My Trip to old #London town for #NationalTrust , #HarryPotter #DoctorWho tours!
Last weekend my friend Rosie and I spent a nice weekend travelling to London to partake in some good old fashioned tourism.
Driving from Birmingham to London, we first made a stop on Saturday at Cliveden Gardens; a National Trust property in Buckinghamshire. Looking like something straight out of Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland, Cliveden is a truly beautiful place with many water features and a variety of gardens, each ornamented with sculpted bushes and statues. Had we had more time and sunshine it would be a great place to spend an entire day. We've both decided to go back for a day with a supply of gin and cucumber sandwiches to indulge in on the stunning lawns. The house at Cliveden is actually used as a hotel and spa.
We then left to make our way down to Watford for a 2.00pm tour at the Warner Bros Studios for the Harry Potter experience. My 2nd time at the Harry Potter tour, I was excited to see what had changed, if anything. We had our obligatory Starbucks and a snack from the canteen, which are both basic but not too extortionate and proceeded to queue up for the beginning of the tour.
Beginning in a side room with an introduction from a friendly member of staff and a short film about the impact of Potter across the globe, you're then led into the great hall for the only guided section of the tour. The hall is filled with the great tables, many of the costumes of staff and a new addition - the sorting hat! After a little bit of background from one of the guides, you're then asked to make your way to the self guided section of the tour further inside the studio.
Here we find hundreds and thousands of props, sets, costumes, info plaques, all genuinely used by the crew and cast on the Potter movies, and all incredibly detailed and quite overwhelming to see up close. To understand the scale of the operation going into the production of any movie, let alone one that requires so many bespoke and unique properties to be made for it as Potter has, is a truly excellent experience, and one I was not bored by for a second viewing.
There was also the opportunity to pose in the old Ford Anglia or atop a Quidditch standard broomstick in front of a green screen for an extra realistic photograph. Obviously, us 20somethings had to give this a go...
Next, after perusing at your own pace, you arrive a mid section café, complete with Butter Beer stand. Here in the outside courtyard are some of the famous sets, including the Knight Bus, the wonky bridge, Godrick's Hollow and the newly added Privet Drive! The set in Privet Drive was awesome and makes a great photo opportunity, but I wish there'd been more in the building to see.
As you progress, you now come to the more technical and artistic elements of production, from costume design and animatronics; right through to concept art, detailed graphic design and the paper models of all the scenes, sets and buildings. Seeing this in all it's minute detail is truly incredible.
Following this is the also recently introduced Platform 93/4 complete with Hogwarts Express set! I love, love, loved this part; posing with the trollies, going aboard the Express and seeing all the luggage. Reminded me of the excitement of reading the books originally when I was in primary school. There's also a station specific gift shop here full of Hogwarts Express related merchandise.
Finally, you come to the last exhibit - the awesome miniature model of Hogwarts castle. Accurate down to the smallest detail, explanations of some of the shooting techniques can be seen on touch screens located around the display.
Of course, you have to leave the tour via the compulsory gift shop. The merchandise all feels and looks like quality stuff, but is definitely not cheap. From wands to replica props; clothes to soft toys, if you're adamant on taking something back with you, make sure you have a good relationship with your credit card company... This time, and rather shockingly, I refrained from indulging myself in a treat...
After finishing up, we made our way towards London town proper, to visit my little sister at her place of work - Fortnam and Mason at Piccadilly. Driving through London is a truly harrowing experience - there are people, cars, bikes and busses absolutely everywhere, and the whole place is one big one way system. Parking is also disgustingly expensive, and I had to fork over £20 to park close enough to make the visit. I knew it was going to be expensive, but there are so few carparks apparently around there it was even more than I ever expected. However, having a sister at one of London's big department stores has it's advantages, and I got myself some heavily discounted posh coffee beans. Joy! After some more horrific driving, we eventually found another car park close enough to our Ibis hotel on Whitechapel. It was a budget Ibis hotel, at £100 for a twin room for one night, but being so close to the centre I thought this was reasonable. The room was no frills, but had TV and WiFi so no real complaints. Being so late we went to a Tesco, picked up some food and ate back in the hotel, before proceeding into the night to find somewhere to drink.
This is where we found London to be lacking! Instead of the multitude of hipster-trendy cocktail bars that we expected, we were treated to 3 or 4 rather old mannish pubs. A bit of a disappointment, though by that we point we were just happy enough to lubricate ourselves with gin and whiskey. I also had one of the nicest whiskey's I've ever had before - a Peat Monster, which I highly recommend. I have quite a sweet tooth with my Whiskey's, and this tasted sweet, but still like proper Whiskey.
The following day we awoke with slightly sore heads and marched on down to a local Starbucks, indulged in some porridge, fruit and refillable coffee, and then walked towards London bridge for the beginning of the Doctor Who Brit Movie tour.
Beginning at a meeting point outside a coffee shop in the station, the point was eventually (though not completely apparent) fairly easy to find, and the tour guide named David arrived, armed with a Sonic Screwdriver and a smile, ready to take us on a tour of the sites that appear in both classic and modern episodes of Doctor Who around London.
Our tour guide David was polite, friendly and knowledgeable all the way around the tour, and showed us sites from both classic Who and modern Who, as well as extra bits of trivia about the series and how things tie together in true geek fashion. He also had excellent knowledge of the history of London town, and many other snippets of information to do with the actors and other filming that have happened within London, spilling some secrets about location filming I'd never considered before.
This is most definitely a walking tour, despite needing to pick up an Oyster card prior to the walk for a quick bus journey around half way through, and at quite a quick pace we'd soon covered miles and miles, so bare that in mind before you think about booking. See if you can recognise any of these sites from our tour from Doctor Who...
The tour finished at Waterloo station, where we were able to get a fairly stress free cab journey back to our carpark to begin the drive home. Driving out of London was similarly as terrifying as driving in... But I'd had a truly amazing time exploring London, and would definitely do something similar again, though I'd definitely go via the train to London first.
Have you done anything similar before? What were your thoughts? Disagree with anything I've said? Let me know! Thanks for reading!