London has endured a bit of bad rep lately with the likes of shocking terrorist incidents in the news, violent assaults and thefts by moped gangs in broad daylight and reports of sexual assaults on the underground. Even though I’ve ventured out to the big city many times before, this well travelled Devon born lad felt a little bit anxious when Emma and I visited recently for a day out. But allow me to tell you what actually happened when we got there. We weren’t met with any of the aforementioned horrors, instead we found joy, kindness and some fascinating sights.
We parked in the small town of Flitwick and took the 45-minute train journey into London St. Pancras station. The first thing on our list was a stroll across the road to Kings Cross station to visit Platform 9 and three quarters. Instantly we were surrounded by hundreds of excited Harry Potter fans either queuing up for a photograph with the trolley half buried in the wall, or eagerly browsing the store. Emma finally found that Slytherin scarf she’d been searching the world for, we were impressed that this small shop in a train station in London stocked said scarf, while we couldn’t find it in any of the retail outlets in Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida.
Our next stop was a short tube journey away to go and check out the British Museum. We’d debated beforehand whether we should visit this one, the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum. All 3 are a free day out, all 3 contain fascinating exhibits and each of them will take more than a couple of hours to browse. We settled on the British Museum as we both wanted to see a real life ‘mummy’. Besides some of the thousand-year-old artefacts on display, what fascinated me is that the museum attracted people from all of the world. I overheard families in French, Chinese and Spanish languages talking in astonishment about some of the displays. To put it bluntly, there were barely any Brits in the British Museum, which made me realise how much of a world-wide destination London really is. We recorded a vlog about the museum which will be out around Christmas time for those interested.
Next up we decided to go for a late lunch at ‘Wahaca’, a delicious Mexican restaurant of which there are several dotted around the city. I recommend giving it a go if you’ve got the time, although there are literally hundreds of other places to eat so there is the danger of you walking around aimlessly as you can’t decide exactly where to go. After lunch, we ambled through Chinatown where there were lanterns strung up to celebrate the festival of the Moon, and people were walking around with ‘bubble-waffles’ in cones filled with all sorts of flavours. Given my earlier anxiety about thieves, you can imagine how surprised I was when a lovely young couple handed me their expensive looking camera and asked me to take a photo of them under the huge Chinese archway! Naturally, I obliged.
A few hours of strolling around and visiting a handful of stores led to even more fun which I’ll briefly touch on. There was the joyous Harry Krishna group, dancing their way through London to the religious song. I couldn’t help but smile as I saw a stern faced looking man wearing business attire and carrying a bunch of flowers approaching them. In one swift movement he handed the flowers to a bystander and proceeded to throw his arms in the air and frantically dance with them. We took a trip to Forbidden Planet so I could release my inner nerd, and then there was the Lego store. Emma and I went in simply to play with some Lego and look at all the toys. We were met on the door by a young member of staff playing with a Minecraft creeper toy, and I was surprised when another member of staff stopped by to ask us what we were building and was genuinely just wanting to play with the Lego with us and not try to sell us anything. Apparently, we ended up constructing a scene from Emma’s mind entitled, “A man juggles fish in the King’s court”.
Finally, I have to mention the famous M&M World store in Leicester Square. It’s like something you’d expect to see in Disneyland. When one walks in, one is confronted with a plethora of bright colours and the powerful, sweet smell of chocolate. The store is spread over 4 floors and, like most of London, the floors go down into the ground and not up. As you descend you find a literal wall of M&Ms which was dubbed something like the ‘World’s Longest Candy Wall’. Go further down and there are giant M&M characters posing, as well as almost anything M&M related on offer that you can think of. Except, bizarrely, a normal bag of M&Ms…
We filmed all of this as well as a few other things I haven’t mentioned, and I plan to release it in a 2-part vlog over on our Youtube channel in a couple of weeks’ time. I guess the message I’m trying to send in this blog post is this… Visit London. By all means keep your wits about you, stay safe and never go anywhere alone if you can help it BUT, go and enjoy yourself. There are hundreds of things to do, and that’s just the main tourist attractions. If you head just a little off the beaten track, you will find even more hidden gems waiting to be discovered. London is vibrant, it feels alive and it is a fun place to be.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to check out some of my other articles and leave me a comment below with your thoughts. You can follow me on Twitter @cptnmingo for all the latest updates and you can also find all our weekly vlogs of our adventures on YouTube right here.