Bits of London: 24 Unconventional Hours
January 1, 1970
Who wouldn’t visit London once in a time?
London is one of the most popular European capitals and if you aren’t lucky enough to have more than a handful of days, I am sure that the place you’ll pick will be quite predictable: Buckingham Palace, the Parliament and the Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul Cathedral, the British Museum and the National Gallery, the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge…. and I can keep going!
London offers such a wide choice of beautiful places that is unavoidable leave somewhere behind.
For our third trip to London me and my husband ale opted for an unconventional itinerary, with the help of our limited time: only 24 hours!!
We landed at 8 in the morning of a sunny Saturday, and left at 8 in the morning of a rainy Sunday (lucky us!)
To move from the airport to the closest Tube station we chose the bus, booked on-line a month before to get a fair price.
In one hour and a half we arrived at Waterloo Station, ready to start our new adventure in London.
We had with us our Oyster Cards (bought during a previous trip), so we only needed to charge some money on them, tap-in and leave the station for our first stop of the day.
You can find Holland Park in the west side of London, beyond the more famous Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
The park is surrounded by a lot of cozy bistros and nice cafes where to enjoy a cup of coffee with a pastry or a more filling Full English (we did both!).
Holland Park is a genuine spot in London: on Saturday morning you could see a lot of Londoners that, dropped out their job suits, run, do yoga, teach their sons how to ride a bike, read or just relax under the mild sunlight of the end of September.
We wandered around without a destination, discovering the park step by step.
Entering from the south entrance you first meet the wide sports area (with an enormous green field, tennis courts, cricket nets and so on) and the children playground, but it’s heading north that you’ll find yourselves in the very heart of the Park.
Fountains, ponds, squirrels and peacocks, a giant chessboard, a rose garden, a portico with painted walls and a multitude of benches, some isolated under centenary trees and others disseminated near various charming spots, but what you couldn’t really miss is the Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden and an oasis of peace within the Park.
We stopped in the Kyoto Garden for a while, admiring the lovely pond with Koi carps and a waterfall, and observing squirrels, peacocks, ducks and herons live undisturbed in this enchanted place.
Feeling a bit more Zen than before, we left Holland Park for our second stop.
We chose something opposite to the calm and quiet we experienced before!
To reach Portobello Marked we went through two elegant and exclusive neighborhood, the Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Notting Hill, with beautiful shining white houses and colourful blooming streets.
Portobello Road was jammed with stands and people, a lot of tourists but also many locals searching between vintage furnishings, coins, clothing, posters and antiquities.
The stands prevent the view on the famous multicolored houses that many of us have seen throughout Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant love story (to fully admire them, visit the neighborhood during week days), but wandering around, at some point, you could bump into some imitations of the “Travel Book Co.” where William Thacker and Anna Scott first met (don’t waste your time trying to locate the original book shop, unfortunately it was closed some years ago).
We strolled around nearly an hour, but after that we started to need some fresh air away from the crowd, so we left Portobello Road and throughout some less packed but still full of colored houses and typical shops, we got back to the Tube to begin our journey to our last but most important stop of the day.
Warner Bros Studios – The Making of Harry Potter
I need to come clean: we took a plane, a bus, the Tube, a train and a bus again (and vice-versa!) in 24 hours only to visit “The Making of Harry Potter” tour at Warner Bros Studios in Watford.
We are huge fans of the Harry Potter world, we loved the books and the films, and to describe the tour I have only two words: completely awesome!
You will find everything, I mean, EVERYTHING!!
Photos, videos, sketches, scale models, posters, books and of course wands, broomsticks, magical objects, costumes and the amazing original sets.
there’s a lot more, but those are the “only” things I want to share with you, because what I loved the most was the astonishment discovering every room and every object.
Reality took over imagination.
We jumped on the Hogwarts Express, walked in Diagon Alley, entered the Great hall, tried the Butterbeer (soooo sweet!) and bought some souvenirs (how could we not to??).
We spent 3 hours and a half at the Studios, but you don’t have a limited time (exception: the closing time!).
With hindsight I would have booked an earlier entrance to stay at the Studios for at least 4-4,5 hours, but if you are not a photo-addicted who always wants the perfect picture (like me) or a 32 y.o. child who gets stuck mesmerised in front of everything (like my husband), I think that 3 hours is enough to fully enjoy the Tour.
There is only one other thing you need to know before visit the Studios: the tickets must be purchased in advance, since there is no direct ticket sale at the entrance.
Outside the Studios our tiredness became unbearable (we were awake from 3 in the morning and it was 8 in the evening), so we made our journey back to London.
Only the time for a quick meal in a pub near Baker Street, and we were already on the bus to the airport / to the hotel (for a short stay like ours, prefer an accommodation near the airport, you will earn time the next morning!), and after five hours of sleep we were again on a plane, leaving the United Kingdom heading to Milan.
At 12 we finally got home, exhausted but fully satisfied of our 24 unconventional hours in London.