Day 1: Platform 9 ¾
The Harry Potter shop was not what I imagined. I had seen pictures of Potter souvenirs and thought that I would find them all in this little corner of London, which I did not. The store sold mostly unusable memorabilia. It was overpriced and overcrowded though in my opinion it was also under stocked. I am a Harry Potter fan and have read the books many times at different ages, to me I was disappointed that the store was a disappointment. This was day 1, I never count day one, because it’s always the dud day. You always feel funky when entering a new time zone.
I bought a ticket for Billy Elliot’s show and then looked at my to do list before heading to Camden. I spent the morning walking down the street shopping for all the weird little odds and ends only found in Camden. There they seem so normal and if you search for them else where they seem impossible to locate. I travelled with a shoulder bag, so I only bought small stuff.
Billy Elliot’s show was not as fantastic as I expected, but it had some good tunes and it made me laugh.
We went to the Columbia Road Flower Market which is only open on Sundays from 8am till 2pm. It was as if I had walked into a film set.
“Large fern for a fiver” “3 bushes of roses for a tenner, who’s got a tenner for me? I need money to feed the baby” “A fiver a fiver anybody got a fiver for this lovely large fern?”
The street carried on and on with the men talking in their strong English accents. We had some coffee and watched the market go by. As we headed home I bought some flowers. “Only one? It’s 3 bunches for a tenner, a tenner ladies and gents!” “You want me to wrap that for you, darling?” and so I left with one bunch of daisies wrapped in white paper. The bus home smelled like flowers for the first few stops as people started to leave with their purchased.
The afternoon we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral for evensong. It’s really beautiful, I was surprised at the priest’s testimony. It felt really strange to hear a charismatic type testimony in an old echoing church. But it was still really beautiful.
Months ago I told Mum I’m kidnapping her for the day. So we went to Kensington Gardens to see Peter Pan and the Kensington Palace. It was so nice with all the leaves turning colour.
Then to Portobello Road. I pointed out some of the stuff that had been used in the Notting Hill film. I also bought some Pumpkin pie. Yelp had given it 5 stars, but I must have bought from the 3 star batch.
After this we went for Lunch in Camden market. It took 3 trains to get there, but the food was worth it, in my opinion. I had planned on Chinese food, but all of it was battered and I’m trying to do the whole low carb thing, so we had Indian. It was tourist Indian food, nothing was spicy, not one single thing. Tasted almost wrong, but still good.
As we were leaving I saw a sign on a wall saying “John Lennon lived here” I glimpsed inside to find a cute clothing store with a second floor landing. I wondered if that had been there when Lennon had lived there? Had the Beatles practiced here where there now hung cute dresses?
After lunch I showed mum Camden as we headed back to the underground.
I spent the last part of the afternoon alone in Hyde Park corner and then went to see Les Miserables. It has to be one of my favourite stories of all times. The book, the play and the film are stuff I’ve read and seen. After visiting Victor Hugo’s house this summer I was again surprised about the harshness he describes while his own home had carpeted walls!
I wanted to visit a synagogue, but had never managed to do it. I decided to go search for the New London Synagogue on Abbey Road. On my way there I passed the spot where the cover photo of the Beatles album Abbey Road was taken. In the picture the sky is blue and the trees are green, my reality was a grey sky with a bare tree, but I froze for a moment to drink in the fact that they had walked there.
The synagogue was dead quiet. I covered my head with my scarf so that I wouldn’t offend anybody. I walked through and felt like I was intruding the whole time. I saw a whole box of “Lost prayer shawls” but couldn’t find somebody to ask if I could buy one of them. All in all it didn’t look much different than a Christian Church, but this is not an old synagogue so maybe the others have interesting art or something.
I went to pick up the Cats tickets for that night and found myself near John Lewis department store. I still needed a few things and I gave my self 45min to shop. What I didn’t have by 11:15 had to wait, shopping can be done anywhere, but you’re not always in London. I found the stuff I needed so quickly and the puzzled looks on the staffs faced when I asked if they had this or that because of course they always have it in stock, was amusing and annoying sometimes.
I went to the Liberty Café for treacle tart, because the treacle tart had received 4.5 stars on Yelp. The waiter told me with a strong Russian accent and a confused look that they only serve the desserts on the menu and there is no treacle tart on the menu.
I had a long nap to gain new energy for the next few days, spent some time in bed and then went to see Cats with Mum.
I walked out the door, we were living in the back of the building that has the theatre for Matilda. Oh, on Halloween I woke up at around 3am and I could hear two guys arguing in the street below my window. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but different versions of the word “fuck” kept drifting up, apparently they were angry voices.
Anyway back to Tuesday. Our door was right next to the stage door. So I walked out and asked 2 construction workers where I could find a good English breakfast. They sent me up the main street and when I reached the “Li’el street” there would be a place called Franx. I was a good breakfast.
I went to buy a ticket to see Les Miserables again. Then I wanted to climb St. Paul’s, but the girl at St. Paul’s said I had to pay to enter the church before I could climb the tower. So I left to climb Tower Bridge where I was told that there is no way to climb Tower Bridge, but I could take the elevator up. I did this saw the same view I had seen from the bottom of the bridge and went to Big Ben where a police officer almost laughed at my idea of climbing Big Ben.
I read Sir Ian McKellen has a pub in London. I tried going there. The train drivers where striking for 48hours, so I couldn’t get my connecting train. I waited for a bus, but none came. I was told that the strike would be over the next day and that I could get my train in 18hours time. I went straight to bed. I spent the late afternoon once again in Hyde Park Corner. I walked through the park, it was dark and the lights where turned on. On a bench sat a guy, a student probably. He was sketching hands, many different ones on one page by the light of the street lamp. I sat down and saw him finish a hand, pack up his stuff and head home. To him the park is such a normal part of his life.
Les Miserables was fantastic.
War Horse tickets for me and mum tonight.
I went back to Peter Pan’s statue. Shepherd’s Bush Market was a bust. It’s called ethnic, but since I’m living in Dubai it felt totally normal to me. I walk passed identical stores almost daily.
I went to the Costa on Baker Street and ordered the bacon and chicken toastie I had had last year. Then proceeded to a hotel to ask a concierge for directions which lead me to a fruitless experience in Oxford Street which lead me back to bed. Here I rested until it was time for War Horse. Incredible theatre production.
Went to buy a ticket to Les Miserables for Mum. I couldn’t go, my flight was leaving that night. I went to Tottenham court road to shop for a screen, but didn’t find anything. Tehn I got on a train to Camden market where I got my first tattoo, probably also the last. After this I went back to Peter Pan. It’s not only the statue, it’s the being in the park and the autumn leaves and the ducks on the pond, all together it creates a lovely atmosphere.
I wish I could go back. Spend every night at the theatre and just be in London, always.