Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our week in London

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I'm conscious that I never followed up my initial post on our time in London. The intention was to blog the experience on a daily basis but due to dodgy wi-fi and a need to take a break I never got further than the first day.

You can read about day one >> here

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Day two was an easier affair since we had worked out our commute into the centre of London. As it was Sunday, we decided to go to Brick Lane and wander around what we thought was one market. What we discovered was at least three truly awesome markets ... with some seriously good product on offer ... not your usual tack but handcrafted, artisanal product ... that inspired as well as excited. For example, I picked up a Penroll for my main Moleskine notebook. It's like a pencilcase on my book and it works a treat ... so much so, I regret not getting more.

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My daughters were in their element ... picking up dresses from one of the markets and tops from another. On one stall, Dayna found a necklace with the Lego Boba Fett as the pendant ... her delight at this find was audible.

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We looked in a number of the higher-end vintage stores that were located on Brick Lane and popped into the utterly delightful coffeehouse Kahalia (above) for a quick beverage before heading back down the lane, passing by the bagel shops, to grab food from the stalls in the Up Market.

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We ate Teriyaki Chicken and Kung Po Chicken on the street ... which was a real tasty pleasure ... before heading back up the lane to visit my Harrods - Rough Trade East - where I snagged the new releases from Sigur Ros and Boards of Canada.

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Visiting Brick Lane was a treat ... one that was enhanced by all the street art on display. I snapped away like a pap ... and loved every minute.

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We headed back to rest and see to Pippin. Afterwards, we heading into Westminster and walked along the South Bank ... stopping at Gabriel’s Warf for a cuppa. The South Bank was beautifully adorned with artwork and was a real pleasure to spend time on ... watching people and the skateboarders. It really is a special place in London.

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Our third day (Monday) we had more of a ’normal’ shopping day ... visiting Oxford Street’s delights in the form of Muji, Uniqlo (where I snagged a couple of sweet Star Wars-themed tees), Urban Outfitters and the like. We grabbed lunch in Nando’s before heading to the flagship Forbidden Planet store for goodies including my first pack of Fluxx cards.

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From there we jumped in the Underground and headed to Harrods. Miriam wanted to see the puppies and the rest of us wanted to see how the other half lived. I'll be honest ... Brick Lane impressed me more.

In the evening we chilled and watched “Mama Mia” ... I'd forgotten how good a film it is ... it's like a Western Bollywood film without the potbellied baddie with the ’tasche.

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Tuesday was taken up with visits to both the Science Museum and the Natural History Museums. Both were visual stunning and very inspiring ... keeping all four of us engaged for hours.

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After visiting these museums ... we headed to Green Park to see Buckingham Palace and the surrounding parks. We had a lovely walk all around before heading back to the hotel.

After a wee siesta, we headed out to the local cinema in Wandsworth to see “Despicable Me 2”. We all loved it and laughed heartily to the dialogue ... “Bottom!!!”

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Day five - Wednesday - was all about Harry Potter. Olly had booked tickets for the Harry Potter Experience and we were all rather excited at the thought of seeing the actual sets used. We were NOT disappointed and ended up spending five hours there ... including time for food and a mug of butterbeer.

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What really got me about the Experience is how the emphasis is not placed solely on the actors but firmly on everyone else ... direction, production and design - props, set, costume, wigs, and even graphic design - we're all given airtime.

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We were all in our element. I think Dayna took as many photos as I did. I managed nearly 300 on my iPhone ... partly due to leaving the battery of my Nikon dSLR in the hotel and partly because I loved the handiness of being able to share via Instagram and Vine.

The Harry Potter Experience is something else altogether and was a real highlight of the trip. Thank you Olly for making it happen!

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After a day away ... we couldn't resist a wee trip into the South Bank. We grabbed noodles in Wagamama there and then strolled. Truly lovely.

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Thursday involved more shopping with a visit to Camden Town. The markets there are fab but not really in the same league as Brick Lane. It was pleasant enough but not as exciting as we had envisaged ... a thought compounded after grabbing fish and chips in what we thought was a ’local’ restaurant only to get ripped off - £11 each for fish and chips - you’re havin’ a laff, mate!

We headed back into the City and went exploring. Unfortunately Leicester Square isn't as exciting as its made out to be ... and Covent Garden is a bit overpriced (except for Fopp) ... so we turned around and headed back to Oxford Street.

While there, We found the Salvation Army at Regent Hall and went in for a cuppa ... we paid less than £7 for drinks and pastries for the four of us ... which resulted in a “how much?” exclamation from me. London is many things but it isn't cheap and this non-expensive break was very welcomed indeed.

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I headed back to Waterloo with the family before meeting up with Will Taylor for a blether and a coffee. He’s a great guy who has a heart for his community. We talked about the charity he’s set up with his wife, amongst other things ... over a burrito at Wahaca ... and a coffee at “look mum, no hands” - both on the South Bank. We walked and talked from the London Eye to the Tate Modern and back again ... a conversation I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Day seven aka Friday was a lower key day ... one that involved a visit to the Salvation Army’s shop in the Elephant and Castle ... as well as a further donder along Oxford Street and a return visit to the Nando’s there.

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Afterwards, I was fortunate to meet Tim Luke Jones for a quick coffee ... which was a blast. I love how social media breaks the ice and you can spend time in a “stranger’s” company and talk to them as if you've known them for ages. We talked for about 30 minutes before I needed to get back to my family and he needed to go to work as a copper.

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After shopping we headed to St James' Park for a walk and a rest. What a beautiful park that is!

The reason the day was low-key was because the evening wasn't!!! We had tickets for Wicked.

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I'm not one for musical theatre ... or I should say I wasn't one for musical theatre ... because I am now! Wicked was wonderful. A truly brilliant story that was expertly communicated through the acting, singing, production and design. I was blown away by how good it was ... and intend to catch the show when it comes to Glasgow next year.

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We left Battersea early on the Saturday morning ... making good time back to Motherwell thanks to clear streets in and around London (the M25 was a breeze), the toll road at Birmingham, and a fair wind on our backs. We would have been home sooner than our 1430hrs if it weren't for a collective need for Egg McMuffins.

All in ... we had a great break. We saw some amazing sites ... picked some nice bits and pieces ... ate well and had a really good time. Pippin was a darling and the hotel staff in Battersea were really cool.

It was so good ... I'd do it again next year! Thank you Olly for making it so very special indeed.

The rest of my photos are available here >> http://www.flickr.com/photos/headphonaught/sets/72157634549437203/

Tx
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