A Travellerspoint blog

London Town PART 1

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Most countries I've been in I've loved the public transit on both short and long haul trains and buses. Here is no different busing it from Birmingham to London gave me a few hours of planning time. Every place I've visited I've meticulously planned how to get there and where to stay and with what is close by, supermarkets, public transport, restaurants and of course the sights I wish to visit and experience. Of course with all of these factors comes with the budget you set and stick too! London is a large city, stay too far out it takes too long to get across it and stay too close and it's expensive. After much research before arriving, I decided to stay south of London city in a suburb called Tooting. It's close enough to the happening suburbs like Clapham and Brixton without the prices, but only about 30 mins to get into the heart of the action. Of course, it's raining when I arrive... typical!
I'm staying in you guessed it another cute Airbnb (i wish I was getting a paid sponsorship or something out of this!) My poor case is tossed in and it's about 6pm but it's still light until about 10.30pm and Harrods closes at 9pm so a mad dash to the underground and I'm off! I have always wanted to go to Harrods and see the famous bear! Although it was magical, I was disappointed the facade was covered as it was undergoing restoration. I spent about an hour in the lower ground gift shop like a child at Christmas! In love with all the Harrods tat, I wanted to buy it all, but holy moly it was super expensive! But I've brought a little something from everywhere so I can't stop now and I just had to have something from here! I settled on a Christmas bauble decoration in the union jack flag with Harrods 2019 plastered on it! Sounds tacky but it's actually gorgeous. I think so anyway! Now let's hope it survives for the next 5 months until I get home!!! I'll be pretty impressed if I can get all my souvenirs home undamaged! Might need a miracle or extra suitcase at this rate! Anyway, I'm sure I looked like a silly tourist but I took several selfies with the bears and products for sale! Here are some of my faves for your viewing pleasure! Sorry about the bauble, it was hard to not get reflection but you get the gist!

Managing to drag myself out before buying more things, it was about 8:30pm and still raining a little but I decided it might actually be a good time to visit some of the places that would usually be tourist hotspots during the day. I walked my way through the Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner, and had the place to myself! Set in the heart of royal London, Wellington Arch was built as an original entrance to Buckingham Palace, later becoming a victory arch proclaiming Wellington's defeat of Napoleon. Crowned by the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, it depicts the Angel of Peace descending on the 'Quadriga' (four-horsed chariot) of War. Although it's closed now it is on the English Heritage pass so I can come back and go inside to see the exhibition inside and the view!

Pushing on through beautiful Hyde Park I arrived at Buckingham Palace! Hopefully, Lizzy has a hot cup of tea because it's still cold and rainy! There are not many people around so I take my time crossing the east frontage, at the gardens and over to the Victoria Memorial.
I knew the Australian gate entrance was this side also which was lovely to walk through for a bit of warm and fuzzy! Overall honestly it looked tired, I mean I know it has been standing since completion in 1850 and then remodeled in 1913 but I can only compare to other heritage buildings I've visited of the same period and it's of stature but not the wow I was expecting. I mean it's Buckingham Palace, Home of the Monarch, Head of the Commonwealth! Ok maybe I'm getting a bit too keen but I wanted a palace! Still, I was super excited to be there and I did wave to Lizzy but she may have gone to bed by now!
I returned to Hyde park and it had finally stopped drizzling! Again very quiet, so beautiful.
I'm still keen to keep wandering while there's still a bit of light because I know during the day it will be busy. On my way to Trafalgar Square, I stumble upon the Horse Guards Building. Still stunned that not a single person is about! Made for some great pictures with the London Eye in the background.

Underneath the Admility Arch to Trafalgar Square! And then the disappointment hits hard, it's closed off!!!!!! Either setting up or taking down for something but the whole area is closed!!

Clearly a sign to head home for the night, and I'm tired! Back on the tube and home to Tooting! More big adventures await tomorrow!

