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Day 8: St. Paul’s Cathedral and Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios

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I started Monday with a good 7 hours of sleep, waking around 5am. I finished the blog and went in search of breakfast. This is the first time I’ve stayed in a place where I have to find breakfast outside. It had always either been included, or there was enough of a kitchen available where you could bring it in. So in an odd way it’s a nice change to “have to” go out for breakfast.

I headed to the South Kensington subway station.

Tunnel into subway

Tunnel into subway

There’s an entrance you can pick up pretty quickly from where I’m staying that’s the longest subway tunnel I’d ever seen. This went under the museum complex and a major intersection at Cromwell so you don’t have to deal with crossing the street.  At first I thought it was strange but in nasty weather I can see where it would come in handy. This morning though, pretty empty! I also learned that Monday was a summer bank holiday – and kept getting reminded of it as the day went on – which would explain the emptiness.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

This was my destination. I’d figured I could find breakfast nearby and was right.

Cafe Rouge

Cafe Rouge

Cafe Rouge is a French bistro chain based in London. It was across the street from the cathedral.

Literally across the street; this was the view from my table

Literally across the street; this was the view from my table

Nice place and was surprised how empty it was; don't think I knew about the holiday yet

Nice place and was surprised how empty it was; don’t think I knew about the holiday yet

Although called the Rouge Breakfast, this looks pretty English to me: eggs, sausage, bacon, mushroom, tomato, pork-n-beans, toast

Although called the Rouge Breakfast, this looks pretty English to me: eggs, sausage, bacon, mushroom, tomato, pork-n-beans, toast

The front of St. Paul's

The front of St. Paul’s

There has been a church on this site for about 1400 years, the prior ones destroyed mostly by fire. Construction of this version started in 1675 and was complete in 1711. Christopher Wren was the architect.

I wasn’t expecting much from this church for some reason, maybe because the Protestant churches I’ve been in before weren’t all that impressive artistically – Helsinki comes to mind – so I had really low expectations. While I maintain that St. Peter’s in Rome is in a class all by itself, I probably have to place this at #2 of most impressive. Tied with Cologne for sentimental reasons 🙂

Seriously, this place is worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately depending on your perspective, photos weren’t allowed. The admission came with a digital guide that was informative and well done. It is the only domed church in England and you get to go up there, which I did. I didn’t expect to be able to go all the way up so that was a nice surprise, and the most challenging cathedral climb I’ve had since my first time at Cologne.

Iron spiral staircase

Iron spiral staircase

Every time you’d think you were done it would keep going.

Sign that says "Mind your head"

Sign that says “Mind your head”

Forget Mind the gap!

Steep, narrow staircase

Steep, narrow staircase

View of London and the Thames River from St. Paul's

View of London and the Thames River from St. Paul’s

The view from the top made it all worth it.

The daily selfie

The daily selfie

I’d spent about 90 minutes here I guess, which is a long time for a church. I was very glad I came. And got my exercise in for the day already: I checked my phone and according to the Health app I’d already climbed 28 stories, and it was only 10:30am!

There's a nice walkway that connects St. Paul's to the Millennium Bridge

There’s a nice walkway that connects St. Paul’s to the Millennium Bridge

Approaching the Millennium Bridge

Approaching the Millennium Bridge

Zoomed view of the iconic Tower Bridge from the Millennium Bridge

Zoomed view of the iconic Tower Bridge from the Millennium Bridge

The Globe Theater

The Globe Theater

The famed Elizabethan Globe Theater where Shakespeare worked was to my left once I crossed the bridge. It was a £17 admission and you couldn’t take photos; I wasn’t that interested so moved on. I walked over to the Southwark bridge and went back into the City of London.

Map of the City of London

Map of the City of London

You’re probably thinking: but you’re already IN London? Yes, doubly so. The central neighborhood in London is actually called the City of London. And Westminster is its own City, too. The other neighborhoods are called boroughs, such as where I’m staying: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Sounds rich, doesn’t it?

