The Harry Potter Studio tour

Indulging in a Warner Brothers Studio Tour is a dream for every Potterhead and while you don’t want to ruin all the surprises that it will bring, there are a few things to know that will help you get the most from your visit, such as the following:

You have to book in advance

Tickets and your specific tour time are allocated, so you can’t simply jump in the car and head to the Warner Brothers Studio Tours when the urge grabs you. There is actually no way to purchase tickets when you arrive, so you absolutely need to get online and buy your tickets well in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit during the school holidays.

The Great Hall has no ceiling

In the films, the Great Hall has a seemingly endless ceiling that is enchanted and reflects what the weather looks like at any one time. In reality, this was created with CGI and clever camera work, so you’ll notice that there is no ceiling at all in the Great Hall exhibit.

Diagon Alley

More than 500 concoctions were made for the potions classroom set

The potions classroom is one of the most exciting sets and even more so when you find out how much effort went into building it. More than 500 glass bottles were filled with various herbs, flowers, oils and animal bones (both real and plastic), then meticulously lined up on the stone walls. You can admire them all in close up on the tour.

Plenty of exhibits are interactive

harry-potter-cloaks

A lot of the exhibits encourage you to take part. Far from simply being a don’t-touch museum tour, it entices you to really get involved. Here you can bow to Buckbeak, fly a broom and even fight dementors, depending on when you book your visit.

All of the wand box names are those of the cast and crew

Ollivander’s room is incredible, with hundreds of tatty wand boxes all lined up on the walls, and if you take a closer look at them, you’ll notice that the names on them are all cast and crew members. Can you find your favourite actor and get a picture of their wand box?

honeydukes-harry-potter

You can actually buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans

And yes, there IS a bogey-flavoured one! Who didn’t love trying to think up some really awful bean flavours after Dumbledore confessed to eating a vomit one in his youth? Well now, you can buy a box and see if your worst nightmare is in there.

You’ll have to keep an eye out for Golden Snitches

Grab an activity passport at the start of your tour and a whole other world of hidden treasure hunts and Snitch spotting will open up to you. Great for kids that don’t want to miss a thing, the passport really pays off if you play along.

hogwarts-model-harry-potter
Model of Hogwarts

You can go at your own pace

Rather charmingly, the tours are not guided, so you can take everything in at your own pace and in a way that suits you. This is perfect for visitors with accessibility concerns or anyone with children, but be aware that once you’ve left an area, you can’t double-back, so don’t rush.

The oil paintings that line the walls of Hogwarts are pictures of crew members

Just like on the wand boxes, crew members have been immortalised in the form of the hand-painted portraits that line the walls of the Hogwarts sets. Talented artists were commissioned to complete the works of art and used the busy crew members faces for inspiration.

A butterbeer stop is a must

butterbeer-harry-potter

If you dreamed of slipping away from Hogwarts for a glass of butterbeer with Harry and the gang, you can live at least part of that fantasy by visiting the Butterbeer Cafe. Roughly halfway through the tour, you can grab a frothy glass of refreshment or an ice cream. Take a seat and see if it tastes exactly like you imagined it would.

You’ll want everything in the gift shop

Even if you think of yourself as a savvy shopper, you will not be prepared for the levels of longing that will wash over you when you hit the gift shop. At the very end of the tour, a whole world of unnecessary but very covetable souvenirs opens up before your eyes and almost magically, you’ll load your basket with a full Hogwarts uniform, in your house colours, a few boxes of sweets and a fluffy animal familiar. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I don’t want to give everything away, so you’ll just have to plan your own visit and discover some surprises for yourself.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

If you love to shop and wander around markets then look no further as I bring you news of a place you’re going to fall in love with, Spitalfields Market.

Spitalfields is the heart of the East End and goes back almost a thousand years, yes really. In 1197, it was founded as St Mary’s Spittel – a hospital and priory. The field adjacent has been used as a market since the 13th century and today it attracts crowds from all over London and beyond.

Attached to this area is a fascinating history of immigrants who brought new trades when they settled here: silk weavers escaping from France, the Irish introducing the linen industry. The quarter became very popular with the Jewish community who dominated the area up until the 1970s when the Bangladeshi community moved in and with them brought new cultures trades and business that we know fondly of as Brick Lane today

Photo by Dil on Unsplash

Spitalfields became so popular it outgrew the area and had to be moved. Its current destination is Leyton and the regeneration has given birth to an incredible programme including a public art programme, an events programme, the restoration of several historic streets in E1 and a selection of some of the best retailers and restaurants London has to offer.

The Traders Market

Open 7 days a week, the Trader’s Market is an Aladdin’s Cave of independent stall holders selling hand made articles and unique pieces that you are going to love.