Today I head out early to the Borough Market and London Bridge for a few reasons, sightseeing obviously but also to pay respects to the 2 Australians killed in the 2017 attacks. Kirsty Boden was a Nurse from South Australia working abroad here in London. Before leaving home I remember reading about a nursing scholarship now available in her honour so it's been in the back of my mind. I walk both sides of the London bridge looking for a plaque or memorial but either I missed it or it's located elsewhere. I stay on the bridge for a while and look over to the stunning Tower Bridge which I'll hopefully visit in the next few days.
I head back to Borough Markets for some lunch then head off again to Highgate Cemetary. When I was on my tour in Russia one of the local Londoners suggested the tour so I had booked in advance as you can only see the west side via a booked tour. The tours are run by local volunteers know as friends of highgate and the cost is used to help maintain the cemetery. I was really surprised to learn (and see) how unkempt it was. Part of the reason you can only visit the west side by tour is because of the liabilities and public safety. The main paths are cleared but beyond that, it's actually dangerous with trees falling and gravestones and statues falling down around you. I had to get my head around that the cemetery is on private land and when you purchase a plot or tomb then you are responsible for the cost and upkeep. Many of these are now untraceable as to who owns them and where their descendants might be. I just assumed the council or government taxes paid for the upkeep of these cemeteries, they certainly don't look like this at home! Our guide, Mickey was fabulous! She took us through the history of not only the cemetery but some of its more famous residents. The cemetery has approximately 170,000 people in 53,000 graves, bare in mind some of the family tombs can hold 12 members and the catacombs underground hold 100's. Opening in 1839 as part of the "Magnificent Seven" which were 7 large private cemeteries in London. They were established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds. In these Victorian times, death was a wealthy business and the more extravagant your tomb or grave displayed your wealth. It is stunningly beautiful and alive with birds. Mickey gave us some background on some of the over the top statue works. Many of the graves have columns that are cut off symbolising a life cut short. Towards the center, there are larger family tombs which are similar sizes too small beach boxes. We venture down into the catacombs which are cool (temperature) and a little creepy. Most of the caskets were lead-lined and therefore had a total of 3 coffins in one! The wooden inner, lead lining and the displayed outer. The catacombs were popular for safety as grave robbing was rife in these early years of the cemetery.
After the tour, your ticket also gets you over the road to the east part where some of the more visited graves are Karl Marx, George Michael, Australian artist Sir Sidney Nolan, and Adam Wroth who inspired Professor Moriarty the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.
A wonderful day exploring and now for rest, need my beauty sleep for tomorrow! Something exciting coming soon!

It's often hard being a solo traveler taking photos, I've been taking some selfies of course but I hate asking people to take photos of me and let's be honest I don't trust people to hold my phone. Most of you know I haven't used a handbag in years, I carry keys and a phone that's it! After I gave up smoking and now that everything is on apps I found I didn't need one. Plus for years I carried one and you only fill it with crap you don't need and then can't find when anything in there when you do! Sorry back to the topic at hand... I decided that I wanted to get some photos of myself in London but not touristy ones like me in a red phone box but a little more subtle London (if that's a thing). So I booked a photo shoot for more of a personal branding style of shoot, very out of my comfort zone as I don't like having my photo taken and I am one of those people that laugh when I see others posing for pics for the gram! I had a few conversations with CY (the photographer) to discuss locations and styles, it was more complicated than I thought! I met her in Mayfair which is a lovely area, very swanky! We went all over town and of course I felt a bit silly doing it but we had a great time and hopefully, I get a few that I can use later for a new website that I've been working on (in my spare time!)
They take a week to send me the digital copies but I'm happy with what I saw so far, so here's a sneak peek at some preliminary shots.
After the photoshoot, I'm off to the theatre!!!
I absolutely love musicals and since I’m here I can’t not go to a show on the Westend! Of course, seeing Phantom on Broadway was magnificent but I wanted to see something new and different. I was lucky to get a last-minute ticket to “Everyone’s talking about Jamie” I didn’t really know much about it before I went along, but it was brilliant. It’s a local story of a 16-year-old boy named Jamie who wants to be a drag queen. It’s refreshingly modern and embraces diversity, the costumes are stunning and the music very catchy! I’ll definitely be downloading the soundtrack! I hope this comes to Australia, I’d see it again!
The prestigious Apollo theatre didn’t disappoint either! Opening in 1901 with The Belle of Bohemia, it was specifically designed for musical theatre and named after the Greek God of the Arts, Apollo. In 2013 part of the ceiling collapsed during a performance, over 80 people were treated for injuries. 4 months later it was reopened after extensive repairs and restoration. I'm so glad I didn't know that until after I'd seen the show!
Since I’m still all made up from the photoshoot I might find a bar for a sneaky nightcap on the way home!!

