It’s been a couple of years since I ventured into London and honestly, that’s a God damn shame. My mother and I have always said we feel comfortable there and at ease, this time not so much after everything that’s recently happened but nevertheless we still felt somewhat okay with just walking around and doing our own thing. The whole purpose of this week-long trip was to see Hamilton: An American Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre, I’m sure by now everyone and their goldfish knows about Hamilton, however, I will explain it to the people that don’t. Hamilton is a hip-hop/rap musical all about Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of America. It’s about how he came from nothing and wrote his way to the top and unfortunately got himself in some bad situations which ended in him being shot by someone he was once friends with. It’s a masterpiece and I will stand by that until the day I die, the music is incredible and everyone involved is outstanding, I highly recommend listening to the soundtrack and selling your soul to get tickets because those things sell out quickly. Our first day was all about travelling, the train journey was only supposed to last a few hours at the most but actually took 6 hours due to problems with the train, we wanted to do a little bit of exploring near our hotel but unfortunately only got there at 7pm, we were exhausted and just wanted to sleep.
Our hotel was the ‘hub by Premier Inn Westminster Abbey’, it’s absolutely perfect for a short stay visit. If you’re staying for a bit longer than a few days then maybe look at other premier inns as the hotel is mainly for people who are just visiting and not holidaying in London if that makes sense. I’m definitely going to be staying there again as the staff are generally lovely, so friendly and always wanting to help. The hotel is surrounded by shops, restaurants and pubs so if you’re looking for some food you won’t have to look too far. There is a taxi rank and the St James’s Park tube station also down the road which is super handy for quick and easy travelling. The hotel was only a 4-minute drive to the Victoria Palace theatre so my mother and I were super lucky. It’s also not that far from a lot of tourist attractions, the Westminster Abbey is on the same road with the Houses of Parliment and Big Ben directly behind it and just over the Thames is the London Eye and some fun things like the London Dungeon and the Sea Life Centre which I’ll talk about later on. Again, if you’re planning a short trip then I highly recommend this hotel, it’s a great place to lay your head and get some rest before exploring the wonderful city that is London.
Waking up bright and early, we ventured off into the busy city with only a few hours before we were needed at the theatre. We didn’t get to do much as we’ve never been to the Victoria Palace before and we wanted to make sure we were in the right place. As I said above we were going to see Hamilton and as we were lining up, I noticed people of all ages lining up as well and it was amazing knowing that we were all brought together by our love for this musical. Before we even got into the theatre I, being the clumsy person I am, fell and really injured myself. The staff were extremely lovely and couldn’t help me enough, they made sure I was alright and able to walk before letting us get to our seats. We were incredibly lucky to get seats near the stage and I’m so glad we did, I’m sure even the seats right at the top had a great time but we got to see nearly everything going on and it blew me away. I knew I would love it but words can’t describe how powerful each and every performance was. I’ve cried countless times over the soundtrack alone but seeing the love, loss and betrayal in the actor’s eyes made me feel like I was hearing the songs for the first time. Everyone involved put their all into every song, every performance and if you do ever get to see Hamilton please take time to look at the dancers. They perform so beautifully and put so much effort and hard work into every single show they do, they deserve so much recognition and love for what they do. My mum had only listened to the songs whenever I played them in the car and I had done my best to explain what was going on in each song but she was nowhere near as invested as me in the musical. She even told me she wasn’t sure if she would enjoy it as rap and hip-hop weren’t really her thing but she wanted to give it a go for me. At the end of the show I looked towards her to see tears rolling down her cheeks, she was overcome with emotions. She kept telling me how much she loved it and how she didn’t realise how amazing it would be, she’s now a huge fan and even bought herself some things from the shop! Now the shop can run out of things pretty quickly so if you want to get certain things then I suggest going before the show if you have time because I’ve seen a lot of people complaining the thing they wanted was out of stock, thankfully though they recently brought out an online store with all the merchandise you could get at the theatre so if the cup or t-shirt you wanted isn’t available when you see it, you can always order it online. Again, I can’t stress enough how much this show means to me and how much I love it. Definitely give it a listen and if you can, make the trip to London and experience it for yourself.
