Saturday, January 11, 2014

London Day 4: Muggle Tour, Chinatown, British Museum, back to Borough Market

London Day 4 - December 29, 2013
My nieces' surprise Christmas gift to me after we arrived in London was to tell me they had booked us on a Muggle tour. We're all Harry Potter geeks and I've enjoyed the books and movies as much as they have while they were growing up so it was a terrific present for all of us to enjoy while we were in London. My niece Lauren even made the personalized "gift card" that denoted my present. The picture above and below are both sides of the card she drew. Clever, right??!?
We caught the DLR and transferred to the tube to get off at London Bridge where we met the start of the tour. There were about 15-16 (?) other people on the tour and we were led by an entertaining, chipper and very-good-at-his-job tour guide by the ironically coincidental name of Adam Potter. Adam was terrific in keeping the tour both informative about London and the filming of the Harry Potter movies and getting everyone involved by quizzing us on certain parts of the books/movies as he took us around various locations in London that had something to do with the films. Yes, I was geeky enough to know answers to most of his questions.
The picture below of the Chez Michele flower shop may not look familiar but imagine the front covered up and the old walls as part of the set. Then you would have the front of the Leaky Cauldron. This is located right near Borough Market. The director used this flower shop because he wanted the old brick walls for the scene.
From London Bridge, we caught the tube to another stop. I can't remember which one now since we had to change lines because the Jubilee line was closed. I think we ended up at Westminster? In any case, Adam led us to the street where they filmed the scenes in Deathly Hallows of the street leading to the Ministry of Magic where Harry, Ron and Hermione took polyjuice potion to masquerade as three ministry workers in search of one of Voldemort's horcruxes which was in the locket being worn by Dolores Umbridge at the Ministry. (See, told you I was a Harry Potter geek.)
We then walked to this house which long ago was once Scotland Yard and is now abandoned. The inside of this house is where they filmed 12 Grimmauld Place or Sirius' house. According to Adam, the film crew kept the filming location secret or else they would be stalked by obsessive Harry Potter fans. Imagine that. Unfortunately I can so I'm glad they were able to keep the location a secret and keep on filming.
Next up was down a small, narrow alley which served as the inspiration for Knockturn Alley. Standing there and looking around at the old building, old-fashioned street lanterns, I can easily see how this inspired that part of the movies. It was too narrow for the film crew to actually film in so they took a number of pictures and recreated the scene in a studio.
The tour ended by walking from Trafalgar Square, down Charing Cross to this row of shops that served as J.K. Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley. Adam said this was her favorite place in London and the stores include Watkins Bookshop, the oldest in London, as well as a place to get bank notes (Gringott's!), an Alice in Wonderland shop where you could buy oddities (potions??) and other shops that could lead a fertile imagination to dream up Olivander's and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. It was a really fun tour and if you have any interest in Harry Potter at all, I would highly recommend it. My nieces found it through and Adam said that's the only place they actively advertise with and draw business from.
We hadn't had breakfast before the tour and it lasted a little over two hours so we were famished by the end. From our walkabouts the previous two days, we had already found London's Chinatown and by mutual agreement, we ended there for a late lunch.
At first we wanted dim sum but given how hungry we all were and how expensive everything in London was, we opted for an all you can eat Chinese buffet instead (review to follow in a future post).
One of the shops in London's Chinatown
After lunch, we headed to the British Museum which was free to enter and packed with people. We didn't stay long but admired a few of the antiquities in a couple of the rooms then went in search of the Rosetta Stone.

Outside the British Museum
Inside the British Museum
The Rosetta Stone encased in glass
After that, it was back to Borough Market to pick up bread and cheese for dinner.  We'd eaten so late and we had a reasonably early start the next morning so we didn't want another dinner out. I actually love visiting a new place and going to the local market to pick up local goods, especially bread and cheese, and having that as a meal so it was a perfect end to the day.

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