On Saturday it felt like London was doing its best to show the world that nothing will ever stop it being the magnificent city that it is. The sky couldn’t have been any bluer, the blossom any more beautiful and the general vibe of the place was that this great city carries on. Respectfully mindful of recent events, but that nothing has changed. So it felt like the perfect time for Mr B and I to visit for a weekend away.
Despite only living an hour away from the West End it is rare that we get there these days, and even rarer that we get to stay over. So when Travelodge recently invited us to see how great a family break in the city can be, we jumped at the chance. They had organised for us to also do a tour of places that either featured in, or inspired, parts of the Harry Potter films. Now I need to fess up here. Mr B has not seen a single film so I did wonder if he would do an eye roll at the idea of spending three hours on a coach driving around London looking at things that meant nothing to him. He didn’t. He thought it was a great idea and the perfect excuse for spending an afternoon photographing parts of London we might not know.
The Harry Potter tour is run by a company called Brit Movie Tours and our guide, Amber, met us at Temple tube station (the emailed instructions on where to meet couldn’t have been more informative) and names ticked off her list all 40 of us were soon crossing the road to our waiting coach. Seems Harry Potter mania is not waning and the coach was as full as Amber was enthusiastic. She was full of nuggets of information.
Such as, did you know that JK Rowling insisted that not one actor in the Harry Potter films was American? Apparently Robin Williams begged to be in the first one but was refused on the grounds that he wasn’t British.
Before approaching a scene from the film it was played on the screens on the coach so you could see exactly how it had played out which is great if you haven’t seen the films for a while, or not at all. There was also a chance to get off the coach a few times and see places up close too, all with Amber explaining exactly what we were looking at and if it had been used in the film, or was the backdrop for some CGI action.
The tour was also interspersed with other great snippets about London that I had no idea about, the reason I love doing tours like this. For instance. Have you ever crossed the Millenium Bridge? You know the one, the wibbly wobbly one. Well we were there because in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the film opens with a dramatic sequence of London’s Millennium Footbridge collapsing. I have walked over it a few times, even looking down at it as I walked. I have never taken into account though the little coloured areas dotted all over it. Painted chewing gum we were told. An artist called Ben Wilson has taken up painting the chewing gum that is dropped on the bridge. Since gum isn’t owned by anybody he doesn’t need to ask permission. And as it is not on the bridge itself it isn’t classed as graffiti either.
Here are a few examples I managed to snap:
St Paul’s also plays an important role in the films, largely thanks to the geometric staircase in the south west bell tower being used as the stair case to the divination classroom in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. But look at that sky! I told you it was a gorgeous day in London
Oh and I should mention that you never know who you might bump into on a blogging trip. Fellow blogger Kate from Wit Wit Woo who happened to be on the same tour as us and arrived as I was saying “Our names are on the list, look I have an email” to Amber at the beginning before we realised it was under the PR chap’s name, not mine. There is always one trouble maker and it is generally us, as Kate pointed out as she walked up behind us!
Leadenhall Market is also setting for various scenes in the films, mostly as the inspiration for Diagon Alley. The architecture though floors me everytime I see it so I am afraid I stopped listening and just started taking photos.
Oh I did hear that this was the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, though now it is an optician’s!
And then I have another confession. I missed the whole bit of the tour that went into Borough Market because I got side tracked by Comte Cheese.
I know. But… cheese.
The tour finished at Kings Cross, where Harry’s Hogwarts journey began on platform 9 3/4.
It is also where our day ended, at the Travelodge just a few doors up the road from the station. Have you ever seen a Travelodge that looks like this?!
No, me neither! The rooms were what you would expect from a Travelodge, clean, comfy and perfect for an overnight stay with the family. Continental breakfast, buffet style, the next morning was served in what Mr B referred to as a “legacy room”, a phrase I hadn’t heard before but it summed it up perfectly. The original hug bay windows, high ceiling, cornices and enormous fire place that made you realise this building has a history beyond being a family hotel.
Check out was straightforward and that done it left another day to explore the area.
We left vowing to do more exploring of London this summer.
Which bit should we head to next?