Even though the purpose of this trip was to see Hamilton, we decided to spend a few more days in London to do and see things we’ve never done before, this trip was truly all about trying new things. We had something booked every day we were there but we still wanted to see some sites like the Buckingham Palace, the other houses like Kensington Palace and Clarence House, Bond Street which houses a lot of designer brands like Chanel, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton and many more places we just didn’t have time to properly visit. The taxi driver was so lovely and would tell us little tidbits of information about the places he was showing us, if you are in London and want to see some sights in a nice warm car instead of a bus then I do suggest getting a taxi and asking them to give you a tour, it can be expensive which is the downside so make sure you’re prepared for that. Our taxi driver was nice enough to end the tour right outside our destination for the day; Madame Tussauds. I actually had never been to a Madame Tussauds before so I was going into this blind, yes I know it basically just a bunch of wax sculptors of famous people from around the world but I honestly had no idea who was there and how huge the whole thing was. I just assumed it was just going to be a few rooms at the most so I was happily surprised to find it was 3 floors filled with every person you could think of, there’s even a planetarium which houses the Marvel Super Heroes 4D which is a small animated film with some of the Marvel characters being in London to receive an award. Every room has a different theme to it, there’s a room just for movie stars, a room filled with political media mixed with some singers here and there. There are even a few rooms dedicated to the Star Wars franchise, and for a Star Wars fan like me, it was amazing to get a picture of me inside the Millenium Falcon with Chewie and to stand next to Princess Leia. Madame Tussauds is an incredible place to get pictures with your favourite people who you probably might never get to meet, I mean I got a picture of myself with The Beatles who I adore and that would have never had happened if Madame Tussauds wasn’t a thing. They hold over 300 wax figurines and each one was extremely close to looking like the real person, it was incredible. I was actually blown away by the detail on each figurine and I’ve seen a few videos of the celebrities going through the process of having their statue being made and it’s an ordeal, it’s a lot of standing (or sitting) and keeping as still as you can for a long time. They have to get absolutely everything perfect, even the exact shade of your eye colour has to be right, it seems really stressful to me and I think they do an incredible job at it. My favourite figurines were Jessica Ennis-Hill, The Beatles, Van Gogh and Freddie Mercury to name just a few, I’m definitely going to go back the next time I’m in London because since I was there they’ve already added a few more people like Tom Hardy and Meghan Markle and from what I’ve seen they look amazing! There’s actually a part in Madame Tussauds where you can get a wax figurine of your hand, it’s just something to take home and put somewhere in your home to remind you of your trip, it’s super fun to do but be warned you do have to put your hand in hot wax which can be painful. Madame Tussauds is definitely family friendly so if you have kids you should definitely take them as I’m sure they’ll love it just as much as you will. If you or anyone you’re going with had trouble walking or needs to have a rest every now and again then maybe take a foldable chair because there weren’t many seating options available and it is a very long walk around all the figurines on all floors. All in all, I loved my day there, it was a really fun experience for both my mother and I and we would love to go again.
The third full day we were in London was a busy one, we had 3 things booked prior and after the day before we were exhausted and in pain but we pushed through knowing we were short on time. London Dungeon was our first stop, I’ve been to the one in Blackpool and that was amazing so I had high hopes for this one. For anyone who doesn’t know what the London Dungeon is, they aren’t actual dungeons but a tourist attraction with live actors telling you the rich and very gory history of London (or whatever city there’s one in). It’s basically a fun and interactive history lesson with one or maybe 2 rides thrown in, also the actors are very professional and really sell the story they have to perform, you can truly believe you’re in the 1800’s talking to Mary Jane Kelly right before she dies. I’m not the biggest fan of heights so the ‘Drop Dead’ ride wasn’t something that I was looking forward to but I decided to give it a try and even though I felt my heart in my throat many times, I’m glad I did. Now, if you don’t want to do that ride or any of the rides throughout the whole experience then that’s fine, there is an option to exclude them so don’t worry! Even if you’re not that into history, it’s still an astounding experience where you have a laugh with the actors, get the chance to be sentenced to death and be hanged for your crimes, I thoroughly recommend visiting and getting spooked, it’s definitely worth the money!
One of the other places we had booked before arriving in London was the London Eye, now both my mum and I have been on the Eye before but many years ago and I can’t properly remember it so we thought what’s a trip to London without going on the London Eye? Not a good one, that’s what. It only takes 30 minutes to go around the Eye but in that time you can see a lot of London you may not have the time to see close up. We actually got to see Buckingham Palace a lot better than we did driving past it the day before, we could even spot our hotel from the very top which was cool to do. Going on the London Eye isn’t something you have to do but I do think it’s an excellent thing to do for all the family so if you haven’t done it before then maybe look into sparing 30 minutes of your day and spending it high above the city.
