Spring Break…or, London with Youngsters, Part III

[A photo-heavy, pseudo-travel-guide in several parts, written mostly for family and fellow Anglophiles…in case you were wondering.]

Anyone other than family members still reading this? (Yeah, that’s what I thought. Just checking.)

Tuesday morning found us heading out to Leavesden to visit Harry Potter World. The brilliant folk at Warner Brothers decided to turn their multi-million dollar sets from the Harry Potter movies into a tourist site.

My boys love Harry Potter, and we’d received several glowing reviews of Harry Potter World from friends who’d visited before. You can add us to the list of impressed people.

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After a very brief movie showcasing the actors talking about how this place was their home for so many years, the screen rolls up and the doors open and BAM! You’re inside the Great Hall of Hogwarts. To say it’s impressive is an understatement.

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Several different sets are here in their entirety: the Gryffindor Common Room, the Weasley’s house, Dumbledore’s office, Diagon Alley, the Potions Lab…along with the great purple Knight Bus and the Weasley’s car. It was fantastic. (Quick flashback story: I think movie sets are pretty doggone awesome. I once waited in line for several hours at the Smithsonian just to see the sets from M*A*S*H. I was going into 8th grade. Clearly, that was just a foreshadowing of my coolness, huh?)

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Butter beer. Just gross.

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Diagon Alley was spectacular.

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Perhaps the coolest part of the entire tour was the green room experience. We rode in the Weasley’s car, and the boys were able to try flying on a broomstick.

Here’s Tucker flying a broomstick, followed by Jack’s flying skills. Skip to the 2 minute mark to get to the real action. (I’m having a hard time getting Theo’s video to upload–but trust me; he loved every second of it, too.)

See? Amazing, right?

The cherry on the top of the Harry Potter experience was the double decker bus ride back to the train station where Theo landed the bombdiggity of all bus seats: shotgun on the upper level.

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We arrived back in London and headed over to Trafalgar Square for the obligatory lion shots.

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The lions sit across from The National Gallery, and we had a few minutes until it closed, so we headed in. We never anticipated how much Tucker would love it. We had to drag him out, even as the guards were telling us they were closing and we needed to leave immediately. We were even able to sneak a peek into the room where Van Gogh’s Sunflowers were. The experience made for a happy mom and happy boys (though the cast of weirdos outside the National Gallery was equally as impressive to the boys: a levitating Yoda? Hard to beat.).

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After yet another completely ordinary meal, we were sidetracked into just about the craziest place I’ve ever seen. M&M World.

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It was 4 full levels of (absolutely free) mayhem.

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We roamed around this chaotic mini-amusement park for awhile and walked out with 3 pairs of M&M socks and a mini-football. Random.

Wednesday morning came, and we realized we only had 2 days left. Time to play high-speed tourist.

We walked out of our hotel and across Green Park to Buckingham Palace (sorry for the sideways video).

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Well, some of us walked; others of us skipped, hopped, and ran.

We saw the Palace, looked at the guards and then hailed a cab because we didn’t want to wait another hour until the guards were changing. Guess we’ll see that next time.

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Next stop: The Tower of London.

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Our Beefeater Tour Guide was the best we’ve ever seen–but he made taking his photograph expressly forbidden. Seeing as he was wielding a sword, I didn’t push the envelope.

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After so many completely ordinary meals, we decided to step it up a bit. More than a bit, actually. 

We left the Tower of London and headed over to Covent Garden and wandered right up to Russ’s favorite restaurant:  Balthazar. Now most people would never dream of taking 3 small boys to such a place, but we gave it a go. 

It was a raging success.

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This meal was incredible. The weather was awesome, we were over our jet-lag, the food was unbelievable, we were on our way to see a play–we were the happiest little group of 5 people you’ve ever seen.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Drury Lane did not disappoint. Even though the Gene Wilder film version is one of our favorite movies, Theo had never seen it. Remember seeing Willy Wonka’s wonderland for the first time? It was magical seeing Theo’s reaction.

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Covent Garden is so photogenic.

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After the show, we somehow ended up riding in a rickshaw. Um, yeah. Poor guy. 

We hit one more major tourist spot before eating dinner at a Japanese noodle house (which was also incredible; Wednesday was a slam-dunk of a day as far as meals went.).

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And finally back to the hotel for this…again. (The novelty never wore off.)

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Did I really think I could wrap this whole thing up in today’s post? We have only one day left in London, though, so I promise the next installment–in which we venture out of London yet again–is the last one and you won’t have to hear about London again for awhile.

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