This morning's adventure starts locally in Brixton, with what else but a breakfast butty in the Brixton markets.
A very funky urban area that reminds me of Fitzroy/Brunswick back home. I don’t spend a lot of time here as I’m doing a tour in the next few days which covers some of the areas. I head back into the heart of the city to tick a few more must-sees off the list. I’m excited and looking forward to Westminster Abbey, especially after my experience in York. Unfortunately, it didn’t give me the same feeling at all, it was stunning but I don’t know if I had built it up too much or maybe because it was busy with tourists. Some of it was also covered due to restoration works. I think it was more the events like weddings and funerals that wee see on TV had drawn me to visit here but in my personal opinion I think the one in York is better, probably a bit controversial but oh well.
Again it was built in sections, the earliest in 1060 but was rebuilt to most of what we see today in the mid-1500s. The 2 towers were additionally added in 1745. In more recent times most notably for the funeral of Princess Dianna (1997) and Prince William & Kate's wedding (2011).

I head over to the Southbank area at the bottom of the London Eye, I’m not going on because it’s overcast and honestly so many people both Londoners and travelers have told me not to bother. So I take a couple of snaps and move on to see Big Ben. Or infant not see or hear Big Ben, yet again undergoing restorations and it all covered up and silent.
Feeling a little meh with today's sightseeing efforts! Think I’ll call it a day and head back to Tooting, I have a big day tomorrow with the Warner Bros Studio Harry Potter tour! As most of you know I love Harry Potter and I didn’t think I was going to be able to go! I didn’t realise you have to book in advance, I thought it was like the others in the US where you can just rock up on the day, pay and get in. So heads up guys if you’re traveling to London and you want to go, buy a ticket in advance online! Having said that I did get a last-minute tour package which includes transport and an entry ticket but it was a little pricey! Can’t wait to see all the actual sets, costumes, props, special effects and all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into film making!
Stay tuned potheads!

The trip out to Leavesden to the studios takes about an hour, I met a nice American family on my bus so we chatted away and we seemed to arrive in no time! The first section is guided and you are shown a few videos of the cast and crew during the making of the films. Apparently, it’s an exciting day to visit because the Gringott's bank set has just opened on the tour. The remainder is done at your own pace via audio tour as you move through each section. Apologies if you, not a Harry Potter fan, keep scrolling! It, of course, all starts with the cupboard under the stairs, the actual set it was filmed!
Next is thought to the Great Hall and Hogwarts moving staircases up to the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore's office, and Snape’s potions classroom.

Next is the Weasley family home, ministry of magic and then onto the enchanted forest.
The spider scene from the Chamber of Secrets movie was unbelievable, I was shitting myself! The prop spiders really were massive and lifelike!
Halfway through, it’s off to the Hogwarts train and out to the Dursley home in Privet Drive.

The next building is a lot of the set design, costumes, masks, and special effects. So fascinating how it all works and the hours these creative minds put in!
As mentioned the Gringotts bank set is now open and it’s amazing! You get to see it in all it’s glory and then destroyed. The special effects were out of this world! See for yourself!

Next a trip down the shops at Diagon Alley complete with Weasleys Joke shop!

