It’s really been a while, since we went to London last time. Once we even flew in the morning, went speed shopping, met all our friends at night, drank and flew back home the next early morning. This time, we are lucky – more than just a bit, because it’s going to be a weekend full of friends from all over the world – we made the plan to just hang out, eat a lot and end our excursion with a special portion of magic.
Departure time is late after work on Friday night. In the afternoon I visit a colleague, actually sort of an magician, who helped me a lot creating the new look for Landmeedchen (thank you!). When we wish each other a happy weekend, it turns out, we are on the same flight to London. Yeeeha!
No doubt what that means… A few moments later we are at the air port saying cheers with prosecco. Everything runs smoothly and even our flight touches London ground a bit earlier than expected. Jeeeeez, do you know this awful jingle, when it comes to a Ryan Air on time flight? Argh, horrible.
With transit, security, bus and so on it’s about 2:00 a.m. until we finally hop on to the bus towards Hammersmith where our friend Lutz lives. A little side note: the best way to use public transportation in London is using an Oyster Card. You have to pay a deposit of 5 GBP (that you will get back returning the card). Then you top up the card with whatever amount you like. Everytime using the bus or undergound, you simple have to swipe it over the scanner. The card will not charge you more than a day traveller card costs.
As a warm welcome, we get a roasting. „How slow can one be? Did you guys swim here?“ Sigh, I just love his sense of humor. Now, let’s quickly open the vodka we brought and have some good night drinks.
The motto of this journey other than usual is not shopping, but eating. We want to pay a visit to some grocery markets. What better day than this could it be? Bright sunshine and t-shirt temperature (we are still talking about London in late September).
First stop and meeting point for travel group “Magic London” is Maltby Street Market. It’s not really a market as you might imagine by the name. It’s a little lovable delicatessen stretch of road. It’s merely a collection of rented railway arches, experimenting with opening to the public on Saturday mornings. A big benefit for sure is the proximity to Borough Market. Here you can start the weekend with a wide range of different specialties from fresh home-made cakes to jewish soul food.
Everything looks delicious. I could eat anything. We decide for a bakery called Comptoir Gourmand. We are magically drawn into its direction by the smell of their pastries. We pick our treats, happily hold the bags in our hands and sit down at a sunny spot. We haven’t seen each other on a while, so there is a lot of chatting, but all the sudden the chatting turns into “uuhhh oooh aaaaah”. These cakes, sandwiches and croissants are delightful. I would love to go back and buy some more, but the plan says we go on to another food market, so I better safe some room in my stomach.
To get from Maltby Street Market to Borough Market we walk along the Thames. From the Butlers Wharf you have a great view onto the Tower Bridge. I just love its turquoise colour. It’s a great little walk, because you will pass by the Millenium and London Bridge as well. The picture on which we pose at the wall is right at the river bank, where house boats lie at anchor. With view onto the bridges it must mean that right here we look onto Sara Sjölund’s house boat as well.
We pass by the Design Museum, where we have a quick stop at the museum shop. The weather is just too good to spend time at a museum. However, when you go to London there is most likely a rainy. Go there! And after you’re done, visit the marvelous Tate Modern, which is right next en route. It’s Britain’s national gallery of international modern art. The museum is the most-visited modern art gallery in the world, with around 4.7 million visitors per year. Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Undoubtly the best thing about it: it’s free!!!! That’s at least for the permanent exhibitions.
Arriving at the London Bridge we leave the Thames behind and walk towards the Borough Market, where we meet some more friends at the stairs of the Southwark Cathedral. A stunning beautiful church, but there is no chance, to get to the doors to peek inside. This place is crowded. People sit on stairs and walls, there are tables all around the building and even more people pave the ground.
You can see smoke coming up from several grills. The award-winning market is one of the oldest and largest in London city. The establishment dates back to the 13th century. Since then it remained at the same spot. You can smell delicious food everywhere. The market itself is purely amazing. My wallet can be lucky that I don’t live close to this market. You can find all kinds of food. The best cheese, the finest meat, extraordinary herbs. Of course, our first stop is at a little cidre stall, oops. And the next I remember, at a pub near one of the entrances. Oh well, holiday weekend it is. To soak up some beer, we deicide to treat our stomach with a market sandwich. Let me tell you, with this size of a sandwich, you can have a few pints more.
Since we want to seize this sunny day until its very end, we make our way towards the Brompton Cemetery, where we use the setting sun for a little photo shoot. The cemetery was one of seven large, modern cemeteries founded by private companies in the mid-19th century (sometimes called the Magnificent Seven) forming a ring around the edge of London. The cemetery is designed to give the feel of a large open air cathedral. Especially now during sunset you can shoot perfect pictures with dimming sun.