Empty downtown street

Empty downtown street

This place was dead due to the holiday. It was approaching 11am at this point.

Guildhall Art Gallery

Guildhall Art Gallery

I came across this and it was free, so why not.

Main gallery

Main gallery

This was the main gallery on the 2nd floor. It wasn’t a big museum but had some nice pieces and interesting history. Very focused on the City of London as explained earlier.

That first gallery had a couple of nice Impressionist pieces

That first gallery had a couple of nice Impressionist pieces

Sculpture of the head of Prince Charles

Sculpture of the head of Prince Charles

A lower gallery

A lower gallery

I loved the mix of old and new architecture in this room. This was the lower level, which also led to an even lower area which showed the remains of an old Roman amphitheater discovered in 2002 during a renovation of this building.

would have been relative to the current square

This image outlines where the arena would have been relative to the current square

The room where the finds of the dig are displayed

The room where the finds of the dig are displayed

There wasn’t a ton to show but boy were they excited about it! Archeologists had always guessed that given what was then called Londinium’s size and influence in the early part of that millennium there MUST have been an arena somewhere, so this was an important discovery. I appreciated the way they used lighting to fill in what the rest of the arena might have looked like, along with some figures of men for perspective.

I was making my way to the Euston London station where I would take a train to my big stop for the day, Warner Bros Harry Potter studios. I stopped at an Indian place along the way for lunch and took advantage of their lunch special for £9.95.

These dips were amazing

These dips were amazing

.My favorite surprisingly was the mint on bottom left. I’m generally “whatever” about Indian mint dips but this was subtler than I’m used to and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

A cauliflower/carrot dish, and chili garlic chicken

A cauliflower/carrot dish, and chili garlic chicken

The entrance to "The Making of Harry Potter"

The entrance to “The Making of Harry Potter”

It’s a Long Story how I got here which I will mainly skip. Short version: trains weren’t running due to the holiday, and I got here via several subway transfers and the final stretch via Uber. I arrived at 2:40 for my entrance time which was 3-3:30. Perfect! By the time I got through security I was ready to go.

For the other Harry Potter nerds out there: this is your Mecca and you must come 🙂 It’s probably the thing I was looking forward to the most about this trip and I was not disappointed.

I solemnly swear I am up to no good

I solemnly swear I am up to no good

Once you get past security, there’s a long hallway wallpapered with famous quotes.

"After all this time?" "Always"

“After all this time?” “Always”

One of my favorite exchanges in the series, between Dumbledore and Severus. The choking up started about here and was on and off for the next 3 hours.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilties

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities

If I had to pick a single favorite line from the series, this might be it.

The cupboard under the stairs

The cupboard under the stairs

This was on display in the final line waiting for the tour to start. There were two short introductory films, the 1st about how the the first movie came about, the 2nd from the 3 main stars, welcoming you to where they worked for 10 years.

I'm here at a time when Goblet of Fire is being featured; perfect since that's my favorite movie of the 8

I’m here at a time when Goblet of Fire is being featured; perfect since that’s my favorite movie of the 8

The tour starts, fittingly, with the Great Hall.

The Great Hall

The Great Hall

Gryffindor costumes

Gryffindor costumes

The Goblet of Fire

The Goblet of Fire

The fountain in the bathroom from Goblet of Fire

The fountain in the bathroom from Goblet of Fire

Boy's dormitory

Boy’s dormitory

The Mirror of Erised

The Mirror of Erised

The Gryffindor common room

The Gryffindor common room

Painting of a young McGonagall, fashioned after Maggie Smith

Painting of a young McGonagall, fashioned after Maggie Smith

One of the things the tour did that was enlightening and educational was provide more detail than you could ever have wanted about how it was all done. To me, some of the more impressive notes were about how far they went into details from a production standpoint that the viewer would never really notice, but that would impact the performers by making the world come alive for them. One of the best examples is this painting above. The common room had paintings of all of the current and former heads of the house. Many of the portraits used in the movie were painted just for the movie – around 300. This was one of them.

