London! For two weeks! This was our longest stay anywhere during our trip, made possible by the generosity of our friends Charles and Morgan, who let us inhabit their flat and coexist for the whole time.
Every day we’d wake up, walk to the Turkish grocery store on the corner for a gigantic flat loaf of fresh bread, and take the Underground (known as “The Tube”) to our various destinations around the city.
First stop: King’s Cross Station. They have a photo-op set up at Platform 9 3/4. Here’s Karen off to her first day at Hogwarts!
Next, Leadenhall Market, where the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron was filmed.
Then across the Millennium Bridge, featured in HP6, to the Tate Modern, where we browsed modern art, including an entire room of looming Rothkos.
Just next door was Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a historically accurate reconstruction of the Bard’s performace hall. Our timing was perfect, and we managed to slip in for a few photos while the crowd was exiting an afternoon play.
Another day brought us to the Natural History Museum, where we found an actual Dodo (an actually dead and stuffed specimen of this actually extict species that actually died out before our ancestors’ very eyes, which is actually quite a pity)…
…some dinosaur skeletons…
…and a life-sized model of a blue whale.
Next we went to Harrods to marvel at a more modern, but equally as mind-boggling, display: stores and stores across floors and floors of the world’s most expensive merchandise.
The toy section was the best. Ryan met some Lego fellows.
They even had high fashion for pets.
Here is just the chocolates section of the food court.
Next day was the Londonest part of our visit, with visits to Buckingham Palace…
…Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament…
…the London Eye…
…and the Olympic Stadium.
In a tiny, random park in the middle of the city, they’ve installed little bird hotels in the trees.
Nearby is an impressive hotel for humans.
We went into the British Library just to look around.
Just inside the entrance they have a free exhibition of literary treasures, and we got to see Jane Austen’s writing desk, a letter from Michelangelo saying that he’d completed that “chapel I’ve been painting,” handwritten Beatles lyrics, Da Vinci’s sketchbooks, a Gutenberg Bible, the original manuscript of Beowulf, and the Magna Carta.
We visited a park with a bridge.
In this park was the London Zoo, where they filmed the Reptile House for the first Harry Potter movie.
There’s a network of canals that run right through the middle of this big city.
In a bustling market in north London Karen hugged a large horse.
Charles is studying music production and booked us some studio time at his school to record our annual Christmas song. It was daunting to work in a real studio. The mixing desk alone was something like £200,000. But it was also awesome. Dauntingly awesome.
Here’s the Albert memorial.
Speaking of Albert, we also went to the Victoria and Albert museum, full of art, relics, fashion, and even furniture from all over the world.
We tried on some frills.
Next we visited Kensington Gardens.
That night we played drums and percussion with Charles and Morgan’s band, Perfumeman. Here they are before we joined them onstage. Charles plays guitar and sings, and Morgan plays cello and sings. This was her first show playing cello standing up, like a cello rock star.
We also went to the museum of science. Ryan joined an astronaut on the moon but forgot his space helmet, so he had to hold his breath.
Karen found a lighthouse lens for her mom. It would cost a fortune to ship, so we’ll take it as a carry on.
Here are three enigma machines stolen from the Germans in WW2.
And here was Ryan’s favorite thing: Alan Turing’s original Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), a precursor to the modern computer.
While walking around near Leicester Square, we saw posters for a play starring none other than Daniel Radcliffe!
We phoned the theatre, expecting tickets prices to be impossible, but we ended up getting balcony seats for 12 pounds each. Surely this would be the zenith of our adventure – to see Harry himself in person.
Here are some sneaky pictures we took of the inside of the theatre before the play began.
It ended up being a great play, hilarious and heartbreaking, like all of playwright Martin McDonaugh’s work. It was about a small island in Ireland where a Hollywood movie is being filmed, and the townsfolk who aspire to be part of it, including Daniel’s character, known as Cripple Billy. Before we went in, we noticed a long queue out back of the theatre, and asked what it was for. Dan comes out after the play to sign autographs, of course! So the next night we stood in the queue for four hours, and it was totally worth it. When the play was over, he came out the stage door, and a desperate chaos filled the air as the crowd pressed forward.
Everyone was pressing in, waving flyers and tickets for him to sign, and when Karen asked nicely for a picture, he said sure, took the camera, and took this photo, and even made sure it was a good one before moving on. Look at that! There we are with Harry Potter!
He seems like a good chap. He really doesn’t have to come out and sign autographs every night, exhausted from starring onstage just minutes before, but he does anyway. And he’s cheerful about it, and takes his time to make sure everyone gets an autograph or picture (everyone right in front of the barriers, at least).
Here’s our ticket with his autograph:
Then, just as quickly as he appeared, he ducked back through the doors and was gone, leaving those of us in front not quite believing our luck, and those behind us considering waiting four hours in a queue the next night.
Well, for a Harry Potter trip it doesn’t get any better than meeting Harry himself! Next stop: Paris!