Of course our plane was delayed. We were meant to originally take off at 8.15, then 8.35 and then 8.45. We eventually got on the plane, with everyone seated around 8.50; taxied down the runway and sat there for about 15 minutes. So we ended up being an hour delayed.
The reason? On the plane flight prior to ours, a man had become so unwell that they had to turn the plane around, drop him off and come all the way back.
We arrived at the airport, where we had to take an15 minute bus ride to the terminal, where we found our bags easily (and very quickly). We took an underground (our first!!!) to Acton, where we changed to another Piccadilly branch and underground-ed to South Harrow.
The people we’re staying at – F&G – my mom’s friends, came to pick us up at South Harrow tube station – which was super nice of them, as it was quite late!
We only got home around 12.10am (1.10am in our still-on-Europe-time brains), where we were given a quick run down and then threw ourselves into bed.
The next morning was slower: had Cheerios and banana for breakfast, chatted to my mom and only turn set out.
We loaded an (atrociously expensive) Oyster card, and took the tube to King’s Cross Station – where we stood in the line for Platform 9 3/4.
They take professional photos of you (which you can then buy for all for savings); and A took photos of me too. His photos of me didn’t turn out very well (blur city) – so we’ll go back sometime to take some more.
We grabbed lunch – I had a very yummy chicken satay salad; and then we took a train to Buckingham Palace. It was cool to see Lizzie’s residence, but I was expecting something much grander (and have seen throughout Europe).
We walked to Big Ben (via Hyde Park where there were so many cute squirrels); and the clock tower was (surprisingly) excellent!
Very beautiful design on the clock tower and the connected buildings. We also saw and walked past Westminster Abbey – we didn’t go in as the line was super long and I am a little sick of churches.
We walked across the Thames for more photos of Big Ben, and then walked to Trafalgar Square, which sadly was undergoing preparation for the Olmypic Parade. I went into a Waterstones bookstore and Tesco Express (where I bought an egg and cress sandwich) instead.
We tubed to Piccadilly Circus and went on musical playing see-saws! Every time the bottom would hit the ground, it would make a ding sound. It was fun!
We went into the Nickelodeon store (bit childlike) and the MnM store which was epic!! So many (overpriced) MnM souvenirs – from cups to pajamas to packs of special MnMs.
There’s a self serve section, where I poured some dark chocolate peanut MnMs into my bag (too much of course, because those things come out bloody fast!). I was able to dispose of the ones I didn’t one in a bag held by a staff member. I also got 2 white coloured (with milk chocolate) peanut MnMs.
Along Piccadilly Circus, we went into too many souvenir stores and bought nothing.
We tubed and walked back home, where we relaxed for a little bit and then had supper. F had cooked really good flat noodles with beef strips and stirfried vegetables. For dessert we had a fruit salad. A and I also met her kids – E and J, who I hadn’t seen in about 12 years!
We chatted to F after dinner, and had an early night (like the grandmothers we are).
Day #2, we woke up super early (7am) to get ready for our trip to the Tower of London (which had kept coming up as the recommended thing to do in London).
We arrived at about 9.20 (opened at 9); where We bought tickets and promptly rushed to the Crown Jewels. There was no line!
The Crown Jewels were quite incredible (no photos of course); and we did the travellator twice so we could view them in their beauty again.
We explored the rest of the castle: from medieval torture devices, to prisoners’ writing on the walls; to the royal mint, animals that were once kept inside the castle and various loving quarters of various royals.
We also watched a changing of the guards, saw an exhibit on royal medals, and walked through the tower’s grounds.
Post the tower tour, we walked along the river, and found a good view of the London Tower bridge.
We walked along the bridge (which took us a while to figure out how to do as a lot of the entrances were blocked due to construction). On our way to figuring it out, we accidentally walked into a construction site and bought snacks from Tesco.
We ate lunch sitting on the banks in the wind/overcase sky that looked like it was going to saturate us in seconds. When we finished lunch (sandwiches we’d made), I relaxed while Asher explored further down.