The final (and probably most magnificent if that’s possible) the Hogwarts Castle. It is enormous even though it’s a model (1:24 scale). It would be roughly the size of a standard house block, the details are so intricate. I know my photos will give you some ideas but don’t do it any justice!

A very happy girl heading home on the bus after a wonderful day in the land of Harry Potter magic! A must for any Potter fan!
Of course, I purchased a few gifts and souvenirs to take home!

Today is my final day in London (part 1, I’ll be back next week for more) so for something a bit different I’m going on a walking tour to see the hidden side of London away from the city center, tourists and the stuff the guides tell you to see. It's my first time booking an Airbnb experience, obviously using them to stay everywhere but they offer tours, etc as well. Again not a sponsored post but I really think they should throw me some credit!
Fabian is from Germany but has been living in London for the past 8 years, he works as an urban planner so his knowledge of the historic buildings was amazing. We first meet at Paddington station, there are 7 of us in total on the tour. We head out to visit some old Victorian Mews (horse stables) from the early 1800s, these are still actively used as stables at the end of the lane but the rest is very trendy housing. One is currently on the market for 3.7 million pounds. There are restrictions that they cannot extend up so they are digging down 2 floors below ground level to create more space. These little houses don't have a backyard or large patio areas so the laneway becomes a place to sit which I love because it's a really little community when everyone is out socialising. As we got to the end of the laneway a group of riders returned to the stables, great timing!
The next stop was Brompton Cemetery, one of the "Magnificent Seven" I described earlier. This one is free to enter and its upkeep is slightly better than Highgate, and by that, I mean only slightly still not like our back home. I've suddenly become interested in who maintains the cemeteries in Australia? Still assuming the local councils or government through taxes, must look into that when I'm back home! Anywho, back to Brompton, interesting that this is the only English cemetery own by the Crown (perhaps why it's a little better but could use a good working bee Lizzy when you have some free time). Opening in 1840 and is the resting place for just over 200,000, again some in family tombs and crypt that hold up to 16 family members. Like Highgate, it has the underground catacombs but they are not for public entrance but you can see through the gate doors for a peek!
From 1854 to 1939, Brompton Cemetery became the London District's Military Cemetery, there are 289 from WWI and 79 from WWII. These are maintained and managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Some of the more notable graves to me were Sir William Wellington Cairns (administrator after whom the city of Cairns is named), and Joseph Thomas Clover (pioneer of anaesthesia).
We take the train to Waterloo station to visit the underground graffiti tunnel, the Leake Street Arches. Made famous by Banksy in 2008 when he invited 30 street artists to turn the 300-meter long tunnel into an ever-changing art gallery. It's now under renovation with shops, bars, and restaurants being planned inside the small archways along the sides of the tunnel.
Time for some lunch so we head to Brixton and the famous Electric Avenue (probably more so for the song by Eddy Grant). Actually, it was the first market street to have electricity and street lighting in 1880, so that's the meaning behind the name. The street is abuzz with traders of fresh produce and many African and Carribean traders. We have some food at a little pop-up market area that's filled with food stalls from old shipping containers.
Our last stop is an older maritime village which has a beautiful view of the Tower Bridge and Thames River. Finally, a gorgeous pub to have a beer to finish a long day!
A great tour, I wouldn't have found a few of these hidden gems on my own and a good way to meet new people!

Tonight I caught up for a later dinner with Tess, another Aussie who I met on my Cuban tour. We had a lovely dinner at No. 32 The Old Town in Clapham. Hopefully we can catch up again next week but now I'm off for a long weekend in Bath with Tanita! I could do with a relax after a full-on week!

Much love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 02:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged bridges buildings london england history travel queen heritage tour tourist abbey holidays adventures uk blog harry_potter commonwealth aussies tooting clapham westend brixton

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Wow amazing! We lived in Tooting Bec when we spent a couple of years working in London and loved it! Your holiday has gone so fast! I can’t believe you will be back soon. Enjoy!

by Karen

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