By this time now we were tired, cold and sore but we were determined to get in the SeaLife centre even if it was just to catch a glimpse at the penguins. The minute we walked in we asked one of the lovely staff around, ‘Where are the penguins and have we missed feeding time?’, thankfully we were just in time for the feeding, however, the penguins were up a floor and on the other side of the building. Being told that after non-stop walking and being up on our legs all day nearly killed both my mum and I but we knew we wanted to see them before we left in two days time and this was the only time we could. The lovely staff member we were talking to was lovely enough to show us a shortcut and told us whereabouts we needed to be so we put our pain to the side and went on our way to find some penguins. It still took us some time to find them but we managed to get there right on time for the feeding (Side note: I’m not sure why, we as people freak out about the feeding of animals at places like this, they’re just eating but we act like we’ve never seen it before), we actually found a good vantage point to watch from and we could see what was going on, a few of the penguins were very mischievous and kept attempting to steal more fish but the keeper is so dedicated to her work she knew who had been feed and who hadn’t. After the feeding, we made our way back through the centre and decided to take our time looking at all the creatures. I’m a huge fan of sharks so it’s always amazing to see some up close, we also got to see some stingrays which I’m sure every single SeaLife centre has and one of them kept coming to the surface and somewhat waved at us? It made my mum’s day so I was thankful for that moment. Like any SeaLife centre, the whole team working there generally care for the animals and want to teach everyone all about them and show us how magnificent the creatures are, you can tell they love what they do through how passionate they are for every single fish, mammal and creature they house there. Next time I’m in London, I’m definitely going to try and visit again so I can take it in better and spend as much time as I want to marvel at all the beautiful creatures they have living there. Also, I know a lot of the time places like this (i.e Sea World) don’t really show love and care towards the animals and just want to profit from them but I can honestly say that the SeaLife centre’s around the world seem to really care for them and want to educate us on how the creatures are being harmed by oil spills and litter/waste in the water and how we need to do better in keeping them safe.
Being the week before Christmas, maybe it wasn’t the best idea going to Harrods but we decided to give a go and let me tell you, it was hell. I know we should have guessed it would be busy and to some extent we did, we thought a lot of people would be doing the last minute shop for Christmas but there’s a lot and then A LOT, you know? Harrods can be really confusing as it is with all the different room and floors but with that many people in the same room as you, it can be headache inducing. My mum and I had only been to Harrods once before and that was many years ago so we wanted to experience it again when I was much older and able to look after myself, we looked around the first floor, bought a few things for ourselves and had a look at all the designer brands dotted around the floor before making our way towards the restaurants near the food hall. This was going to be the first thing we had eaten that day so we were starving at this point, the first restaurant we saw happened to be the one we chose and I’m so glad we did. ‘Pan Chai’ is a Pan-Asian restaurant which means they serve dishes from all over Asia, I could tell the staff were stressed and had to rush around after everyone but they were amazing and so helpful to my mum and I, who weren’t that confident in ordering from a place we’ve never been to before. We walked into it thinking that my mum wouldn’t really enjoy her food as she wasn’t very accustomed to Asian food but to our surprise she absolutely loved it. The food hall was busting with people and noise but it was really cool to see all the food they had to offer, they even had a bakery stall called ‘Flavourtown’ and the flavours/choices were outstanding. They had everything from Oreo to banana and sea salt cupcakes, we definitely had a hard time choosing between them all. The rest of our time at Harrods was spent trying to find a pet shop which was very difficult to do as none of the staff thought they had one, and the fact that it was hidden behind all the Christmas stalls it’s very easy to miss it. One of the very big faults I have with Harrods is that there were next to no seats, there may have been some around but there definitely wasn’t in the areas we were in and for two people that have problems with walking and have pain issues it was very hard to do much. There was one point where I was near to tears because I was in that much pain from not being able to sit down, especially in a time where there were a lot of people around, there needs to be somewhere people can sit down and take the weight off of their feet. We had hardly seen Harrods but at this point, we were done and just wanted to get back to our hotel, if you do want to go to Harrods don’t go during busy periods like Christmas or the summer holidays because you’re just asking for trouble. If you’re disabled or have problems walking or just need to rest every now and again take something with you like a foldable chair or something like that because otherwise, you’re going to be in a lot of pain. Would I go again? Probably but like I said only when the crowds were small and only for a short amount of time. Harrods is great and all but everything they have there can be found somewhere else in London with much less stress added to it.
Overall, this trip is definitely going to be one to remember. I got to see Hamilton, a musical that changed my life and that I love dearly. Both my mum and I pushed ourselves to try different things and got to enjoy ourselves together, something that I hoped would happen. London is really close to my heart and even though I rarely get to visit, I always feel happy there and I’m so thankful for that. Yes, not all the trip was amazing and we were in pain a lot of the time but when I look back on it I’m reminded of all the great things we got to do while we were there. On our way back home we got a phone call from my Grandmother letting us know we had lost a family member while we were away and we were both devastated that we weren’t with her in her final days but we know she wouldn’t have wanted it any different, she would have wanted us to be having fun and enjoying ourselves. When we got the news she had passed it hit me that we only get a short amount of time on this planet and then it just stops, so we’ve got to do what makes us happy and do things that mean something to us. The people we’ve lost don’t want us not living life to the fullest and not pushing ourselves to get out there and do something amazing with ourselves, which was actually one of the last things we talked about. So, thank you Auntie Margery for being the amazing woman you were and always being a light in all of our lives. This and all the future trips I have are dedicated to you because I know you would want me to get out and experience life.
~ In memory of our Auntie Margery 1936 – 2017 ~