When he came back, we decided that a) it was too late to go back to F&G’s and then come back for West End, and b) we needed somewhere to shelter.
We also wanted somewhere with shops (for potential present shopping), and a nice cafe. So we chose the obvious choice: a shopping centre. We used maps.me to find the closest one (30 minute walk), and off we went.
It was the dodgiest and worst ‘shopping centre’ I have ever been to. Cracked windows, and two ‘shops’ that both sold waist trainers and underwear with fake butts in them. We got out of there asap and took the tube to Victoria station.
We accidentally took a round trip and ended up back at dodgecity, but we hauled ass and moved as fast as we could to the right place.
We plopped into the first cafe, where A napped and I twiddled with my phone, pretending to think about ordering. I was clearly doing a terrible job, but I think the lady thought something was wrong with A (I mean he was sleeping in a cafe), because she left us alone.
He did have a coffee (where she asked if he was okay when he ordered); and then we walked around the streets to kill more time.
For dinner, we had gourmet chicken burgers from Burger King (which is way better than Hungry Jacks), and shared Nando’s Peri Peri chips (which was a lil exciting because they don’t have Nando’s in Europe).
A bought another espresso (he was sick and tired) to shot just before the show. We waited in the foyer of the Apollo Theatre for 10-15 minutes and went in at 7. The show started just after 7.30 and it was incredible !!
The actress who plays Elphaba had the most insane singing voice and when she sang Defying Gravity it was bloody insane!!
The whole plot line of Wicked was super cool and it’s definitely made me see the Wizard of Oz in a completely different light. The rest of the cast were incredibly brilliant as well.
I was so captivated, I barely ate any of my Malteasers!
It was a bit of a struggle to get back as we were so tired. But, we made it, and slept very well that night!
Day #3 was an early, but not super early morning. I had Marmite (!) on my toast for breakfast and attempted to move the photos off my phone onto a USB via laptop but it wasn’t working, so I sent them via Facebook message to my sister who saved them for me.
We fast walked to the bus stop where we had to scrape together cash because it didn’t take Oyster or card. We changed buses about 35 minutes in.
Over the hump: HARRY POTTER WORLD !!!
We ran from the bus stop to the ticket office to pick up our tickets because we thought we were late, but it was a session starting between 10.30 and 11, not at 10.30. All that running for nothing!
But it was absolutely incredible and so very surreal. I have watched and read all the Harry Potters multiple times; I remember so clearly the countdown for the sale of the final book and when I went dressed as Hermione for the viewing of the final film.
The tour was insane and brilliant and incredibly creative and clever and so damn detailed and here are so many photos from the day (in order of viewing):
Fun fact: they made two of the gargoyles that guard Dumbledore’s office (and they are massive) – a stationary one, and one that actually moved in a spiral!
Fun fact: there’s a guy working here that was a death eater in the film. He told us that a) lots of the wands were made of resin, and b), they had LEDs on the end so when they were having epic wand battles, it could be seen who was casting what spell etc, and they would just match the LED colour to the spell/wizard casting it in editing.
I can’t explain how big the Hogwarts was, but it was surprisingly large (I mean they did have to get cameras through there); and a perfect replica of actual Hogwarts. They filmed at both locations’ and overlapped footage, and well as using them individually.
The shop had every sort of merch you could imagine plus Fantastic Beasts stuff (which isn’t even out yet). I bought an Undesirable #1 postcard.
We got back, packed, had chilli con carne and rice for dinner and were ready for bed.
Day #5, we left nice and early (kindly dropped at the station by G). Waited 10 minutes, got on the train, went four stops and then our train was terminated. Moved to another train, which was terminated after one stop! Finally got on the tube which took us (with no more interruptions), to where we needed to be.