One thing we always do in London is picking a certain night on our journey, book a table at a pub and invite everyone we know that lives in London or currently visits the city. We usually end up with a big party of at least three different nationalities. This time again, we meet at The Mitre in Nottinghill. It feels like coming home. We are giving each other status updates on our lives, eat, drink and get silly.
On Sunday the city presents itself from its best rainy side. After a little breakfast at Brook’s Counter & Table, our friend Chris picks us up with his car. London by car, yay! That’s something new – and not a bit less annoying then taking the bus. Altghough it is Sunday, we get stuck in the traffic every now and then.
Since the rain won’t stop we begin with a stroll over the Spitalfields Market, where we find a football table to play a few rounds. Squealing and laughing we entertain the people walking by. Kids stop and obviously get jealous, because they would love to be big kids like we are.
When we get to Brick Lane, we have to confess to the rain that it was won this day’s battle. I have never seen these streets so empty before. There are no market stalls on the streets, besides a few pastries. Lucky us, on this consumption weak day they sell their treats for a pound each. Since you can never have enough cake on a Sunday we end up at a cafè Kahaila, after our litte vintage shop tour. The cake here is amazing. Due to our sugar shock, we get silly again. But honestly, that’s the best thing to do on a rainy day. Keep up the good mood by teasing your friends.
As I told you, we’ve planned to eat ourselves through London this time it’s clear that we already made dinner plans for tonight. Our friends Angelika and Dirk from Cologne are coming and we are about to meet them at Jamie Oliver’s Italian. The interior of the restaurant is very nice. The cocktails are amazing. The bruschetta we order as a starter is delicous and draped in such a neat way. The main courses are great as well, but to be honest: it’s probably the name that drags people into this restaurant. The prices are fair (some even cheaper than at a pub in Nottinghill), but don’t expect to get high class food.
During our main course, we are the last remaining guests, but the the restaurant is supposed to be open for at least another hour, they turn off the music. Hello?! That encourages us more than ever to order desert and ask them friendly to turn the music back on. With a good bye coktail the day draws to a close and the grand finale of this trip is getting closer.
It’s Monday early morning. We have to set the alarm clock to get up even sooner than Lutz has to go to work. We pack our things, since we will directly go to the airport after visiting Hogwarts. Sorry, again? Sure: yes, Hogwarts! This is where we will go to. I can remember, that it really took some time until I got caught by the Harry Potter mania.
One day, my friends had a conversation using weird words like Quidditch or Expelliarmus. I gave it a try, and the rest is typical maniac history. By now, we dress up to go to midnight book sales or to watch the film premiere. And for today we booked a tour through the Warner Brother Movie Studios in Watford – the original setting for the Harry Potter movies. We are excited like little children. At Watford Junction, to where you can easily take the National Railway from London City, we hop onto the shuttle bus towards the studios. If you are a Potter fan, you most definitely have to go there. The tour is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. If not, skip this part and scroll down to the buttom of this article, there will be waiting a grand finale for you as well!
Dear Pottermaniacs, you got to come here! This place is incredible. At first you are led into a room, where the producer of the films explains how the idea of shooting the first film was born. He explains how everybody involved fell in love with J.K. Rowling’s book and there was no other way than bringing those words to visual life. In another scene you get to see happy children from all over the world dressed like magicians, all screaming for Harry, Hermione & Co. You see book covers in endless different languages and if you haven’t felt excited before, you do feel now.
The next step is a cinema where Hermione, Harry and Ron explain how it was to grow up on the set. Can you believe, they have lived there through 10 years of the childhood and teenager years? After the little movie, the screen gets pulled up and behind you can see the huge gateways to Hogwarts. Our faces must look so funny. In excitement we widely open our eyes and mouths to the maximum.
For the next two or three hours we are little kids sent to the biggest playground on earth. We run from Dumbledore’s office, to the Griffyndor sleeping room. We visit Weasley’s burrow and try to climb onto the Covered Bridge. We are absolutely spellbound by the way everything is build, no matter if it’s the houses and rooms or the costumes. The tour ends in a room with a giant model of Hogwarts. Especially through the lens of the camera it looks real. There is just no chance to stop gaping. Likewise worth mentioning are the people who work here. They all are passionate Harry Potter fans and if you have a question, they can explain every oh so little detail and they embellish their answer in a way that it feels like the whole environment comes true.
Bottom line: any Cent spent on this unforgettable tour is worth it!
Congratulations, you made it through the magic part. And as I have told you before, something really special is waiting for you. The grand finale, or better: the whole story again! Our London trip in moving pictures! My friend Tini made a wonderful video clip (now I know why she was walking a few steps behind the whole time. Poor Tini!) Thank you so much for this lovely souvenir – and cheers London, I will see you soon again!