 Privet Drive set, the bridge at Hogwarts, and the Potter’s house in Godric’s Hollow. The second sound stage included makeup and wigs that the cast wore, an animatronic Hippogriff, miniature sets, and the spectacular Hogwarts castle miniature used for outside shots of the castle.
We left London at 7am the next morning filled with wonderful memories of our trip. Can’t wait to go back to London to see more! Special thanks to Lisa and Lacey for excellent suggestions of things to do and see in London! :o)