We got on our bus. Our first stop was about 2 hours 45 minutes in. We had a stretch and used the bathroom. After that, we got so very stuck. There had been an accident on the M6 (a major motorway), so everything was being diverted to the M56. I think we spent over an hour barely moving.
On the bus, I mostly listened to music, did some writing and cringed at two extremely drunk/gross girls behind us who would not shut up.
We finally turned around, stopping to let people off, but we didn’t get a break. At Lancaster, we split into two buses and we went straight to Kendal.
We finally got there (over an hour late), and used Subway’s free WiFi and the helpful worker there to find our hostel.
Turns out A had booked for November instead of October, but the lady was lovely and said she had room for us tonight, and we’d work out tomorrow tomorrow. He’d booked the wrong month for all our subsequent hostels, so we cancelled and then rebooked Edinburgh and he looked at Chester accommodation.
We walked to Tesco for food – I bought eggs for breakfast and a packaged lamb rogan josh. Warmed it up in the microwave – it was actually quite good!!
Day #6, I made myself a perfect omletter for breakfast (of course worthy of a photo).
We walked around Kendal, visiting the markets that were on. We went past and stroked some owls, and bought 2 mintcakes (Kendal is famous for them, and they taste like pure mint with the consistency of hard fudge).
I also bought a Mowgli and elephant poster from an op shop, a card (also from an op shop), and a Rolo milkshake.
We took a bus to Windermere (the next town), and walked up to the Offest lookout. When we got up there my camera wouldn’t work, so I was a little sad about that.
We walked down, and then towards the promenade, stopping and shopping at stores along the way. I bought a Daim (which we had been looking for everywhere and finally found in the Lake District of all places) – and it was really good; and two rings! I had been looking for rings throughout the whole trip, and of course I found them at a Windermere tourist info.
We went out for lunch (after looking at all the stores because I wanted a pie but we didn’t see any).
We bussed back, collected our bags and my eggs from our hostel and walked to our inn ‘bnb’.
We had Subway for dinner (I had chipotle chicken).
When we were booking, we had been warned that there would be a disco, but not to worry we wouldn’t be able to hear anything.
Everything was as clear as day, and the entire floor vibrated with the music and karaoke.
We drew the banana that I bought and I started a face (there was no internet).
Day #7, we showered and had breakfast (banana with passionfruit yoghurt), and walked to the Kendal Castle (ruins).
The ruins were quite pretty AND my camera worked so that was good!
We walked back down, went back to the inn, finished packing, checked out, paid, and walked to the train station.
We trained to Oxenholme (6 minutes away); changed trains and sat for 2 hours. I listened to music, napped and ate food.
Our hostel was easy to find and we were staying in the Hogwarts dorm – I was in the Snape bed!
We internetted a bit, and then went for late lunch: I had a steak shoulder pie and an apple custard lattice for dessert.
We walked back via the touristy shops – lots of fudge, whisky, kilts and scotties.
Back at the hostel, I drank (free) hot chocolate and browsed the internet for dinner recipes. I decided on nothing, but went to the shops anyway.
I walked to the further but larger Tesco (via an op shop where I bought 99p photo stickers).
I bought dinner ingredients and snacks, walked back to the hostel (in the rain and dark), watched some Narcos and made dinner.
I fried potato, sweet potato and mushroom rings in paprika, oil and salt; stacked them up in small stacks and put cheese slices between them. They were still hot so the cheese melted and they were actually quite good!
Chatted to a Welshman and some Americans, had 2 more hot chocolates (free powder is dangerous), messed around on the internet and went to bed.
Day #8, I had an omlette with basil and cheese for breakfast with baby tomatoes on the side (and a hot chocolate of course!)
Walked to Pandora to (finally) get a present for A’s cousin (we’ve been looking for about three months) and then walked to the Holyrood Palace to see the Abbey.
Turns out you can’t just see the abbey, and I wasn’t that interested so I waited outside whilst A went in.
Took a bus from there to Mound Street, and on the bus we chatted to a very friendly Scottish lady. Walked 5 minutes from the stop and took photos of the castle. Pretty, but not incredible.