The phoenix staircase leading up to Dumbledore's office

The phoenix staircase leading up to Dumbledore’s office

Dumbledore's office

Dumbledore’s office

The Potions classroom

The Potions classroom

Over 1000 bottles were brought in for this set.

This was too cute: the kid would yell "Up!" and the broomstick would rise into their hand

This was too cute: the kid would yell “Up!” and the broomstick would rise into their hand

You could also ride a broomstick and see what you would look like flying through various HP locales

You could also ride a broomstick and see what you would look like flying through various HP locales

The door in the Chamber of Secrets was mechanical, not CG as many assumed because its opening was so intricate

The door in the Chamber of Secrets was mechanical, not CG as many assumed because its opening was so intricate

All those serpents actually moved.

Buckbeak in the forest

Buckbeak in the forest

The whole forest set was well done and actually kinda creepy. Thankfully the photos of the huge spiders didn’t take very well.

Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4

You could ride the green screen train and see flying chocolate frogs and the Weasley car out your window, along with dementors

You could ride the green screen train and see flying chocolate frogs and the Weasley car out your window, along with dementors

Butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream

Butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream

Closest thing to a butterbeer is a creme soda, although I don’t know how they got that thick head of foam on it. The ice cream was sort of a cross between vanilla and butter pecan.

The house on Privet Drive

The house on Privet Drive

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley

The model of Hogwarts Castle

The model of Hogwarts Castle

This is what was actually used in filming; it was a huge room and was amazing.

Selfie at the castle

Selfie at the castle

This was just the way that portion of the room was lit, all in blue; I actually adjusted it to lighten the blue up a bit, the original is darker than his.

That was so much fun, but after 3 hours my head was Full, so much information. I was ready to go and did not feel like getting here the way I came, so I opted for Uber all the way back to Kensington and got back around 7pm.

Venice, an Italian/Lebanese restaurant

Venice, an Italian/Lebanese restaurant

I was definitely ready for dinner and went into a different area that had this concentration of people from Lebanon with several interesting cafes in a row. I went for the least crowded.

I got a window nook by the sidewalk, with a mirror in it!

I got a window nook by the sidewalk, with a mirror in it!

Lasagna for dinner...

Lasagna for dinner…

Bites of baklava for dessert; these were amazing

Bites of baklava for dessert; these were amazing

I was DONE after this and got back to my room about 8:30, so was gone over 12 hours. I was asleep not too long after 9pm.

Today all I have scheduled is Buckingham Palace in the morning so will be a light day. Or at least that’s the plan!

 

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8 thoughts on “Day 8: St. Paul’s Cathedral and Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios”

  1. Patty Haas says:

    St. Paul’s Cathedral beautiful! I hope to visit someday while I can still climb stairs! Enjoying your blog!

    1. Steve Haas says:

      It really is stunning. I wasn’t prepared to be impressed and was blown away. Glad you’re enjoying it!

  2. Elizabeth Black says:

    Harry Potter!!!!

  3. Fed says:

    Wow! When I went to WB they didn’t do butterbeer ice cream, only the drink! Looks delicious 😀

    1. Steve Haas says:

      Time to go back then 😬 Ice cream is my weakness and this was really good!

  4. Jenny Stanionis says:

    Just love that you are a Potter nerd – of course! Thanks for sharing a fun day.

    1. Suzy says:

      Oh, wow! What a great day. I loved the archeology dig below the museum. That kind of stuff fascinates me. And Harry Potter! OMG! I knew you were going, but I had no idea it would be so special. You’ve got me all excited about it again. I’ll have to dig out the books and reread them. Thanks for a wonderful day, Steve. I’m excited to see Buckingham Palace, too. I’m taken by the new Princess Charlotte and how much she looks like her great-grand-mum.

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