Arts Market

Sara Sherwood

If you are looking for a piece of art for a room or wall in your home, you are bound to find something you like at Spitalfields Market. There are prices to suit all pockets and a wonderful collection of various styles and genres including oil painting, photography and more contemporary pieces too. The beauty is you get to chat with the artist who is on site selling their products directly to you, like Sara Sherwood for example who paints the most awesome London landscapes. 

Street Food and Restaurants

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

There’s nothing like a shopping trip to make you hungry and you are spoilt for choice with all the different options open to you. In fact, Spitalfields says – You could eat here every day for a month and not eat the same thing twice. If you fancy street food from destinations all over the world you’ll be pleased as if you prefer a sit-down meal. Sweet, savoury and the new and enticing are all on offer for you to try. It’s always worth checking out the offers page on the website before you visit.  

Bikes, bags, jewellery and chocolate are just a few of the products you can buy here and you won’t go home unsatisfied – actually you’ll probably be planning your next visit on the journey home! Check out their blog for up to date news on what to expect 

  

The View from The Shard

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn and off to The Old Smoke for a special treat – a trip up The View from The Shard in the company of Ferdinand, the friendliest bull in town who is due out on DVD in a matter of days.

The View from The Shard

The View from The Shard have had an un-bull-ievable idea for a family activity this Easter break, they’ve teamed up with Ferdinand and created a family day out where you get to experience The View – which is gobsmackingly awesome and lots of other activities too …  like a virtual reality game called Vertigo which I had a go at this morning. Think of The Shard when it was being constructed and walking across the steel beams with nothing beneath you – scary but a lot of fun. The girls were most disappointed that they weren’t allowed to have a go (over 12) but were happy to video me doing it.

We were given activity sheets and had to go on a treasure hunt looking for Ferdinand’s flowers, we located them all and popped our sheets into a box with our fingers crossed at winning the prize of a return visit.

The View From The Shard

Families who decide to try this amazing experience out are given goody bags with their entrance tickets including all of the following items

  • Ferdinand activity sheet
  • Bouncy ball
  • Pencil case
  • Official Guidebook
  • Keyring
  • Colouring set
  • Selfie stick

and you simply must go up to the Sky Deck where there is this beautiful floral display waiting for the best photo opportunity ever.

The View from The Shard

There is another virtual reality experience called The Slide which I didn’t have a go at – although I wish I had now. You lay on a wooden curved surface which moves up and down and tips slightly forward and to the sides, as you swoop and slide around The Shard and through the city skyline. A kind of Shard helter-skelter.

For every family that visits The View from The Shard for the Ferdinand experience, there is the chance to enter a competition to win a two-night break to Barcelona. The prize is for 2 adults and 2 children under 15 and consists of return flights from London to Barcelona, return airport transfers in Barcelona, 2 nights in a four-star hotel and travel insurance.

The View From the Shard

If you need even more to convince you, how about drinking a glass of Moët & Chandon from London’s highest champagne bar? 800ft above the capital sipping bubbles whilst enjoying views of up to 40 miles, that’s got to seal the deal surely?

The View from The Shard

Find all the information or book tickets online at www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/whats-on/events/2018/ferdinand-the-bull/

Before you leave, make sure you visit the toilets at the top for a loo with a view…

The View From The Shard loo

Disclosure: We were given tickets by The View from The Shard for the purpose of this post.

thomas oana me and the grandkids

I need a family day out in London!

It seems like I had the family here only yesterday but a check on the calendar shows me it was ONE MONTH ago, how did that happen? I think October will go down in my 2016 book as the busiest month and the most exciting too. A long awaited family visit, getting to meet baby Sophie for the first time and starting a new job with a fantastic travel company – James Villa Holidays as a social media executive. I have been onboard since mid October and am learning something new every day, it’s fascinating.

Anyway, back to the family. When they were here we spent a family day out in London as guests of Garfunkle’s Restaurants, they have recently launched their #LondonLegend tour and being perfectly placed around the world’s favourite capital they are the ideal stop off for anyone wanting a breather and some good food.

In fact our day started at Garfunkle’s in Kensington where we were treated to a delicious breakfast. I had Eggs Benedict which was superb and one of our party ordered the pancakes which were spectacular to look at and a joy to eat because I tried them too. It’s got to be done!

When you are about to tackle London sightseeing I think it’s an excellent idea to start with a good breakfast, I was really pleased to see the prices at Garfunkle’s were very reasonable, the menu had lots of options and children are very well catered for.

Madame Tussauds

evaqn with spiderman

Finished breakfast our tour then made its way over to Madame Tussauds in Marylebone Road, I last took Tommy when he was 14 with his sister and we have a cheeky smile where he is standing next to the wax of Kylie Minogue his hand hovering over her pert bottom. This time Kylie wasn’t among the statues but we were spoilt for choice. Along with every other visitor we ran from model to model taking selfies to post on Facebook and fool our friends. It was a lot of fun.