We walked back to the hostel, where I had my 5 leftover stacks for lunch (and used the internet).
We set off for Tiger (shop with little bits and bobs), so ready to complete our present buying and they had nothing! We walked out a bit sad and I remedied this with getting a chicken pie from Gregg’s for lunch.
We went to the Museum of Childhood Toys, which was cute; and to a mini market with jewellery and souvenirs. We also went to Blackwell’s, a huge and great bookstore.
Walked back to the hostel, and lay in front of the fire, drying my socks and listening to podcasts.
We went out for dinner at an Irish pub and I had friend haddock and chips, which was really tasty!
For dessert, we shared a fried mars bar, which was as great and as over the top as you can imagine.
Day #9, we had a slower morning. I made a scrambled egg for breakfast and the hostel made free pancakes so I had 2 of those.
Walked to Princes Street and to the very pretty gothic monument there.
We walked along the street, going into various clothes stores and trying things on. I bought 2 pairs of fingerless gloves.
For lunch, we bought pastries from Marks and Spencer: a cheese twist and a Belgian chocolate twist. We had bought a ton of shortbread so we had a piece each.
We continued along the street and went into Sainbury’s – where we bought chocolate for F&G and I tried a Lion chocolate bar.
Walked back to the hostel, checked cinema times, walked to the cinema and saw Doctor Strange. It was quite excellent!
Walked back via Sainsbury’s and bought snacks and lunch and dinner for my long bus ride.
Boiled eggs back at the hostel and saw that my baby tomatoes had been eaten! Some of my cheese had also been eaten (but I saved the rest and write my name all over the packaging). I definitely won’t miss hostel fridges!
Went to an Asian restuatant for dinner and had satay chicken with noodles, green capsicum and bean sprouts. Was yum! On the way back I bought a Subway cookie.
Walked back to the hostel, packed and had hot chocolate with shortbread. Last night in a hostel!
A left early the next morning and I took my time: had eggs for brwkafast and packed my bag. Checked out and even waited a bit before leaving (because why not wait with the internet instead of at a bus station).
In a classic Lauren move, with both verbal and mapped instructions, I got lost. I had offline Google Maps but it doesn’t seem to give me walking instructions and when I’m walking through Scottish alleyways, driving instructions don’t suffice.
It was super stressful but I got there 5 minutes later than I was meant to (only 10 minutes before the bus arrived, instead of 15), BUT the bus wasn’t even there yet.
Finally got on, settled in etc.
It was one of the longest and worst bus rides ever. There was nothing specifically wrong, it was just never-ending and when we arrived, we were an hour and a half late. I got to walk back in the dark. Not yay!
Day #11 was arts n culture and I took myself to the Tate Modern, via the Sainsbury’s to buy a panini, a tiny packet of peanut butter and a peanut and chocolate bar. I made up and ate the sandwich on the train platform.
On the way to the Tate, I went into a watercolour gallery.
The Tate was incredible and so many free exhibits! Melbourne, get on spreading your art and culture freely throughout society!
Halfway through I ate some overpriced English mustard and black pudding crisps from the cafe.
After the Tate, I walked across the Blackfriars Bridge, bought some caramelised nuts and took photos of Shakespeare’s Globe.
I walked back across, to another tube station and tubed across to Charing Cross.
I went to the National Portrait Gallery, where I accidentally escalated into the floor with the tudors portraits (cool but I wanted modern); and moved down to the modern floor (some of which was closed for a private event).
I walked to the Milk Train Cafe, where I actually lined up for the ice-cream/fairy floss combo!
I tuned home, got stuck between two stations for about 15 minutes and had leftovers (chicken curry and ravioli) for dinner.
Day #12, I had vague notions of going to more galleries, but F offered for me to come with her to Tesco and it was more appealing. The gallery I wanted to go to sounded awesome, but I was tired and needed a break from the go go go.
