London – The Highlights Reel. Day 72 to 87. Part 3.

London – The Highlights Reel. Day 72 to 87. Part 3.

This is the final chapter of my wandering a in London and I’ve saved the best till last! Is doesn’t include museums, artwork, sculptures or armoury, but showcases some of my favourite London cultural activities. It’s not for everybody but some definite highlights for me.

Leicester Square and a West End Show

Ever since we saw Wicked on Broadway in New York I have been waiting for another show to come along, and where better to see one than West End in London. Getting the tube there are posters for shows everywhere and there was one that always caught our eye. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Josh and I are huge fans of the original movie with Gene Wilder and read the Roahl Dahl book as kids, so what better choice for us.

We head into Leicester Square and try to find last minute tickets. This square is the broadway capital with half price ticketing booths everywhere and lists of shows you would never even know existed. I also spot the multilevel M&Ms store but one look at Josh and I know I’m not allowed in. With Charlie and the Chocolate Factory only starting in the Fall, there are no discounted tickets but we find the best price at the TKTS stand, and score some of the best seats in the house in the royal circle.

7pm and it’s showtime. The show is held at the Royal Drury Theatre on Drury Lane and after a few clever muffin man jokes from Josh we enter and take our seats. This lower balcony allows you to see the entire stage and as it’s raised, there is no obscenely tall man or wide headed lady to obscure your view. A young boy walks on stage, no more than 12 years old, and immediately we are captured by his voice. He is incredible and this is the word to describe the rest of the show. You are sitting in the edge of your seat, singing along to the tunes you are so familiar with and watching the amazingly talented cast re-create your favourite scenes. If you are ever in London or the show comes to your city, it’s a must. Yes there was a few lines dropped by Charlie but the show is only a few months old, and it’s only going to get better with age.

Camden Passage / Markets

Once again the sun is shining. I check the list for anything that’s outdoors because I know I’m lacking my vitamin D and settle on wandering the Camden Markets.

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Just like all markets a lot of the products are the same from store to store however you can find some great bargains if you persist and keep looking. I managed to get majority of my souvenirs from here. As you wander through the bustling streets and check out the markets and shops you eventually end up at Camden Passage. This is another market but features unique items and the best souvenir store I found, it’s along the left hand side wall, if your in the area I definitely recommend it! Another great aspect of Camden Passage is the food. Wander along the stalls and chefs will so anything to get you to eat, including free samples. You could fill up on samples alone but if you’re in the mood for food, I recommend the bang bang chicken on the corner where the chef may even sing you a song while you wait. Camden markets is the perfect day out in the sun and the best place to go for great affordable souvenirs.

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Changing of the Guard

Buckingham Palace is the epitome of cliché London tourist activities and Changing of the Guard is just the icing on the cake.

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Held every second day around 11am, I mark it on my calendar. Josh has no interest so I embark on the tube alone while he heads to The Ledbury. Now every post that I have read about this says get there early. I arrive at 10am and I know I’m way too late! People are 10 rows deep along the palace gates and I’m one of thousands trying to get a good spot. I settle for the rope and wait. A commotion is occurring just to my left and I look to see the Queen in her jet black car leaving the palace, camera flashes are everywhere and I get pushed and shoved by people wanting a closer look. We then hear the band as it starts to enter. Horses trot in tune, soldiers march and the band continues playing until they enter the palace grounds. It’s quite exciting and I move to try and get a closer look through the gates. After a while I eventually give up, everyone is content in remaining where they are and I’m way too short to see over the top.

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All in all the experience was great and watching the soldiers and band enter is truly fascinating but if you’re ever too late to get a good spot, I suggest to come back another day because you really can’t appreciate the experience without seeing the whole show.

Sherlock Holmes’ House

There isn’t really much to be said about this then the fact that it’s Sherlock Holmes’ House. One of the most famous addresses in London, 221B Baker St! It’s so easy to find and a must if you are a fan, like Josh is.

There is a guard out the front who is more than happy to take a photo with you, some props if your interested and a fairly large museum focused on the life of Sherlock Holmes. Josh and I didn’t feel the need to go into the museum although we did spend some time looking through the store next door that was filled with unique and quirky gifts. My advice, go and grab a photo and when your there, check out The Beatles memorabilia store next door too.

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So that concludes my time in London, I have had some amazing experiences here and have learnt so much about history, art, culture and even architecture. I hope that if you are ever in London that my guide gives you a little bit of insight, an idea or just something to keep you occupied for a while.

Put on your walking shoes.

Jess and Josh

Wheels turning and bells ringing. Is anyone home? Day 67

Wheels turning and bells ringing. Is anyone home? Day 67

I have a list of a million things I want to see and do whilst Josh is at work over the next few weeks, I also have a list of things we need to do together. So with Josh having a day off today it’s time to cross a few sights off that list. Today we see the sights that make London  famous for visitors and tourists and some of the most recognisable buildings and structures in the world. On our list today is the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

As we emerge from Westminster underground station our eyes are drawn to the magnificent structure on the south bank of the Thames River. Standing at 135 metres tall, the London Eye spins showing visitors some of the best views of London. This observatory was first developed in 1999, opening in 2000 and is one of the worlds most recognisable observatories in the world, and crowned the largest Ferris Wheel in Europe. We can see the line from where we stand and decide that we will explore south bank and ride the Eye another day.

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Suddenly we hear bells chiming behind us and we spin to realise that we are standing directly under Big Ben. This clock stands tall and shadows the ground beneath it. It really is an amazing sight and a must see when you travel to London. Big Ben is attached to one of the Houses of Parliament, a row of buildings that were built to house government officials. As we walk along we stumble upon the Queens entrance where security seems much tighter.

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Next stop is Westminster Abbey, a church most of you would know as the location of Prince William and Princess Katherine’s wedding. The exterior of this church is stunning, so much detail has gone into every inch of stone and although we missed out on going inside by five minutes, we did sneak through the gift shop and quickly stick our heads in. It is undeniable that the inside is just as stunning as the out.

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A quick walk through Parliament Square leads us towards Downing St. But first we need to engage in a classic London tourist tradition, we take our photos inside the famous red telephone box. It’s so popular in this area that we actually had to wait in line just to get inside one! When we arrive to the entrance of Downing St it is blocked by black gates and several security guards. There’s no getting close to number ten, the home and office of the Prime Minister, but you can catch a glimpse if you look close enough.

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The good thing about sight seeing in London is that a lot of things are within walking distance to another. We realise we are close to Buckingham Palace and decide to cross that from the list as well. We walk through the Horse Guard and into St James Park. Walking along the lake we see ducks, swans and geese being chased by children, squirrels being taunted by dogs and people relaxing and enjoying this sunny London afternoon. Finally we reach Buckingham Palace. The flag is raised so somebody is home, although they aren’t going to just let anyone inside. The gate is raised high with guards standing at every entrance, eyes peeled for anybody not doing the right thing. We snap a few photos before it starts to pour down with rain. We take that as our sign to head home and Josh is more than happy to have a night of nothing, before he heads back to work tomorrow.

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imageJust a taste of merry old England.

Jess and Josh