I was also really impressed with the Avengers 4D film that is the final part of the tour. Everyone is welcomed into a theatre and once seated the film begins, you will feel part of the film with your 3D glasses on and even more so with your seat moving, water spraying and air jets coming at you. Sophie, aged 2, wasn’t impressed, in fact she buried her head in her mummy’s shoulder but Evan, thought it was the best thing EVER and would have stayed for a second go if he had been allowed!

Madame Tussauds is part of the Merlin group and you do get the opportunity to invest in Merlin annual passes with a discount at the end of your tour.

madame tussauds

To visit Madame Tussauds you need to set aside a good hour and a half and by the time we were finished it was lunch time, so Garfunkle’s invited us over to their Trafalgar Square restaurant in Cockspur Street, within spitting distance of Nelson’s column. Once again there was a fantastic menu to choose from, burgers, spaghetti bolognese, quarter of chicken and chips with various sauces and a salad bar too. Something on there for everyone and we washed ours down with a pint of London Pride beer.

garfunkles restaurant london

The Original Tour

4th plinth trafalgar square

Right next door to the Garfunkle’s restaurant is The Original Tour ticket office where we were met by one of their tour guides. She accompanied us to one of their buses and we were given the most fantastic tour of London. You may remember I have already spoken about The Original Tour buses on my blog when I took the girls earlier in the year but this tour was a tailored one and with our own personal guide to fill us in on all sorts of information and funny anecdotes it was a very amusing and interesting tour. I’d definitely recommend it, not only that, The Original Tour are repeating their popular promotion this year – giving customers TWO days for the price of ONE, with tickets extended to 48 hours validity when travelling between 4 October 2015 until 29 February 2016.

This great offer also includes a FREE River Cruise Upgrade to Greenwich!

big ben london

The London Eye

Our Original tour bus dropped us off just over Westminster Bridge where our next treat was a flight on the London Eye. The tour on the London Eye takes half an hour to complete and the views all the way around are spectacular. There are computers onboard which help you identify the buildings in the distance and give tips on what to look out for. We were lucky it was a beautiful day so we could see for quite a long way. The only member of our group who wasn’t quite convinced was Sophie once again, the pods are clear plastic and she kept thinking she was going to fall ‘off’ bless her.

london eye

After such an amazing day there was only one thing to do, celebrate with a delicious dinner all together! We walked from the London Eye up The Strand and into the Garfunkle’s Restaurant who were waiting for us with glasses of prosecco – thank you! I heartily tucked into my fish and chips and the children were glad to be sitting down and colouring in, as each child is given crayons and a paper mat to decorate, such a brilliant idea.

Londonlegend team

We had an amazing time and I can only thank Garfunkle’s for making our day so special. I could quite easily recommend a visit if you’re in town knowing you will not be disappointed. Give it a go and create your own #LondonLegend Tour

london skyline from bus

Garfunkle’s Restaurants

Born in 1979, Garfunkel’s is one of London’s most iconic restaurant brands. Best known for its wide and varied menu, friendly service and great central London locations, they have become a legendary part of London life. You’ll find a huge selection of food including their famous fish & chips, proper pies, pizzas, pastas, burgers and a DIY salad bar; all to enjoy before, during or after your adventures in London. Whether you’re after Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner, there will be something on the menu for you at Garfunkel’s.

st pauls cathedral

Disclosure: We were guests of Garfunkle’s for the purpose of this post, all words and opinions are my own.

london street art tour Banksy

On Saturday I went on a London Street Art tour around the backstreets of über trendy East London with the most knowledgeable guide, Rob Humphreys. I was invited by Touriocity a group of really enthusiastic travel industry experts who are passionate about creating bespoke tours around our favourite cities in the world offering travellers a more personalised and enriching experience.

What is a Touriocity tour?

London street art tour

Touriocity have contacts with the most knowledgeable guides in every city; guides or Travel Concierge as they are called, who don’t simply reel off facts but add to the tour with their extensive and fascinating knowledge. Tours include everything from sport tours, art tours, regular tours or maybe a deep dive into the hidden part of town. Touriocity can arrange a bespoke tour to suit you and your interests.

London Street Art tour

london street art tour meme

Probably the most fascinating tour I’ve ever been on. I took over 170 photos on my day out and I’ll be uploading the best of them to my Facebook page for those who’d like to read/see more but for now I’m going to have to condense all of that into a post for you. I want to give you the perfect idea of what a London Street Art tour is. I want to inspire you to go on one as I was totally blown away by my experience.

