Paddington Bear, Sherlock Holmes or… Santa Claus?

Or maybe Paweł? But why the big black garbage bag and the Sherlock Holmes cap? Well, with those Mereczonthego people you never know… 🙂 All right, first we screw a bit, but then London gave us hell of a boost!

 

This time, we went to London to follow the paths of the literary heroes who had stolen our hearts. Malinka had freshly fallen with Paddington Bear, Tosia discussed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at school, and both girls shared love for stories of Harry Potter. If this wasn’t enough, we the parents, were just then watching the adventures of the world’s most famous “consulting detective” in the BBC series (the one with Benedtict Cumberbatch in the title role). Miłka then simply sat in Ola’s belly and experienced a bit of everything. And it all started with a wave of magic wand…

 

Warner Bros. Studios London

We went there straight from the airport. The Warner Studios London are ‘studios’ all right, but ‘London’ here is a bit overstretching. In reality, they are situated a few dozen kilometers north-west of London. It came out it was wiser to rent a car, than lug the luggage to the Gatwick Express than go in it to its central London station, and then swap trains and go to Warwick, and then take a taxi… And than repeat the sequence backwards… So we went for a rented car. Driving on the left slightly raised our adrenaline, but whatever. A visit to the Warner Studios turned out for our kids to be an adventure of the magic level unimaginable for ordinary Muggles! But take note! – If you are an adult and also love Harry, you will not feel out of place there. A glance at the queue to the entrance, and it’s clear that children are not in the majority here. The majority constitutes of twenty- and thirty-somethings, who have a fascination with the adventures of a wizard with lightning on his forehead caught when they were children themselves (can you believe that it’s been already 19 years since the release of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,”!?)

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We go to the Great Hall and it feels exactly like in the movie. Why, it’s the authentic set where the film was indeed shot. Visitors can admire the set design, and the “levitating” ceiling candles, and original costumes of the Hogwart’s teachers. Hagrid costume is great.

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Then another gate is opened and … we completely immerse ourselves in the world of magic. Magic props stand here in dozens – nay, hundreds! We are in Hogwart! We pass by the wall of moving pictures … Children can see how to make artificial snow and artificial fire. Wow! You can even fly on a broomstick, go to Diagon Alley, admire the colossal scale model of Hogwarts or knock to the house on Privet Drive.

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Watch the video:


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There is also a large section of the automats that that played in the film as a part of analog (vs. digital post-production) sfx design. How awesome! It’s the magic of cinema, which is still magic, isn’t it? At some point we enter the studios’ restaurants. Well worth a visit! Getting a glass of Butterbeer is a must. You can also choose from the variety of meals, also vegetarian. In the shop we bought a couple of fantastic souvenirs, one of which was a real-size Hedwig. Malina carried it later around London arousing sensation (take a look at the video, Hedwig’s alive! 🙂

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Tip No. 1:

Tickets for the Warner Studios London cannot be bought at the studios; online reservation/purchase is required (https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk) for a specific time, to be collected in the counter by the entrance.

Tip No. 2:

It’s best to rent a car through the rentalcars.com (the twin-sister site of booking.com) – you select the best option online – car, extras, price, pick up and drop place (i.e. we picked the car at Gatwick Airport, and dropped it by Hyde Park in central London).  Bargain on pick-up with the clerk! We got the car class upgrade, a free baby seat and a couple of pounds discount.

 

King’s Cross Station

It is definitely worth a look, mainly for the Platform 9 and 3/4. Your kids my take a photo and go to the magic shop around the corner (where some more pounds will magically evaporate from your wallet)

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Paddington Station

When we were here together before, six years earlier, few things linked the station with the famous teddy. Actually, it was just one booth where we bought a teddy bear for Tosia (then Malina was in the belly) and a few badges for pinning. Now, following the high tide of popularity of the “Paddington” feature film, a big shop materialized on the first floor, where we did not buy anything. We were superhappy though to find the very nice life-sized bronze statue of the awesome teddy from “the deepest, darkest Peru” with his suitcase standing under the clock on platform 1.