I walked around Tesco while she did the shopping – it had clothes, books, electronics and of course, food.
After we were done, she took me on a driving tour of the neighbouring suburbs (Radlett and Shenley). We stopped in Radlett and went to a bookshop that we browsed. It smelt nice.
F took me out for lunch to a restaurant attached to a theatre, and whilst our food was taking forever to come, she got a phone call: the mechanic – where was she?
F had an appointment she’d forgotten about, so she dashed off to take the car home, drop it off and take the other one.
I ate my very delicious haloumi salad whilst she was gone.
She came back with J, her son, and a crisis: she couldn’t find her phone, even though she’d used it to call me on the way.
They finished lunch and I used my phone to call hers – eventually we found it underneath the car, on the concrete! If she’d reversed, she would’ve crushed it.
F dropped J at home, and took herself and me to the local shopping strip. She did her own shopping and so did I.
I mostly went into op shops (and some real shops) and bought: a FRIENDS ps2 game, a romper, a donut (strawberry) and glue dots from Hobby Craft (which is like Spotlight and dangerous to my wallet).
I walked back, and for dinner we had chicken curry and rice with fruit salad for dessert.
A came back that night.
Day #13, A, E (the daughter), and I went to Camden Market!
We shopped around for four hours, and mostly just bought food. For snack, I had a toffee covered and filled cronut.
For lunch I had a ruben bagel, with salted brisket, cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. It was quite good!
For dessert, after I’d digested a little, I had an ice cream sandwich: red velvet biscuits with raspberry shortcake ice cream and salted caramel sauce.
We separated from Emma at the tube station and A and I tubed to King’s Cross Station, where we redid my (previously blurry) photos at Platform 9 3/4.
We then tubed to Harrods which was bloody crazy!!
It has everything you could ever imagine: pastries, jewellery (about 7 different sections), groceries, poultry, fish, clothes, bed and bathroom accessories, books, toys, cafes and more! We did most of the floors before we took our exhausted selves back to the tube.
A left me in Leicester Square because he went to see Aladdin. I tuned and walked back to the house.
For dinner, we had challah (!! haven’t had it in ages); salmon, baby carrots, beans, leftover zucchini and broccoli and broccoli and cauliflower cheese bake.
Last full day! Woke up early, but clocks had changed overnight, so I slept for a little while longer.
Tubed to Kentish town, where we got the Northern Line to Leicester Square, and walked to Covent Gardens (via buying a hot chocolate).
I was expecting some sort of greenery (and the classic cobblestones), but there was nothing park like about it!
We walked around the markets and shops, listening to the street performers as we we passed (and trying 12/10 hot chocolate at Whittard).
We walked to Hamleys, which was insane! Toy wonderland, including a Harry Potter and lolly section!!
We walked back towards Covent Gardens, via lunch: We shared bangers and mash – ‘chard’ mash (cheese, chives and milk), and 3 mint sausages.
We had to keep room for our favourite ice-cream: Venchi!! We’d had it a few times in Italy, (and hadn’t seen it since); and it was the perfect way to end the Europe leg.
We bought flowers for F & G and tubed back and packed (easier than I thought it would be, but still a pain).
We forgot to draw money for a taxi, so G drove us to an ATM to get some (we were dressed in mostly pajamas with coats on top because everything else was packed).
I’m honour of us leaving, F & G made roast beef, sweet potatoes, normal baby potatoes, parsnip and gravy. We had fruit salad for dessert. Everything was super good!!
We chatted a bit and said our goodbyes.
A and I had a relatively early night and woke up at 3.30am. We finalised packing, got our taxi and got to the airport way quicker than expected (we were almost 4 hours early).
We accidentally stood in the wrong queue for a bit, but then moved across and everything went smoothly.
We are now waiting to board a flight which will symbolise the end of our Europe (mainland or otherwise), leg!
The last post will be me summarising Abu Dhabi and heading home. Until then!