London Street Art Tour

What is Street Art?

london street art tour this is not what you think it is

Street art is any art developed in public spaces. The term can include traditional graffiti art work, as well as, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art, flash mobbing and street installations. — Google

Street art is anything painted, written or drawn illegally on outside public spaces, also known as vandalism. Street art actually is a whole lot more than that, it is a conversation between like minded artists. It is transient, here today and gone tomorrow. I have understood that the longer your ‘work’ survives without being pasted over, written on and in turn graffiti’ed, the more respected you have from your fellow artists.

london street art love will tear us apart again

Street art is complex, starting with the terminology. The first term I came across was tag or tagging and it was right at the start of our day when we’d barely left Old Street tube station. A tag is the signature you often see sprayed on public buildings, the one you have thought was a ‘mess’ and ruining the environment. It is a mess, it’s like an unreadable scribble on a public wall but to the eyes of street artists, it’s a signature.

london street art tour

What happens when walls of our buildings are attacked by graffiti artists? We send someone in to buff them. That would be scrub them away or cover them in paint. Just try to return the wall to it’s former clean glory.

london street art tour DALeast

Trouble is, no matter how hard they try to clean them up, you can always see a trace. Some street artists enjoy this and for a funny example take a look at Huh Magazine at when MOBSTR tried an experiment on the local authoritites. I must admit I did find this highly amusing.

london street art tour squirrel and tag

Street art includes many forms, it is more than just cans of aerosol used to make funky signatures. There is stencil art, there is wheatpasting art, scultpures, lock on and tiling. All varied ways that street artists leave their marks on walls around the world.

london street art tour

 

In fact this phenomenon, with the helps of artists like Shepard Fairy, Stik and Banksy became acceptable. Their work was displayed in galleries and snapped up for millions of dollars. If Banksy put up a new piece there would be a rush to chip it away and sell it. In fact it became so trendy David Cameron gave a Ben Eine piece to Barack Obama on one of their first meetings.

london street art tour shepard fairey

You may even remember a poster used during the Obama campaign, it was created by a well known street artist Shepard Fairey. He depicted Obama with the word Hope and it was used on the cover of Time magazine. He also created this art work in London (above) which we stopped by to admire, read more on Hooked Blog about the making.

london street art tour Camilla walala

This trend in buying up street art has in turned added a legalised aspect to what was vandalism up until recently. Now there are businesses commissioning work to street artists, having their factories, shops, clubs, restaurants graffiti’ed, with fantastic effect too.

Damien hirst Tramshed restaurant

London has become one of the most pro-graffiti cities in the world and a trip around Shoreditch will show you how well this art form can fit into a busy city, the only problem of course is that as London Street Art tours bring in the punters and money is being spent so is the area becoming more in and trendy, old buildings are being knocked down and swanky new ones are going up which will lead to ‘clean’ streets and less street art.

london street art tour Blackall Street

Street artists don’t stick to one city either, they travel between countries to spread their work. Some artists have gained cult-followings, media and art world attention. There are some top artists displaying work in London from all over the world.

london street art tour

Some of the world’s top Street artists have passed through London and here is a selection of a few around the Shoreditch area.

DALeast
Stik
Gregos
Cityzen Kane
Noriaki
Thierry Noir
D*Face
Shepard Fairey
Invader
Ben Eine
Stinkfish
ROA
Amara Por Dios

london street art tour

Tips for following a London Street Art tour

Allow at least the morning to walk the streets of Shoreditch. The area is vast and continually changing

Look up, look down, look around you, street art is everywhere. Note the mushrooms on the rooftops, the face sculptures inside door crevices and chewing gum art on the pavement. You can even see graffiti inside other graffiti and so the artwork changes and moves on.

Stop off at Cargo for a coffee and admire some of Banksy’s famous artwork.

Street Art to look out for in Shoreditch:

Foundry Building, Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3JL. – Roa’s giant, moody weasel on the doomed Foundry building in Shoreditch.

Tramshed, 32 Rivington St, EC2A 3LX – Mark Hix’s chicken and steak restaurant. Inside and you will find a Damien Hirst cow and chicken in formaldehyde.

Turn the corner onto Garden Walk and you will find the Owl and Black Sabbath lyrics by Dscreet.

Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3NT – JXC’s Morgan Freeman caricature.

Derham Place, EC2A 3HJ. – DALeast’s sprinting leopard splitting apart to reveal a scuba diver in the middle.

Bateman’s Row, EC2A 3HH. – Shepard Fairey, graphic designer and creator of Obama’s iconic Hope campaign poster back in 2008.

Rivington Street, EC2A 3LX – The Piano Man by local street artist Stik.

Cargo Club – Banksy’s Police and Dog and other murals by very talented street artists.

Blackall Street, EC2A. – Alleyway just off Great Eastern Street. Here you will find work from some of the greats, including RUN, Swoon, Alice Pasquini, D7606, Dscreet ,Stik, Pablo Delgado, and Rowdy.

london street art tour

Disclosure: I was invited on the London Street Art tour by Touriocity for the purpose of this post, all opinions are my own.

london street art tour

london street art tour