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And thus we saw London railway stations so rich, as it turned out, in literary connotations. Later, we headed for other stuff, such as…

 

The London Eye

which no longer swirls around in the name of British Airways, but now advertises Coca-Cola. It is always worth to hop on a ride for views. We bought this attraction bundled with…

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River Cruise

on the Thames which surprisingly well proved to be a good way to see numerous London landmarks from a different angle (Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Tower of London, the famous Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast), quickly and with commentary guide.

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Because it was a trip in the footsteps of our book heroes, we couldn’t miss certain adventure in the…

 

West End!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is being performed on stage of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and this performance is GREAT! Directed by Sam Mendes it gives you two hours of great fun – superbly played, with great stage design and costumes, with great music… Yummy as chocolate! If you have your own “I have in my life to do this and that” list, add to it a performance in the West End.

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For us it wasn’t the first West End theatrical experience, because a few years earlier we went to see The Lion King, which then, before and since have been played over and over and still enjoys sold-out rooms! And I’ll tell you frankly that we would go at it again to show it to all our daughters. Tosia was four years old and absolutely not bored. Decorations, music, acting, special effects – for both of these performances everything is top-class and we were often puzzled of how they did it. Despite the “moderate command of the language”, our children did not get bored, and were following the story with their jaws dropped. Then, we also saw the musical “Wicked,” by Stephen Schwartz about the adventures of the Witch of the West in the Land of Oz. Cool, too!

 

Facts & Tips:

In West End theaters it’s very popular to eat ice cream during intervals.

 

Londoners do not really use theaters’ cloakrooms (which are small and expensive and almost nothing hangs there). Theatre lovers scramble to audiences with their jackets or cloaks with which they then don’t really know what to do, so they often just lie on the floor. Generally theaters, especially musical ones, are treated as casually as cinemas, which is cool 🙂

 

The moment the show is over, viewers leave the theater very quickly. We, with our unhurried pace, always ended up looking with amazement how could it happen that the audience was so completely empty so quick.

 

Tip:

Tickets are damn expensive and it’s best to buy them online in a package with a voucher for a family dinner at a selected restaurant (dinner does not have to be eaten on the day of the performance) – it really pays off!
Recommended service http://www.lovetheatre.com/

 

Natural History Museum

We love to be there! Yet, remember, because it’s free, you need to get prepared for long queues. (This time we happily skipped them thanks to Ola’s visible pregnancy, we were all invited by the helpful stuff right to the entrance). But even if it calls for some waiting, it’s worth it! worth it! worth it!

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What we liked most this time were the monumental dinosaurs’ skeletons, the hall of exceptional stones and meteorites, the simulation of Japanese earthquake and my favorite – the dodo dront.

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Children run from exhibition to exhibition, not wanting to miss anything. And nearly all presented in ingenious form with many interactive settings. Both: informative and delightful!

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Museum of London

We popped there just before the closing, so we were able to see only a fragment of the vast and fantastic array of galleries and exhibitions. But we still saw much! The royal carriage alone makes it worth to come here, but in addition to that you will have a look at the 450.000 years of London history (as it is advertised, and justifiably so – since “London Before London”, through “Roman London” and “Medieval London”, to… well, you better check it out for yourselves!) and on top of all that we saw a fantastic Paddington Bear corner. As for temporary exhibitions, the best on that day was: “Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die!” And that’s where this cap on the head of our family comes from! And because we were wondering and wondering on it so long, they eventually had to let us go out through the back door because the front one had long been barred…

 

Facts & Hints

In London, art and cultural institutions close sharp at time, so at the end you better “get your skates on” 😉

 

But all in all, we had the Sherlock cap (and we still have! it’s really superbly made). And now let us return to the title photograph. Well, now you know about the cap, but… why the sack? The sack story began at the very very beginning of our journey – at the Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport. It was there that we found ourselves late for check-in. We did not lost faith and were looking for solutions. In the end, we were informed that we could fly, but without our beloved suitcase – for it was too late for the drop-off and the valise was too big to pass for a cabin luggage. In great haste we took with her bare essentials and stuck all that in a big black garbage bag. While in London, we wanted to buy a replacement suitcase, but nothing accounted for our taste. And so It happened, that our family main piece of luggage as a garbage bag flew there and as a black garbage bag flew back!

Here are some snapshots from its adventures:

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And the suitcase was well taken care for by a supernice and helpful lady from the stuff of the airport, for which we thanked her with a bottle of wine, and now we dedicate this entry.

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